Friday, July 8, 2011

A Clash of Kings

The big question I found myself asking after reading A Game of Thrones was could George Martin back it up? I’m not the first person to read a series enjoy the opening book, but feel badly let down by the subsequent volumes.

A Clash of Kings answered my question with a resounding yes.

A Clash of Kings concentrates, as the title may imply, on the war that erupts in Westeros for the Iron Throne following the death of King Robert Baratheon in A Game of Thrones. There are five claimants for the throne on Westeros; the boy king Joffrey Baratheon. Robert’s two younger brothers; Stannis and Renly, who both contend that Joffrey is the result of an incestuous relationship between Cersei and her twin brother Jaime Lannister, and therefore has no claim to the throne. Robb Stark, the King in the North, and Balon Greyjoy, the King of the Iron Islands. There’s also Danaerys ‘Stormborn’ Targaryen across the sea, you could contend that even the leader of the wildlings; Mance Rayder considers himself a king of sorts.

To give readers an insight into the plans of Stannis Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy, Martin had to add two new PoV (Point of View) characters. Davos Seaworth, the former smuggler known as the Onion Knight, was Stannis’ right hand man and provided readers with a warts and all look at Robert Baratheon’s younger brother, who had grown up in the older one’s shadow and was none too happy about it. The other new PoV was a character that was familiar to readers from A Game of Thrones; Ned Stark’s ward Theon Greyjoy. Theon was not a particularly well liked character in the first book and no opportunity to describe him as sly or cunning was ever missed. In an effort to gain his father’s admiration it is Theon who attacks and takes control of Winterfell in Robb’s absence.

The game that George Martin set in motion in his first book continues in the second and it grows ever more deadly as it unfolds. Readers know that not everyone will get out of this alive. His willingness to kill off key characters allows Martin to create shocks for the readers. In A Clash of Kings there are two characters who are believed to be dead and because George isn’t afraid to do this everyone believes that they are only to have the rug pulled out from under them when they are presented as still alive.

The characters started to move apart in A Clash of Kings even more so than they had in A Game of Thrones. Catelyn is travelling between her son’s camp at her family’s home of Riverrun to the Frey’s stronghold and Renly’s moving court of followers. Jon has gone ranging with his brothers from the Wall in an effort to find out what became of his uncle Benjen. Sansa is being held as a prisoner at Joffrey’s court and going through her own personal hell at the hands of her psychopathic betrothed. Arya has left Kings Landing and is travelling across a war torn countryside trying to make her way back home. Bran is still at Winterfell attempting to hold what is left of his family together. Tyrion has come to Kings Landing and is given the task of preparing the city for attack from either one or both of the Baratheon brothers’ forces. Dany is leading her khal through the east trying to find a way onto the continent.

The narrative skilfully builds to a slam bang finale with the spectacular Battle of the Blackwater and leaves readers desperately waiting for the 3rd instalment of this awesome epic.

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