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337 of 350 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2000
During one of those endless nights when I just couldn't put Clash of Kings down, I wondered: "Why aren't there more books like this?" George Martin has created one of those most deeply involving and satisfying series out there. In only two books, he has crafted real characters involved in the horrors of war. Many of the reviews below accurately describe the way that Martin creates characters of grey, rather than comic book black and whites. Many of the scenes in the book fit well with dark and somber lighting. This is not your daddy's fantasy novel.
Martin's characters bring a more realistic spin on knighthood and war. Cersei describes it best to young Sansa when she destroys the young girl's romantic view of knights by remarking that knights are for killing, nothing more or less. And kill they do. The battle scenes are raw and unglamorous, like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. Its all very realistic and gritty and heck, it makes sense: what do you really think happens when a not-so-sharp sword is swung haphazardly at another person: I've never seen it firsthand, but I'm sure its not pretty. It may be an oxymoron to claim that a fantasy book can be realistic, but this series is: after seeing the battle scenes in Braveheart or Gladiator, I have a deeper understanding of the horrors of sword fighting in, say, the medieval times in English history. Martin's story is realistic in the sense that it doesn't gloss over the horror and pain and terror of battles and the rage of the people who fight them.
Martin's series is a hardcore fantasy adventure for adults. While other authors cater predominately to a younger fantasy audience, Martin seems to write for the "college and beyond" crowd (at 31, I'm well beyond). Sex scenes, like the battles, are not glamorous in the least. Whereas characters in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series constantly blush and stumble at the very thought of even kissing a girl, Martin's characters think lewd thoughts, perform graphic sex scenes, etc. Yes, its not for all ages, or for every taste, but for those of us who are tired of the same old antiseptic stuff, Martin is a mature breathe of fresh air.
Meanwhile, he continues to awe me with his story telling. The different kings are now in open conflict with each other. Whereas Game of Thrones focused on the Starks v. the Lannisters, in this installment, it seems as if the entire land is in termoil, with no less than six kings fighting each other and attacking each other. The battles are terrific, including the climactic battle. (no spoilers here)
One other note I feel compelled to make is that Martin has created strong and independant female characters in his series. People might assume, based on the reviews, that this is a male-dominated story. Nothing could be further from the truth. Martin spends as much time writing about the female characters (Sansa, Arya, Catelyn Stark) as the male characters, and the female characters rule (i.e. Cersei) and fight battles (I won't reveal any specifics on this point except to say that Martin introduces two female warriors.)
Martin has created a real world, with all the vices of our own, and given all his characters life. Here's hoping that other writers take note.
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457 of 508 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2001
First off, I'm a heavy duty fan of GRRM. I've read over a 100 different fantasy authors in my time (started at 12; I'm now 32). Took about 5 years off from the genre b/c I felt it was all getting too formulaic and cliched. Typical archetype character who turns out to be the missing heir or boy wonder who saves the world against the Dark Lord.
So, when I came back to fantasy at the end of 1999, I read the usual: Goodkind, Jordan, etc. and then someone told me about GRRM and man, that was the kicker!
Here are the reasons to choose GRRM. I've also listed the reasons not to choose him to make it fair b/c I know their are certain personalities who won't like this series:
(1) YOU ARE TIRED OF FORMULAIC FANTASY: good lad beats the dark lord against impossible odds; boy is the epitome of good; he and all his friends never die even though they go through great dangers . . . the good and noble king; the beautiful princess who falls in love with the commoner boy even though their stations are drastically different . . . the dark lord is very evil and almost one sided at times . . . you get the idea. After reading this over and over, it gets old.
(2) YOU ARE TIRED OF ALL THE HEROES STAYING ALIVE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE UNDER CONSTANT DANGER: this gets even worse where the author kills a main hero off but that person comes back later in the story. Or, a hero does die but magic brings him back.
This sometimes carries to minor characters where even they may not die, but most fantasy authors like to kill them off to show that some risked the adventure and perished.
