A clash of Kings, the second novel in the “A song of Ice and Fire” series goes a long way in establishing this series as one of the most overrated ever. I expected this one to outdo the first novel when I heard others defending the first one that it was only a setup for the remaining books. I sincerely doubted those claims and was glad to be proven right although I had to waste a week. All that this book accomplishes is move the chess pieces across the board for a later showdown.
That’s not to say this is a total failure. Martin continues to showcase his ability to write compelling dialogue. Jaime Lannister outguns everyone else in a brief scene which probably is the best part of the book. Tyrion shines in his new role and there are sufficient glimpses of brilliance. Theon Greyjoy comes out as an intriguing character and keeps us guessing whether he can be deemed sympathetic or not. Jon Snow also has a decent time in the book which is quite surprising as nothing significant ever happens in his arc. The newly introduced characters (Stannis & Melisandre) were deftly handled although Martin sometimes holds the cards too close to his chest.
I understand that Arya, Sansa and Bran’s journey is concerned with fleshing out the realistic setting of the story and its grim tones. In Martin’s opinion this is simply dubbed as “Rape, murder! It's just a shot away”. I get that he intends to let these characters grow but he sadly constrains them too much and only lets them stare at unfairness around them. I would have preferred to watch them DO something. And it doesn’t even serve to talk about Daenerys. Absolutely nothing happens in her story worth mentioning apart from some pitiful prophesying.
Martin’s problems mainly stem from the page count. Some chapters were so irritating that he made me wish I could make him read Stephen King so that he can learn a thing or two about setting up a payback in a lengthy manner. One of the main strengths of Game of Thrones is that it has a clear sense of direction and always worked towards an inevitable breaking point no matter what the POV is. And the chapters made long strides along the journey providing reasonable justification for the reader to persist with the lengthy format. But in this book it was difficult for me to get interested in the middle and hence final resolution felt dull. Some chapters (especially Bran and Daenerys) were outright horrendous and it just pains to speak that they do not serve any purpose in the end. Perhaps fans might forgive such mishaps but you cannot expect everyone to be equally patient.
"Clash of Kings" is simply a string of chapters which dawdle at length only to throw a lame surprise on their last pages and the worst part is that the surprise is not even built upon in the successive chapters. A writer of superior ability might make the dawdling tolerable but Martin’s bland attempt at writing doesn't always impress.
And unsurprisingly Martin kicks into higher gear in the final few hundred pages which probably is his way of putting all eggs in a single basket. If his writing didn’t fail him in earlier pages, I might have enjoyed them immensely but now I would rather contend myself with mediocrity. There is nothing wrong with building your story on a grand scale through a series of novels but each book should advance something in the scheme of plot structure. I guess this is what happens when an average writer decides to do a Tolkien.