Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review of A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings is the second installment of A song of ice and fire. I've read and reviewed the first one (A Game of Thrones).
The story continues following the thoughts and movements of certain characters in the novel. The Stark family still shares their moments of joy and grief, along with key figures elsewhere in this world.
The story begins grimly with the head of Ned Stark begin removed from his body. This forces Robb, his eldest son and now Lord of Winterfell to declare war on the Lannisters and the boy King Joffrey.
Meanwhile Renly Baratheon and Stannis Baratheon, both brothers of the deceased King fight each other, both crowning themselves.
In King's Landing Joffrey sits the throne and Tyrion, The Imp, Lannister serves as Hand of the King, trying to deflect the worst of what is to come.

This novel feels like a long preparation for the battle to come. You experience the excitement, the dread, the sorrow and even joy in awaiting the inevitable war.

I loved this novel, although it took me some time longer to finish than the first one. The first 200 pages were a bit of a slow start, but after it took on the speed of a racecar. I love (and hate)  the cliffhanger endings of each chapter. You follow Jon or Arya or Sansa and at the end of the chapter you want to know what happens next, but then you're reading up on someone else's thoughts and by the end of that chapter, you feel the same all over again. Even the most bland characters leave you wanting for more.
This novel changed a lot for me. As the first novel mainly introduced the settings, the people and the atmosphere, I got to like and dislike certain characters. On the cover of my edition is a quote "Characters so venomous they could eat the Borgias" (Guardian). That rang true of some persons in the novel, in particular the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister and his sister, Cersei. But even so, reading further in this magnificent scope of a novel, even those characters get you feeling sympathetic. And on a sidenote: The Borgias were a Italians papal family known for its corrupt manner of ruling.

But more on this novel. As the first was an introduction, this one delves deeper into the thoughts and actions that go behind making war. From one united kingdom, there are suddenly four kings and one queen each wanting that crown and to have everyone yield to their power.
You follow each party from a different point of view. Sometimes right by the king or queen's side, sometimes from a vantage point of view and other times you get only word from ravens flying in. This makes you root for a different team each time you change perspective. Because there are no black and white characters in this novel, it's difficult to choose a side. You want Tyrion to be recognised by his father, you want Robb to defeat the Lannisters, you want the inside scoop of the 'Flowered crown' of Renly, you want Sansa being freed and you want the Hound to do it. The most despicable persons often show the most character and they end up the ones you feel sorry for.

In the end whether a novel is good or great comes down to one thing in my humble opinion, whether it can move me. And as the first novel made me cry over Sansa's wolf, this one got me blubbering all over again when I heard the news about Bran and Rickon.
So for me this deserves a whole 5 stars out of 5.

Personal rating: 5 stars