Book name: A Clash of Kings
Author: George R R Martin
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Publication Date: 1998
Star Rating: 5/5
A Clash of Kings is the second book in the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.
The prequel involved the Starks heading down to King’s Landing in a power move that saw their patriarch become Hand of the King and betroth his daughter to the crown prince.
This ended in disaster when he was executed for treason after questioning whether the king’s three children were illegitimate.
Now that the king is dead, the fight begins in earnest to succeed him on the iron throne.
In King’s Landing Joffrey is crowned king, but his uncles Stannis and Renly already seek to supplant him.
On the other side of the world, Daenerys Targaryen rallies her remaining Dothraki.
She begins to learn what it means to have three dragons in a world where such creatures have been dead for hundreds of years.
Up north Robb Stark is faced with some difficult choices if he is hold the northern kingdom together and make its independence a reality.
And north of the wall, Jon and the men of the Night’s Watch go in search of their First Ranger, lost and presumed dead in the frozen wastes.
The main points of view are those of the Stark children and their mother, with the addition of Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister. The latter is the current Hand of the King.
This gives some structure to the epic tale, since almost of the people we care about come from the same family.
Arya, the young Stark daughter, flees King’s Landing after her father is executed and heads for the wall dressed as a boy.
She travels under the protection of Yoren, who has come to King’s Landing to recruit criminals and orphans to serve up at the wall.
Bran takes over the role of lord of Winterfell now that his eldest brother is fighting to be King in the North.
He is joined there by Meera and Jojen Reed and begins to learn how to see through the eyes of others, particularly his direwolf Summer.
However, the former ward of his family, Theon Greyjoy, returns from a visit home to the Iron Islands determined to capture Winterfell and proclaim himself a prince.
Jon hopes to find his uncle Benjen alive north of the wall, even though rationally there seems little hope of his having survived so long in the cold, dangerous territory where the undead are rumoured to walk again.
As Dany grieves for her lost husband and unborn son, she is also busy raising her newborn dragons and protecting what is left of her small and vulnerable Khalasar.
She makes for Qarth: the greatest city that ever has been or ever will be. Crossing the desert kills many of her followers, but they make it safely to the walls of Qarth and are welcomed.
Dany is feted as the mother of dragons. But she still needs ships and an army to cross the Narrow Sea and lay claim to her birth right: the iron throne.
A Clash of Kings expands the claimants to the iron throne from the first book in the series. We see two brothers pitched against each other and against their nephew.
Likewise, family betrayal runs within the Starks as Theon claims Winterfell for his own.
A Clash of Kings ends with a lengthy battle for King’s Landing, known as the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Here Stannis attacks the capital, which Tyrion defends using wildfire.
The complexity of so many point-of-view characters is managed through unity brought about by family, even though the Starks are dispersed throughout Westeros.
Daenerys is a sympathetic and resilient character, and we have considerable admiration for Tyrion, trapped within the Lannister family and attempting to serve the realm effectively.
The central plot theme of the fight to sit on the iron throne brings unity as well. The storylines around Stannis, Renly, Joffrey, Robb and Daenerys all have that in common and it keeps us focused on the ultimate prize.
The complexity of the worldbuilding is only just beginning to become apparent, and it is no surprise that the story of A Clash of Kings takes almost nine-hundred pages to tell.
However, it was a vibrant fictional universe drenched in detail and I loved every moment of it.
The death of one claimant to the throne narrows the field very slightly. For others, the subsequent books in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series will see their undoing too.
Thank you for reading my review.
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