Monday, July 29, 2013

Reading: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I don't think I can begin to explain just how excited I was to pick up the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  A Clash of Kings sat on my bookshelf for many months and although I was eager to read it sooner than later, I forced myself to hold off until my college semester was over so that when I went to read it I would not be distracted by other books required for classes that would immediately take precedent.  This book needed to be my focus.
After reading the first book in this series, I knew I was hooked.  A Game of Thrones, now one of my favorite books, is a book richly character driven and incredibly real.  I have also been a relatively large fan of the HBO TV Series which was another reason for me to read this book.  I wanted to watch the second season but didn't want to watch it before I read the book.  I was indeed in a pickle.
While I was highly anticipating this read, I was also a bit cautious.  Many people have told me that the books grow worse and worse.  It has been said that George R. R. Martin tries to do too much and that the books begin to go all over the place with too many story lines.  Do I agree with that after reading the second book - yes.  A Clash of Kings seems to be the start of an insanely complex story-line full of multiple points of view and a huge amount of small plots combined with the overarching theme - who will take the iron throne?
A Clash of Kings starts right where the last book left off.  Joffery is still King of the realm while Robb fights to be King of the North and gain vengeance for his father's death.  Across the narrow sea is Daenerys Targaryen with her dragons, desperately trying to find ships so she can sail to Westeros and claim the throne that rightfully belongs to her.  All the while, King Robert's brothers are at odds at who should have the right to the throne - Stannis, the eldest, or Renly, the favored.

"Paint stripes on a toad, he does not become a tiger."
Martin continues with his multiple perspective narration and adds a few new voices to the story which includes Davos Seaworth, an ex-smuggler now a knight for Stannis Baratheon and Theon Greyjoy.  The narrators from the last book remain, except of course for Ned.  I have flipped through the next two books a bit and see that two mores narrators are to enter the pack and possibly more.  With that in mind, this book also introduces many new story-lines and complexities.  Martin is an expert when it comes to this and he excels at creating multiple characters that are completely unique to themselves and their world.  I'm having a hard time figuring out where to begin to explain all that Martin introduces throughout this installment, and perhaps I shouldn't even talk about it because I don't want to give away an spoilers.  I will say this - with all of the new perspectives and all of the
new story-lines and individual character issues, these books are going to be a hell of a hard read.  I am concerned as to if they will stay consistently good or if indeed, as my friends warn, they will go downhill because there will be too much going on.  I have a feeling it will be both because while they may go downhill, I have no doubt Martin will still be able to capture his characters as well as he did the first time around.  The story may be doing too much and may not have enough of a focus on one element but that may play to the story's strength's, not weaknesses.

"'He has a song,’ the man replied.  ‘He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.'"
The thing I enjoyed most about this reading experience though was being able to combine it with watching the adaption on the big screen.  What this TV adaption has that many adaptions don't is credibility - that things are more often than not the same as they were in the book.  Scenes are done incredibly well and the actors are spot on.  The second season seems to be slipping away from the book a bit more than the first but it is still done incredibly well.  I re-watched the first season as I read this book and it was a real team experience.  Say a character popped up and I had no idea who he/she was.  I would watch an episode the next day from the first season and there the character would be.  I was therefore able to see how certain characters originated (it seems I forgot quite a bit) and I applied that knowledge to my place in the book.  It was a great experience.
In the end, A Clash of Kings is without a doubt just as good as A Game of Thrones.  Although there is a bit too much going on, the book stays consistent in tone and character development as well as in plot, keeping me engaged and wanting more.  I will give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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