Well its done I’ve finished reading book two of A Song of Fire and Ice and it topped the first book by a mile. A roller coaster of a story that delves into the civil war tearing the Seven Kingdoms apart.
We are introduced to some characters in greater depth. Namely Stannis and Renly Baratheon, the main contenders along with Robb stark and Joffrey Baratheon for the Iron Throne. The book itself is a 800+ page plus monster but the action is so fast paced and frenetic that the pages flow past faster than the Trident. Taking off from the point in Book 1 when Jamie Lannister is captured the story develops and the plots thicken and twist. The Imp, Tyrion Lannister plays a massive role and Martin I feel develops the storyline of this particular character masterfully. He is by far and away my favourite character in the series so far, despite my intense dislike of the Lannisters and their cause! He grows into his role as the Hand of the King and slaps the impudent King Joffrey more than once. Likewise his plotting and scheming to cement his position of power using his wit, guile and clansmen is very well handled by the author. He also becomes somewhat of an unlikely hero in the Battle of King’s Landing as well.
Interesting as well the introduction of the Iron Men of Pyke as major protagonists in the storyline. I was not expecting the turn Theon Greyjoy makes and it was a pleasant, yet shocking, surprise to see how Martin uses these Westernos Vikings to further entwine and complicate his storyline. Running parallel we have the developing situation to the North of the Wall and the deepening sense of dread and danger posed by the wildlings and the hidden menace coming behind them. The very interesting twist within this sub plot is currently making me rip through the pages of part one of Book three! Jon Snow’s character is further developed and is shown to be a multi level and multi faceted character, much more so than the brooding bastard of book one.
Yet the crowing achievement of this book is Martin’s masterful handling of the pendulum swing of a civil war that is currently going on. At different times in the story the Lion of Lannister is paramount, at other times the Direwolf of the North howls supreme only to be cowed by the Kraken of the Iron Islands. The crowned stag of Baratheon as well as the new player, the Lord of Light are also on the brink of victory but fall short. Stannis comes the closest but in true fashion a climactic and truly epic battle evolves at the walls of King’s Landing. I honestly spent four solid hours yesterday afternoon eating up the last three hundred or so pages of this epic tale. What of Daenerys Targaryen? He dragons are growing up but I found her side of the story distracting from the main events of A Clash of Kings. I am sure that all her journeys and experiences in ACoK all have a relevance in the grand and final picture but they seemed somewhat out of place among the truly epic encounters in the story. Yet I do feel she is a major player and can’t wait to see how her role is developed in books 3-5.
In conclusion I can highly recommend this book to all. At times the book felt like I was reading The Two Towers or watching The Empire Strikes Back. That point in a trilogy when the bad guys bit back with a vengeance and their star seems on the rise. The great thing about Martin is his wonderful grasp of Medieval brutality and Machiavellian behaviours so characteristic of the time. Oh my Lord is dead, nevermind there’s another one to take my oath. At several times one or another protagonist is portrayed as the good or the evil side making the reader sympathise with all factions and at the same time dislike them. A great read that is now being followed by Book Three Part One, A Storm of Swords, Steel and Snow.