A Song of Ice and Fire’s massive surge in popularity due to the recent HBO series finally got me, like many others, to start George R. R. Martin’s epic journey through the Seven Kingdoms. I enjoyed A Game of Thrones, the first volume in the series. It was well-paced, had a complex and intriguing storyline and had some of the most complex and interesting characters I have encountered in fantasy literature so far. How does the second instalment continue this excellent start then?
As in A Game of Thrones our point of view characters (Catelyn, Arya, Sansa, Thyrion, Bran, Jon, Daenerys, plus the new ones: Theon and Davos), scattered throughout the two continents, deliver us news of all the various and complicated events they witness, forming a well-developed picture of the world Martin created. This series lives through its characters and it is a great fortune that George R. R. Martin is excellent at creating compelling and complex cast to inhabit his story. I am especially impressed with the female characters and how different types of female strength are portrayed in this series. It is extremely refreshing to have such well-written, fleshed out female characters around in great numbers and in main roles. I did miss Daenerys in this volume though. She had very few chapters and compared to the other story lines hers did not progress much. Davos is not as interesting as the other narrators but it was nice to get Stannis Baratheon’s view on the conflict.
The language continues to be very good as well, with a fittingly archaic tang in its vocabulary but very easy to follow, and the dialogue is well-adjusted to each character. The world building is extended further with fantasy elements. Whereas A Game of Thrones might have easily been classified as a political thriller/drama if not for its setting (and one or two scenes), A Clash of Kings makes more use of fantasy genre elements while remaining realistic and believable as well which work well for the story. One leaves with a feeling of a more in-depth knowledge of the world into which one just tread.
But after so much praise, I did have a major issue with this book: pacing. The story took very long to get going at the beginning which was a real shame because the opening chapter was amazing. After that it took me a few hundred pages to get as invested in the plot again as I was at the beginning. While the pacing did pick up in the middle and was just right through to the end, the slow start dented an otherwise great story.
Overall A Song of Ice and Fire’s second volume A Clash of Kings was a good continuation if not a perfect one. This is a book filled with great characters, good writing and world building, but with some pacing issues. If you can live with that and enjoyed A Game of Thrones go ahead and read this. I for myself definitely will continue reading this series, especially after the massive cliff hangers at the end.