Brad's Reviews > A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
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's review
May 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: song-of-ice-and-fire, fantasy, sword-and-sorcery-opera, forty-for-2012-personal-challenge
Read from March 09 to May 16, 2012 , read count: 1

My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way through the book. This is the first insallment. My star rating is where I am at now. This may change in subsequent installments. Enjoy ,,, or not.

My Clash of Kings Journal: volume ii

Daenerys –- She is, quite simply, the best leader in these books, and her POVs reveal the depth of that quality at every turn. Even better, her leadership seems to be inherent. It is all about gut, and her gut doesn’t seem to steer her wrong. Staying in the City of Bones, for instance, is a decision that is right on every level. It is right for her, right for her people, her tossing aside of superstition must solidify her mythology for her people, making morale even greater, and her ability to take the long view without realizing she’s doing so, means that she and her people wil be prepared. Perhaps GRRM is going to make Dany the biggest red herring ever. Perhaps she is not destined to retake the Iron Throne. But if she does take the throne, it will be the most satisfying foregone conclusion I’ll ever have had the pleasure to read, except for the vengeance of Edmund Dantes. Can I just say, though, that it took way too fucking long to reach Dany? I need more of her much more often (of course, it is always better to leave me wanting more, so well done GRRM).

The other thing I love here is Ser Jorah Mormont’s story. It wasn’t what I expected, but it fits, and it makes me love him more than I already did. And the coupling of Dany and Ser Jorah (only figuratively) leads me to my five favourite characters at this point:
5. Cersei (wonderful in every way. I wonder how she would do on the Bachelor?)
4. Varys (brilliant, brilliant spider, where are your scissors?)
3. Daenerys (cause she is the truest hero in the books)
2. Ser Jorah Mormont (cause I get it, and I can see myself doing all the shit he does)
1. Tyrion (that sexy motherfucker)

Jon –- Kind of a nice break from the character heavy chapters where we learn so much about the people we’re reading about, this chapter is about events. Big Daddy Mormont and his rangers and a whole bunch of crows are out looking around beyond the wall, only to discover that every village they come across is empty. Spooky. Not much else to report, although there are some new cats in the Black (cannon fodder?), Sam is growing braver (as brave as he can get), and Jon didn’t whine (I mean it ... no whining. Not sure if that is because, as my kind friends tell me, I am being unfair to poor Jon or if there is a real difference). So that’s nice.

Arya –- So that’s what happened to Ned. His soul was transported into his daughter. So here we are in Harrentown and Yoren holds up in the holdfast until some Lannister bannerman shows up and attacks. It’s a pretty cool action sequence –- all fire and violence and mayhem -- and Arya’s penchant for fighting and already seasoned courage make her a deadly little warrior. But then there is that Ned moment. The moment she does the “right thing” and risks her neck to save the guys in the cage. I found myself, as soon as the fight started, wanting someone to do exactly what Arya did, but once she did it I couldn’t help thinking, “That was stupid, Arya, you should have just saved yourself.” Will it bite her in the ass? In this case I am going to guess no. My guess is that this will have positive repercussions down the road, but it is still the sort of “noble” gesture that Ned would have engaged in, and we all know where nobility and honour got him.

Tyrion -- Damn I love chapters with Tyrion. Straight back to the shit I love: political machinations, brilliant minds plotting (and this time it is Tyrion and Varys), and kick ass lines, like (and I paraphrase) “Sometimes I wonder, Varys, if you’re the best friend I have in this city, or my worst enemy.” To which Varys replies, “I often wonder the same thing about you.” Perfection. And I wonder what the plan is for that big fucking chain? Fascinating.

Bran –- So as I was reading the chapter, I was thinking I would write out my thoughts on all the little Winterfell subplots about sonless widows and big fat landowners and crop levies and Bran as acting prince and the Walder assholes and their belittling of poor Hodor, and blah blah blah. And then the Cerwyns show up with news of Stannis’ letter and suddenly Bran remembers. Bran REMEMBERS! Sweet. Can’t wait to see what he does with his knowledge, although if I can see any family not using such knowledge to their advantage it would be the Starks. Still, the memory is there, and that is a fun development.

Tyrion –- Maester Pycelle = one. Varys = two. Littlefinger = three. What are you weaving, Tyrion? And are you doing too much too soon? What is your use for that vial you stole? What are you going to do to Littlefinger? Can you and Varys actually work together for the same thing? Are you as great a survivor as I imagine you are? Two things are sure: one, you are as sharp and observant as we’ve been led to believe since your three moves are against the three most dangerous men; two, you’ve got balls the size of boulders.

