Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Thoughts - A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
published 1999
1009 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead . . . victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a 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, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel . . . and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.

My thoughts:

October 29 - This is the second book in the series, and does feel a bit like a "connector" novel- lots of people getting to the places they need to be for the BIG SCENE that hasn't quite happened yet. All of Martin's fascinating characters are back, and he introduces us to even more - my husband tells me to get used to the new character thing, as it apparently happens in all the novels. I am already amazed that Martin can keep everyone straight in his own head.

Because there is so much traveling around, this second novel doesn't have quite the same "holy cow I have to keep reading to see what happens next" aspect that was such a part of the first one, and the war machinations are just not that exciting for me. However, I am loving the new insights Martin is giving us into his characters, and the way he infuses both good and bad into each. I know Theon is a bad guy, but Martin allows me to feel sympathetic toward his anyway by showing me how he has been displaced and marginalized all his life. I know Tyrion is a Lannister, and the Lannisters are evil, but then he helps Sansa and works against Cersei, and I start to like him despite myself. Joffrey is still a horrible little brat, but everyone else has such depth. I can't imagine how much the characters are going to live and breath for me as I read farther and farther in the series.

November 12 - Okay, scratch that - wow, does a lot of stuff happen at the end of this novel! Still quite a bit of warring, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to skimming quite a bit of that. But my goodness, I did not expect the last several chapters. Every time I think I can see what's coming, Martin throws the story in a completely different way. It sure makes for great reading!

One of the things I think he does so well is allow the reader to view so many varying perspectives - we see individual characters' perspectives, as each chapter is told from a separate point of view. The war and upheaval are very different things to Arya and Tyrion, for example. Then he broadens out, and reminds us of the many things that have occurred that half of the characters don't even know about yet - their perspectives are much smaller than ours, because of their distance or proximity to certain events. And then, in the back of our minds, there is the nagging suspicion that all these wars and intrigues and struggles probably won't even matter anyway, because what in the world is coming over The Wall? And what will happen when the dragons arrive? The scope of Martin's storytelling is quite amazing, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

I would love to tell everyone I know to read this series, but I suspect that unless you are a fan of the genre this won't be for you. You should definitely not read this novel until you've read the first in the series - this is not a series to take out of order! My husband is on book 5, and tells me the next novel (A Storm of Swords) is even better - I can't wait!

Finished: 11/12/11
Source: my shelves
MPAA rating: R - violence, death, war, etc.
My rating: 9/10