Book Review: “A Clash of Kings,” by George R.R. Martin

“A Clash of Kings,” by George R.R. Martin. 969 pages.

Introduction:

For this book review, I chose to read “A Clash of Kings” by George R.R. Martin. I finished the first book in his series recently, and thought it would be appropriate to use my interest in his work for my school assignment. Because the book is 969 pages, a bit long, and I only have a limited time to read each book before I review it, I chose to read only half of the book for this review. Compared to the first book, “A Game of Thrones,” “A Clash of Kings” is much more political so far. At the end of the first book, things were picking up action wise with armies engaging in battle and ancient legends coming to life. Things have been much slower comparatively during the first half of this book. I can only assume, and sadly know because I’ve seen the TV series already, that things will eventually pick up and end much like the first book did: action packed. Tyrion Lannister, a character from the book, agrees that not much has been happening:

“There is sitting and there is sitting,” Tyrion suggested. “Each waits for the other to move, but the lion is still, poised, his tail twitching, while the fawn is frozen by fear, bowls turned to jelly. No matter which way he bounds, the lion will have him, and he knows it” (page 320).

The “lion” being Tywin of house Lannister, and the “fawn” represents Rob of house Stark. This brings me to what I didn’t like about the book: all of the political information. Having to keep track of each house, there are many of them, and who belongs to it, is very tiring for the reader.

What I did not like about the book:

I understand that this kind of thing comes with the territory of writing an epic novel, but Martin has a tendency to introduce a lot of information about the world he has created that is hard to keep track of. As a reader, I want to take to heart all of the information that an author gives me because I believe authors don’t just give extraneous information, as all of it will be important later on; however, it’s almost impossible to remember all of this information unless you keep a journal. Namely the characters, houses, and alliances he has created are all important because this information becomes relevant towards why the book progresses the way it does. “A Clash of Kings” in particular, so far, is comprised of very little action and is mainly based around these politics of these involved factions. One could read his books without taking time to study these aspects, but all of the posturing and strategy that characters use in these books, based on these alliances, lose their meaning if you don’t know the history behind them. Because of this, it feels as if you almost have to study his books, which is a bit more effort than I think reading a book for pleasure should demand, but is rewarding in the end. Martin has created a wonderfully realistic world, and as realistic worlds tend to do, this book has a lot of information; hardly any element of how people, from low to high status in this world, live is left out. The benefit of this, however, is that his works truly feel like you are being lead through a living and breathing world that has been captured between the pages of his books, which leads me to what I do like about the book so far.

What I liked about the book:

The characters that Martin has created are very life-like. They do things in a manner that is reasonable based on the situation they are in, and their emotions are very easy to see and relate to based on these challenging situations. The characters also often come up with solutions to these problems that you did not expect, but worked better than you might have hoped, and this creates a feeling these characters have a tangible intelligence, and are therefore tangible themselves. Most of these characters are either easy to like or easy to hate, and this makes us want to see them succeed or fail. We of course want to see Joffrey returned with the same cruelty that he has shown the Starks, and we want to see the Starks triumph over him. In spite of this, we root for both sides because each has likable characters even though we know one has to triumph over the other. This creates a very interesting narrative quality because we don’t know who to root for in a straight up confrontation. Also, because we are invested in both sides, it helps to keep the reader engaged in the story even when opposing forces have to be given narrative time.

On the narrative’s construction, this book was created with parallel plot lines; each chapter focuses on a different character. This type of plot is effective because it introduces suspense, which I enjoyed, that draws the reader through the story as we cycle through character perspectives. We leave each character at the end of a chapter when their situation has reached a climax and then start a new chapter by being reintroduced to a character the reader is invested in but who hasn’t been mentioned for some time.

Conclusion:

Overall, I love his books because of how alive the world he has created is, and as stated before, Martin has used many techniques to do this. Despite being set in a fantasy realm, his characters are relatable and it’s enjoyable to see their personalities in action and when they clash against one another. I’m excited to see how the book turns out, and my next report will be on the latter half of it.

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