(4) YOU LOVE SERIOUS INTRIGUE WITHOUT STUPID OPPONENTS: lots of layering; lots of intrigue; lots of clever players in the game of thrones. Unlike other fantasy novels, one side, usually the villain, is stupid or not too bright.
(5) YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BIASED OPINIONS AND DIFFERENT TRUTHS: GRRM has set this up where each chapter has the title of one character and the whole chapter is through their viewpoint. Interesting tidbit is that you get their perception of events or truths. But, if you pay attention, someone else will mention a different angle of truth in the story that we rarely see in other novels. Lastly and most importantly, GRRM doesn't try to tell us which person is right in their perception. He purposelly leaves it vague so that we are kept guessing.
(6) LEGENDS: some of the most interesting characters are those who are long gone or dead. We never get the entire story but only bits and pieces; something that other fantasy authors could learn from to heighten suspense. Additionally, b/c the points of views are not congruent, we sometimes get different opinions.
(7) WORDPLAY: if you're big on metaphors and description, GRRM is your guy. Almost flawless flow.
(8) LOTS OF CONFLICT: all types, too; not just fighting but between characters through threats and intrigue.
(9) MULTILAYERED PLOTTING; SUB PLOTS GALORE: each character has their own separate storyline; especially as the story continues and everyone gets scattered. This is one of the reasons why each novel is between 700-900 pages.
(10) SUPERLATIVE VARIED CHARACTERS: not the typical archetypes that we are used to in most fantasy; some are gritty; few are totally evil or good; GRRM does a great job of changing our opinions of characters as the series progress. This is especially true of Jaime in book three.
(11) REALISTIC MEDIEVAL DIALOGUE: not to the point that we can't understand it but well done.
(12) HEAPS OF SYMOBLISM AND PROPHECY: if you're big on that.
(13) EXCELLENT MYSTERIES: very hard to figure out the culprits; GRRM must have read a lot of mystery novels.
(14) RICHLY TEXTURED FEMALE CHARACTERS: best male author on female characters I have read; realistic on how women think, too.
(15) LOW MAGIC WORLD: magic is low key; not over the top so heroes can't get out of jams with it.
(1) YOU LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS: GRRM does a good job of creating more likeable characters after a few die. But, if that isn't your style, you shouldn't be reading it. He kills off several, not just one, so be warned.
(2) DO NOT CARE FOR GRITTY GRAY CHARACTERS: if you like more white and gray characters, this may unsettle you. I suggest Feist or Goodkind or Dragonlance if you want a more straight forward story with strong archetypes.
(3) MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEWS TURN YOU OFF: if you prefer that the POVS only go to a few characters, this might be confusing for you.
(4) SWEARING, SEX: there's a lot of it in this book just as there is in real life. If you have delicate ears, this book may upset you.
(5) YOU DEMAND CLOSURE AT THE END OF EVERY BOOK: this isn't the case for all stories in the series. Some are still going on; some have been resolved; others have been created and are moving on.
(6) IF YOU WANT A TARGET OR SOMEONE TO BLAME: this can be done to some extent but not as much. This is b/c he doesn't try to make anyone necessarily good or evil.
(7) ARCHETYPES: some readers like archetypal characters because it's comfortable; we like the good young hero (sort of like Pug in Feist's THE RIFTWAR SAGA); it's familiar and we sometimes like to pretend we're this upcoming, great hero. You wont' get much of this in GRRM with the exception of one or two characters. There really aren't any super heroes compared to all the other characters as it's more grittier and no one is shooting fireballs every milisecond or carrying around some super powerful sword.
(8) LENGTH: you don't want to get into a long fantasy epic series. In that case, look for shorters works as this is biiig.
(9) PATRIARCHY: men are most of the main characters with lots of power (one female exception). While this is realistic of the medieval era, some readers may not prefer this if they want more girl power, so to speak.
By the way, if you don't want to commit to a big book until you know the author better, check out his short story, THE HEDGE KNIGHT, in LEGENDS. Overall, this is a great series and I happily purchase the hard cover when it comes out...
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112 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
I loved Game of Thrones. Seriously, loved it. It shattered all my built up pessimism towards fantasy and kept me quite addicted in a scary way. I had to finish it at all costs. Towards the end I realized that I'd better get the rest of the series quick so when I finish the Thrones I can keep on right away. Well I did finish and I did continue on immediately with Clash of Kings.

