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So, I don't know about you guys, but I was so excited to read this book especially after the ending of the first book. I don't know how many people I've heard rant and rave about the fact that Ned is no longer with us. Well, you're in for quite a shock if you think Mr Martin isn't afraid to kill off more of your favourites. Beware!
I really liked that the battle for the throne becomes a whole lot more serious in this book. In the first, there's a period after Robert's death in which no one really says anything against Joffrey being king until Ned tries to let the cat out of the bag. In ACoK, there's five definite contenders for the throne; Joffrey, Stannis, Renly, Robb and Daenerys. Personally, I'd love to see Dany kick everyone's ass, but there you are.
A particular character that I found myself surprisingly enamoured with was Renly. When Catelyn is staying with him on behalf of Robb, I just loved that he seemed kind of happy go lucky. He was a fairly strong contender with regards to men, but he was perfectly happy feasting and having tourneys to keep his men happy. And I'm not going to lie, the Rainbow Guard really made me chuckle. Also, you can't talk about Renly without mentioning Brienne, and I just want to cuddle that woman forever. Her relationship with Catelyn was sweet and I like that she's completely dedicated once she commits herself to something. I've heard snippets here and there about her in the upcoming books, and I'm glad she's sticking around for a little while.
The Starks are possibly my favourite characters in this series so far, but I am not ashamed to admit that I absolutely loathed Sansa in GoT. I wanted to give her a good shake and tell her to stick by her bloody family. By the end of this book, however, she had become one of the people I was routing hardest for. Gone is the spoiled little girl who longed to be a princess, I think her true Stark colours are coming out to play now. She seems to have finally grown up, taken off her rose tinted glasses and realised that there are much more important things than marrying Joffrey Baratheon. Any and all interacts she has with Sandor Clegane make my heart clench, because he's always on the lookout for the 'little bird'. I think she could cause some real trouble if she set her mind to it.
If you haven't read this book yet, all I can say is prepare for your hatred of Joffrey to grow tenfold. I have never disliked a fictional character as much as this boy. If he doesn't die at some point, I will be greatly disappointed.
Now that I've read two books in this series, I can honestly say that I have no idea why I waited this long. I've actually had to forbid myself from starting the third book until my exams are over, or I know I'd do nothing but read. If you're looking for a fantasy series that will completely knock your socks off, this is it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin
Why read this one?...
Having watched season one of the impressive show that is based on the epic by George RR Martin I read the first book. That book was superb. Vivid. Realistic and believable. It left me wanting more. Hence I have now consumed A Clash of Kings.
Winter is coming. Always bear that in mind. It is a saying of The Starks. The Starks are hard men, north men and they have respect for the winter that will come. No ordinary winter, a winter that will last years instead of months. A winter that will bring out the Others. Some believe that the Others don't exist - don't they? A boy now sits the Iron Throne at King's Landing. Baratheon by name but by birth he be Lannister. Lannister's are feared but not loved - how long will he sit the throne.
Let the Games begin...
I expected the book to begin were the last ended. It didn't. I was to be acquainted with Stannis Baratheon, brother to the late King Robert and by rights the new King of the Iron Throne. He won't find the route to that throne easy - though he wants it. His wife wants him to have it and her new powerful friend (a lady in red) would have him have it. This new setting and group of characters made for an interesting start to the prose, though I had to concentrate hard on remembering quite a lot of new names. Initially I attempt to remember them and their lineages but after a while I know it is futile and understand that, as and when it is important to know, Martin will remind me or I can access the appendix where all are listed. I don't concern myself with supporting cast and focus on the fast paced antics of the new King Stannis.
Stannis is not included as a good guy. Martin moulds him into a bad boy persona, though; I sometimes see insecurity and glimpses of kindness - you have to be looking hard to notice those. His brother, Renley, is easy to like and loved by many. He would take issue with Stannis regarding the throne - he will go against him and one of the brothers will either yield or die. If you play the game of thrones it is known that you must be prepared to die. This is so believable when you are reading the prose. This is fiction but could so easily be history. A reality. Men felt alive when battling, knew no fear, felt no pain - they were fully focused in the moment and must have thought themselves invincible. Martin conveys the love that these brothers have for each other and it makes the situation poignant and touching. It's brutal is war but somehow deep within it there is compassion - if that makes sense.
