Last year I decided it was time to start reading George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. And now I have finally finished the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. The second book in the series will soon be shown as a TV drama on HBO, and the first (Emmy Award Winning) season will soon be released to DVD. Overall this series seems to be picking up fans left and right. Since the story, characters, and plot are entering more into the popular culture, I am trying to read them before I came across any major spoilers. So far I have managed that, despite my slow pace. I will try to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible, in case there are any other Ice and Fire fans who also want to experience the story in their own time. You can read my review of the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, here. And now my review for A Clash of Kings:
Well, first of all, let me say that when I finished A Game of Thrones, I jumped headfirst into A Clash of Kings, as I was very excited by the ending of the first book, and could not wait to find out what happened next. The first book felt very much like a beginning, and I was convinced that the next book would keep the momentum that the first book had ended with. Sadly, I was rather mistaken. It has taken me nearly seven months to get through this second book in the series, with my attentions and interest being diverted by nearly a dozen other books in the meantime. I have been following the Read of Ice and Fire on the Tor website, and have endeavored to stay ahead of their pacing so that I don’t have any major events spoiled for myself, but some weeks that goal was all that compelled me to read this book.
Now, while I crawled through the pages, I still have to insist that this is a good book. The writing is fabulous, the characters are complex, and the plot is brilliantly constructed. And yet, I found it hard to want to read this book. I think part of it is that the world Martin has created is so dark. I mean, even when the characters are making quips, there is a brooding undertone to it all. So I really had to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and focus on these pages… which apparently I haven’t been in much over the past few months. Though when I am in a mood to read it, I actually did find a lot of this book to be quite enjoyable.
So, despite the long time it took me to read this book, I actually have to say I like it better than the first one. The plot has thickened, the characters have developed, and the action has increased. And, well, Martin does know how to build to an ending. I found that I have grown fonder of certain characters, and I now have at least a few people I am rooting for, even if they all seem to be on opposing sides. I also found that I had a much greater appreciation for the richness and complexity of the world he has created as well. And I can’t emphasize enough how good the ending is – although it took me months to read the first two-thirds of the book, I flew through the last few hundred pages in a matter of hours. Like the end of the first book, I am now very excited to move on to the next in the series. At this point I feel like we are deep enough into the story that the pacing can be a bit quicker, and that more information about the characters, plot, and world can be revealed without overwhelming the reader. Of course, after two books I am starting to think that GRRM likes to take things slow and build up to his exciting endings, but I am still hoping that my renewed interest and enjoyment will propel me through the next book a bit faster than this one. Of course, only time will tell, but with any luck I should be doing the next book review sometime before December!