But something odd happened. As the first pages flew by in a fever of needing to know what happened next, I started to notice myself reading at a much slower pace. Eventually I started drifting ahead and accidentally skipping passages. I had to put the book down and take a break. So I did for a few days. Then I picked it up again and still found myself moving somewhat sluggishly.

That is Clash of Kings ultimate curse. There are parts of this book that really drag on. Just about every character can claim more than one slow chapter in the story, and they start to add up too much in the middle. At some points you will have to will yourself through this book. Yes I know it's a 1000 pages so what did I expect, but did it have to be that long? Game of Thrones is long, but it moves at a rapid pace and tells a very tight story. There's much to trim here, or at least to substitute.

Then there are little things. Like take for instance the aforementioned Kings that clash. Of the five major ones, none have their own character chapters. Granted four of them do have their actions mentioned by characters near them, but one doesn't even have that (save for a visit from another character). Another one was built up as a main character in the first book (and a bad ass one at that), and is hardly mentioned as most of his actions aren't even followed directly. It's a waste of a great character in a world of evil bastards. Another King is mentioned heavily early as a very interesting plot develops around him, then he just disappears. He's mentioned only when people talk of him not being there or doing anything, and then he's just there again. It's a great moment, but illustrates another problem with the book.

Because when he does arrive he's carrying with him a deus ex machina that is hard to swallow. What happens is hinted at, but when it happens it feels sudden and ill played. Then they do it again right away. See it involves some of those fantasy elements, which is perfectly fine. The series handles that stuff with care and intrigue like all other things. But there is now suddenly a lot of it in the book , and the sudden change of style is dizzying sometimes. This particular instance also seems to be too much of an easy way out, Superman traveling back in time style. There is no given reason that this character shouldn't be doing what they do more often, save for some tricky moral issues and some bullcrap about nobility before a very large battle. Just an odd plot device.

I already grow tired of hating this book though, so let me tell you why to read it. For one thing, the Tyrion and Arya chapters are never boring. Not once. They have great moments carried out by two of the greatest characters in the series so far. In trying to avoid spoilers I'll just say that Tyrion gets a whiff of power and does many things with it, Arya is caught up in a story that is absolutely riveting. There is a strong argument to be made in re-reading this book many times and just reading her chapters. Not only is her development substantial, but her situations are quite frankly frightening at times. There's a part with a man named the tickler and a gang of others that is a downright horror movie. And towards the end her paths unite with a man who instantly becomes one of the most intriguing in the series. His presence and actions are one of the few untainted in the name of good moments, and he leaves you with a mystery as interesting as any so far.

The battle scene at the end though really is a page turner. It's not overtly complex, but rather takes a great many things set up prior, and just knocks them down. The right characters get the right page time to give the full details of it, and by the end you'll be breathless. And truthfully while there are some character stories who seem particularly drawn out (Danerys and Bran come to mind) there is a lot of well contributed good stuff from most everyone involved. There are individual moments here that are incredible, there are lines that will make you clap with their brilliance, and there are twists every bit as shocking as the first book.

In the end this is about a 600 page story put into a 969 page book. If you can handle that you're in for a great story. Just know it's an uphill battle to get there.