All the while I'm reading about the Baratheon brothers I am waiting to hear about the Starks. The Starks of Winterfell. The sigil of this house is a direwolf and some of the youngsters are masters of a direwolf. This intrigues me as I like wolves but also there is a connection that goes beyond the House Sigil with these wolves and their masters. Something much deeper and very interesting - I can see that storyline going somewhere fascinating, though, I always fear that an enemy will target the wolves and kill them. In the last book I was struggling to identify the main protagonist. In this book I have found them. For me it has to be the Starks. I am attached to them the most. It makes sense that they must be prioritised and take centre stage. I thought it may have been Daenerys Targaryen (The Queen across the water) as she was always of interest too. It is not, I have not been anywhere near as concerned about her as I am the Starks.
These characters have soon got under my skin. All for different reasons and I don't fully like them all but that is not necessary to begin to love them. Sansa has still some way to go before she stops being afraid and wanting to please all the time. She is young, but a girl, and her courage and defiance now begin to flower - along with her menstruation. I felt utterly horrified when I discovered, at the same time as she, that the vile young King Joffrey may still bed her even though she is now no longer to be his betrothed. Martin impresses me with the complete change of heart that Sansa has regarding Joffrey. Once blinkered and full of romantic notions she overlooked his nasty nature - since her beloved direwolf was slain on his behalf she has opened her eyes and sees him for what he is. I grow impatient with her at times and want her to rebel against him faster but as with anything patience is a virtue and I have a feeling that Sansa's revenge will be something to savour. I have faith in her that was not evident when we first met.
Arya is a firm favourite. Tomboy and full of spirit - I like her very much. It was difficult for me to see her have the confidence and fight knocked out of her when taken captive. She has to hide her identity. At times she has to be a 'boy'. She is bullied by men and begins to shrink into someone unrecognisable. I begin to get annoyed with Martin for doing this to such an independent and promising girl. She becomes a mouse - sneaking and skulking about, fearful even. Then she meets a man that will change her. Slowly she begins to regain the wolf within her and I breathe relief - Arya is back.
I don't get to hear much about Rob - or King Rob as we must now call him. Rob Stark is King of the North and doing pretty well by all accounts. One welcome captive is Jamie Lannister - the golden Kingslayer who has a fancy for between his sister's thighs. I have no liking for him or Queen Cersei (his sister/lover) though they are necessary for the sake of the prose. There has to be someone who schemes, double deals and is utterly nasty just for the hell of it - this pair fills the spot nicely. The Lannister name is not liked by many and that includes me as a reader - though one of the clan has managed to endear himself to me. Tyrion, the imp, has compassion and is intelligent. I settle down and make myself all the more comfortable when his chapter comes along as I know that it will be clever, witty and engaging. He is a guilty pleasure and I root for him. I always want him safe.
Bran and Rickon Stark play more of a part in this prose and so have wriggled further into my affections. Rickon is only a boy of four and can be temperamental, at times this is irritating but then believable of a boy of that age who is without the majority of his family and kept apart from his pet wolf - just because he happened to take a bite out of someone. Not fair really but there you go. Bran is only a young boy and already beginning to think and act like a little prince come King. The speed at which the boys have to mature in these circumstances (war) is incredible but is in line with what would happen and indeed most probably has happened in the past - it is very believable. Bran is broken. He has no use of his legs and it makes him feel useless. I really feel for him but he is not useless. He is yet to learn what talent/gift he has and when he does he will know that he will do better than run on two legs - it's intriguing but we have to wait and see what Martin has in store for Bran.
Jon Snow may not be a pure born Stark but he is one of Ned Stark's sons. A bastard son and now of the Black - men who guard the north along a wall of ice - he is always of interest to me. I don't pity him because of his title. Out of all the sons of Stark he stands out as the one most like Ned. He is strong, calm and most of the time he is wise. He has courage and he is loyal. He has a direwolf named Ghost and the two of them together are formidable. He believes winter is almost upon us. He has seen evidence of the Others. He knows what they can do and he knows they will be very difficult to stop. While others play a game of thrones he works with the men of the black to try and protect all warm blooded beings from the wrath of the Others. Kings on thrones will be no match for them if they get over the wall.
Caetlyn Stark wants peace. Just peace. She acts as go between with Stannis and Renley, she speaks to Jamie Lannister and she prays to the Gods. At times she got on my nerves and showed a weakness when it was obvious that war was the only option unless you want to be owned by Lannisters - never to be free men again. She wants her girls back safe and she is grieving - I could understand that and once again it is believable. All the same her meddling and interfering I could do without. I was with the men.
Time spent with the Queen across the sea, Danereys, seemed to be short lived in comparison to the trials of the Kings in the North and Kings landing. I thought I would have got more glimpses of the dragons that she is mother to but was disappointed with the snippets that were granted. All the same it was nice to be around her, though her developments were not as interesting in this book as in the last - I believe her time is yet to come and look forward to witnessing her arrival.
