Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Clash of Kings

The trailer for Season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which will air in April 2012, was released this week (you can watch it here). Season 1 was fantastic and, from the trailer, Season 2 looks equally promising – as it should be since it depicts A Clash of Kings, the wonderful second novel in George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire.

I came to Martin’s masterpiece series rather late in the game (like more than a decade late). I had a copy of A Game of Thrones on my bookshelf for years, but for some reason it never made it to the front of my reading list. That is, until I was watching HBO one night and saw the trailer for Season 1. I read the novel in time to catch the series, and from that moment on I was hooked. So in light of the Season 2 trailer, I thought I’d post my quick review of A Clash of Kings after this image of the novel’s cover. I have tried to avoid any spoilers, but if you haven’t yet read A Game of Thrones or seen Season 1 of the HBO series, you may want to avoid reading anything about A Clash of Kings.

A Clash of Kings begins right where A Game of Thrones left off. Robb Stark is now King of the North, while his mother Catelyn tries to broker peace between Stannis and Renly Baratheon, each of whom has proclaimed himself King of the Seven Kingdoms, plunging Westeros deeper into civil war. In King’s Landing, Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, but his mother Cersei rules the realm, at least until Tyrion Lannister arrives to be the new Hand of the King. Sansa Stark remains Cersei’s hostage, while Arya travels with one of the Black Brothers and a band of misfits and thieves in route to The Wall. Jon Snow, meanwhile, has joined the rangers of the Night’s Watch in search of the wildlings and their mysterious king. While back at Winterfell, Bran and his brother Rickon face an unexpected enemy. And a continent away, Daenerys Targaryen and her three young dragons seek an army to take back the kingdoms her family once ruled.

It quickly becomes apparent that this book is the start of the lengthy, middle portion of the series. Few, if any, story lines are resolved, though the conflict and tension are ratcheted up several notches from A Game of Thrones. This novel is also darker than its predecessor, though perhaps that’s to be expected as the stakes continue to rise.

The story is told through the eyes of nine different viewpoint characters (not counting the prologue), which is one more point-of-view than A Game of Thrones. The book is long enough, however, to give every story line it’s due. With one exception (whose name I won’t reveal to avoid a *spoiler*), I truly felt for these characters. I cared about what happened to Arya Stark and her brother Bran, and Jon Snow beyond The Wall. I empathized with Catelyn Stark, worrying for her children, and found myself rooting for Tyrion Lannister, surrounded by treachery in King’s Landing. (I must admit, the Lannisters are one of the most sublime group of villains I’ve encountered in a long time!) And I couldn’t help put pull for Daenerys and her dragons, even though I know that if they ever return to the Seven Kingdoms, bad things may happen to the other characters I’ve come to adore. In short, Martin’s masterful portrayal of these characters is perhaps his greatest gift. It’s also the primary reason his novels work so well.

I have little doubt that Season 2 of Game of Thrones will do his story and his characters justice. Now if only April would hurry along ...


Margaret said...

I've greatly enjoyed your blog, so I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Joseph Finley said...

Margaret, I'm so glad you've enjoyed the blog, and thank you so much for the nomination! It means a lot to me.