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on 14 August 2011
Despite my lukewarm review of the 1st book, A Game of Thrones, I did feel that there was a great story waiting to burst out and so I bought "A Clash of Kings" with that hope in mind. Sadly I was to be left extremely disappointed and my hope turned out to be very misplaced.

This second book reminded me of one of those cheap chicken breasts you see in supermarkets, it seems very fat and meaty but in reality it's really just pumped full of water to make it seem a better piece of meat that it actually is. This book is just so over inflated with pointless side stories and repetitive words that the pace has come to a standstill, and it wasn't that fast to begin with. If you were to gut both the first and second book of the series to 50% and combine them into one book you'd end up with a good book, instead of two very average books.

The author is obsessed with repeating his characters lines and stories. One has to wonder if it's just done to over inflate the book and get another book out of the series. How many times do we need to read about "Old Nan's tales' or Lord Mormont's crow repeating the words `corn, corn, corn', or the character Hodor repeating his name over and over again, whilst being told that this is the only word he knows as if the reader could somehow forget this. Then there's Bran's dreams of the crow and his third eye which seem to get mentioned as a storyline every time Bran pops back up in the book.

The storyline is just as repetitive as the character's lines. We have at least four different stories involving varying degrees of incest.....what's with this obsession?! Jaime & Cersei Lannister, brother and sister who have had 3 children, and then later on Cersei replaces Jamie (as he's captured) with her cousin Lancel. Then there's Theon & Asha Greyjoy, the sister allowing the brother to grope her and returns the favours although he is unawares to who she really is. Then there's Craster, who lives in the woods over the wall, who has a house full of wives and daughters, and seems to sleep with them all. Finally there's Daenerys Targaryen who expected to wed her own brother Viserys and whose family line is borne from the marriages of brothers & sisters and then breeding. Slight over use of the incest angle to a story?!

Other complaints would be the pace is very slow, annoyingly so in fact. The majority of the characters are dull with the exception of the Imp and his sellsword Bronn. There interaction is very humorous and the best part of this book. We need more characters like this though. The problem with this book is just when a character starts to get interesting he/she gets killed off.....whilst way too much of the book is devoted to the characters Arya & Sansa, who are both so dull and annoying. The storyline with Arya is particularly tiresome and is just a loop of escape, capture, escape, capture, trying to make friends, failing, and hating more and more people. And the notion that an 8 year old girl could use a sword to kill people whilst surviving in the middle of a realm at war with itself is very hard to believe. There's also the issue of Daenerys being only 13 or 14, yet she's hatching Dragons and trying to build an Army to take back the Iron Throne. Again this all seemed a bit too hard to believe and this lack of being able to believe in the plot at the heart of the story greatly lessens any enjoyment to be had from it.

