I was flying quite high after watching and reading Game of Thrones. I felt like the TV series and book were two peas in a pod, unlike the many “remakes” that pissed me off previously. But Clash of Kings is different. The second season of Game of Thrones, which is based upon A Clash of Kings, ventures far afield of the story in the book. But even more importantly, despite the ability to experience George R. R. Martin’s world without knowing exactly what was coming, the second book just isn’t as good as its predecessor.
The second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series pretty much continues where A Game of Thrones left off. It is the second part of an epic fantasy story, told from multiple points of view, of the intrigue and war plaguing the seven kingdoms of Westeros. New characters are added, and some surprising characters are lost. The plot takes some unexpected turns, and, as noted above, deviates significantly from the TV version. However, notably Martin does slip in a lot of information from the previous book, so people who would like to begin the series at the second book (not recommended), and those who are returning after an extended period of time, need not fear. But what I found most upsetting in this book was the increased role played by magic and the supernatural. The magic diminished some of the realism that I so loved in the series to date, and, if anything, this was compounded by the greater role given to theology. Not wanting to give anything away, I think I will leave the description at that.
While I did greatly enjoy this book, it definitely fell short of its predecessor. The book is slower, and was probably a bit longer than necessary. While I greatly enjoyed the cutaways and multiple storylines in A Game of Thrones, they were far more jarring in this work. Some of the cutaways were just plain frustrating, as they came at inopportune times, broke the flow of the story, and the sheer volume of material between the cutaway and resumption of a narrative often left me with little memory of what had come before. Furthermore, I did feel some of the point of views and scenes were superfluous, which did nothing more than add to the tedium of some plot lines.
All in all, A Clash of Kings is a good read. It did not deter me from the series in the slightest; in fact I am already halfway through the third book and have already purchased the fourth. I have a few misgivings about some of the plot developments, and a few more grumblings about the structure, but nothing that ruined the enjoyment. Martin has probably placed enough material within the story for those yet uninitiated into the series, but I would greatly suggest reading the first book first. If you have already read and enjoyed the first book, there isn’t anything that should put you off the second.
Title: A Clash of Kings
Author: George R. R. Martin
Pages: 831 (Paperback)
Josh’s Rating: 4/5