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Good, but starts slowly
on 12 September 2006
"A Clash of Kings" continues the epic saga begun in "A Game of Thrones". After the death of the previous king, there emerge 4 or 5 other characters who believe they have a valid claim to the throne.
Martin uses the same writing style pioneered in the first book where each chapter is written from the viewpoint of a key character. However, whereas in the first book, it really drove the story on, here it tends to be used as a cheap plot tool to make each chapter appear exciting, even when the only exciting part is the last paragraph. To be fair, this is only the case in the first half of the book, where very little seems to happen except a long list of lords and knights. After the midway point (the book is around 700 pages), it improves immeasurably, with every character's chapters becoming more and more exciting.
I am pleased to report that there is an increase in magical occurrences and even though it is still quite subtle, it definitely seems that it will play an increasingly important role. Balancing this however, is that this book as a whole has a distinctly depressing flavour to it, with the "good" characters never really succeeding. Even at times when they appear to be on the up, something will happen to snatch it away. I am all for unhappy endings, but because it seems so endless, it does drag the pace down somewhat.
As I'm sure everyone would say, there are characters that are more enjoyable than others. Tyrion's chapters are consistently the most exciting and varied, although I also enjoyed the Jon, Bran and Catelyn sections. However, moreso than in the first book, there are character stories that never really rise above average, namely Davos, Theon and Sansa. Arya and Daenery's sections are somewhat divorced from the main story, but are both suitably entertaining, with promise of an exciting progression in the next book.
To summarise, I didn't enjoy "A Clash of Kings" as much as "A Game of Thrones", with there being more negative points than there were with the first book. Having said that, it did become very exciting and left a good number of cliffhangers to keep you wanting more. All in all, though, it makes rating the book a little tricky. I rated the first book as a 4, since I only give 5 stars to my absolute favourites. In the end, I have gone with a 3 rating because my ultimate rating guide is how much I enjoy something.
I don't mean this review to sound overly negative though, since it does have its strengths and as such, I will buying the next book, albeit in the hope that it is a little more consistent.