by George R.R. Martin

Bantam Spectra


753pp/$25.95/February 1999

A Clash of Kings

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

A Clash of Kings is George R.R. Martin's sequel to his retelling of the Wars of the Roses in A Game of Thrones.  Set against the rich tapestry Martin wove in the earlier novel, A Clash of Kings is able to build upon the layers of complexity which Martin has already incorporated into his world.  Following the events of A Game of Thrones, the seven kingdoms are in an uproar as several pretenders to Robert Barathion's throne wage war to make their claim to the entire realm stand.

Against this backdrop of civil war and strife, Martin includes several other storylines.  Each reader will find some of these plots to their interest while the novel drags when a less favored plot is being followed.  Nevertheless, Martin gives every indication that all of the plots are woven together and readers who stick with them and the series will eventually see everything come together.

While embracing the tradition Medieval setting, Martin eschews the traditional romance of the period, instead attempting to portray the era in a realistic manner.  His vision of the war-torn seven kingdoms owes more to the Chronicles of Froissart and the History of the Franks of Gregory of Tour than it does to the legends of King Arthur.  Martin's characters are ruthless even when they are working with their allies.  Despite this, his characters have their own morality and personality which will endear (some of) them to readers, just as each reader will have his own favorite plotline.

Despite the bulk of the novel (nearly 750 pages of story), Martin manages to keep the book's pace rapid so the reader doesn't realize how thick the book is.  The characters move in and out of the action and the scene shifts around the country frequently enough to keep the reader interested in the different stories while not so frequently that it feels as if their is lack of substance to any of the plotlines.  

Martin has managed to continue to tale of his earlier book by adding even more layers of complexity to an already multifaceted story.  His characters gain even more depth than they had in the previous book, and Martin has managed to demonstrate that things are not always as they seem and his characters are all multi-dimensional, having their good points and bad points.  There is every indication that when Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" is complete, it will rank among the great classics in the field of modern fantasy.

Purchase this book in hardcover from Amazon Books.

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