A Reader Opines: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Sometimes we take for granted the ease in which entertainment comes to us. We live in an era where books, movies, television and music is literally at our fingertips. The push of a button or two gives us access to any of these mediums. With so many new books entering the market, why do so many of us choose to read a series that began over fifteen years ago? Good writing, intriguing stories and relatable characters — that’s why.

Blurb taken from Goodreads:
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 wartime. 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.

This is a difficult book to review because it is one part of a larger whole. Those skillful hands that began stitching the patchwork story in the first novel nimbly continue, giving us, at times, a clearer understanding of events. New threads are being added and we aren’t sure what image they are going to show us when all is said and done. But each new strand rivets us to the story and we become emotionally invested.

As I read A Clash of Kings, many things popped out at me from a writing standpoint. Martin has populated these books with a multitude of characters. In truth, I can’t name them all. It’s a no-no in the publishing world to do such a thing, so how does this author get away with it? The main characters are extraordinary, that’s how. Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen (to name only a few) are memorable. They have faults and virtues, they are multi-faceted, ever growing and changing.

The words on the page are at times beautiful. Even while characters are hacking each others heads off, Martin commands the language expertly. For example:

“The long low note lingered at the edge of hearing. The sentries at the ring wall stood still in their footsteps, breath frosting and heads turned toward the west. As the sound of the horn faded, even the wind ceased to blow. Men rolled from their blankets and reached for spears and swordbelts, moving quietly, listening. A horse whickered and was hushed. For a heartbeat it seemed as if the whole forest were holding its breath. The brothers of the Night’s Watch waited for a second blast, praying they should not hear it, fearing that they would.”

This passage is written in such a way to allow the reader to see and hear what’s happening. As a result, the anxiety seeps into you as it does the characters.

This world and its inhabitants combine familiar and mysterious elements written in such a way that it’s as if we’ve lived there all our lives. I found myself torn between wanting to read constantly until I’d finished and holding back so that I could remain immersed in the world for as long as possible. I should have the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series soon. I’m ready to continue the journey, anxious even.

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