A Clash of Kings

Written By: George R.R. Martin

Published By: Bantam Books

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                After reading A Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, I was completely hooked.  I even made sure I got a chance to see the first season of the television series adapted from the novels.  I loved the epic feel of the novels, the tale of kings and treachery, magic and dragons...I hadn't been this excited about a series like this since The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  I needed more and so, I purchased the rest of the series.  I just finished the second novel, a thousand page journey called A Clash of Kings.

                When we last left the lands of Westeros, etc., we watched the treachery of the House Lannister as they orchestrated the death of the King of the Seven Kingdoms Robert Baratheon.  His friend, Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell had come to Kings Landing to serve as the Hand of the King and to root out the murderer of the first Hand.  Unfortunately for him, what he discovered cost him his life as well.  The death of the King and his Hand caused a great rift in the Seven Kingdoms and the separation of the Stark family.

                In the North, Eddard's son Robb led soldiers in a battle against the Lannisters, Robert Baratheon's in-laws who now hold the throne.  Winning a number of battles and capturing Jaime Lannister, Robb is crowned King in the North by his army and his followers are numerous.  His mother, Catelyn, is with him, but fears for the safety of her son.  All she wants is to return to Winterfell with the rest of her family, but her daughter Sansa is the Boy King Joffrey's betrothed.  Daughter Arya is missing.  Brandon, crippled at the hands of Jaime Lannister, is at Winterfell with her youngest child Rickon and their direwolf companions.  The world is falling apart around Catelyn who feels responsible, having supported Eddard's decision to become Robert's Hand.

                Meanwhile, Robert's brothers have also crowned themselves King.  Believing the tale told by Eddard regarding Joffrey's birth, they both feel they have a right to be King of the Seven Kingdoms.  Renly Baratheon is an amiable man who has fought few wars, but is surrounded by followers.  Brother Stannis is not so well liked, but is aided by a priestess/sorceress in his quest.  And then there is Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands, who sees an opportunity to take the North from Robb Stark as he goes to war with the Lannisters.  Aiding him in his journey is none other than his son Theon, former ward of the Starks and best friend of Robb.

                And while all of this is going on, no one remembers that there is another seeking the throne, one who has more right to it than anyone.  Daenerys Targaryen, last surviving member of the Targaryen family who once ruled the Seven Kingdoms before being overthrown by Robert Baratheon and murdered by the Lannisters, has led what is left of her husband's followers to the land of Qarth in search of boats for a journey to Westeros.  Having brought dragons back to the world through faith and cunning, Daenerys seeks to recapture her family's throne.

                But what good will any king be if the Wall is breached.  The Men of the Night's Watch, including Jon Snow, Edddard Stark's bastard son, have discovered that the dead have begun to rise again and the Wildlings beyond the Wall are amassing a great army.  Could it be that the Wildlings, aided by their giants and wargs and the Undead, are planning to invade the Seven Kingdoms once more?  Having been so many centuries since the last invasion, no one would believe it possible.  Jon and his direwolf Ghost have seen more than they ever wished to see of the proof of this army and their intentions.  But will they survive their journey to warn the world?

                Oh man!  This book was a trip!  The sheer hugeness of the book was daunting, but like the Harry Potter series, the books of the Song of Ice and Fire series are long, but make for fast reads.  I finished the book in a matter of days and would have finished it faster if life hadn't intervened.  Divided into character chapters, we see events unfold through each of the main character's eyes, something I quite enjoyed.  The amount of intrigue and sheer treachery in A Clash of Kings is outrageous, yet captivating.  You will find yourself forever wondering if you should trust this character or that character...always wondering what the true motive is behind their actions.  Fans of action will love this novel for all of its bold and bloody battles on land and at sea.  Those who are faint of heart will want to skip the bloody parts.

                I like the tale of Tyrion Lannister as it began in A Game of Thrones, but I enjoyed him even more in A Clash of Kings.  Though he is a part of a family most readers will consider evil, Tyrion is by far the best of the bunch.  Intelligent, cunning and hysterically witty when dealing with people he has a distaste for, Tyrion truly stands out in this novel.  Serving as King's Hand in his father's stead while he is at war, Tyrion singlehandedly solidifies Joffrey's hold on the throne, protecting the kingdom from would-be king invasions and his own nephew's ruthless behavior.

                We learn more of the various Stark children's journey in this novel.  We don't see much of Robb, but we do learn of Arya's fate.  Though a young girl, Arya is more cunning than one would have given her credit for and survives much that would have killed a lesser being.  Though Rickon is still a petulant little child, Bran has begun to come of his own.  Learning that he has the power to see through other's eyes becomes a very useful tool in his and Rickon's survival. 

                Sansa's life with King Joffrey is just what the doctor ordered if you ask me.  A spoiled brat in the last novel, Sansa's getting just what she deserves in this one.  Even though, as a member of the Stark family, you don't want to see her killed, you may find that her treatment is suitable enough to dress her down a notch.  I loved Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane's interactions with Sansa.  Having suffered much abuse, both mentally and physically, Sandor is like a beaten dog, angry and hateful, but somehow, whenever he is with Sansa, he softens a bit.  Could he be in love?  Jon's own journey is nothing he could ever have expected and his trial at the end of this novel will shock all who read it (supposing that they have never watched the series, that is).

                As with A Game of Thrones, when I finished A Clash of Kings, I was left with a feeling of remorse.  The amazing adventure had finished and I still had more questions than answers.  Martin, once again, ended his novel on a cliffhanger note for each of the main characters.  I wanted more!  Fortunately, I won't have to wait long now that I own each novel in the series.  I will just have to find time to read the next novel, A Storm of Swords.


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