Book #02

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. 

Well, I was na├»ve to think things couldn’t get more deep, bleak, intricate, and confusing. Martin makes book one look like a fairy tale here; blood and guts are flying, allegiances are being won and lost, people are dying, and it just keeps going. It’s astounding that the somewhat peaceful and stable land we encountered in book one has turned into such a melee of hatred; things are moving quickly.

Kings are crowning themselves all over the place, the imp is damage controlling King’s Landing, a girl disguised as an orphan boy is desperately trying to survive, supernatural demons are used as war weapons, battles are even taking place beyond the Wall, a hostage becomes a woman and desperately tries to hide it, a ward becomes a prince and his true colours are revealed to us horribly, dragons are alive and well.

I’m impressed at how fully realised Martin’s world is. Book two introduces more characters, lords, knights, and feuds, and although I found it slightly more difficult to keep track, Martin is skilful in bringing everything together and reminding us who fits where. With so many historical and current connections, so many houses married off to one another, either now or in the past, and so many backstories for them all, allegiances are more than a bit wooly.

My favourite aspect of Martin’s writing, which I’m sure will continue throughout the series, is this gorgeous skill he has of planting a tiny little idea in your head which you almost forget about, until some hundred or so pages later when he hits you with the full answer to the hint. And when Martin hits you, he fucking hits you. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away.

Another great thing was the fleshing out of the main characters. I have begun to understand them, begun to anticipate and revel in their actions and reactions, and sometimes even to question what I already know of them when they behave unexpectedly. Hell, I’ve even begun to love some of them (most of whom I have no business loving, but that’s the evil queen in me).

Five books to go and I can’t imagine being as absorbed in anything ever again. For one mind to hold all of this and then put it into words astounds me. Gods wonder what has taken me so long.