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Book Review: A Clash of Kings

Edit: What's wrong with the text? It's switching sizes and acting strangely. Does anyone know how to fix it?

"Oh, to be sure, there is much we do not understand. The years pass in their hundreds and their thousands, and what does any man see of life but a few summers, a few winters?
We look at mountains and call them eternal, and they seem... but in the course of time, mountains rise and fall, rivers change their courses, stars fall from the sky, and great cities sink beneath the sea. Even gods die, we think. Everything changes.” – I don’t know who said it…

I’ll start with a breakdown of the main characters because I liked that format and then go into miscellaneous notes.

Jon: Jon gets to go and journey past the Wall in this book, which is quite interesting. It really feels like the Night’s Watch is doing something important – defending the realm from the things beyond the Wall – while the rest of the kingdom spends the book squabbling over the Iron Throne. Not to say that who sits on the throne isn’t important; it is. Though it worries me that no one else is taking the threat beyond the Wall seriously. I suppose they haven’t got much proof for it, but still. They’re all going to be fucked, aren’t they?

Anyway, back to Jon. We get to see his compassionate side again when he releases the wildling woman, which was probably a foolish move but it worked out in the end. Kinda. The ending to Jon’s story in this book left me flailing my arms (figuratively because I was too busy holding the book open to spare time for arm-flailing) because WOW! Halfhand had him ‘betray’ the Night’s Watch and now he’s with the wildlings and I’m just so excited to see what happens next for him. It makes me sad to think about what Pyp, Grenn, Sam, Mormont, and everyone else will think of Jon when they find out he joined the wildlings and killed Halfhand. Which I suppose they’ll figure out before they learn Halfhand ordered him to do it. Oh Jon. This is going to be very messy.   

Daenerys: She remains one of my favorite characters with the most interesting arc in the book. I adore the scene in the House of Undying and I kinda wanted to record all the visions because I’m sure they’ll be connected to what happens from this point on. Most likely, I won’t understand those visions until the events actually happen. That was such a fascinating scene, one of my favorites in the whole book. And the crossing of the red waste – argh, that was so painful to read because things were going so badly and I just wanted them to go well for Dany. Of course, conflict’s always necessary to keep things interesting but I want Dany to have only good things from now on.  

Also, we got to see Qarth! We got to see an eastern city and culture that was strange and fascinating and wonderful in its own way! It’s like my wishes were granted. Now I want to see Asshai though I don’t think we will anytime soon since Daenerys is returning to Pentos and I can’t think who else would go there right now… Ah well because Dany is coming back to Pentos and I’m super excited for this!

Arya: Arya’s journey in this book is among my favorites (besides Jon and Dany). I actually thought they would reach the Wall, which really was a foolish thing to believe. Nonetheless, it surprised me when Yoren was killed and then a while later, the remainder captured. Arya has a lot of power when Jaqen the genie grants her three deaths. She winds up using two of them on small fry, which wasn’t surprising because she’s young and those two infuriated her, but most importantly, they were right in front of her. Tywin and Joffrey were out of sight and therefore not on the forefront of her mind. She made her choices quickly as the respective targets did despicable things in front of her and it wasn’t until her prison break that she really gave the matter a lot of thought. That was an excellent scheme. Hmm… Jaqen gave her secret words and a coin, which she will use… someday because characters don’t get cool objects and mystic words and never use them. 

The ending is a huge moment for Arya. She slits a guard’s throat without batting as much as an eyelash and the ease is a bit disturbing. Was she always capable of killing so easily? I don’t think so. I wonder if holding the power of life and death (through Jaqen) has changed her or whether it’s the hardships she’s endured that’s made her so calm with murder.

Bran: I like Bran, but I spent the first part of his story just wanting him to realize his wolf-y dreams are magical. There isn’t a whole lot going on in the beginning of his story besides lordly business (I agree with Bran – it’s dull stuff).

I really like Jojen and Meera… And I just doomed one of them to death, didn’t I? Damn… Nevertheless, even though they’re not going that way, I hope we get to see their home some time so we can see the swamp culture up close and personal.  

Bran’s story really takes an interesting turn when Theon takes over the castle. For a moment, I did believe that he had killed them and I was outraged but then I realized he had killed peasant children instead and I was still furious at him but I was also relieved that Bran and Rickon were okay. I’m really excited to see that Bran has embraced his wolf dreams though I’m concerned for him as well. Being a wolf is so liberating especially since Bran can’t use his legs – what if he starts slipping into wolf mode too frequently and begins neglecting himself? At least he has Jojen and Meera to look after him.

Davos: Davos, please don’t be dead. It was unclear and I like him and I just don’t want him to be dead.


The reveal of Asha and then Theon losing Winterfell is very satisfying. Sure, I could’ve felt bad for Theon from the way his father treats him, as a foreigner, as nothing more than dirt. But I can’t find it in my heart to give him sympathy after the way he treats that poor girl on the ship and then betrays everyone.

