Well, no one said this title was misleading. When GRRM named this A Clash of Kings he couldn’t have been more right. This review will contain SPOILERS! Please refrain from reading if you have not read this book or its predecessor, A Game of Thrones.
So, we have the king sitting on the Iron Throne, Joffrey. We have Theon’s father crowing himself King of the Iron Islands. We have both of brothers of the late King Robert, Stannis and Renly, calling themselves kings and proving they will do anything to keep their titles. We have Robb Stark, the young wolf himself, proclaiming he is King of the North. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we have the lovely Daenerys trying to throw her
hat crown in the ring, while trying to find a fleet of ships to take her to Westeros.
“The contents of a man’s letters are more valuable than the contents of his purse.”
I absolutely am in love with the start of this book. Each chapter is a new POV with a new character within the Seven Kingdoms seeing Daenerys’ red comet for the first time. We, as readers, know that the comet is because of the birth of her three dragons at the end of A Game of Thrones, but each character tells their own interpretation of what omen they think the falling comet brings with it.
“People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.”
We finally meet my favorite character in the ASOIAF world; Davos. I always loved Davos in the books, and then Liam Cunningham playing him on the show, just completely sealed the deal for me. I don’t have high hopes for him living throughout the entirety of this series, but I completely live for his chapters in these five books that are out. My heart bleeds for him at Battle of the Blackwater. Actually, my heart just continues to bleed for Davos. He always does the right thing, not the selfish right thing that other characters in this world trick themselves into thinking is the right thing, but the actual right thing. Please, GRRM, leave my precious little cinnamon roll alone!
Seeing Stannis act like a jealous twelve-year-old girl, because Robert’s BFF was Ned and that he gave Renly Storm’s End, is always hilarious. I know many, many people want/wanted him to be the true king, but that theory never, ever resonated with me. Stannis always seemed so childish, the only redeeming quality he ever has going for him is his daughter, Shireen.
Catelyn’s chapters where much more bearable for me than they were in A Game of Thrones. I actually could feel her pain and regret, and she really impacted me much differently this time around. She actually made some pretty strong decisions, and this whole story would have gone much differently if Robb would have taken some of her advice.
Robb was actually the Stark I couldn’t stand in A Clash of Kings. He was so heartless about even attempting to get his sisters back. Then, he made stupid decision after stupid decision. I feel like maybe he has to be a bastard, too, because I cannot believe this is the son of Ned Stark with his actions. I know people who were upset that Robb never got any chapters, but during this reread I was extremely thankful for that.
Another one of my favorite characters is introduced in this book, which is Brienne of Tarth. You know, I’ve been on the fence about if Brienne actually killed Stannis in S5E10, but after rereading her love for Renly, I completely believe she did in the TV show. Regardless, Catelyn made her first good decisive choice, in my eyes, by rescuing Brienne from a very unfair situation. And we all know Brienne goes forth to repay that debt tenfold.
Speaking of the TV show, one thing that the TV doesn’t show is all the foreshadowing the book does about Arya’s wolf, Nymeria. There are so many passages hinting about this new wolf pack leader that is ruling the Riverlands, and scaring the hell out of a lot of people.
Poor Arya, she might have the worst deal of them all in this book. After having to witness the public execution of her father, she is forced into hiding by Yoren, who helps smuggle her out with a group of boys and wishes to take her to Castle Black to be with Jon. She ends up making friends, Gendry (Robert’s bastard) and Hot Pie, but after even more unfortunate events in her life, Yoren winds up dead and the group captured. She then ends up being Roose Bolton’s cupbearer, but the whole situation seems kind of weird for me. Arya did not know the Bolton’s already were traitors against Robb, I imagine she would still think they were one of the Stark’s banner men, no? And if she thought this, like I imagine I would, I would bet she would tell him who she really is! I mean, in hindsight we know she made the much, much, much better choice keeping her identity a secret, but the situation felt a little strange for me this read-through.
Regardless, Arya also meets, and we are introduced to, Jaqen H’ghar in this book. They have a few very intense moments, and he leaves her with his coin and explains to her that if she ever needs to find him to give the coin to anyone in Braavos.
