“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
This is book two of Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. It picks up where “A Game of Thrones” leaves off.
Just as a warning, there may be some spoilers from the first book.
“A Game of Thrones” leaves off around the time that the king dies. Ned Stark has been executed, and his son Robb has been crowned as King of the North. Meanwhile, Joffrey reigns in the south, and holds Sansa Stark as a hostage/fiance. However, rumors spread that Joffrey is not the heir, but rather a product of incest between the queen and her twin brother. This causes Renley and Stannis, the former king’s brothers, to declare themselves king too.
As the various families and bloodlines struggle for the throne, it becomes evident that shit is going down north of the wall that divides the Seven Kingdoms from the wild and magical wasteland above. The struggle for the throne is taking up resources that could be better used to combat the threat from the north, but everyone is too caught up in petty struggles to acknowledge it.
Overall, I thought that “A Clash of Kings” was excellent, and had a much faster pace than “A Game of Thrones.” My favorite characters have changed somewhat from the first book. In the first book, Dany was very interesting, but now she’s just kind of hanging out with her dragons and not really doing anything. She’s still around, but she’s not as important as she was before. My new favorite characters were Meera and Jojen Reed. I found them intriguing, as they actually believe that there is still magic in the world and don’t underestimate the North.
One of Martin’s strengths in this book is his ability to present war from multiple perspectives. He is able to convey the thought processes among the nobility that lead them to their decisions about battle, but also paints the gruesome picture of the havoc that war wreaks on a population. The book is more rapey than the first one, because there is more instability and violence within the realm.
I’m curious to see what happens in the third book. I’m hoping to see the North play a greater role as the series continues.