Sansa –- She just keeps getting better and better. Love the hint of old myths and tales in the intrigues of Ser Deros and Sansa. Love the Florian & Jonquil story. The way Martin offers these moments, hinting at a deeper story, but withholding the details as though we must already know them, being a part of Westeros, is masterly. We get to fill in the gaps and imagine. It’s quite an impressive skill. And then there’s the Hound. Love him more every time I see him. I hope he doesn’t die until something fittingly huge comes from him. And I don’t mean his prick.

Arya –- Gendry is about as smart as Robert, I see. At least he was observant enough to pick up on Arya’s gender. So the Arya story, the 21st century Disney Princess (interesting, isn’t it, that Sansa seems to be the 20th Century Disney Princess?), aggravates me to know end. It really is no different than the classic “male” fantasy journey, it’s simply made “new” by switching the genders. I have always been annoyed with little boys in Arya’s position too, so it is not her gender that bothers me; it is the banality of the story itself, and in a book with much more interesting female characters, I suppose it rankles that she seems to be everyone’s favourite. Throw a penis on her. Now how interesting would her story be?

Tyrion –- And a little bit of Cersei. Oh my. Where to start? Again I find Cersie a wonderful character. Out of her depth, feeling betrayed by every man in her life, overwhelmed by the patriarchal weight that has pressed down on her all her life, here she is defending her daughter from her own fate, yet once she is reached by Tyrion’s intelligence, she is prepared to do what is required. Pragmatism wins out. And speaking of pragmatic, there’s good old Tyrion, preparing the wildfire and its delivery boys. There’s Tyrion turning every turn and twist of intrigue into a moment for knowledge and activity. As much as I love Cersei, though, I hope to see Tyrion make her pay for her arrogance and abuse. Good, good chapter.

Catelyn –- Good God I hate chapters from her perspective. It took me a month, literally a month of showers, to get through this chapter. Catelyn’s presence could seriously grind me to a halt and right out of Westeros. Christ I hope she dies in a future book. My loathing for her grows every time I’m stuck in her head. However, GRRM pulled me back into his world right at the end of the chapter when Renly finally said what I’ve been thinking all along: who the fuck has the right to an usurped throne? The guy with the biggest stick (or the girl with the trio of dragons). All this talk of succession and right to the Iron Throne has infuriated me because there is no moral position in this situation. We’re not talking about a throne that was usurped hundreds of years before. We’re talking about a throne that was usurped just over a decade before. Robert had the “right” because he sat in the throne after a King was killed and a rebellion was later quashed. Might makes right. And Renley said what needed to be said. And now I am back into the tale after a month of torture.

Jon –- While I am far from loving Jon Snow, this is the first time I understand why almost everyone else does. I saw the first glimmer of him being a bit smarter than his father and family in the way he dealt with Gilly, the daughter/wife seeking escape. He had a pang of guilt, but seems (so far at least) to have made the correct decision for himself and the watch. At this point in my reading, the second season of Game of Thrones is well underway on HBO (5 weeks in, perhaps), but I have only seen the first episode. Why I bring this up is because this event, the visit to Craster’s Keep , occurs in that first episode, but it occurs here at the nearly halfway point of the book, which causes me more than a little concern that the TV producers have decided to make all sorts of untenable decisions now that they’ve a successful season behind them. And it pisses me off that they’ve decided to ramp up Jon’s petulance and self-righteousness in a way that isn’t in the book. I’ve been told that the show has coloured my view of Jon, and I think that assessment is correct, but the television makers must share responsibility for making their Jon something he isn’t and shouldn’t be.

Theon –- Loving Esgred the shipwright’s wife. Good lord in heaven but she could be my favourite woman in these books. (Later ...) I can say that I was genuinely surprised by that. God damn! I expected something to happen, but I was thinking it would have to do with Esgred’s “husband” or that Esgred was a spy planted to get Theon talking, and fool that he is he’d blather all his plans because he was thinking with his cock. I was, at least, partially right. But I didn’t see Asha coming. I am sure some would say that this is a case of a man “underestimating” a woman, but I see it, instead, as a woman actively tricking a man. Theon will never underestimate Asha now that he knows her, and surely we’ve seen Theon “underestimate” everyone, male and female since he’s come home (but only Asha has actively tricked him). One thing this chapter has done has been to increase my sympathy for Theon yet again. He is crass; he can be an ass; he is self-righteous; he’s too much a Stark and not enough of a Greyjoy. But the poor bastard is beset on all sides, and it’s impossible for me to separate the man he’s become from his upbringing. No wonder he’s such a mess.

Tyrion –- His best moments all packed tight into one chapter: 1. He poisons Cersie; 2. He rids himself of Cersei’s guard; 3. He pisses off Littlefinger and puts the jackass in his place; 4. He strikes actual fear, along with respect, in the heart of Varys; 5. He takes out Maester Paecelle. Genius. That throne needs to be Tyrion’s.

