Wednesday, July 6, 2011
A Clash of Kings, Volume two of A Song of Ice of Fire
As my two readers probably remember, about a month ago I reviewed the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. Now as I mentioned in my review and in my brief interview with Following the Nerd, I really liked this series from George R.R. Martin. As I mentioned in my other review, the plot builds over a very long period of time, as the nerds called it a "slow-burner". We've got dozens of characters hundreds of miles apart working on different goals with about three or four different plots working at once. Sometimes with a book this complex it becomes a challenge to keep the plots and characters straight, much less interesting, but Martin really makes it work. His masterful storytelling continues to get me emotionally invested in the characters and eager to find out what happens next. Definitely a must-read for fans of epic fantasy. Before I continue I want to make a couple other points about this. Obviously with plots this intricate you have to start from the beginning of the series. I know in some other series you can pick up in the middle no problem, this is definitely not the case. Second, when I talk about the plot you're probably going to have to skip ahead if you haven't read A Game of Thrones yet because I really cannot avoid spoilers. I wish I could, but as I mentioned the ongoing plot is central to the book so, sacrifices must be made.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD! Scroll on ahead for the rest of the review.
Okay, so since the death of King Robert Baratheon, no less than four men have sought the title of king in Westeros. On the Iron Throne in King's Landing, the boy king Joffrey continues to be an absolute jerk that I just want to strangle so thoroughly. Oh my god I just love to hate this guy, forcing men to fight to the death, firing crossbows into peasants for fun, this guy's a great villain. However, both of Joffrey's paternal "uncles" have sought the throne for themselves. On the island keep of Dragonstone Stannis Baratheon, brother of the late King Robert, has become the King in the Narrow Sea. He has the power of a new god and a new religion on his side which he hopes will let him subdue the usurper kings. Crowning yourself seems to be a family trait in the Baratheon family, because Stannis's younger brother Renly has also declared himself king. Renly's far more decadent, creating a new order of knighthood with the mounted knights of Highgarden in his army. The war in the south turns into a family bloodfeud, but this doesn't mean there's nothing going on in the north. Robb Stark, the Young Wolf, has been declared King in the North by his bannermen and remains a grave danger to Lannister power. As the realm begins to tear itself apart, other people begin their own designs on Westoros, both nearby and far abroad. It's a great mix of political intrigue, adventure, and epic battles.
SPOILERS END HERE
Okay, so one thing I noticed about this book is that religion has a greater influence in this novel than in Game of Thrones. In the first book, the old gods and the new gods are sort of mentioned, but not really a large deal. In this book we learn the seven aspects of the new god, the Drowned God of the ironmen, R'hllor the Lord of Light, and the old gods of the north. While it's sort of a new aspect of the book I appreciated the cultural differences brought up in this book. It helps reaffirm the deep world-building that went into this series and makes the story feel more real by comparison.
Another thing I want to point out is the issue of smut. (Down, Katie, down.) Now I know my puritanical views regarding smut are frowned upon by certain members of this blog, but this smut really has become downright distracting. There will be a deep well-thought out discussion of the political situation in Westeros and how this faction could affect the overall political balance and then the books like "Hey, they're having sex during all of this, by the way." Really awkward and really irritating. Really it just could have been left out and nothing would have changed overall. I know this is a big book so you have more room, but little details that are unnecessary are wasteful for a book whether it be three hundred pages or one thousand pages.
Anyway, if you liked the first one, you'll like this one and it's a continuation of a good series. Some issues here and there but they are outnumbered by the positive growth so I can't complain too terribly much. Getting four and a half sheep.
Adventurer's Rule #18: Crossing a river can be much harder than you initially think.