Book Review – A Clash Of Kings By George R.R. Martin

The bold omen of a comet “the color of blood and flame and sunsets” opens “A Clash Of Kings” the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series “A Song Of Ice And Fire.” Published by Bantam Books in 1999, “A Clash Of Kings” is a gripping multi-layered saga filled with characters that are interesting, witty, loathsome, or sympathetic.

The title of this fantasy novel is entirely accurate. Following the suspicious death of King Robert Baratheon in the first novel, his Iron Throne that unites the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is suddenly in dispute. Although Robert has three children and his eldest son, the adolescent and wholly reprehensible Joffrey, has ascended to the throne, the regency of his mother Queen Cersei is perceived as weak. More than one claimant seeks the Iron Throne and many kings clash as peace flees the land and challengers continue to scheme and multiply.

The Competing Monarchs

Stannis Baratheon: A younger brother of the late King Robert, he declares himself the rightful heir of the kingdom. He dismisses the children of Robert by claiming (correctly) that they are bastards. Cersei conceived all three of the children with her twin brother Jaime Lannister with whom she has had an ongoing incestuous relationship. The allegation is so shocking however that it is not sufficient to topple the regency of Queen Cersei. Additionally, Stannis Baratheon is supported by the sorceress Melisandre who is a priestess of the Lord of Light R’hllor. She is aggressively spreading this religion in the Seven Kingdoms and her power is real. Stannis has attached himself to her power and his quest to take the throne is deadly serious.
Renly Baratheon: The younger brother of Stannis Baratheon also seeks the Iron Throne. Although he has no direct claim because of numerous heirs ahead of him, Renly is attractive and well-liked, which is not the case for the dour Stannis. Renly also has many important allies and clash of kings game wiki supporters that make him militarily strong.
Robb Stark: The eldest son of Eddard Stark who was executed at the end of the first novel, Robb does not seek the Iron Throne. Instead, as the heir of the northern kingdom that had been united within the Seven Kingdoms, Robb has reverted to an independent state and been crowned the King of the North by his followers. He is young, only fifteen, but battles have made him grow up quickly, and with his pet dire wolf Grey Wind, he strikes a strong pose and has earned the loyalty of his men and knights.
As if a kingdom splintering into civil war were not sufficient, the plot of “A Clash Of Kings” is even thicker than good clam chowder and many more characters and subplots are woven into the story.

As in the first novel in the series, the Stark children hold a central role in the story, but now they are separated by multiple conflicts. Although the daughters Arya and Sansa take up a good portion of the novel, their brother Bran and half brother Jon Snow tend to have more interesting clash of kings game wiki storylines. The crippled Bran remains in the Stark ancestral home of Winterfell. Since being pushed out a window by Jaime Lannister, Bran has begun to experience supernatural abilities now that his body is broken. He can join with his pet dire wolf during his dreams, but he is not quite sure what it all means.

Then the adventures of the bastard son of Eddard Stark, Jon Snow, with the Night’s Watch on the Wall take him among the wildlings of the north. During his terrifying trek, Jon faces many trials and grows increasingly appealing as a character. He also learns about the gathering threats to the Seven Kingdoms in the wild lands.

The Lady Catelyn, the widow of Eddard Stark, is also an important figure in the novel. She wields a fair measure of authority as the mother of Robb, now King of the North, but her diplomatic efforts ceaselessly fail and her decisions always turn out to be bad.

Tyrion The Dwarf

Of all the characters devised by the imagination of Martin, Tyrion Lannister, the reviled dwarf born of his noble family, draws the reader into his life with all the power that a novel can conjure. Despite being often scorned, disliked, and dismissed, Tyrion’s power has been growing. He has cultivated a dependable group of cutthroat mercenaries to his side and in this novel his powerful father has installed him as the King’s Hand, an important albeit thankless administrative position with the monarchy.

Redeeming qualities for Tyrion are his intelligence, sharp tongue, sarcastic aptitude, and political boldness. Along with these strong traits, he gains the devotion of the reader simply by prevailing as a small man in a big world. He always seems to slip away from death despite his lack of friends outside the influence of his ample Lannister purse. Also near the end of the novel, Tyrion joins the fighters defending King’s Landing from the invasion of Stannis, and it is Tyrion’s strategies that save the city from the inept and inattentive leadership of his sister and regent, Queen Cersei.

“A Clash Of Kings” presents fantasy readers with a robust and intelligent second novel of a series that thrives with complexity and political machinations. Some readers may be intimidated by the length and detail of Martin’s fantasy novels, but the reader has little need to try to keep track of everything. Martin has the ability to endow characters with a fullness of life, emotion, ambition, and everything in between that is truly a gift to literature. Readers will care about the characters. Some you will want to throttle. Others you will want to save. While still others will awe you with their majesty, like Daenerys and her three hatchling dragons leading the remnants of her followers through a hostile desert as she seeks her destiny.

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