I don't also understand why the author devotes so many words and chapters to pointless parts of the story yet when there's important parts of the story, that are fundamental to the plot, the author likes to only give part of the story and allow you to fill in the blanks. Various battles only get mentioned in messages from ravens to various people, so much so that you wonder if there is actually any fighting going on in this book. Or when Renly is killed, the manner of how it happens, who was it, who caused the shadow to appear, is all left up in the air, and only part of it comes out. When Ser Cortnay Penrose is killed and Storm's End goes to Stannis, the part of how Penrose died and the Red Lady was involved is all too brief, almost like the author doesn't know how to explain it in the storyline, he just wants it to happen. . There's more as well and it all combined to make it an unenjoyable, unbelievable read for me. Certainly not the great amazing book that so many others seemed to find it.
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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.
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on 23 September 2011
I usually avoid fantasy novels, but I tried the first in this series, A Game of Thrones: Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire, because of the marvellous tv adaptation, and I was surprised at how accessible it was and how much I liked it. But I suspect that you've got to be a real and dedicated fan to enjoy this second one, let alone embark on the rest of this never-ending saga, and so I'm opting out.
The things I liked about the first book are still there. It's a huge and original story and he's very good at dialogue, creating vivid characters and setting a scene, but I just wish he'd made some different choices. I didn't want to stop reading about the characters I liked (Tyrion, of course, and Arya, Sansa, and Jon Snow), only to be dragged into the lives of those I loathed, especially dull Catelyn (even her family is wondering what the point of her is now Ned has gone), unpleasant Theon Greyjoy, and scantily-clad Daenerys who seems to be in a different book altogether.
And with so many characters, it's hard to remember where you'd left each one, when the narrative finally returns to them. It makes for a frustrating read, especially when stories and relationships are often just left to fizzle out. Where's Robb Stark? And what's happened to the Lannisters? Cersei has become a cardboard cut-out evil queen, and Joffrey, Jaime and Tywin have all but disappeared. And I'm also finding his portrayal of women a bit suspect: there are a lot of uncomfortable scenes, and far too many whores, rapes and beatings in this book.
I know that he's set out to create a massive saga set in an alternative universe (even if he has pinched most of it from medieval England), and that inside his head he's probably got even the most bizarre and rambling of characters and sub-plots under control. But all it's saying to me at the moment is, where was the editor? It's not just the subject matter, and I'm not afraid of huge and difficult novels: this is far too unstructured and open-ended a book for me. I didn't want all the repetitive details, all the dull lists of Ser this and that and all their potted histories, served up in the middle of a narrative that's shooting off in some very random directions. Quantity doesn't always mean quality, it's all a bit self-indulgent and undisciplined, and something's telling me it's only going to get worse.
I gave the first book four stars, but at the end of the review I wondered whether life was too short to carry on with this saga, and I'm afraid the answer is yes. It's not a good sign when you've skimmed through as much of the book as you've read. I'm disappointed, but I'll have to leave the books to the fans from now on and just carry on with the tv version. Good luck to the scriptwriters and editors - they'll need it.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 July 2012
Two stars might be a little harsh but this book certainly deserves no more than three stars, tops. I found it hard going and a real struggle to get through.

I think I have cracked George R. R. Martin's writing style. I have him sussed. It seems to be, hint at big events then strings things out for as long as possible, slowly building to said 'big event' which turns out to be nothing but a cliff hanger for the next book.

Don't get me wrong, parts of this book were a good read. There were certain threads and character arcs which I enjoyed, but they never really seemed to go anywhere; which is disappointing when you've struggle through this books many pages to read them.

I say struggled because I find George's writing style cumbersome and long-winded. Whole pages are given over to describing the food served up at a feast or the regalia worn by knights at court, and for me that is neither here nor there: Just get on with it George!

Plus, you find yourself enjoying, or rather, wanting to read certain characters story lines, yet others not so. You end up having favourites and others you just want to get through. For me, I liked reading about Tyrion, Arya and Jon Snow but hated the chapters devoted to Catelyn & Daenerys. Every time I came up to a chapter of theirs in the book I thought, "Oh no, not them again... OK, let's just get this over with."

A Clash of Kings was not a smooth read and I had to force myself to get through it. I am unsure whether or not to start the next book as I fear more of the same. I think it'll just be easier to watch the TV series. At least I can fast forward the bits with Catelyn in then. The only thing spurring me on is that I have bought the box-set, but then I found out even that isn't complete - he still has more to write?!!!

Really? Seven books isn't enough for you? Come on George, stop milking it. Wrap things up or at least step up the pace. These two books could be condensed into one book with ease and I am really not enjoying the long slog to get through them.
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on 19 June 2008
Picking up right where 'A Game of Thrones' left off, 'A Clash of Kings' is just as gripping as its predecessor and is a very captivating book. The series main strength is the presence of some fantastic characters, most notably Tyrion Lannister, one of the best anti-heroes I've come across in fiction. One thing that must be made quite apparent though is that one should utterly ignore the ridiculous quote on some versions of his books that George RR Martin is 'the American Tolkien.' Other than the fact that they both have two 'R's' in their name and have books on sale in the 'Fantasy' section of your local bookshop, there is no call for comparison. Tolkien invented modern fantasy and set out a template which far too many authors have simply ripped off (the unlikely hero, the quest, the band of heroes etc.) Martin deliberatley ignores or subverts these conventions and indeed his work is much closer, in the main, to historical fiction. To sum up; there's no reason to suppose a fan of Tolkien's will enjoy Martin's style.

