“A Clash of Kings” by George R. R. Martin (Bantam, 1999)

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A Clash of Kings is the second in the ongoing Song of Ice and Fire series, sequel to A Game of Thrones, and the series continues to be entertaining and interesting, one of my favorite ongoing fantasy series.  What makes it different from other fantasy series is that Martin, instead of using chapter numbers and having everything be specifically chronological, has about five to ten characters whose heads you are in.  So you can be immediately whisked away to another battle, another land, another family feud, by the turn of the page.  Plus Martin isn’t afraid of killing off characters, which can be horrible if one gets really attached to certain characters, but I find it admirable that he has the bravery to do this.  I think it isn’t done enough in fiction, specifically fantasy.  Sure the good guys need to win, but not all the time!

Near the end of A Clash of Kings there is huge battle between two big armies: one attacking the other on a river, beginning as a naval battle, and then once the men land on the ground, moving on to try breaking into the fortress.  Your regular historical or fantasy novel would have you in the head of your main character who would likely be one of the leaders of the armies.  The P.O.V. might switch during the battle to the other leader’s viewpoint on the other side and then come back to your main character.  With Martin’s literary device, the reader sees the battle unfolding from three interesting viewpoints: from the leader of the army in the fortress (who is an ugly dwarf); from one of the captains of the ships, on the other side, attacking the fortress, as he leads in the ship and engages the enemy; and from a young girl who is a hostage in the fortress, under the watchful eye of the queen, in a room full of the important women who are just waiting around to find out if they are on the winning side, or if they are on the losing side and the enemy is about to break down the door and the knight will be ordered to kill them all so they won’t end up as hostages.  So instead of seeing the entire battle from one of possibly two P.O.V.s, the reader gets three totally different viewpoints, and it just heightens the tension and suspense.

Next in the series is A Storm of Swords, with A Feast For Crows due out November 8th, 2005.  As Martin was writing A Feast For Crows, passing the thousand-page mark a couple of months before the book was done, he was told by his publisher that they can’t have one book be this long.  He’d previously promised that his next book would not be as long as A Storm of Swords, which was 1216 pages in the mass market edition.  Since he’s going to long pass this, he negotiated with Random House to split the book in two.  What he’s decided to do, and as I get further into the series I can’t understand how he’s going to do this, is have half of the characters in one book, and the other half in the next book.  Some of the characters can be on their own tangents, meeting different people, and not actually have anything to do with the other main character’s whose heads the reader is in, but there are other characters who interact with each other quite often, and I just don’t know how Martin is going to reconcile this.

It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.  And the good thing Martin said is that the new book comes out soon, and the next one is already half done.

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Originally written on October 9th, 2005 ©Alex C. Telander.