Once again the pace in the book is good. I like the chapters being via each character of deemed importance. Some new characters were given chapters and that was something to get my teeth into. Description is vivid and captivating. At times the lists of lineages and houses were a challenge to remember but as I have said earlier it is best not to concern yourself about them as Martin will nudge you in the right direction if need be and there is the full appendix to access at your leisure. I like the maps that appear at the beginning of the book and I feel I have a good idea of the locations of castles and areas having studied it well.
The plot of this prose is not hard to guess and the game has always been to grab the throne -sack the castle. Nobody will get chance to warm that spiked seat for long without an attack. Joffrey is playing his silly little game upon the throne at present; he really believes that it is he that rules - as all Kings do. All is in the hands of the hand (Tyrion) and the Queen Cersei - oh and of course whoever is on the council whispering in ears. The hand of the King usually has a short life expectancy - is that so for Tyrion Lannister? I hope not.
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If you have read the first in this series by Martin (A game of thrones) then yes I can highly recommend this to you. Like the first book this is fresh and vivid in description. Martin sticks to the story and doesn't go off on tangents or reams of description. The pace is good and when need be it is fast. Pages turn quickly. Chapters are based on characters and this keeps the content easy to follow. Characters are getting more meat on their bones and it's easy to become attached to your favourite(s). The bad guys are getting dirty whilst the good guys are becoming bad (when need be). Female characters are gutsy and if not yet they will be soon - its coming. Winter is coming. The Others will come. Joffrey sits the iron throne playing at being King. Tyrion plays the real game of thrones - but who will win?
Those who play the game of thrones must be prepared to die!
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© Dawnymarie 2013
A Clash of Kings is the second novel of George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire. The story picks up where the first novel A Game of Thrones left off, with the Stark family of Winterfell scattered throughout the Seven Kingdoms, all of them in danger and fighting their own war.
The series is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a fantasy land based in medieval times. The official king is Joffrey, heir to Robert Baratheon, but three others have declared themselves rightful king, one of them Robb Stark, who calls himself King of the North. His younger brothers, Bran and Rickon, remain at Winterfell, but are not as safe as their mother Catelyn hopes. Sansa Stark is held hostage at the court of Joffrey, still betrothed to him, while Arya travels through the Seven Kingdoms disguised as a boy. Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark, is a brother of the Nights Watch, who guard the Wall in the north, keeping the kingdom safe from wildings and other dangers. He too is in great danger, as he joins a party of rangers to venture beyond the wall to investigate worrying events.
Each of the Starks tells their story in third person, a chapter at a time. In addition to them, we also hear from Tyrion Lannister, dwarf brother of Queen Cersei, Joffrey's mother, and Daenerys (Dany) Targaryen, the last of the dynasty overthrown by Robert Baratheon.
The benefit of having so many narrators means the telling of the story knows no bounds - we hear it from every angle, we see all events as there is always one of our narrators present. When a story is on a scale so great as that of A Clash of Kings (and indeed the whole series), this is the only way to tell it. There are multiple layers and threads to it, each character may be concerned about the overriding story (who will triumph as king and what is the future of the Seven Kingdoms?) but within that, they all have their own concerns and preoccupations which form their individual stories. Sansa is perhaps the least interesting narrator, shallow and scared as she is, but even hers is an important role as she is at the centre of Joffrey's court.
All these story layers are utterly absorbing. A Clash of Kings pulled me in even more than the first novel did. I was fully caught up in the story, in serious danger of missing my bus stop on several occasions. It is brilliantly crafted, and always keeps you hanging, wanting more. One narrator finishes but you want more from them, but then you get pulled into the story of the following narrator, and when you reach the end of their chapter, you want more from them too.
Martin's writing is superb. I feel I noticed this in A Clash of Kings even more so than in the first novel, A Song of Ice and Fire. The Seven Kingdoms may be a fantasy world with strange creatures, but it is a medieval world, and Martin's style of writing completely immerses you in that world. There is nothing about it which points to a modern author trying to explain medieval or fantasy elements of the story, yet on the other hand it is completely accessible for modern readers.
The novels of A Song of Ice and Fire are long ones, which I for one am very glad for - they take longer than most books to read, which means I have longer to enjoy them. A Clash of Kings is similar in length to A Song of Ice and Fire itself: reading them on Kindle means I don't have to worry about holding the weight. The third novel, A Storm of Swords, is actually available on Kindle in two installments, so presumably it is exceptionally long. Excellent - all the more reading enjoyment for me.
I really cannot recommend A Clash of Kings highly enough, but in fact I am recommending the series as a whole. It is important that you begin at the start, with the first novel A Game of Thrones, the story is far too complex to try to pick up further into the series - and far too good to skip any parts of it.