On the positive side: Martin is a very good writer. The plot is intricate and epic, and the dialogue is far beyond the vast, vast majority of fantasy novels. As well as that he's writing for the adult market; there's plenty of adult humour and situations, while there's a goodly, but not gratutious amount of swearing. It all adds to the realism of the book. You really get the sense that you're reading a warts and all account of a bygone era. Too often fantasy writers aim for the young adult end of the market and end up offering up incipid novels in which nobody (even the most hardened warriors) ever curses, has sex or uses the toilet.

On the negative side: Martin is far better at the 'swords' end of the 'swords and sorcery' business, to the extent that the 'magical' elements of the story (such as they are), feel out of place. It's rather like reading a blood and guts account of the Wars of the Roses when all of a sudden a warlock shows up. The sections that involve magical elements are by far the weakest parts of the book.

And one MAJOR gripe I have is that for all his skills with words, Martin's characters seem utterly incapable of using more than two words to describe the male and female genitals (a hint, they're both 'C' words). It's not a matter of prudishness, it's simply that the English language contains an unbelievable wealth of words for human anatomy and yet Martin can't seem to get away from those two terms. In every intimate scene between two characters whether higborn or peasant, male or female etc. they all talk like sailors. Indeed none of the sex scenes in the first two books are very appealing. Rather than offering a tender riposte to the savagery on display in the rest of the book, sex is rough and unpleasant throughout.

That said the good parts far outweigh the bad, and it's a fantastic series of books so far; captivating, well plotted, and well worth investing time in.
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on 24 August 2011
I picked up this second book not long after finishing the first. I've never been daunted by the length of a book, and in fact prefer a nice long book to get my teeth into (and feel I'm getting my money's worth!) but I did feel this book was overlong. Probably a good 200 pages could have been cut out without any detriment to the unfolding of the plot.

I moved between loving the book (fire) and almost giving up on it (ice). I did feel frustrated when I wanted to stay longer with a particular character when the storyline was getting interesting, and I found sometimes that by the time we returned to a character I'd forgotten what happened to them last. For me, there was too much detail, particularly about some of the battle scenes - I found myself getting very bored and skimming through page after page of description of limbs being severed, etc.

I'm ambivalent about moving on to book 3. After the first book, I was enthused, recommending it to all my friends etc. Now I'm not sure I have the time, inclination or perseverance to make the effort to start and finish the third.
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on 22 June 2015
"A man agrees with god as a raindrop with the storm."

I first read Game of Thrones years ago and though I loved the complexity and beauty of the world, I think the graphic violence and sensuality was just a bit too much at the age I was then (around Joffrey's age)! Now, however, thanks to my best friend's insistence, I have had the incalculable pleasure of rediscovering the Song of Ice and Fire! And my word, it is intoxicating. A Clash of Kings is the epic story of five (Joffrey, Robb, Stannis, Renly, and Greyjoy) different kings all vying for Westeros and the Iron Throne, while Daenerys bides her time far away in the city of Qarth with her growing dragons, and even darker powers brew beyond the wall.

"The air smelled of paper and dust and years."

My favourite characters are Tyrion (a sheer testament to the skill of Martin’s writing as he is in many ways a detestable character), the noble Jon Snow, and Dany Targaryen herself. But, my all-time favourite has to be Arya. Only ten years of age, she has a knack for survival that is unrivalled, teaching herself the art of swordmanship, sticking to the shadows as she gathers information from any and all available sources, biding her time, making unlikely alliances, inflicting justice left, right and centre, and always always plotting her escape. And she practically single-handedly takes down the mightiest of dark fortresses, Harrenhal itself - can her awesomeness be expressed with mere words? Arya Stark is my hero. Oh, but my least favourite character is undoubtedly Theon Greyjoy, a mysoginist coward who belongs in hell.

The most shocking moment of the book occurs just after the halfway point with a major death, but the Battle of the Blackwater in the shadow of the Red Keep is just magnificent, with the devouring green flames of Tyrion’s magic wildfire engulfing the very river itself! Utterly magnificent!

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

The comet’s tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky.

His eyes were open wounds beneath his heavy brows, a blue as dark as the sea by night.

Closer at hand, it was the trees that ruled. To south and east the wood went on as far as Jon could see, a vast tangle of root and limb painted in a thousand shades of green, with here and there a patch of red where a weirwood shouldered through the pines and sentinels, or a blush of yellow where some broadleafs had begun to turn. When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm- tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.

