Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review: A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin (1998)

Here we see the Seven Kingdoms at war as Robb Stark declares himself King of the North and the brothers of the dead King Robert both declare themselves the true heirs to throne while denouncing the incest-sired bastard King Joffrey.  Tyrian tries to keep Joffrey's follies from getting everyone in King's Landing killed, at the same time, Jon Snow is riding into the unknown of the North and across the seas, Queen Daenerys tries to keep her nomad kingdom together.

The second part of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, we have all the strengths and weaknesses of part one, but with more of the weaknesses laid on.  The main characters are still well drawn, but there are far too many of them and the secondary characters are a blurry mass.   And there are those maddening parallel plots that seem be never destined to actually converge.  Martin also has increasing trouble keeping so many balls in the air with plot lines chopping off, fading out and never coming to an adequate resolution.  He even falls to the amateurish fault of reusing the same plot device over and over again.  How many sudden rescues can there be in one story?  And if you're going to get a character drunk to get the truth out of him, do it only once per series, please–not twice in the same book!

But the worst problem with A Clash of Kings is that it slowly (there's no other pace here) becomes obvious that Martin is aiming for quantity over quality.  There is a lot of story here, but it isn't due to depth nor to complexity, but merely by layering character on character and storyline on storyline and then resolving never to move anything forward with any sort of speed.  Though there's a lot of fighting, intriguing, running about and simplistic brutality masquerading as realism, the plot hardly moves at all from chapter one to chapter 187,265.  Worse, it promises to get even slower as Martin in future volumes apparently hits on the idea of not making the next a continuance of the story, but more parallel plot lines to the ones in the previous book.

Any slower and this series will start to roll backwards.

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