A Clash of Kings is the second book in George R.R. Martin’s landmark epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. My review of the first book, A Game of Thrones, can be found here. This book continues straight from where the first book left off, and details the war that ravages through Westeros, at the same time as the long summer is slowly but surely ending.
In my review of the first book, I particularly praised Martin’s beautiful prose and his superb characterisations. Both of those elements remain as good here, as they were in the first book. In this book, I particularly noticed the excellence of each of the point of view characters’ character arcs. Each character has their own, very clear, character arc, that the whole of their narrative revolves around. For instance, Jon Snow’s character arc revolves around the theme of keeping to your oaths, and his narrative revolves around his oaths being tested, and his reactions to those tests. Moreover, each of the character arcs rises to a highly satisfying climax, which leave the characters completely changed, and make you eagerly await to read the next instalment in the series.
In my prior review, I also talked at length about the steep learning curve that the book has, and how much it demands of the reader. This is unchanged in this second book, even though you’d think it would have gotten easier because of you already knowing all of the characters. For one thing, this book introduces multiple new characters, and details settings that were only briefly mentioned in the first book. Another thing that increases this book’s difficulty is that because you already know many of the characters, you inevitably already have your own favourite characters, and it can be frustrating to have to wait for their chapters to come up again. I know multiple people who have, because of this, skipped chapters to get to their favourite ones, but that then results in a worse overall story quality. The chapters do all tie in together, and are meant to be read in their published order.
In this book, I particularly paid attention to how much of it was focused on women. Specifically, women who struggle with the gender roles that have been assigned to them. The clearest example of this is perhaps Brienne of Tarth, a knight, but other examples of this include Catelyn, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, and perhaps even Shae. I particularly enjoyed how each of those characters react to those gender roles in different ways, and attempt to navigate within their confines in different ways. I find this focus particularly notable and great in this book, where a full scale war has just erupted. It is very interesting for such a book detail on those perspectives that are usually left out of war narratives.
In all, I find A Clash of Kings to be a wonderful sequel to A Game of Thrones. If you loved the first one, I am certain that you’ll loved this one just as much, if not more.