Updated on October 10, 2016
10. ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George RR Martin
Read my review of the first book, ‘Game of Thrones‘.
Here we go, instalment number two in the epic ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series. There are three claimants to the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, which is currently occupied by Joffrey Lannister’s smart arse: Stannis and Renly Baratheon, and Robb Stark. As the civil war rages, the threats from outside grow too. The wildlings beyond the wall are mustering an army, the frozen Others can bring the dead back to life (to kill you), and bad-ass blonde Daenerys is desperate to cross the sea and claim her rightful position as queen.
The plots get thicker, the characters get more complex and THERE ARE STILL DRAGONS.
Davos: A new character opens the book. Davos, retainer to Stannis Baratheon, is known as the Onion Knight because of the time he broke a siege by smuggling onions into a besieged city at night. Poor guy, of all the names to get stuck with after such a feat of bravery… Anyway, Davos is a voice of reason that Stannis steadfastly refuses to listen to. Instead we see Stannis being drawn into the clutches of Melisandre, a sort of witch/religious nut who can open her thighs and give birth (at will) to an evil, murderous demon. Fantastic. I hated her in the show and I hate her in the book: she’s blatantly manipulative and a total bitch. I hope she dies and Stannis realises that he should listen to dear old Davos after all. Seems unlikely.
Jon: In this book, Jon finally gets his wish to go beyond the wall and be a proper ranger. A group of the Night’s Watch go to look for Jon’s uncle and to find out what the wildlings are up to. It turns out they’re gathering an enormous army, and the scouting mission turns into more of a ‘run for your life’ situation. At one point Jon attacks a group of wildlings but one of them, God forbid, is a woman, so he stays his hand and lets her go. She is Ygritte and she returns later on when Jon and Qhorin Halfhand are cornered: she pleads for Jon’s life because he spared hers. Jon is allowed to join the wildlings only after he kills Qhorin, who has already told Jon he must do this in order to infiltrate the enemy’s army. I like Jon; he’s up for anything, he’s brave and yet at his core he’s a deeply troubled individual. I look forward to seeing how he gets on with the wildlings (and whether or not he sleeps with Ygritte – oh please!).
Catelyn: Catelyn’s chapters were probably my least favourite in this book. She does a lot of moping about, worrying about her family and bemoaning the fact that nobody understands the burdens a woman and a mother must bear. Her aim is simple: she wants to get her family (or at least what remains of it) back together. She’s a canny negotiator, so she travels to speak with Renly Baratheon and ask him to join forces with Robb. Unfortunately, whilst she’s there, Melisandre’s demon shadow baby murders the self-proclaimed king, so she has to run back to her son’s army, unsuccessful in her mission. Through Catelyn we meet Brienne of Tarth, a tall, ugly warrior woman who is fiercely loyal and absolutely brilliant. She can stick around, she’s great.
Bran: Again, not the most exciting chapters, mainly because Bran does a lot of looking out of windows and riding around on Hodor’s back. Still, we get a lot more dreams in this book: it becomes more clear that, when he is asleep, Bran can enter the body of his pet direwolf and control the animal. This is the sort of awesome superpower that will probably come in handy later, although George RR Martin does like to build up expectations and then dash them, so Bran will probably just die horribly and we’ll never hear anything about the wolf dreams again.
Arya: For a long time Arya has to pretend to be a boy, as she’s travelling north to return to Winterfell with a group of men destined for the wall. However, her company is attacked and many of them are killed, and afterwards she finds herself in plenty of shit, all of it deep. Still, she’s a fantastic character: clever, quick and able to see her own faults and try to improve them. I love her central dilemma; she wishes she could do more but she’s only a young girl and is relatively powerless. Her strength lies partly in her ability to judge character and she makes a great call by falling in with Jaqen H’ghar, who refers to himself as ‘the man’ (but don’t we all) and offers to kill three people for her. The way she uses this genie-esque power is, naturally, brilliant.
Sansa: Poor old Sansa. She’s still trapped in the castle at King’s Landing, having to listen to bitch-queen Cersei Lannister go on and on about how shit everything is for everyone, and how you have to be cold and unfeeling to get anywhere in life. Shut up, Cersei, I’m rooting for the people who aren’t sleeping with their relatives. Anyway, it’s interesting to get Sansa’s point of view in the lead up to the big battle at King’s Landing, and to see what the women and children do when their men are fighting to defend the city (mainly hide in a big room and pray the other side don’t win). I also like her relationship with the Hound: he’s a big, frightening looking man, but she always makes an effort to be ladylike and polite, and he seems to oddly like her. Interestingly, the Hound doesn’t believe in any gods, which is unusual in this multi-religious world.
Tyrion: Continually awesome! Tyrion is responsible for producing lots of wildfire – sort of napalm, it burns, sticks to you and doesn’t go out even when you jump into water – for the battle at King’s Landing, as well as a huge chain to hem in the enemy’s boats so that they have to burn. When it comes to the battle itself, he doesn’t shy away. Instead he’s the one who steps up and gives a rousing speech after stupid Joffrey legs it, and he throws himself into the midst of the fighting and earns a big old facial scar for his troubles. We also get to see a soft side to Tyrion – he truly loves Shae – as well as his clever schemes and his humour. He plays people and he enjoys it. Tyrion is a fantastic character and I hope he’s going to be around for a while. A lot of characters’ lives would fall apart without him, since he’s holding things together and they don’t even realise it.
Theon: One word, traitor. Having returned to his home on the Iron Islands, from which he was taken as a child to be a ward/hostage at Winterfell, he discovers that the place has moved on without him and his family look upon him as a weak mainlander and not a true member of the family. He feels up his sister a bit and then realises he has to prove himself, because she’s so much more of a bad-ass than he is. So he takes over Winterfell and kills some of the people who raised him. Hmm, yes, that would do it. Unfortunately he hasn’t got the manpower or intelligence to back up his plan, so he gets himself into plenty of trouble – he backs himself into a corner that he can only get out of by either admitting he’s made a mistake or digging himself in deeper. And he ain’t about to admit he made a mistake.
Daenerys: Save the best until last. Khal Drogo is dead and most of his followers have abandoned her, so she travels with the few who have stayed with her to Qarth. For a while she lives in luxury (and wears the local dress which leaves one boob showing, I kid you not), but she’s not just resting on her laurels. She negotiates with people to try and build and army and acquire a fleet of ships to sail to the Seven Kingdoms. She even charges people to look at her dragons; how very enterprising. Eventually she goes into the House of the Undying and we are treated to the most trippy section of the book, that I absolutely loved. By the end of this book she has a plan and a new sense of resolve. And the dragons are getting bigger. She is going to mess some stuff up in the next book. I can’t wait.
“Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.”
Read my review of the next book, ‘A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow‘.
If you enjoyed my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think?