George R. R. Martin, “A Clash of Kings” Game of Thrones Book 2

I think it’s a good sign when the book you’re reading follows you around, don’t you? That means it’s got such a grip on your imagination that you see everything through the fictional scrim the author has created. And, OK, it’s not such a long step from A Clash of Kings to King Lear, which I saw Saturday night  — but surely it’s a compliment to George R.R. Martin that it seems so obvious.

Edwin Austin Abbey's "Cordelia's Farewell" -- key scene in the first act of "King Lear."

Edwin Austin Abbey’s “Cordelia’s Farewell” — key scene in the first act of “King Lear.”

Yes, I’m still with it. I was worried at first that the enchantment had dimmed. Don’t you hate that in a series, when Book I seizes you and Book 2 lets you go? Of course it’s bound to happen sometimes. And in a series like this, with really looooong books, there will be dull moments. There will also be repetition, and that’s what I really fear for Martin. How many ways are there to describe battle, after all?

But battle is only part of the book and there’s enormous variety built into the series — including in the way the characters fight. A Clash of Kings ends with a massive sea battle that didn’t remind me in the least of Patrick O’Brian. Of course Jack Aubrey didn’t have wildfire to work with.

To be honest with you, I’m already well into the next volume and Jon Snow is getting into terrible trouble, so I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts.

1/The sheer invention! In Qarth, Danaerys is given endless gifts:

A pair of Jogos Nhair presented her with one of their striped zorses, black and white and fierce. A widow brought the dried corpse of her husband, covered with a crust of silver leaves; such remnants were believed to have great power, especially if the deceased had been a sorcerer, as this one had.

2/I am starting to mentally collect the ideal army to unite and bring peace to Westeros. But I don’t actually trust Martin to keep all these characters alive, which is both good and bad. Among them: fierce little Arya Stark, the strapping girl warrior Brienne of Tarth, the twisted but possibly well-meaning Tyrion Lannister, and crippled Bran Stark who is developing all kinds of interesting extra-normal capabilities. I would vote for Jon Snow to lead them. He is beginning to acquire an aura of inevitability.

3/As Ygritte the wildling says, “A bard’s truth is different than yours or mine.” Bigger, brighter, more ferocious, more seductive, more highly colored, more disturbing, more organized. Thank you, Mr. Martin the Bard.

4/Getting back to Lear, he might have taken a lesson from Stannis Baratheon: “Kings have no friends, only subjects and enemies.”

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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7 Responses to George R. R. Martin, “A Clash of Kings” Game of Thrones Book 2

  1. Alex says:

    I have so much to read over the summer but the temptation to go back and re-read the early volumes of this before catching up with the last two is becoming overwhelming. I think you should be ashamed of yourself for leading me into temptation in this way:)

    • carolwallace says:

      You know, Alex, I’m nowhere near done but I know I’ll re-read. And when I get around to it, I’ll give YOU credit for planting the idea in my head! (Plus: you need to re-read in order to appreciate the newer material, right?)

      • Alex says:

        Exactly😉. In fact, I’ve just prefaced my first read of ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ with a re-read of ‘Wolf Hall’ on precisely that principle and been proved right. I’ve appreciated the new book much more for having the characters clear in my mind from the first.

  2. Custos Libros says:

    Abbey’s painting is our daughter’s favorite in the Met, closely followed by Hannock’s “The Oxbow.”

  3. carolwallace says:

    And she’s right, too, on both counts! There are fabulous Abbeys at Yale which I hope you saw earlier in the spring.

  4. James Harvey says:

    I’m reading the 5TH Game of Throne book: the ship board chapters remind me a bit of Patrick O’Brian. Just little hints, enough make me think Martins has read and enjoyed O’Brian, and is consciously echoing him. Adds to the fun of reading it.

    • carolwallace says:

      Now that is very interesting, James. I have to admit that my interest flagged by book 5, but I agree, O’Brian does seem to peek through from time to time. Hard to write maritime drama without him? I wonder.

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