Oh, to be sure, there is much we do not understand. The years pass in their hundreds and their thousands, and what does any man see of life but a few summers, a few winters? We look at mountains and call them eternal, and so they seem … but in the course of time, mountains rise and fall, rivers change their courses, stars fall from the sky, and great cities sink beneath the sea. Even gods die, we think. Everything changes.

He crept beneath it and stood up in a forest turned to crystal. The pale pink light of dawn sparkled on branch and leaf and stone. Every blade of grass was carved from emerald, every drip of water turned to diamond. Flowers and mushrooms alike wore coats of glass. Even the mud puddles had a bright brown sheen. Through the shimmering greenery, the black tents of his brothers were encased in a fine glaze of ice. So there is magic beyond the Wall after all.

“Harrenhal.” Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of Gods Eye three hundred years past, when the Seven Kingdoms had been seven kingdoms, and the riverlands were ruled by the ironmen from the islands. In his pride, Harren had desired the highest hall and tallest towers in all Westeros. Forty years it had taken, rising like a great shadow on the shore of the lake while Harren’s armies plundered his neighbors for stone, lumber, gold, and workers. Thousands of captives died in his quarries, chained to his sledges, or laboring on his five colossal towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters. Harren had beggared the riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream. And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King’s Landing.
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on 14 August 2011
How thourouhly disappointing.....having been enthralled and engrossed by A Game of Thrones, I became slowly more worried as I read Book 2 A Clash of Kings. Martin beautifully entwined a series of storylines during A Game of Thrones without leaving the reader confused and added the spice of twist with subtle changes of direction and even the death of various characters that at first glance felt like they were in it for the long haul. Unfortunately he fails horribly to continue this theme with ever more confusing directional changes, twists and story lines. Character description becomes messy and trashy, as does his use of language with random and unnecessary use of smutty slang which adds nothing to the dialogue. More worringly, I have also gone on to read the next book in the series and scanned the synopses of those further down the line - the disastrous fall into messy, confusing storylines and character switches continues. The series has a feeling more of a money making ploy rather than hit fantasy - I get the impression that Martin is trying to stretch out what would have been a great three of four book collection and in the process has lost his direction and the strentgh of characters and plots.

If all that is not enough to put you off, the small print crammed onto each page with little margin certainly might!! Give it a miss and spend your time on something more useful.

