The Bookshelf: A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2 by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings

Warning:  If you have not read A Game of Thrones or have not finished the HBO series first season, stop reading now!  There will be spoilers immediately.  Thank you and have a nice day…. The Management.

Book 2 of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, A Clash of Kings begins immediately after the events ending A Game of Thrones.  Robb has been declared King of the North, Sansa is stuck at King’s Landing with that shithead King Joffrey, Renly has declared himself the rightful heir to the throne, Arya is heading north with Yoren, Jon and Ghost are heading into the Wildling territory to investigate the happenings there and Dany has her three dragons.

Much of this novel involves movement… who is moving where, why are they headed there and what will become of our heroes and enemies?  In a sense, the first three novels of this series comprise a very particular trilogy and a very specific story arc… that of the original mystery of “who killed Jon Arryn”?  This novel is very much the second of three in that it has more shades of doom and gloom for all those we love.

What begins as a realm of one king quickly devolves into what is known as the War of Five Kings.  Yes, Joffrey is now King… but Robb Stark claims the north, Balon Greyjoy (Theon’s father) claims the Iron Islands, Renly (Robert’s youngest brother) believes he should be King and ultimately, Stannis Baratheon… Robert’s middle brother, and based on the reasoning that Joffrey is the product of incest between the Queen and her brother Jaime, he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.  Stannis was only mentioned in the first novel… but becomes a major player in the second.

The prologue introduces us to the Maester at Dragonstone, Cressen, and his dislike of the Red Priestess Melisandre of Asshai.  She has become Stannis’ close confidant and has caused the King to forsake the seven Gods of old and take up the one true Lord of Light, R’hllor (hmmmm… any particular metaphor going on here?).  She believes that Stannis is a great warrior returned as she has seen this in the flames and has pointed to a bright red comet in the sky as a sign (really…writing this paragraph is difficult… seems so silly at times, yet so remarkably riveting).

We are introduced to a whole host of new characters in this already convoluted and twisted story… beginning with the cast at Dragonstone, including Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight… a former smuggler who was knighted by Stannis and is his trusted counsel.  As a payment for his previous crimes, Stannis removed the tips of Davos’ four fingers on his left hand while making him a knight at the same time… just and cruel at the same time.  Of course we are introduced to Stannis and Melisandr… but throughout the novel we are greeted by characters we grew to know and love in the first book in addition to those added. Other new characters… Brienne of Tarth (a massive fan favorite for good reason), a huge and homely woman who becomes a knight in Renly’s Kingsguard; Asha Greyjoy, Theon’s sister; Ygritte, the wildling woman whom Jon Snow meets in his travels with the free people in the north; and an incredibly motley group of characters found in Arya’s journeys.

I won’t go into any details of the plot as usual… just knowing who is in the novel is enough of a spoiler… and I certainly won’t mention who doesn’t make it to the end, but rest assured, there are more shocking events that will keep you coming.  And the grand finale of this novel will leave you gape mouthed and in awe of how well an action scene can be written.  And in answer to everyone’s question… yes, Tyrion figures prominently and does wonders at King’s Landing… and yes, Joffrey is still a complete and total little prick and manages to be such a wonderful little villain.

As for Dany and her dragons?  Honestly, and this is a bit of a spoiler… she doesn’t do too much.  She wanders around trying to find an army and funding.  There are some groovy scenes with a prophecy… but ultimately, the novel is a space for her dragons to begin growing and her to begin building an army.

The only bit of sadness I have regarding this novel is knowing that HBO simply does not have the budget to portray the final battle correctly.  Pity, it would be quite a spectacle.  Perhaps they can use the money they saved by beheading the big ticket actor and pump it into effects.  All of the new cast members are relatively unknown and I’m sure they were cheaper than Sean Bean (who is priceless in my opinion… and dammit, he was snubbed at the Emmy’s… at least Peter Dinklage was recognized)… let’s do something great with the savings!

In closing, if you have read A Game of Thrones, you will obviously be reading A Clash of Kings. It may not have the oomph of the first novel, but it is a classic middle tale of a trilogy (ultimately a septology?) and will leave you panting to conclude the saga… or at the very least you will be cheering for some unlikely heroes and loving the multi dimensional aspects of most of the characters.

Alas poor Yoren, a man of infinite jest…
Cornelius J. Blahg

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