Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)

PAPERBACK; 969 P.
BANTAM BOOKS, 2013/1999
SOURCE: RECEIVED AS A GIFT

Disclaimer: As this is the second book in the series, the review might contain some unintended spoilers. I recommend you to read the first book (A Game of Thrones) first.

In this eagerly awaited sequel to A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin has created a work of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination. A Clash of Kings transports us to a world of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare unlike any you have ever experienced.

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of mind prepares a poison for treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel … and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

How to start a sequel by George R.R. Martin: Begin by introducing a new character in a new environment – and kill him in the end of the first chapter, just to add some flair.

I read the first book in the series in October 2013, and it took over 5 months until I picked up the second one. As I had forgotten a lot, I had to skim through the first one in order to remember some important plot points. A Clash of Kings begins where A Game of Thrones left off: Westeros is divided and everyone wants their share. Families are separated, friendships broken, trust and loyalty tested. Again Martin introduces a horde of new characters, but the main characters are now beginning to stand out. At the heart of the story is the House of Stark, with the different destinies and struggles of its members. The story is again divided into chapters that are told in first person narration by different characters. There were naturally favourites (Arya, Jon, Tyrion) as well as those that I was less interested in. However, I’ve now grown accustomed to the constantly changing narration and didn’t find it as confusing as in the first book.

I began reading the book whilst watching the first season of the HBO TV series. This worked well because the TV series is pretty loyal to the books and one season corresponds with one book. However, the final episodes did contain parts from the second book, which is why I recommend to read the first 150 pages of the second book if you don’t want to be spoiled. As stated in my previous posts, A Clash of Kings is a long book, and thus the pacing of the story fluctuated from time to time. Especially the middle part of the book felt slow, but as I got to the last 100 pages, the tempo stepped up again and I didn’t want the book to end. The writing was again engaging, pulling me into the story every time I opened the book.

However, the biggest surprise to me was my personal experience of reading the same book for over 3 weeks. At first I felt confident in my pace of 40 pages a day. After a week, my gaze was diverting to other books on my nightstand but I kept my resolve to read ACoK. During the second week my stress levels jumped up, the book was in a slow point, and I read Siddharta in a day. Come third week, I didn’t feel as anxious to finish the book as quickly as I could. And suddenly, I was reading more than 40 pages a day. I’ve always liked chunky books because I think they give room for the story and characters to go. However, I’ve also noticed that of late I’ve become a competitive reader, challenging myself to read more books in shorter amount of time. This is something I hope to get rid off soon because it has the potential to kill the joy of reading.

For fans of the series, A Clash of Kings won’t be a disappointment. If high fantasy isn’t your cup of tea, this book might seem too long-winded. I’ve committed myself to reading the whole series, but it is possible that it’ll take another 5 months before the third book. Just a hunch.

4.5/5  

My review of A Game of Thrones (#1).

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Review: Siddharta by Hermann Hesse

PAPERBACK; 167 P.
TRANS. AARNO PEROMIES
WSOY, 2007/1922
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

From Goodreads:

Siddhartha (1922) by Hermann Hesse is a deceptively simple, intense, and lyrical allegorical tale of a man in ancient India striving for enlightenment at the time of Buddha. Siddhartha is a man whose life journey runs in parallel and who may or may not be another version of Buddha himself.

Spiritual enlightenment may not be taught, only experienced, and each individual must tread their own personal path toward truth, in this unforgettable novel by the author who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Siddharta is considered to be a classic – it was originally written in German in 1922, but it was revived in the 1960s when Hesse’s works suddenly became best sellers in the US. Especially Siddharta was associated with the 60’s hippie movement because it shares some themes with the movement, such as self-discovery.

Siddharta is the eponymous hero of the book. He is a young man who has been born into the cast of priests and devoted his life for meditation, offerings and searching for enlightenment. Everyone loves and respects Siddharta, but he himself is not content with his life. He feels restless and yearns for more knowledge. Thus when a group of travelling Samanas (forest priests) wanders into the village, Siddharta asks permission from his father to join them. At first his father objects, feeling the pain of letting his son go, but eventually relents. Upon hearing of Siddharta’s decision, his friend also joins the Samanas. Both Siddharta and his friend initiate to the ways of the forest priests, learning a new lifestyle. At first Siddharta feels content, but slowly the same restlessness settles in. The book follows his journey and spiritual search for self, truth, and nirvana.

