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A Clash of Kings  - George R.R. Martin Well... I really wish that it hadn't taken me as long as it did to read this book. Six months it took me to read this one! A Game of Thrones took just as long, though. Bwaaah.

I must stress that it's not due to any fault on George R. R. Martin's behalf. I loved the book, I just get distracted very easily by other books. When I read A Clash of Kings, it was in big chunks with long gaps in between. I'm hoping it doesn't take me as long to read the next one.

A Clash of Kings begins with five claimants to the throne, and follows several plot threads through to... well, not really a conclusion. A good breaking off point for the next book, I guess. With circumstances greatly changed from the beginning, that's for certain. A basic plot summary would be: five claimants battle for the same throne. Sounds complicated, right?

If you think about it, it is complicated. However, through the multiple viewpoints and twisting, turning plot threads, Martin still manages to weave his story with coherent skill. Even with months in between reading chunks, I still knew what was going on, as there was enough information thrown in to allow me to keep up almost as well as I would have done if I'd read it in one sitting. And, fortunately, all of the plot threads interested me. There was no name I viewed with a certain kind of dread, no viewpoint that I wanted to race through as soon as possible. So, congratulations to Mr Martin on being able to keep ahold of his epic story and large cast (so far)!

Speaking of viewpoints, I loved the new point of view character that was introduced this book. Davos, the onion knight. I thought he was great, and it was wonderful to be able to have his view on the war. There's a lot we would have missed out on without him (plus, he's such a great character and I love his back story!). And, you know, the onion thing. :)

With an epic fantasy novel, you expect there to be battle scenes. And there were battle scenes. Impressive battle scenes. Martin manages to get across the visceral, gritty chaos of battle and still have it make sense. Quite often, I get a bit lost in action and battle-like scenes (especially if long-winded tactics are involved). It’s nice to be able to read a battle scene and feel involved. I especially loved reading a battle scene from Tyrion’s point of view, just because it is obvious Martin has taken into consideration the pros and cons of being a man of his stature in battle.

A Song of Ice and Fire is renowned for its brutality and violence, and A Clash of Kings certainly does nothing to belie that reputation. I was stunned at some of the characters that Martin killed off in this one – he always has a way of going for the people I think are safe. *flails around* I won’t spoil anything, but really… Martin takes the concept ‘murder your darlings’ pretty literally. Looking forward to see who survives to the end of the series. I don’t have much hope. (Despite appearances, I feel this is a good thing!)

Going back to my earlier points about viewpoints, Martin managed to leave off most of his points of view in a satisfactory place for the next book, which is great because otherwise the book would have felt unfinished or incomplete. I must admit, Catelyn and Davos were perhaps the most frustrating cliffhangers, with Davos in particular trailing off into nothingness. I’d have been glad for one more chapter for each of them. I am so glad I don’t have to wait to read the next book!

Martin’s grasp of his characters, particularly of his noble houses and their allegiances, is astounding. The amount of work he must do really shines through in the prose, particularly in the aforementioned battle scenes, when all the house colours and standards and bannermen are described. It truly feels like epic fantasy, and like a complete, fully-formed world. I love that about Martin’s work.

Speaking of characters, I really love Meera and Jojen. I hope they will continue to play a big part in the story. And, of course, I love Tyrion and always will do! (Unless Martin makes me hate him, which I hope he doesn’t).

I also love his way with words. Sometimes the language he uses is just so beautiful, yet still usually remains clean and concise. Even when he is describing not very nice things, I still find myself enjoying the way language is used and admiring him as an author. Sometimes he can get a little rambly, but I find I don’t mind!

All in all, I loved this book just as much as I loved A Game of Thrones, and I hope I shall continue to love the series as I continue to read it.