George R.R. Martin,
A Clash of Kings
(Bantam, 1999)

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin is the sequel to his fanti-historical A Game of Thrones. This novel, which picks up right where the first left off, offers a lot of character growth for some characters, while taking others in unexpected directions and leaving others completely out of view. (For instance, King Robb is off fighting battles somewhere but you only hear about them through third-person accounts.) It is still a wonderful book, even if it does not quite live up to A Game of Thrones.

A Clash of Kings starts by introducing a new character to the mix, a smuggler turned knight who fights alongside Stannis Barentheon (the dead king's oldest surviving brother). The Onion Knight, as he is called, offers a new point of view to this world as a character who does not really fit in with the royalty and nobles who have been the center of most of the action.

Another new character is introduced in King Stannis's court. Melisandre, a witch from a foreign land, has come to help Stannis win the throne he feels belongs to him. It is here that a new struggle between good and evil becomes apparent, and it seems, at the beginning, that evil is winning.

In addition to these new characters most of the (living) characters from the first book make their appearances in A Clash of Kings. Jon Snow goes beyond the wall with a large force of rangers and meets an unexpected twist of fate. Tyrion (the imp) goes to King's Landing and has a grand time dispensing his own brand of justice on those who have caused so much of the chaos in the land. Catelyn Tully continues to astound with acts of courage, and cruelty, and her children continue to grow up without her in the war-torn land.

All in all, A Clash of Kings is an entertaining book, but does not progress nearly as quickly as A Game of Thrones. It is still worth reading if for no other reason then for the entertainment that such characters as Tyrion, Catelyn and Jon Snow provide. It also did set the stage nicely for a final (possibly) conflict in A Dance with Dragons, which may be the last book in the series.

[ by Dan Ford ]

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