Arya –- This is the first time since Game of Thrones that I’ve enjoyed a chapter about Arya. It’s dark, and I love how the Mountain continues his shadowy march as the baddest bad guy around without ever being present. I also really dug the creepy guy, the nondescript fellow that scares Arya the deepest. The finest part of this chapter, though, is one of the things I most admire about GRRM – his dearth of heroics. Most other authors would have had Arya pull off some mad escape by now, some impossible slipping away or murder or retaking of Needle. But nope. Arya’s now Weasel. And Weasel is now a servant. Excellent.

Daenerys –- My love for her grows, and Martin’s debt to Conan’s Hyborean Age is obvious again when she enters Qarth, the Clash of Kings version of Zamora. Dany’s thoughts about Ser Jorah were astute. The news from Westeros and the way she handled it was sound. And I love that she continues to walk along the sword edge fully aware of the dangers. She really is destined to return to the Iron Throne, isn’t she? I hope so. At this point, Tyrion is the only person I’d rather see as ruler.

Bran –- The Reeds are fascinating. Magic is stirring (a nice discussion following our most recent time spent with the dragons). The Maester’s are chemists and thinkers. Bran and his dire wolf are going to be potent. A nice little bit of groundwork going on here (but then everything is groundwork always, isn’t it?).

Tyrion –- Little Lancel comes trying to be all tough for Cersei, and he’s turned into Tyrion’s spy in seconds. A nice bit of the cat teasing the mouse before he eats him, but the meat of the chapter for me is Tyrion’s going to Shae. The path through the brothel, through Dancy and Marie and Alayaya is fascinating, but it was his admission, to himself, that he loves the game, he loves where he is and when he is, and he loves Shae. His downfall is right there between her legs (and Martin used my favourite word to describe it -- the it between her legs that is -- delicious).

Arya –- Now that she’s cooped up in Harrenhal, Arya’s story is taking on greater dimensions and become much more captivating for me. The power of her three assassinations through Jaqen H’ghar, potential eliminations from her list of hate, could make for some interesting changes in the landscape. Chiswyck was a waste, of course, but will the next two be well spent? Me hopes.

Catelyn –- You know you are douchebags when Lady Catelyn Stark, nee Tully, is the one with wisdom, the one urging peace and dialogue. Damn you, GRRM! Are you going to make me like her after over 1,300 pages of making me hate her? I hope not. I like to hold on to my hates.

Sansa –- How is she still alive? This girl is amazing, and her reserves of strength seem boundless, not to mention her ability to persevere. The best part of this chapter, though, is Tyrion. He really is one of the great characters in literature –- not just fantasy literature but literature.

Catelyn –- The son of a bitch did it; Martin won me over. Catelyn Stark has perhaps the finest moment of self-awareness in the book during her prayers in the sept. It is a beautiful sequence. And then she goes and witnesses the unleashing of bloodthirsty shadows in an act of demonic fratricide / regicide (sort of), saves Brienne’s ass and pulls off an impressive escape (which should bite her thoroughly in the ass, as I am sure she will take the blame for the regicide). I may be falling in love with her. The fact that GRRM has done this, has reversed my long standing disdain for Catelyn in only two chapters, is a feat of powerful literary manipulation. I’ve understood why people love him and the books before, but this is the first time I can see why they consider him a master. I think I may be forced to concur.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie this will be very helpful to me someday...

message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Babcock One of the things I struggled with when writing my review was how much detail to go into. There are just so many characters and so many stories going on in these books that attempting to comment on even a few of them seems like a monumental undertaking. So your journal is a nice way to tackle it!

I am also on Team Daenerys. She’s really the only person who deserves the Iron Throne: sure, she’s the progeny of a mad king, but she’s the only claimant who isn’t neck-deep in family politics. She’s a Targaryen, but she’s the Targaryen. All the other claimants are beholden to family feuds and grudges that keep getting in the way. Plus, as you point out, she’s a kickass leader who actually manages to get stuff done. I would gladly welcome Dany back to Westeros with open arms.

That being said, I’m doubtful we’ll see anything as straightforward as a “victor”. My guess is that as the series draws to a close, Westeros is going to be more concerned with a fight for survival against the threats from beyond the Wall. The winners are going to be whoever survives that battle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if GRRM leaves a lot of things up in the air to really hammer home his theme that nothing is stable for long.

Brad I get that sense of no definitive end too, Ben. But it is still early days for me. I'll be happy if she gets the throne for a little while, though. I want to see those dragons rage, if they get big enough.

mark monday i love reading these chapter by chapters. wonderful!

Brad Thanks, mark. It's kind of a fun way to read them actually. It's a nice way to keep everything straight.

Kirby book 3 journal, please? :)

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