Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
(728 pgs  A Song of Ice and Fire series #2)

In general, I'm not a very patient person. But with reading GRRM's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, I'm not going to have much of a choice. He's written five of the seven books so far, but the last couple have come at a rate of one every 5-6 years. So I'm trying to space them out as I read them. My goal is to stretch it out so that I finish the fifth book around the time the next one is published. We'll see. I read the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones eight months ago and have been waiting patiently to read book two, A Clash of Kings.

I hesitate to say too much about the story itself, since it's a series in progress and I can't say much without revealing plot points from the first book. So rather than provide a summary, I've decided to explain why I'm liking the books as much as I am.

First of all, for a fantasy story it has an overall sense of realism. There are elements of the fantastic throughout, but so far they haven't played a major role. Instead, it's the depth of the host of central characters that GRRM writes so well that drives the story. The characters are never either good or evil, they're always both. There is no quest to destroy a ring, nor is there the journey of an orphan prophesied to save the world. At the center of the series is a throne - made of iron spears. Surrounding that center are the machinations of both men and women who want the power that comes with it.

Next, GRRM doesn't follow the traditional formula for a character-driven saga. No character, no matter how central to the story thus far, is guaranteed to still be living by the end of the chapter. At first it was a little jarring when a major character was lost, but it gives the story a sense of uncertainty that compels the story along. And it emphasises the fact that the story is not about a central figure.

Next, GRRM's writing is head and shoulders above almost all others in his genre. I mentioned it when I reviewed AGOT, but I compare his writing to what I usually only find when I read classical literature.

Overall, a great book, a great series. I'll be patiently awaiting next spring when I'll allow myself to read A Storm of Swords.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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