A disappointed fantasy fan......
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on 4 June 2001
I have never been involved in delirious medieval battle, sword in hand, cutting down my nearest foes. My hands and arms have never felt warm blood spurting from inflicted wounds. I have never felt the impediment heavy armor brings to the natural movement of my body. I have not heard the cries of agony of those wounded and dying, yet within a few pages, George RR Martin envelops all my senses with the reality of ghastly battles of epic proportions.
"The battle fever. He had never thought to experience it himself, though Jaime had told him of it often enough. How time seemed to blur and slow and even stop, how the past and the future vanished until there was nothing but the instant, how fear fled, and thought fled, and even your body. "You don't feel your wounds then, or the ache in your back from the weight of the armor, or the sweat running down into your eyes. You stop feeling, you stop thinking, you stop being you, there is only the fight, the foe, this man and then the next and the next and the next, and you know they are afraid and tired but you're not, you're alive, and death is all around you but their swords move so slowly, you can dance through them laughing." Battle fever. I am half a man and drunk with slaughter, let them kill me if they can!"
Thus reads an excerpt from A CLASH OF KINGS, the mind-blowing sequel to A GAME OF THRONES. George RR Martin's seducing darkness of the bleak and torn Seven Kingdoms continues as we are presented with old and new characters in this startling but sinister tale of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Queen Cersei's son Joffrey ascends to the Iron Throne and continues with his sadistic reign of the King's Landing in the south following the death of King Robert. The grim Stannis and Renly Baratheon (brothers to Robert) believe themselves to be the legitimate heirs to the throne. This is the prequel and culminates to the final epic battle against Joffrey and the Lannisters. Stannis relies on the powers of his new faith in the God of Light and Lady Melissandre, yet not everything is what it seems, and darker powers seem to be at work in Stannis. Renly, in turn, relies solely on his charisma to draw and lead a vast army.
Rob Stark still battles to avenge his father's execution. Daenerys, the exiled heir of the former ruling family, continues the nurture of her three dragons. Jon, now part of the Nightwatch, travels further north to destroy the Wildlings and its leader, and hopes to gather more information on the evil that threatens the Kingdom, now that the dead seem to walk.
My favourite character is Tyrion Lannister, an evil but likeable character, who tries to tame his nephew, King Joffrey, and protect himself from the evil schemes of his sister, Queen Cersei.
Martin captures the horror of medieval battles, where survival was not only based on skill, but also on luck. There is nothing sweet, nothing heroic, but Martin leaves you tasting the blood and witnessing the gore of the battle between steel and flesh. The reader is not untouched by this, but is seduced by the pain and terror of these characters. The story is definitely graphic and aimed at the adult reader.
Martin is a superb storyteller (the best I have come across) and he infuses his characters with life, purpose and a sense of chaotic morality. The characters move between shades of grey, and are not strictly saints or sinners, but each is fallible in their beliefs. This is what makes the story so gripping and interesting. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride gone out of control. You never know what happens next, and it is hard to guess where Martin is going with this tale.
In A CLASH OF KINGS evil outwits good, if goodness can be found. Martin succeeds in disguising darkness as light, as it slays those who are deceived by it. The introduction of magic in this book is very subtle, but utterly believable.
The only complaint I have about this book, is that Martin is slow to reveal the grandness of the story, and I guess we will have to wait for A STORM OF SWORDS.
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on 16 April 2016
‘....the primrose path of dalliance....’ (Shakespeare: ‘Hamlet’ I:iii)
‘A Clash of Kings’ is the second in the series entitled –‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by G.R.R. Martin. I’ve kept away from the TV series and had thoroughly enjoyed ‘A Game of Thrones’ –much to my surprise. Initially ‘A Clash of Kings’ appeared disappointing but very quickly perhaps my two favourite characters, Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister, brought me back into line. Even so they were not to prove enough.
Arya’s escape, disguised as a boy, was immediately riveting as danger came not only from the Lannisters but from also her companions. In her position she’s in the forefront of what are the nastier scenes in the book: ‘Arya saw burned bodies impaled on sharpened stakes atop the walls, their hands drawn up tight in front of their faces as if to fight off the flames that had consumed them.’ But then her adventures appeared into what Bunyan might have declared a ‘Slough of Despond’ with one miserable form of captivity following another.
Tyrion Lannister remains my favourite, being, in my opinion, twice as intelligent as anybody else – note his ruthless removal of Janos Slynt from power, his brutal open assessment of King Joffrey as a ‘spoiled witless little boy’, his control when despotism is shaken by the mob.. He often produces snappy epigrams (e.g. ‘power is a mummer’s trick’, ‘Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavour of their own incompetence’) so no wonder ‘The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister’ has been published.
Theon Greyjoy appeared as a promising figure with an air of independent arrogance and an internal war between the practices of his birth-father (Dalon Greyjoy) and his foster-father (Eddard Stark), somehow entangled with naivety and immaturity. The novel almost revels in the disintegration of his personality.