Tyrion: He’s a genius and I love him running King’s Landing. I love that he constantly one-ups Cersei. There’s a delicate game going on within the city with Cersei and Tyrion pulling so many strings. Not to mention Littlefinger and Varys; I’m sure their agendas are not so clear. I still feel bad cheering on Tyrion because he’s a Lannister, but it’s hard not to.

Sansa: I really liked Sansa’s chapters. I want her to get away so much and Dontos gives us this glimmer of hope but it’s not helping because nothing is really happening there. I feel some hope that she can escape, but I know I really shouldn’t, so I’m going to prepare myself for that failure.

Also, how wonderful was she when she was comforting all those people in Maegor’s Holdfast? Sansa may not be as strong as her sister in many ways, but she has her own strength deep within her.

Catelyn: Catelyn was rather awesome in this book. She went off to talk with King Renly and Stannis while all the men sat back and continued fighting. It’s cool that she gets to do such an important mission even if it turns out badly. But that’s not really her fault.

Other Notes:

- Did I just feel a smidgeon of sympathy/pity for Cersei? …I think I did. When she was talking about growing up with Jaime and being really close with him and then not getting a sword because she’s a woman and women don’t get swords and then being forced into a loveless marriage with Robert which robbed her of her agency… Damn, I don’t want this sympathy but I can’t help it because, in some ways, she was a victim. But now she’s got power and influence and she’s exercising it and if she wasn’t so horrible, I would be cheering her on. Of course, right after my sympathy fest, she tells Sansa that if they lose, Sansa is going to die and I hate her all over again. 

- Joffrey, I still don’t like you in any way, shape, or form. You should just die.

- Brienne is just so wonderful. I want to be best friends with her. Although I’m awkward and she’s really awkward, so it would be one big awkwardfest.

- Though something I’ve noticed about this series – the prostitutes are never given any respect or substance. They’re just there for the men to pleasure themselves. We got to see more depth in Shae, which I am happy about, but I’d like more of her in the next book.

- Gendry! I didn’t expect him to ever show up again, but here he is, a major supporting character. I’m so glad he’s going with Arya. He’s so interesting.

- Melisandre is so creepy. Her shadow birthing is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. Though the bit about shadows being products of light makes so much sense. Without light, there are no shadows. It would just be complete darkness. I’m fascinated by her religion though I don’t trust it after all the dark magic displays. Because even if shadows are products of the light, there is something immensely disturbing about giving birth to shadows who murder people. I can’t wait for more.

- Of all the religions in this book, I like the old gods best. There’s something cool about the weirwoods and the mysterious gods and the magic of it. I like the concept of the Seven as well. In practice, it bears a lot of resemblance to Catholicism though it’s polytheistic rather than monotheistic. And the Lord of the Light? That religion’s way freaky.

- Hey, where did Robb go? With Catelyn away from him, we don’t get any look into how things are going at his end. I think it’s a major fault in the book, but I’m not too invested in Robb even though I wholly support him as the King of the North… I want Daenerys to take the Iron Throne, maybe with Robb’s help, and so she permits him to be the King of the North while she rules the south… Yeah, I know that’s not going to happen, but I can dream!

- I know this is a book about the nobility warring over the kingdoms, but I’d love to see more of the common folk. Their lives are so unbelievably fucked by all the houses and families ravaging the land and raiding their villages and I just feel so bad for them. The life of a peasant is never an easy one. The glimpses we get of their lives from characters who are in those positions (such as Arya) are wonderful and since I doubt we’ll get a commoner’s perspective (honestly that could prove dull because they’d be more worried about surviving and not getting in this feud), I’m satisfied with more of these glimpses.

- A big theme in this book was chaos. Things are going sorta good and then they completely backfire. The attack on the holdfast where Arya was staying? Not expected. Theon turning traitor and taking over Winterfell and then losing it to the Dreadforts who I foolishly believed were going to be his allies? Oh, I was so woefully unprepared for that bit. I feel like I’m not going to be prepared for a lot of what happens and it’ll just be a complete surprise.

- Also, magic is returning to the world! This makes me so unbelievably happy even as it’s adding to the chaos of everything. Because magic is awesome and we get wolf dreams and creepy prophetic scenes and even creepier shadow birthing. Damn, that was just so disturbing. 

- The battle for King’s Landing? HAIDOSHA ASHDI ASIDAHSI DAISDH IADHIASH DIAH! So fucking epic! I love the image of the wildfire going up and that first ship blowing up into a green inferno and it’s like hell’s in the bay and everything is a complete mess and I’m just thinking: damn Tyrion, even if I want the Lannisters to lose and this is not helping that goal, this is bloody fantastic! I usually don’t like naval battles, but this one was incredible.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2012 01:12 pm (UTC)
No idea about the text, but I was so psyched to see this post! So much to say about these books...I never even finished discussing the first one with you. :)

Those visions in the House of the Undying (yeah I loved that part too) are hard to parse - there are some that the fandom is still arguing about. Actually, if you want a list of them, you might not have to compile them yourself, although I'd understand if that's the kind of thing you don't want to go Googling for. Probably tons of spoilers out there.

