October 28, 2012

A Clash of Kings by G. R. R. Martin

As my autumn escapism is still in full swing, I stick with fantasy, and 3 days ago I finished "A Clash of Kings" - the second book of "A Song of Ice and Fire" by G.R.R.Martin. The book is good, but not so good as the first one, which is a bit disappointing. But let's begin with the positive things.

First, I like the world. It is fantastic, and still not so fantastic that the reader feels no connection to it. It borrows a lot from the Wars of the Roses, and there is not much magic in it, so we can feel that it is real. In the second book the reader sees more locations of this world, hears more about its religion and legends and it adds to a better understanding of it. However, I don't like that there appears more magic in the second book than in the first one. The books are mostly about politics, wars and the place of people in the middle of the havoc. And when magic becomes a political force, everything is much less predictable and plausible.

Second, characters die in this world. Not only nameless masses or distant relatives, but main characters, even POVs. Oh, I like it! Authors do not usually do this, and it's shocking, but it adds to the reality of the world, where everything can happen. In this aspect the first book was terrific. We observe not only how the main character, with whose eyes we were seeing and whose thoughts we were hearing, dies terribly and unexpectedly, but also how life goes on, and how his death is not the end of the world. There were no such moments in the second book. The biggest death is when one of the claimants to the throne is killed, but the reader do not really feels for him, and he is not a POV.

Probably the most important feature of the series is narration from the different points of view. There are no BAD characters in the book, as everyone has its own reasons, and the reader can see the events from the different points of view. The parts of different characters are engaging to a different extent, though. In the first book my favourite was Daenerys's part - the story of finding courage, learning to rule, adopting a different culture.... It was fascinating. In the second book she is completely dull. All she ever says is that she is the mother of dragons and therefore will do whatever folly she wishes. In this book Tyrion becomes my favourite, as he is clever, cunning and always in the middle of all the intrigues. But generally the chapters are longer in the second book, and information dumps are too obvious.

So, if the first book is definitely a must-read for the adepts of the genre, the second one is not so perfect. I'll still keep on reading them, as I'm interested in what will happen to the characters. Besides, I like the series too, and it's better to read a book before watching them.

P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention how I LOVED the comet which somehow holds together all the stories of the different characters and how differently they interpret it. I can't fail to see here an allusion to the William the Conqueror's comet, and I feel that it is really all about dragons. But people worry only about things that concern them, and for each of them the comet means something different.

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