Review of A CLASH OF KINGS by GEORGE R.R. MARTIN
(second in the A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series)
First off, I’m still amused by how little fantasy you’ll find in this fantasy epic. I remained on alert throughout this second book in the series for fantasy to play a bigger role, and it does…but not by that much. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is foremost a series about subtle court intrigue and not-so-subtle warfare.
Speaking of warfare, note that this is an incredibly violent series and not for the faint of heart. I’m second guessing myself at this point as to whether book two is really that much more violent than book one or if I’m only noticing it more this time. However, book one leads up to all-out war whereas book two chronicles all-out war, so more violence would make sense. For the squeamish, be forewarned: lots of death, lots of blood, lots of rape.
The short chapters hold the reader’s attention well and make it easy to forget what a thick book you’re reading. I have mixed feelings on the alternating perspectives. On the positive, it’s always fun seeing a world from so many different viewpoints, especially when their outlooks and lives are so vastly different - and it makes a long book a surprisingly fast read. On the negative, it can be annoying when you want to stay with a certain character and find yourself pulled away for as much as a hundred pages - or when a chapter ends on a cliffhanger and you know you better be patient, because the story won’t be returning to that character’s viewpoint for a while yet.
These books have become wildly popular bestsellers, but the interesting thing is that they’re selling even to people who don’t normally read fantasy. It’s easy to see why. As I say in my first paragraph, court intrigue and warfare summarize this series far better than the genre label fantasy. Labels aside, an addictive series heavy with characters and impressively complex worldbuilding.