Saturday, 20 October 2001

George R.R. Martin: A Clash of Kings (1998)

Edition: Voyager, 1998
Review number: 966

At the beginning of this second novel in Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, it is clear that the Seven Kingdoms are about to descend into anarchy. Following the death of Robert Baratheon, first ruler of his line, just about every one of his male relations has proclaimed himself king - both his brothers, and his supposed son Joffrey (actually the child of an incestuous relationship between the queen and her brother). In addition, the new head of the powerful Stark family has taken up their ancestral title of King in the North, and the exiled daughter of the king deposed by Robert Baratheon remains implacably determined to return in triumph.

As the second in a series, the narrative is less interesting than in A Game of Thrones, and the length of the novel is a bit much for it to sustain the reader's attention all the way through. The characterisation and the depiction of brutal political manoeuvring remain very well done (as each putative king has to face up to his desperate need for resources). Of particular note here is the way that Martin conveys the age of the characters. Adulthood comes early when life expectancy is low, and Martin manages to show both the enforced maturity and continued childishness of many of the characters, who are in their early teens.

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