King Stannis APPEARS imprisoned by his ambition to look out at the world through bars of fawning counsellors and turncoats while unburdening his true feelings to such as Ser Davos. But why doesn’t he break out until it’s too late?
Jon works away in near isolation beyond the Wall, his motivation circumscribed by the oath taken by all who’ve ‘taken the Black’ : ‘Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night’s Watch, the this night and all the nights to come.’ Surely he is not doomed to wither away in that prison, shackled by such an oath?
There are odd moments breathing life into low-key characters, such as for Catelyn during the nightmarish experience in Renly’s tent (though I found Brienne far more interesting) or the ex-smuggler, Ser Davos, smuggling Melisandre to......... [no spoiler here] or Jon’s penetration of what lies beyond the wall.
Daenerys Targaryen continues to disappoint. She is brave and ruthless and a worthy leader of her (adopted) people, now shrunk to a pitiable force to what it was once. And yet that storyline stretches credibility – would the Dothraki (clearly based on 13th century Mongols) have followed a woman, and a trio of dragons doesn’t mollify my lack of belief. I understand she’s one of the more popular characters in the TV version – perhaps she’s a more fitting HERO figure (N.B. the lack of gender differentiation) for the period since 2006 with the greater female escape from their traditional SUPPORTIVE role (compare the now notorious ‘Janet & John’ books). However, for me, that doesn’t make her fit easily into a fantasy world with late medieval trappings. How does she manage to elude her own murder and the butchery of her ‘pets’? Often the speeches in these chapters SINK to the style of Victorian historical fiction or the ‘grandeur’ of Tolkein at his worst. I’m sure there’s a crucial role for her in the later books but herein she’s irrelevant.
The author has a great power of descriptive writing as here: ‘Sometimes the stones seemed to drink up noise, shrouding the yards in a blanket of silence. Other times, the echoes had a life of their own, so every footfall became the tread of a ghostly army, and every distant voice a ghostly feast’. The description of the seven gods (Father, Mother, Warrior, Smith, Maid, Crone and Stranger) is magnificent, though surely belonging to an era almost a millennium before the setting of the novels (even allowing for traces of Mallory’s ‘Mort d’Arthur’ at the staged events). However, this ability can stray into areas filled with atmosphere, as in the visit of Daenerys to the Undying, stretching imagination to the limit and, to my mind, beyond into the crass and absurd. He’s also a great chronicler of battles, whether on land or sea, employing his mastery of detail to drag the reader into the horrors of medieval warfare. Even so, I consider he underplays the strength of castles which, by the historical setting the novels mimic, ensured all hope rested on the open battlefield – read any history of the Wars of the Roses (1455-85) to see what I mean, Greek fire (aka ‘green fire’) is described far more vividly than in any description of the Byzantine ‘secret weapon’ I’ve ever read. Here’s one example: ‘.... blackened bodies were floating downstream beside him, and choking men clinging to bits of wood. Fifty feet high, a swirling demon of green flame danced upon the river. It had a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire....’ But therein lies a weakness which I see growing in this series and so my title above.
Overall, I enjoyed the book but I’m only giving it 4 stars because it was disappointing compared to ‘A Game of Thrones’. As feared, in my review of that book, the dragons have reared their ugly heads and, for me, with them the clammy grasp of fantasy. I really only enjoyed the chapters relating to Tyrion and Arya (despite occasional extreme nastiness) - the rest being either ‘satisfactory’ or mildly disappointing. I’m bowing out of reading the rest of the saga because I feel the author’s fallen into a desperate search for an ending and failing. Why? I sense the story’s run away with him – as I’ve encountered from personal experience. By the end of this book I fear it’s almost out of control – and the reader’s defence of checking their memory, in undermined by the limited chapter headings – especially if, like myself, you’re using a Kindle. I understand the original plan was to be for seven books. Has the author found it challenging to ‘stretch’ that original plot over that restriction (or been enticed by demands of fans and TV)? Hence the multiplication of sub-plots, the intrusion of ‘historical background’ (Tolkein shoved most of his into appendices), the extensive description of minutiae of feasts, tourneys, costume and topology, the intrusion of names and family groupings (most of which have shifting loyalties). All these slow down, if not strangle, plot development which was what attracted me in the first place.
On 13 April 2016 I examined aspects of the whole series on Amazon and especially looked at the percentage of ‘poor reviews’ (4 or 5 stars). These were 4.66% of the total for Book 1 but then gradually dropped (the readership adjusting itself) to 1.61 for Book 3 (Pt.2). Then there’s a gap of 6 years before Book 4 when the general number reviews jumps but so does that of the ‘poor reviews’ (11.66%) and after another interval the general number falls but ‘poor reviews’ as a percentage rise to 18.58%. Comments in the reviews support what I thought was happening – ‘The author is having trouble in finding out where the story is going....’ (Book 4) and ‘.....incapable of discriminating between relevant, concisely written plot developments and waffling descriptions...’ (Book 5). I fear Book 6 will continue that negative trend for a work which started so brilliantly, especially as I would hate to give a ‘poor review’ for any part of this series.
One feature, however, I blame on Amazon. For most of the books the Kindle version costs £2 less than the paper-back (no printing, storage or distribution costs) but with Book 5 the Kindle version is £3 more expensive. Why?
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