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226 of 267 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2006
This is not a negative review. So far, The Song of Ice and Fire saga remains interesting, somewhat unpredictable and well written. However, I must state that when nothing ever seems to go right for the most likable characters, it does tend to get REALLY tiresome and REALLY frustrating after a while (especially now that I am over 1300 pages into this thing). In fact, Martin seems rather to enjoy the fact that anything planned by the "good guys" goes awry. Sure, the Starks win some victories here and there. King Robb wins a few battles, but even here Martin usually tells us about them after the fact. We don't even get the satisfaction of reading about Robb's victories (for some reason, we don't get his POV). I have no problem with the bad guys winning sometimes. That's just reality and it allows us to understand the "good" in a more vivid perspective. But so far, this series has been a non stop descent into the evils that men do. Be prepared: At any opportunity, Martin ensures that these books are as cruel and crude as possible. If you are normal, this starts to drain you emotionally after a while. Nevertheless, I'm already reading book 3.
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
"A Clash of Kings" is the second book in George R.R. Martin's remarkable "Song of Fire and Ice" series. The novel picks up seamlessly where "A Game of Thrones," left off. The story deepens and becomes more complex as, (at least), four claimants battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms and unimaginable darkness and disaster threaten from the North. This riveting, multi-layered epic saga reads, in part, like superb historical fiction, (the novel is based more on history than on legend or myth), and in part like dark fantasy, with a huge cast of vivid, well developed human characters - and a few of the supernatural kind also. As with the first book, there is an Appendix at the back of the novel with the names of all the royal houses, their kings, queens, knights, histories, and mottos.

The ten year-long summer of peace has come to an end, and the darkness of a harsh, frigid winter is about to descend on the now splintered Seven Kingdoms. An ominous blood red comet, thought by some to be an omen of evil, by others a portent of good, blazes across the sky. In just a short period, war has ravaged the land. King Robert Baratheon, and Lord Eddard Stark, enforcers of thirteen years of peace, have been murdered - victims of political treachery in the game of thrones. Robb Stark of Winterfell has been proclaimed King in the North and battles, along with his liegemen and their armies, against the Lannisters, while dead King Robert's brothers, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, fight each other for crown and throne in the South. The House of Lannister attempts to hold on to their power through young heir apparent, Jeoffry Lannister Baratheon, the child of incest, who rules like a tyrant from King's Landing. His evil, manipulative mother Cersei and his uncle, Tyrion, the dwarf, dominate the sadistic young king and rule through him. Tyrion, called the Imp, tries to check his nephew's arrogance and cruelty and his sister's power plays. At one point he comments that he is all that stands between the family and the population, who despise him, and chaos. Deadly political intrigue is the name of the game at court.

King Balon Greyjoy, of the Iron Islands, has marshaled his forces in his own play for power. Meanwhile, major armies are massing against King's Landing from all points on the map, and from various sources, all with their own interests at stake. There is an extraordinary battle scene which occurs during the last 200 hundred pages that is detailed, intense and mind-boggling in scope and creativity. I don't like military/war/battle descriptions, yet I was absolutely riveted to the page. This is really superb writing!

Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and royal heir from the previous dynasty, plans, from a continent away, to travel with her unlikely brood across deserts and wastelands to take back the crown that is rightfully hers.

Sansa Stark, Robb's sister, is held captive at King's Landing waiting for an opportunity to escape. Arya, the second Stark sister, is making her way north, toward home, disguised as an orphan boy. She is traveling with a band of miscreants destined for the Night's Watch in the far north. Back at Winterfell, the two youngest Starks, find themselves confronting a friend turned mortal enemy. And Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark who is serving in the Night's Watch, discovers an invasion of a more heinous nature. Evil, destructive forces, far more deadly than thousands of mounted armed knights and soldiers, are mobilizing to wreck havoc on the land and civilization. Powers as old as the earth itself are preparing to move. Jon is a member of the contingent led by Lord Commander Mormont, (father to the disgraced Ser Jorah), who travel in the menacing frozen wilderness, north of the tower, in search of the lost Benjen Stark, and the King Beyond the Wall. But the dire danger in the North is ignored or forgotten as feudal lords vie for supremacy and wage war amongst themselves.