Siddharta begins his journey in search of a way to enlightenment. He is taught to try and lose himself and thus achieve nirvana. However, the more he searches, the more he becomes aware of himself. The battle of being one with everything and being yourself presented an interesting dilemma. Another theme in the book is bravery – courage to follow your own path. The book contrasts the different lifestyles and the challenges. A young man faces different challenges and has different ambitions than a middle-aged or an old man. Also the different social positions influence the lifestyle: whether a son of priest, wandering beggar, rich merchant or poor ferryman.

Siddharta was a very interesting read; it made me think about how life is constructed and about the world through the perspective of Buddhism. I read this books in a day because it was due back to the library on the next. Nevertheless, it was just what the doctor ordered – an interesting, thought-provoking book but still very enjoyable. I feel that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially if you’re not open to other religions – but it does make you think about humanity and our relation the world.

4/5

“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”

Quick update

Hi there!

I decided that I’d do a quick update post since the blog has been a quiet one for the past two weeks. I’m currently in the busiest stage of my study year in the university with course work, dissertation, and a ton of committee meetings that together make me work around the clock. I’ve been squeezing in some recreational reading but the fact is that currently my progress is about 40 pages a day. Weekends have been a bit better and I try to read as much as I can during those days.

I’m currently reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, and have now read about 400 pages out of the 969 paged monster. It will probably take one and a half weeks to finish this book, but after that I plan to read a lot more shorter books. This means that the blog will probably become more active at the end of the month when I’ve read more books and have time to write some reviews. But for now there will be a short break in the news feed.

© Lise Myrhe

Cheers! x

March Reads and April Plans

For me March is usually a busy study month, although nowhere near as busy as April. *shudder*. Thus it’s surprising that I managed to read 6 books in March! The books are again a mixture of genres: play, Finnish sci-fi, classics, young adult and adult fiction. And that’s how I like it. I usually find it hard to stick to one genre and I feel that reading diversely also helps me in understanding different types of books. In addition, I tend to discover some intertextuality between different genres which gives a much richer reading experience.

In March I posted 5 book reviews and one book haul. I was also awarded with the Liebster award, so if you want to read some random facts about me, go read that post.

The books I read in March:

I began my month with Forty Years On (by one of my favourite playwrights!) and enjoyed it very much. The book was a collection of three plays, all written in Bennett’s early years of play-writing. I loved the intertextuality and levels in Forty Years On (a play within a play), and laughed uncontrollably with Habeas Corpus. However, it didn’t quite reach the same level as The Uncommon Reader. 4/5 stars.

I started reading On Beauty right after Mrs. Dalloway, but for some reason I could not get myself into the story. I had read the first 120 pages when I did an impromptu visit to the library and returned home with three books, one of which I started to read immediately. However, I was determined to read this book in March – it’s been standing on my shelf since December – so I picked it up again and pushed through. I’m not saying that it is a bad book or that is it very boring – I just couldn’t immerse myself in the story. Zadie Smith does a great job in writing realistic characters that you instantly recognize. The book is a homage to Forster’s Howard’s End, a book that I haven’t read yet. Personally I feel that the plot in this book was secondary to the characters, which led to the fact that there was, in fact, too much going on. Nevertheless, I give the book 3.5/5 stars.

The books I plan to read in April:

  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (currently-reading)
  • Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks
  • Siddharta by Hermann Hesse
  • This is the Water by Yannick Murphy (ARC)
  • Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson

My April TBR consists of 5 books, but I can’t even think of adding another book due to the length of A Clash of Kings. I’m currently half-way through the first season and I want to read the book before continuing with the tv series. Needless to say, I will be behind when the 4th season begins but with my current pace of reading, I’ll probably finish the Dance with Dragons by the time Winds of Winter comes out.

After ACoK, I have a few library books to read – Siddharta by Hermann Hesse is a book that people say that they read in their twenties (check!) and that had an impact on their view of life. I don’t know much about the premise, except that it is a young man’s spiritual journey. Another library book for April is Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson –  the next book in my Tove100 challenge. In the beginning of March I requested This Is Water for review and received an e-copy. The book doesn’t come out until 29th of July but I plan to read it soon and get my review underway. And the final book in my TBR, Round Ireland with a Fridge, was actually mentioned in the vlogbrothers’ 18 Great Books You Probably Haven’t Read video. I picked this up back in November and as it is the German translation, I’ve been a bit hesitant to pick it up. However, it sounds like a fun read and I need to practice my German because I’ll be heading to Berlin in May – YAY!

Happy reading! x