A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings
By George RR Martin
Published by Spectra
Published on  2002

Summary from GoodReads:
A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who hold 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. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which 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, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

My review:
So.  Good.  
As stated above, A Clash of Kings is the second book in The Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin.  Recently made popular by the HBO television series A Game of Thrones, the novels have recently gained more notoriety outside of fantasy-nerd circles.  I have not seen the tv series (who can afford HBO?!), but it sounded like something I might be interested in.
I finally started reading them on the recommendation of a friend who is a big fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time cycle.  I was told that if I can keep all of Jordan’s characters, nationalities, plots, sub-plots, politics, and names straight, that I would probably enjoy Martin, whose style is similarly cerebral.  Martin actually wins some bonus points from me for not naming every single weapon, horse, person, and nationality with names differing only by a few letters (like Saruman and Sauron in Lord of the Rings by Tolkein – ugh!).  I think it is true…  if you are a fan of Jordan, you are going to like these books.  They are certainly bawdier and less chaste, but definitely just as complex and engaging.
Part of what I have really enjoyed so far about these books is that kids play a major role in most of the storylines.  Each chapter has a different narrator, and it has been especially cool to read from the perspective of the children.  Granted, these children are more mature than some of the 30-year-olds I know, but still, it is fun to see how their stories develop as the wars rage on.  I am certainly anxious to see what happens to them over the rest of the cycle.  So far, Martin has published 3 more (A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons) and it is thought he will finish up with 2 beyond that, bringing the total to 7.  
Of course, I should warn you – the novels are violent and, at times, graphic.  A scene comes to mind in which a young bride is “taken” by her husband, who happens to be riding a horse at the time, in front of all of his clan, because he is so “enflamed” by a recent victory.  Even I gaped at that one, and I think it was only 4 sentences of the chapter.  I have to say though, as much as sex is a part of the novel, it is not a focus.  I think that Martin makes it clear that sex (and sexual violence) are part of the culture and that the whole mentality surrounding it is vastly different than our mindset about it today.  The scene I described earlier was not inappropriate or wrong in their society, and knowing it helps you understand the characters more.  However, if such graphic scenes bother you, I would encourage you to stay away from these books, because they permeate many plotlines.  
Overall, I am committed to this series.  I will definitely read all 7.  I wish I could give you more detail about what has happened in the second book, but for those of you out there who have not read the first, I would not want to spoil anything.  Part of the fun of these novels is that you are genuinely surprised by some of the things that happen.  For example, major characters that you know and love suddenly die or are taken hostage or switch sides, and you never saw it coming.  Martin keeps you on your toes and excited for more, which is why I am hooked.  If you choose to read this series, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I am!

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