New characters are introduced in "A Clash of Kings," among them Lady Melisandre, a priestess of a god known as the Lord of Light. She has ensorcelled Stannis Baratheon and the powers she wields are terrifying.

Martin's prose is fluid and extremely well written. Compelling plots, subplots and counterplots are interwoven throughout as the characters go about their lethal quest for power and wealth. The descriptions are so vivid and three dimensional that this alternate world, one that in many ways resembles Europe during the Middle Ages, is really brought to life on the printed page. The author does not shy away from the brutal realities of civil war. There are appalling abuses of physical and governing power, frightening scenes of battle and strife, where the innocent civilian population is abused and horribly victimized. However, the narrative also includes spellbinding adventure, romance, war, battles, knights and their ladies, quests, infidelity, love, honor, incest and treachery, etc.. Simply outstanding!

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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2000
Continuing and expanding the excellent story begun in "A Game of Thrones", "A Clash of Kings" takes us further into the chaos that has descended upon the land of Westeros now that king Robert Baratheon is dead. The "Seven Kingdoms" are fracturing, war and madness reign, and through it all George R. R. Martin ties the plot together and cranks up the volume notch by notch.
All of us who dove into this series are now frothing at the mouth waiting for the next book... "Clash" ends with so many cliffhangers that I spent a decent amount of time lying awake at night wondering what in god's name was going to happen NEXT. This series is one of the best fantasy epics I have ever read, and I have faith that Martin will keep the pressure on, and fan interest up, unlike Robert Jordan.
If you have not started this series, go NOW and read the first book, and then (slowly!) read "A Clash of Kings", as the third book (Supposedly titled "A Storm of Swords") is not due out till Fall of this year. Hang on!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2006
For the most part, George RR Martin's Clash of Kings continues what he started in A Game of Thrones. The key phrase being, "for the most part." While the book is good - I never found myself avoiding it - it isn't written at the same level as the first. The solid qualities we witness in the first book are manifest in this, but not as prominently. All in all, a good sequel to book 1, but it doesn't live up to the standard he sets there.

My single complaint from the first book - going out of his way to keep Tyrion alive no matter what the circumstances - is again present in the sequel, but in triplicate. In the final battle scene, Tyrion is a dead man - the narrative dictates as much. Through 2 books, we see no shortage of evidence suggesting the dwarf is not the most athletically graceful person in the story. Yet, during one battle, he manages to slice an attacker's spear 3 times before then landing a fatal blow. All of this while his horse trots around his opponent. Are we expected to believe this about face in skill is reasonable within the limits of the story? For me, it's not.

In addition, there are too many instances where rarely spoken of (or unheard of) entities come crashing in at the last second to cause an unexpected outcome. This is generally allowable in any book (especially fantasy), if used sparingly. But Martin goes down this avenue too often, and because of this, the last 200 pages are difficult to get through. At the end, I wanted the book to be over; not because I was eager to see what happened, but because I was getting annoyed at the absurd turns in the narrative.

All of this would be a brief complaint, if it hadn't spanned nearly 200 pages of the story. As it stands, the abrupt turns take too much of the story's focus, which is a detriment to the narrative. I don't think this opinion is unreasonable. The series is, after all, fantasy. But it needs to exist within the realm of "Acceptable Believability" that the author establishes, and these instances do not fit, for me. Some may disagree. YMMV.

In the end, I did question whether or not I would bother with book 3. Now that I've had some time to digest it, I will likely pick it up. But only after some time to detox from much of what was lacking in the story. George RR Martin can put together words, and has a good imagination while managing to keep it mostly in the realm of plausibility. For that, it's surely worth picking up book 3 and seeing where he takes it from there. Granted, it's not perfect. But there's plenty here to carry your interest into a 3rd book.

