Monday, August 15, 2011

A Clash of Kings

** Major spoilers for A Game of Thrones. **

King Robert Baratheon is dead and his distasteful heir Joffrey holds the throne with Cersei Lannister as the Queen Regent. They and the rest of the Lannisters fight to keep the throne, but having Joffrey as king who is both sadistic and wrathful doesn't ingratiate the family to their people. Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both make known their claims to the throne and refuse to compromise with each other. Stannis is the eldest and unrelenting, but Renly is the most loved and charismatic. Robb Stark has been declared King in the North, splitting the land in half, and causing him to fill his father's not inconsiderable shoes and rescue his sisters from the clutches of the Lannisters. Daenerys nurses her three newborn dragons across the ocean and struggles to gather followers to take back to the Seven Kingdoms so she can claim her birthright, the Iron Throne. Outside of all these self proclaimed rulers, the Night's Watch grows smaller and discovers a great barbarian force beyond the Wall and creatures of legend that they never thought actually existed.

This series just gets better and better. Although close to a thousand pages, I devoured this book within a week. I was just compelled to read it at every spare moment. The characters and complex story just sucked me in. More characters are introduced in A Clash of Kings, such as Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, Brienne of Tarth. In general, I either really love or really hate characters in these books and sometimes I'm just confused because their own narrative portrays them one way while through others' eyes they are portrayed in a different way. Stannis brings in a new concept that hadn't been explored before: religious fanaticism. He wants to take over the throne with the Lord of Light, but he also forsakes all the other gods that are typically worshiped in this world. He doesn't believe in the Lord of Light, but Melisandre does and this evil sorceress helps him enormously. Brienne of Tarth is another strong female character in this series. For a world that is highly misogynistic, there are a lot of strong women that hold more power than expected. This just shows that misogyny in a story doesn't necessarily mean the story itself or the author is misogynistic. Brienne is different than other women because she is a knight and feels awkward as a woman because she isn't good at things women are expected good at. She proves to be a kick-ass character and just seems born in the wrong time and the wrong world.

Other characters are developed from the previous novel, such as Tyrion Lannister and Sandor Clegane. He is one of my favorite characters in these books. His narrative is laced with wit and cleverness. His is probably the only one where I laugh out loud. He becomes the King's Hand at the end of A Game of Thrones to pick up Joffrey's messes and ingratiate the family with others. In addition to this, he seeks to punish those responsible for Eddard Stark's murderers and to thwart his sister Cersei's commands. He tries very hard to treat those who are weak with kindness and to seek what justice he can provide, but also wants his family to succeed who are largely cruel and horrible. Reading his story, I though his efforts were admirable and he accomplished a lot, but the commoners misinterpret his actions as tyranny and just see him as a horrible, power hungry dwarf. It broke my heart to read that because he's such a good character at heart. On the other hand, I started out hating Sandor Clegane. He was just a dog to carry out his masters commands. In this book, he still does that, but shows a more tender side that I never thought was there. He actually capable of protecting people. It shocked me to find that I had sympathy for him and that he wasn't such a bad guy. George R.R. Martin's writing is amazing and it really shows through his characters.

The story is even more complex than the last book (what with about 10 people declaring themselves King) and the cast of characters expands and contracts with shocking ease. The twists and turns come out of nowhere in A Clash of Kings and leave me with my mouth hanging open in shock. If you're looking for an involved story, intrigue, violence, war, mystery, fantastical creatures, and a very large fight for a throne, I would highly recommend this series.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

** If you'd like to win the first book, A Game of Thrones, I'm giving away a copy in my Comic-Con Giveaway! **

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