The second part of A Song of Ice and Fire continues the story that was left (Hanging, I must add) by A Game of Thrones: With King Robert dead, three different kings rose on the kingdom, with two new claims for the throne (Either of the five countries or just one, as is the case of Robb Stark) appearing as A Clash of Kings begins. From there on, George R. R. Martin takes us through a very long explanation of a civil war of sorts and how the characters we were first introduced to during A Game of Thrones deal with it.
However, it doesn’t work quite as it should. Though the storyline itself remains as engaging as it was during the previous installment, something seems to have switched in the narrative of the novel (Along with the obvious changes in the quality of the storyline itself), turning what should’ve been a page-turner into one of the hardest books I’ve read in my life – A book I admittedly finished reading because of its storyline rather than because of the way it was explained.
The main issue with the narrative is actually the overemphasizing in details that Martin tends to do – Something that has played in his favor in several occasions but that in this book gets on the way of the narrative a little too often, filling up the already huge book with chapters where very little happens in a huge lot of pages due to the extreme, often unneeded level of detail Martin puts on the scenes. It gets worse when said scenes involve either characters we’ve never seen before (and therefore have very little reason to care about) or characters that are simply enigmatic, where the ridiculous amount of detail given only works to make the reader lose focus of what’s important, thus either missing or overlooking things that will be important later on.
The second point that hurts the book is one that helped A Game of Thrones work so well – The chapter structure where each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character and fifty pages or more can easily go by between a cliffhanger for a character and the continuation of it. This worked relatively well in the previous installment because the storyline was comparatively tight – There were two main places where chapters took place (Four actually, but Jon Snow and Daenerys Targarien’s storylines were so separate from the main plot they might as well have been sold separately as novellas), and that helped the relatively fragmented narrative keep its shape since even when characters switched, locales and situations didn’t. In A Clash of Kings, however, it isn’t so: Each character to take the lead, except for perhaps Tyrion and Sansa, has a storyline that differs entirely from the rest, in different locales and with different situations, meaning that in most occasions the storylines get fragmented too badly, to the point where it was for me often hard to remember exactly what was going on with each character with every chapter since usually the space between two chapters with the same character is pretty long, the only exception being Tyrion, who could pretty much take the spot as the protagonist of the book. I know this is less of an issue if you set out to read the book in a very short time/with long reading sessions, but for people with more relaxed schedules (or busier schedules, depending on your point of view) it really becomes an issue.
Set those two problems aside, however, and A Clash of Kings becomes almost every bit as enjoyable as A Game of Thrones was, this time changing the relatively light-hearted storyline of A Game of Thrones for a deep political drama about a civil war that, all in all, works quite well. The characterizations actually get better for most of the part, with characters that were either horribly shallow or one dimensional getting much needed depth and other characters simply growing further into the roles they’d been given before.
If there’s anything I must criticize from the storyline, it is actually the way in which the ending doesn’t bring any conclusion to the main civil war storyline, instead leaving it open for the following book to continue. I understand it’s a saga, but I really expected that after the over 1000 pages the book had we’d at least get some closure to it – After all, we did get some closure by the end of A Game of Thrones even when it was much shorter. Perhaps if Martin had taken away some of the way too many pages filled with details he wrote and added in more scenes that propelled the story forward it would’ve worked better. Alas, that didn’t happen and the closing chapters of the book left somewhat of a bittersweet taste in the mouth of this reviewer. Sure, several new storylines are set for the next book – Bran, Tyrion, Arya and Jon each get what could be thought of as a new beginning by the end of this book that left me wondering what’ll happen in the sequel, A Storm of Swords, but the fact that the main story arc with the war and the claims for the throne wasn’t closed really bothered me.
All in all, I see A Clash of Kings as a sophomore slump of sorts for the series. Though by no means a bad novel, I don’t think I had ever have to force myself to read a book as much as I had to do with this one, something that’s quite a pity when considering that the story in the book is indeed very interesting and intense – It’s the delivery and the way in which it is written that really drove me off. Nevertheless, that hasn’t dried my thirst for going through the whole series so soon enough I’ll be reading the next book in it (Something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t liked this one), though I admit I’ll be reading other lighter novels first and a few months will likely pass before I feel like stepping into Westeros again, for this novel really burned me out like very few have.
Final review rating: 3.5/5
Availability: The book is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
|Buy Paperback Book
|Buy Hardcover Book