25 March 2013

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

The central story of this book held my attention: the attack on King’s Landing by Stannis and the city’s defense by Tyrion. The actual events of this attack are less interesting – anyone who’s seen the episode ‘Blackwater’ from season two of Game of Thrones gets more for seeing it than I did from reading it – than the strife in the camps of Stannis and Tyrion. After all, Tyrion takes off from Cersei who utterly resents his involvement in any of this planning. In any case, Tyrion’s plans of defense and conduct during battle were the most interesting parts of this book. Stannis faces some challenges as well. First, he has to win the assault on King’s Landing and, second, he has to bring others to heel as they resist the plans of his advisor, Melisandre of Asshai. Demonstrating this resistance are two men loyal to Stannis: Maester Cressen and Ser Davos. Both of whom in loyalty to Stannis try to kill Melisandre. They fail, of course. (I won’t reveal who fails most spectacularly, though.) Davos tries to be the conscience that Stannis seems to have forgotten. He speaks many times throughout the book so he stands close in loyalty to Stannis and makes his thoughts known to his king. Making a prominent appearance early in the book, Maester Cressen is especially interesting to me. He gets short shrift in season two, but here in the book he appears for some time as he voices major resistance to Melisandre. Cressen has served Stannis for a very long time and here he reflects on his loyalty towards and love for Stannis. It’s quite moving as well as saddening once it becomes clear that the old ways as represented by Cressen have been replaced by Melisandre. An old advisor has been taken out to pasture and his love for his king now forgotten. It’s to the author’s credit and talent that a small character like Cressen is given such history and texture. All of it shows the stakes of the struggle in Stannis’ court. Also of interest to me as it was omitted from season two is how Stannis feels about his brother Robert. Now that Robert is dead, Stannis sees that the throne is his. He reflects on his anger and bitterness over the ingratitude and betrayal by Robert. While I’d love to learn more of what’s going through Melisandre’s mind, what we have here in Cressen, Davos, and Stannis is very, very good. The book is focused on the politics of alliance, loyalty, and betrayal in equal measure while not sacrificing it to double crosses and anger just for the sake of a plot. This is a world rich in resentment and intrigue. Add to it all the growing character arcs of Jon Snow at the Wall and Daenerys Targaryen in Qarth – both of whom are getting used to power and intrigue – and you have a growing story quickly maturing. As ever, Arya and Dany are very interesting women fighting to gain the control that their lives deny them and that deep resentment keeps alive in them. Sansa and Cersei are contrasting figures in the arena of court politics, but no less compelling. For all of her plots toward Tyrion and indulgence of Joffrey, she’s a woman central to the story and always moves the plot forward. A step forward from A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings adds to the continuing plot and gives us many deeper characters who raise the stakes of the story in their own unique ways.

page daily hits
Promo Numbers