Monday, May 31, 2010

A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin



The second book of the "A song of Ice and Fire" series picks up the story where "A Game of Thrones" left it. The first novel divided the kingdom, this second novel leaves those who are left to pick up and mend the pieces. And that's not an easy job. "There are more kings in this kingdom than there are dogs" one poor citizen mentions. Not less than seven self proclaimed kings have a claim at the throne and each one has an army to back it. Some are even looking at more exotic ways to win the iron throne...

The book follows the survivors from the previous novel and adds one new person. Davos is an ex smuggler who is very grateful to his lord, the rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms, Stannis Baratheon. A decade ago he smuggled onions to the besieged castle at Storms End. Stannis gave him a lordship with one hand but took away his left hands fingers with the other one as he believed that everyone must pay for his sins no matter how heroic they act now. Small wonder that Stannis is the least popular king of them all. Davos however doesn't hold a grudge against his king and he's even keeping his fingers in a pocket around his neck for good luck. He's an interesting person to follow. Clever and we can still feel the commoners blood flow through him even if his sons already feel of the higher class. Davos himself however, is not one to forget his past and he always speaks his mind to Stannis.

The old favourites have returned too. I mentioned that the dwarf Tyrion and the boy-like girl Arya are my favourites and this books only adds to that. Especially Tyrion gets a major part in this book. He's acting as hand of the king and as such he's doing a far better job than his predecessor. Intelligence and cunning go hand in hand as he intuitively knows how to plot and bargain to keep his kingdom safe. And even though he's not afraid to kill or even torture people to that end he remains sympathetic. For a big part it's because he remains loyal to his family. His companions mention how much easier his life would be without his cousin and he's always got to watch his back to see if his sisters fangs aren't in it but he loves his family and wouldn't hurt them. He's also showing a deep affection towards his beloved one, a hooker he has to keep locked in a pretty cage filled with silk. All of this makes sure that he keeps his human side. -

We're also following how Arya makes her way back to the North. Her sister, Sansa has gotten a deeply needed wake up call and her love for her captors turns into hate while she still manages to show them a smile. Daenerys, Catelyn and Jon have smaller rolls in this novel but there seems to be  build up to the following books. A lot of the major events are only seen as sideline stories through their eyes. A castle can fall and they might find out like everyone else, through gossip or a carrier raven. It makes them all feel like small radars in a bigger clockwork. Still, with this huge cast of characters, to me the highlights of this amazing book were the Tyrion chapters.

And let it be clear that his is an amazing book. Tons of things are happening at once but Martin manages to keep it all in check. The book is a huge one but it needs all those pages to tell this complex story, there are no filler pages in here. These series are on a different level than most other fantasy novels. Few manage to tell such a great story so flawlessly It makes me long to read the next book in the series and hope that George R.R. Martin can finish the next books in the following decade.

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