A step back from book 1, but still worth the read.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 1999
Of all the fantasy series on the market, only three, to me, combine page-turning plotlines, characters you could cry over, solid writing--and believable worlds. Martin joins Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and early Katharine Kerr as the best of what modern fantasy has to offer. I know how popular Salvatore, Eddings, Feist, et al. are; but read them again, and what you get is good story with junior high school-level writing ability. Terry Goodkind spins a good yarn, but he's too derivative of Robert Jordan (why no copyright infringement lawsuit?) and his writing is average at best. Martin's series, though... wow. Tad Williams remains, to me, the best-written of all series, Jordan's plot is perhaps the most captivating, and early Kerr was so real you could smell the horse and steel. Martin is not the best in any one area, but he does it all so well you'll find yourself staying up all night turning pages. My only anger is the year-long wait until the next installment. I know some will chafe at the fact that this second volume is mostly build-up, with just about nothing getting resolved. But what a build-up; the tension gets so thick you want to scream at the characters to get a clue and see what's really coming. If your idea of fantasy is two-hundred pages of improbably-named Dungeons and Dragons cliches killing monsters plagiarized from Tolkien, go back to your Salvatores. But if you're into believable worlds crafted by authors who obviously have done some homework into late medieval history to flesh out the details, and characters who are _human_, with human failings, do yourself a favor and buy A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Better yet, wait until the series is done before you start, or you'll find yourself in agony, like I am now.
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 1999
There are no two ways about it. The Song of Ice and Fire is in a class of its own in modern fantasy writing. After some of the very poor writing (Brooks, Goodkind etc.) that has tended to saturate the fantasy market it is a breath of fresh air to read such excellent literature in this genre. The multilevel plot lines are quite brilliant with the characters being extremely convincing in that most show both "good" and "bad" personality traits and actions. The Clash of Kings is a worthy sequel to the first book although it takes quite a while to get going. Although I have given this book 5 stars, to my mind it is not without its faults. As others (no pun intended) have already mentioned Martin's use of different viewpoints for each chapter can be annoying at times - especially when it seems to break the flow of the story rather than enhance it. I would also hazard to guess that Martin (with no little encouragement from his publishers, no doubt) is succumbing to that terrible literary affiction of "Jordanitus" - a terrible propensity of keeping a series going on too long. Don't do it George! Along with a number of characters' (Theon Greyjoy for one) insatiable wenching you might also notice that Mr Martin tends to describe the meals in great detail - perhaps we are learning a thing or two about the author himself (please forgive me George). All in all, this is a brilliant book and I take my hat of to Mr Martin.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2000
Everyone! There are like seven would-be Kings and Queens trying to take over the Seven Kingdoms! I haven't seen anything like it- Armies crawling all over the countryside. All throughout this book you find yourself trying to imagine who will run into whom. Hoping so-and-so gets his hands on this guy, and so on. And when they do encounter each other- it's incredible! You will love this series!
This story is told from the point-of-view of nine (at present) distinct main characters with a great supporting cast, and while some feel this gets too confusing- I love it. It feels like you are reading nine stories at the same time. Most are excellent... Sansa and Catelyn might have to go if they don't get better, but Tyrion is one of my favorite characters ever. What really rivets you is the fact that Martin is not afraid to kill off his characters. Not like in Wheel of Time where everyone manages to escape or make a comeback (look for Moiraine and Lanfear in the next one).
One small factor does manage to irk me... the language. Not the cursing mind you. That was used rather tastefully and not over done. What I refer to is the annoying speech habits of certain characters... The Crow was fine yelling, "Corn!" or whatever, but then you have the alchemist saying "...hmmm." in every sentence, Stannis' fool with, "I know! I know! Oh! Oh!" and there's a few others not to mention HODOR! This was annoying, but just a minor gripe.
I don't feel it was quite as good as Game of Thrones, but it sure comes close, and still enough for a "5 star". Martin's plotting and dialogue are truly masterful and you'd be a fool to pass up on reading this series (6 books projected). But there is a lot of painful waiting between each new installment and at least six years until the end- Oh the agony!
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