I adore Jaqen. Just his way of speaking. And Arya's choices for her first two deaths drove me crazy, but I had to keep reminding myself that she's still a child. Really not cut out for this, in spite of her new status as killer.

Jojen and Meera's father has some insider info that nobody else knows, so it's unlikely we'll see the swamp culture up close and personal for a long while. Unless he dies or something. That would be terrible.

You passed the "Theon test" - if anyone doesn't start hating him during his first POV chapter, I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THEM. Ugh, I just want to give him and Joffrey a couple of rusty knives and make them fight to the death.

Yeah, Tyrion is brilliant. The time that he's acting as King's Hand is the only part of the series where I find myself rooting for the Lannisters, even subconsciously. Varys is really one of my favorite characters too, and Littlefinger is fascinating even though he gives me serious wiggins.

Glad you liked Sansa and Catelyn; they take a lot of crap from fandom but I think they're both awesome women. I especially loved the Maegor's Holdfast scene for Sansa, and Catelyn telling off Stannis and Renly.

Cersei's definitely a victim, which is one thing I love about these books - they make you think about whether it's okay to sympathize with the bad guys sometimes, and whether someone like Cersei deserves what she gets. My opinion is that no woman ever deserves that, but she's also not excused for her own crimes. She needs to be stopped, not hurt.

On the other hand, Joffrey, as you say, should just die.

The gods of the North are wonderful; we learn about them very slowly but it's worth it. GRRM didn't quite put in the research for his Catholicism parallel with the Seven, but it's still pretty nifty, very intricate.

Good thought, chaos being the major theme. It's astonishing the way control just slips out of everyone's hands, no matter who they are, and before they know it they're just fighting for survival.

Glad you liked it! Keep telling us! :)
Jun. 29th, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
About the visions, I suppose I’ll Google it once I finish reading all the books that are out. I don’t want to risk spoilers, so I’ve been avoiding the fandom for the most part and staying away from any articles. So far, so good on the non-spoilage part.

I hope we get to see Jaqen again. He’s such a fantastic character. And yeah, I kept wanting Arya to whisper Joffrey’s name or at least Tywin’s, but she didn’t and like you, it drove me crazy too. It’s understandable given her age. At least she used that last choice wisely… Although I have to wonder if Tywin would’ve been a smarter choice there anyway in the large scale of things.

Jojen and Meera's father has some insider info that nobody else knows, so it's unlikely we'll see the swamp culture up close and personal for a long while.

Damn… That’s disappointing. Ah well, I don’t want their father to die. At least I’ll get to see both Jojen and Meera in the next book.

I approve of that fight. Theon would probably win, given his experience, but hopefully Joffrey would have inflicted some wound on him that’ll get infected and then he’ll die and we’ll party. Also, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t hate Theon after that chapter. Having said that, I’m sure there are people out there.

As much as I want the Lannisters to lose, I still want Tyrion to succeed or at the very least, not be killed off. Which I realize is an opposing set of hopes. Varys amuses me greatly though I’m never certain of his agenda. Same with Littlefinger. Tyrion’s chapters are some of my favorites, partly because of Tyrion and his wonderfulness but also partly because of the witty interactions he has with other characters, such as Varys.

That sucks about fandom giving them crap, but then I’ve rarely cared what the rest of fandom thinks. I imagine a lot of it comes from people claiming they’re not strong female characters. Because obviously being a strong woman means you need to be physically powerful in some way. *rolls eyes* I’m glad to hear you like Sansa and Catelyn too. And ah, how could I forget Catelyn telling off Stannis and Renly! That was such an amazing scene.

*nods* I love that these books make me feel sympathy for Cersei. And I agree with you; Cersei didn’t deserve what happened to her, but her crimes are still hers and we can’t ignore those.

I’m excited to hear that we’ll learn more about the Northern gods.

It’ll be a while before my next review since the third book is currently out of the library. I’ve placed a hold on it, so hopefully it won’t be too long.
Jun. 30th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
The one name I was dying for Arya to pick was Ser Gregor Clegane - she listens to some nobody soldier telling a story about Gregor being both inhumanly evil and too powerful to stop, and she decides to kill the guy who told the story. SO much horror could have been avoided if the Mountain was taken out, soon as possible.

My dream for Tyrion was that he would renounce his family and join the Starks, but unfortunately, renouncing one's family apparently just isn't done in Westeros. Even if you hate your father and sister.

Sansa in particular is a fantastic example of a woman learning to find her own power in an oppressive society. She never picks up a weapon but her cunning just grows and grows.

Third book is pretty long, too, so...see you on the other side, when you get there. :)
Jul. 1st, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
Ah, Gregor Clegane slipped my mind, but you're right. The story was about Gregor being cruel.. I suppose she chose the man telling the story because he was taking such amusement from telling the tale (also he's right there in front of her), but augh, that's so frustrating.

That is a beautiful dream. I want Daenerys to join forces with the Starks though I'm sure that won't happen.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )