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

BANTAM BOOKS, 2013/1999

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.


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


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