Roose Bolton isn’t the only Bolton that is in Clash of Kings; his bastard son, Ramsey, is as well. Okay, now I know Ramsey goes down on the TV show as the most evil villain ever, but that’s why I freakin’ love him! Actually, ASOIAF is so good because GRRM really does write the best villains, and you can see where every one of them is coming from! Ramsey will do anything, and I mean anything, to prove to his rather that he should have the last name Bolton.
“In the songs all knights are gallant, all maids are beautiful, and the sun is always shining.”
Theon, another character that can be seen as a villain that is willing to do anything to please his father, has betrayed Robb and decided to take Winterfell for himself. If only Rob acutally listened to his mother this time. Unfortunately Robb didn’t listen and unfortunately Theon will never be as cunning as Ramsey, who is posing under the guise of Reek, even though the real Reek died after having sex with a dead body of a girl that Ramsey had just raped and killed, who is now a prisoner in Winterfell. It is so genius, and so well executed by GRRM I will applaud him until the day I die. Twists and storylines like this is why this series is a step above the rest and completely deserves all the praise it receives.
I guess I should always state a disclaimer, like with all of the books in this series, that there are many very graphic rape and gang-rape scenes. I couldn’t even list all of the triggers for sexual abuse in this book, so please use caution when reading if this is something that concerns you. As scary as the sexual violence is to me, I think it is very believable in this world and helps to show people that the real monsters aren’t just beyond the wall; they are human beings capable of very evil things.
“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil,” GRRM even says (perfectly) himself, via The Guardian.
I feel like this book doesn’t have enough Jon POVs, but every chapter we got a POV of him was phenomenal. I have always liked Ygritte more in the books, and this reread proves no different. We get to see Jon kill his first wildling, and then see something in Ygritte he hasn’t been able to see in another living soul. I get teary-eyed just thinking about this sub-plot. Jon obviously doesn’t kill Ygritte either time he is “supposed” to, while being north of the wall looking for his uncle, Benjen, and I cannot wait to start my reread of A Storm of Swordsjust for Ygritte and Jon alone.
And speaking of crows north of the wall, can we just talk about how Jeor Mormont is the real MVP? Like, not only has he completely taken Jon under his wing (hehehe) and is guiding him like a father should, I’m kind of thinking his raven is more important that what we are lead to believe in this book. With what we know from the TV show, which will probably be canon for the book as well, we have this raven saying “king” and all these other questionable word choices.
Who are my other personal MVPs of this book? Howland Reed and his kids, Meera and Jojen. Not only was Howland maybe the most loyal man to Ned Stark, but now his two children have run away with Bran, after Winterfell is under siege, to help him on a much bigger journey ahead. I mean, where the hell would the Starks be without the Reeds? I mean, besides dead. I know Howland has never had a POV in this series, yet, but I can’t help but dream of the day he will. Hopefully it will be in The Winds of Winter.
Lastly, in Westeros, we have King’s Landing. Thanks to Tyrion and wildfire, they have defeated Stannis’ army at Battle of the Blackwater. Sadly, this had also driven the Hound away, because he is scared of fire and it breaks my little black heart every time. Joffrey is still the crowned king after the victory, but many people are opposing it. Cersei is trying to guide him as best she can, while also giving Sansa some pretty sound life advice about women in this world and what they need to do to protect themselves. Sansa is also somewhat saved, considering her father is now seen as a traitor to the crown, who has no money or men willing to fight because Robb has them, so her marriage proposal to Joffrey isn’t looking as good to the Lannisters. House Tyrell on the other hand, has lots of money and fifty-thousand swords they are willing to bring with a marriage proposal. After this marriage proposal is deemed more worthy, Margaery is sent for, because Renly, her now late husband, was killed by Stannis.
It is pretty crazy how intricate this story is, and how everything works out. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, George RR Martin truly is a genius and words cannot express how much I love this world he has created. I mean, I sure in the hell wouldn’t memorize all these names for just any old author.