Closing the book on my first read of A Clash of Kings

I just came to realize that it has been almost a year since I’ve read A Game of Thrones (my review is HERE), the first part of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Since then the series has experienced some (more) hype because of HBO adapting it as a TV series that is supposed to be rather decent (meaning: Alex has not seen it yet, kthanx). I meant to pick up the second volume named A Clash of Kings way earlier, but well, I did not. These past few weeks have been partly spent wandering and wondering through its 700+ pages and now I am here to review the shit out of it.

via amazon.com

First things first: I liked it a lot. More so than I like A Game of Thrones and exceeding the expectations I had about it massively. There’s a variety of reasons why that is so and since this is a review I’m going to give them to you. I will start with what I loved, continue with what I disliked and will finish with what made me shrug indifferently (aka room for improvement).
MASSIVE WARNING: I will be SPOILERING, so if you have not read A Clash of Kings or even A Game of Thrones yet and don’t wanna ruin your reading experience you should stop reading this review right now and come back to it later, cause secrets will be exposed. Just so you know.

Undying eternal love for:

Sansa
Gosh, how I hated on her in my last review and how I loathed reading her chapters in volume 1. But this time? Whole ‘nother story, folks. I’m kinda astonished myself, but this time around the Sansa chapters were really enjoyable, since she’s really come a long way from the pretty stupid thing in Game of Thrones. Mind you, she still is that, somehow, but there is a growing understanding of the world in her and it’s not all that cheesy I feared it would be. Plus, her character gets to interact with some of the most intriguing characters of the series, amongst them the Hound of course, but also Cersei and Joffrey, thereby providing a well developed focal point on crucial events shaping the whole saga. Thumbs up for Sansa!

Tyrion
Other than Sansa I loved Tyrion’s chapters in the first book and I continue to do. There is the big similarity in that Tyrion interacts with a bunch of very interesting characters like Cersei, but most of all Varys. The Eunuch is going to give us all some more good story, I tell ya. On top of that Tyrion’s character is of course tailor-made for instant identification. We all feel odd and ugly and out of place a lot of times, just like him, but he overcomes it with his incredible wit and cleverness and comes out on top of everyone trying to fuck with him. Except for maybe what happens in the final battle. To that I say: ugh, and: poor Tyrion. Ow.

Theon
Hello new POV! I cannot remember having Theon’s POVs in A Game of Thrones, but I might be mistaken. Nonetheless, here is one POV likely to aggravate you, cause his character is designed to make you hate him. Being a sexist prick totally in love with himself, witless and scrupulous, it is still fun to read. Admittedly I suppose that is because I am so hoping to see his inevitable fall. Which brings us to his maybe-death in Clash of Kings. Is he or isn’t he? My vote goes to he is not dead and I guess we’ll see him round, cause while Martin was happy killing major characters in book one, this time it is only characters like Stannis and Renly that had to get out of the way anyhow. And with Tyrion and Bran and Rickon we got some supposed deaths that turned out not to be, so I call bullshiz on this one.

Davos
Another new POV. Nothing particularly exciting about Davos, except for maybe his firsthand experiences of the dark powers of Melisandre, but nicely written and interesting to read anyhow. Won’t be seeing more of him though, I suppose.

The Stark tombs
Granted, the tombs of the Stark family have been interesting all along, but this time around with Bran and his bunch hiding down there? Wicked shit! All the namedropping made me wanna hear all their stories and the line “they reached the twisting stone stair that led up to the surface, and down to the deeper levels where kings more ancient still sat their dark thrones” made me instantly wish for another book solely consistent of their stories. We could also just call it worldbuilding at its best.

Arya
I semi-hated on Arya the last time, but much like Sansa her character improved by factor 1000. Loved her storyline and all her tribulations – and the dark path she is heading down. Slitting peoples throats? Oh my, gurrl. I was particularly in love with the whole Jaqen H’ghar plotline and can’t wait til we meet him again. Which I am sure we will. Yay!

The grittiness
People lose their guts and die of really ugly wounds to the head, women get raped, are threatened with rape or threaten to rape each other and a lot of dicks are touched, sucked, ridden and whatnot. And you know what? For the better. There is an undeniable appeal in A Clash of Kings’ grittiness, because it feels a lot more real than a lot of other fantasy sagas do thanks to not shying away from these topics.

Religion
Also interesting: To read about the various religious systems in Song of Ice and Fire. The whole thing with the godswoods, the Seven and the thing with the Lord of Light…. I feel this is going to become way more important and I am actually really looking forward to it.

Oh, really? eyerolling for:

Jon Snow and the Wildlings
The Jon Snow chapters were better in book 1. There, I said it. They were not bad this time, but a little underwhelming. Jon enters the North, leaves the wall behind and all we get is this? Come the fuck on. The Wildlings are also only humans, oh my, what a surprise. And from the look of it we’re going to get hundreds and hundreds of pages telling us how Jon manages to stay alive among them, struggles with his conscience all the while (cause of the Nightwatch, yawn) and gives us and insight into Wildling life. Puhleaze. It bores me already. I can see “we have our own honor” and “life is harsh beyond the Wall” conversations hitting us left and right and I really don’t want to hear about it. The plot twist of him having to join the Wildlings and having to kill Qhorin could be seen from a mile afar. Bwrah, sez I, cause there was more potential.

Bran and Rickon are dead? Or are they?
Theon definitely gets major a-hole points for killing random kids in order to make everyone believe that Bran and Rickon are dead, but as soon as the statement pops up it’s pretty clear that it didn’t really happen. The only thing that made it exciting is the memory of volume 1 where major characters were killed, so there was a little thrill in thinking: maybe they are really… But then: Nah, haha, they been cleverz y’all, and still alive. And I feel that I maybe shouldn’t think so, but I can’t help wondering if killing Bran and Rickon would have made for a more interesting story.

Wolf dreams
While I’m at hating Bran why not take it a step further and discuss the wolf dreams that bother the shit out of me. For once because it reminds me so much of Wheel of Time’s Perrin, right down to his reaction of refusing to embrace the wolfdream, though Bran admittedly is a little faster in accepting them. However, the whole “we’re all brothers and sisters, and not just the wolves but also the children who possess the wolves, and thus we can telepath back and forth” smells like the lamest plot device in the history of icy firesongs. I’m afraid I’m not going to like the developments in that department.

Things that felt a little blah was the whole beyond the wall scenery since I had expected so much more. Also the Melisandre and Lord of Light thing, mainly because I feel this is going to get a little Christian on our asses as we move along and I am not particularly fond of taking that route. Catelyn could kick more ass and doesn’t, which is sad. And Daenerys’ storyline didn’t really evolve, did it? Okay, the dragons grow, your people suffer, you’re yet again dependant on somebody else’s riches and continue to embody the young but mighty queen…kinda been there, done that. Something needs to happen there.

To wrap it up: really enjoyed it a lot. The pros outweigh the cons by a hundred tons, since so much of what I loathed the first book around grew on me due to believable character evolution. Also: Mention of a song of Ice and Fire. Ahaaa! There is the name-giving song mentioned in the very text. That will be one interesting thing to learn about, I guess. I am really excited to read on and see where the story takes us, which king will prevail in the end, and what wonders and horrors will descend upon the characters. It will definitely not take me another year before I start book 3.

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