I began A Clash of Kings a couple of weeks prior to the TV show and finished it about a month ago. Yes, it took me that long to finish, but to my defense, look at the size of this sucker. The book probably has enough pages to wallpaper my entire house three times. I might be exaggerating a little, but I have a feeling the approximation might actually be spot on after seeing the next installment in the series. You can seriously do some damage if you fling that book at somebody. Size aside, it’s George “freaking” R. R. Martin, so you know the story is awesome and unpredictable, and emotional, and heart-breaking at times. I love me a book that excites me so and lasts sufficient amount of time. It’s like a never-ending chocolate cake…
Last book left us with most of the good guys dead, and those who survived Martin’s cruel pen were far from being OK. The Stark children were scattered across Westeros, the Lannisters were at each other’s throats, and the Iron Throne was being warmed with the rear of the tyrant new king. And speaking of Joffrey, why is he such a crazy SOB? Maybe it’s the incest talking, but the kid doesn’t have a single redeeming quality. My understanding is that Martin is trying to parallel Joffrey’s ruling with Mad King Aerys II Targaryen’s. It only seems appropriate and somewhat poetic that Joffrey, the son of the man who had overthrown the last Tagaryen would somehow follow in Mad King’s footsteps. Both have sibling parents, both have a taste for cruelty and perverted violence, both are crazy to the next level, and both are destined to be the last rulers of their dynasty. I wonder if Starks prevail and kill Joffrey Baratheon, what would happen to the throne. Naturally, Robb would be the most likely successor, but does that mean he will kill/imprison gentle Tommen and Marcella to secure his position? Now if Tyrion kills off his nephew the way he was suggested to do, I will jump of joy. But then again, how is Tyrion to escape Queen Cersei’s wrath after that?!
I might have adored the Imp after the Game of Thrones, but A Clash of Kings made me fall in love on a whole new level. He’s witty, he’s honorable, and pretty much the only likable Lannister in the book (though I am warming up to Cersei, she’s awesome in her own evil way). Ignoring the fact that he plays for the bad guys, he actually did an amazing job as the Hand of the King. Without Tyrion, Stannis would certainly sack King’s Landing, and city residents would rise in revolt long time ago and had Joff’s head on a spike. He did a marvelous job keeping Joffrey at bay and Cersei out of politics. I’m glad he found out that rat Maester Pycelle and sent away treacherous Little Finger. Too bad the enemies managed to get back at him by the end of the book, and he was cast down by his own kin into ungrateful isolation. I hope the next book will provide him with an opportunity to get back at his family and triumph in the end. I just worry about his fate, if the Lannisters should lose to Starks, so he is in a kind of lose-lose position right now.
My favorite improvement in world-building this time came from the House of Greyjoys (unexpected and random). I loved how Martin continued with enriching this family’s history and their people’s culture. The Ironborn, how the inhabitants of the Iron islands call themselves, are essentially pirates and seafaring warriors who got a little out of shape thanks to Robert Baratheon’s law against such travesties. Their mythology is fascinating, revolving around a Drowned God and the Seastone Chair that was rumored to be standing on the islands before the time of men. Apparently Martin loosely based the Ironborn on Vikings, and that only makes me happier, since I love Scandinavian history and folklore. I am a little sad for Theon Greyjoy, because it is obvious his treacherous behavior stemmed from an unbearable desire for his father’s approval. I guess it was hard for him to realize that Balon Greyjoy would rather see his daughter ascend to the throne before a son who spent ten years in the enemy’s hands. The way he tried to desperately earn respect from his crew only made things worse. Theon ended up being his own worst enemy, and it’s kind of not his fault. Obviously, he was a stranger among his own people.
Now to the Starks. Long gone are the days when readers used to know Robb as a young boy; he is the King in the North now and winning every battle. It’s nice to see the fast pace at which he is maturing. Robb is only few years older than Joffrey, but makes a much better leader. When it was time to choose between his sisters’ freedom and retaining Jamie as his prisoner, he knew to follow his reason and not his heart, even while seeing his mother suffer. He leads his men into battle and shares food with them. This is the people’s king, the one who can actually be good for the realm. Being same age, Jon Snow is falling a little behind in my books. A Clash of Kings portrayed him still vulnerable to emotions. When the Night Watch assigned him to be a squire rather than a ranger in A Game of Thrones, I was upset and thought the elder men were just trying to be difficult with a boy of privileged background and to teach him equality in the brotherhood. Now I see them being right. Jon is by no means ready to be a ranger (not saying that some boys who made it actually deserved it though). He still has a hard time choosing duty over personal feelings. When the commander told him to kill the wildling woman, he disobeyed, and those who had read the book know how things turned out for his “brothers”.
I am pleasantly surprised with Sansa’s development. Being trapped in the nest of serpents, she sure knows how to survive. She is no longer the stupid, naive girl she used to be in the first book. Granted, Sansa still believes in fairytales about gallant knights, but her eyes are slowly beginning to open. I also enjoyed her interaction with the Hound. There is something very Beauty and the Beast about their relationship, minus the romance part. Arya on the other hand never changed, still being a tomboy and trying to get home to Winterfell. I hope to see her grow up and become a fierce warrior woman or something. That would be so exciting. Bran and Rickon were my least favorite this time. Bran turned out to be a well-spoken Lord in the absence of his older brother, but the narrative of his dreams about ravens and wolves bore me to death. I know Martin is trying to weave in some fate and foresight themes in here, but I had a hard time caring about this plot device. And I can’t stand that brat Rickon. End of story.
If by now you are wondering what in the world I am talking about and who all these people are, I don’t blame you. This is how much I care about these characters – I talk about them like people I personally know. Isn’t it a major indicator of a good book? Surely, not much action happened in A Clash of Kings until right about the end, but as the second book in the series it expanded on already established universe and built a solid setup for the next installment. I can’t wait to start reading A Storm of Swords!