Book Review: A Clash Of Kings

A Clash Of Kings, by George R.R. Martin

The second volume [1] of the novel series “A Song Of Ice And Fire,” this particular volume continues where the previous novel left off. We see the fall of Winterfell to an ill-advised assault from Theon Greyjoy, and the fall of Harrenhall, and a lot of treachery and counter-treachery. We see the dark workings of magic, as well as the danger of dragons. We see endless squabbles over the legitimacy of monarchs and the bad dreams suffered by rigid would-be kings who have dark women doing their dirty work. We see degradation and death and near-death injuries, and a lot of scheming and teasing and immoral behavior. In other words, we see another classic work by George R.R. Martin that chooses grim reality with a hint of magic that manages to speak about our own capacity for treachery and degradation within us, lessons that are easy to forget because the story itself is so compelling and dark.

Make no mistake, this is a sprawling epic, taking place in a complicated world where the aftermath of the death of a king led to the fragmentation of his realm between five claimants, one of them his putative son, two of them his feuding brothers, and two others fighting over the North. The book is sprawling, at nearly 1000 pages in the version I read, with one storyline on one continent and a tangle of storylines involving dying relatives and people trying to stay alive and preserve what dignity they have. People disappear for long stretches of the novel and then reappear at dramatic moments, or appear to face death without having their deaths confirmed, which makes this book a tricky one to read in that the author delights in twists and requires the reader to keep a lot of plot lines simultaneously in mind.

That said, it is easy to see why this series of novels makes for such compelling television. There are a lot of visuals, a great deal of attention to characters, a tension between characters remaining consistent and being so unfaithful that they lose dramatic interest. It would appear, judging from these two novels, that Martin has a great interest in seeing what people are like when the chips are down, how families can easily become scattered and divided, even powerful ones like the Starks, and how hope and resilience are necessary but not sufficient to survive in a grim world where ambitions can depend on the fate of single solitary battles, and where unreliable narrators with limited perspectives do not allow the reader to get the full picture of what is going on in the story, allowing plenty of room for authorial manipulation, which is probably necessary to avoid massive and frequent continuity errors, which probably also accounts for the fact that the temporal markers are so vague.

[1] See: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/book-review-a-game-of-thrones/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: A Clash Of Kings

  1. Pingback: Keeping Up With The Targaryens | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: A Song Of Ice And Fire: Roleplaying A Game Of Thrones | Edge Induced Cohesion

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