A Clash of Kings Review - The War of the 5 Kings
by George R. R. Martin
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There are those that know how to play the game and those that are in way over their heads… which is how you can lose it (ask Ned Stark). In a Clash of Kings, the second novel in A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, we begin with several new kings who have declared that they should rule the Iron Throne. King Joffrey is the illegitimate heir and the current ruler in King’s Landing, Robb Stark is known as “The King in the North”, Balon Greyjoy is King of the Iron Islands, Mance is the King-beyond-the-wall, Renly is King of Storm’s End and Highgarden, and Stannis is the true next heir that nobody wants to support. With all this testosterone, Daenerys is still half a world away with nothing but the Iron Throne on her mind as well. So when George R. R. Martin calls this A Clash of Kings, he is not kidding!
The story begins on Dragonstone with King Stannis and his followers, including a powerful red priestess named Melisandre. King Stannis declares he is the true heir to the Iron Throne since Cersei’s children were not King Robert’s. He begins sending letters to all the “false kings” to bend the knee and recognize and support his claim, but much to his dismay, everyone is too busy claiming that they are the king. Catelyn Stark goes to Renly in order to ask them to work together to defeat the Lannisters at King’s Landing. When she arrives, Stannis also arrives in order to take back Storm’s End, which he feels is his by birthright. Renly decides not to give to him when during a conversation with Brienne of Tarth and Catelyn, a mysterious dark shadow appears and kills Renly. Catelyn suspects this may be from the red priestess with Stannis as the shadow had the face of Stannis. All of the supporters of Renly decide to follow Stannis, besides Highgarden.
Tywin Lannister sends Tyrion to King’s Landing to serve as acting Hand of the King in his place, as he is afraid King Joffrey is not being adequately controlled by Cersei. While there, Tyrion works on the defenses of King’s Landing knowing they are vulnerable to attack. Since the Tyrells of Highgarden didn’t pledge their allegiance to Stannis, Tyrion makes them a better offer to marry their daughter, Margaery, to King Joffrey instead of Sansa Stark. He also decides to make an agreement with the Tyrells of Dorne to marry their youngest son to Cersei’s daughter, Myrcella.
Beyond the wall, Jon Snow is in a scouting party of the Night Watch when they learn that all the wildlings are following the “King-beyond-the-wall”. During this time, Jon Snow captures a wildling named Ygritte, who he later releases only to later be captured by her and other wildlings and forced to kill a member of the Night’s Watch to prove he will join the wildlings. Meanwhile, Daenerys continues traveling East with whoever is left in her Khalasar when they arrive at the city of Qarth. Her dragons quickly become the talk of the city as she is warmly welcomed by Xaro and the warlocks of Qarth until she realizes they will not help her reclaim the throne unless she gives up one of her dragons. After inviting her into the House of the Undying, Daenerys sees many conflicting visions before she burns all the warlocks and manages to escape. Shortly after escaping, she is almost assassinated with a poisonous scorpion until a couple agents from her ally, Illyrio, manage to save her and try to bring her back to Pentos.
Theon Greyjoy betrays Robb Stark’s trust in order to impress his father by taking Winterfell and holding Bran and Rickon captive. They manage to escape with Hodor and Osha, which makes Theon kill two other young boys and flay them so he can announce that he killed the young Stark children. Theon doesn’t hold Winterfell long as Northmen and the Boltons attack and capture Winterfell from him. Robb Stark is devastated to hear of the falling of Winterfell, but proves successful on the battlefield winning battle after battle. Meanwhile, Arya Stark is posing as a boy with the group she left King’s Landing with. They arrive at Harrenhal where she serves as a servant and saves a man named Jaqen H’ghar who promises her that he will kill any 3 men she chooses. After he completes these, the Boltons also take over Harrenhal and Arya serves them temporarily until she manages to escape.
The Battle of Blackwater commences when Stannis Baratheon’s army arrives and attacks King’s Landing where they are greeted with immense quantities of “Wildfire” which sets most of his fleet on fire. The ones who make it to shore quickly turn things in the favor of Stannis, until Tywin and the Tyrells show up to defeat the army, but not before Tyrion is gravely injured.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 9/10
This is such an excellent sequel to the first book, A Game of Thrones. What I love about this book is that the title itself, A Clash of Kings, completely encompasses what we are going to expect in this book. There are several men who declare themselves king and it really is just an all out war where everyone is fighting for their own. This must make it terrifying to be a resident in Westeros as you never know who you will encounter and which king is the right king to serve.
If I was in Westeros myself… I might actually support Robb Stark as king. He has been kicking ass in the battles against the Lannisters even though he was gravely underestimated and tries to do things with honor. I also have to respect the fact that he is the eldest son of Ned Stark and Catelyn Stark who actually stand for justice in honor so I know he has a good head on his shoulders. Stannis is wack, Renly just likes to party, Joffrey is a brat, Balon Greyjoy probably smells like fish, and Mance is up there in the cold (I hate the cold) so my other options are clearly just not working for me. So I also proclaim, “The King in the North!!”
If a reader is interested in a combination of drama and battle strategy, I think this is such a perfect read. Because there are so many different kings, there are enemies all around which means every single step, every single plan, and every single word needs to be chosen with the utmost care and precision because any wrong move could mean your life. This is clearly seen with Renly when he underestimates Stannis, not knowing that Melisandre is powerful enough to kill him without them having to do so much as pick up a sword. However, the main driving force behind Renly was the Tyrells of Highgarden and they decided to switch over sides to support the Lannisters at King’s Landing, which is a blow to Stannis because that would have made him even more powerful. While Robb Stark is kicking butt in the North, it has been mostly small battles and he had yet to face Tywin full force and now that Tywin has Highgarden, that is going to be especially difficult to fight against in the next book.
Something I found really interesting about this book was the visions that Daenerys had in the House of the Undying which I think will come into play later on in the books/ show. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT CAUGHT UP IN THE SHOW!!!! Something that was seen in the visions in the book and not in the show was Daenerys brother, Rhaegar Targaryen with another woman and a baby. For those reading or in the early seasons of the show, this might not mean much since we are led to believe he had a wife and children before they were all killed. The child keeps being labeled “the prince who was promised”, but to Daenerys it doesn’t really make much sense because his children are dead so that’s not possible. However, this is a direct connection to the last episode of Season 7 when we discover that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, the son Rhaegar had with Lyanna Stark. I didn’t give this a second thought the first couple times I read this until I watched that episode and realized all along we assumed that Daenerys was going to be the one who was promised, but Jon Snow is the “prince who was promised” and is likely going to be the one to end up on the Iron Throne. This is just a theory for now… but a pretty good one.
Another thing I realized at the ending of Game of Thrones and during the visions sequence in A Clash of Kings is how the dragons were born and why they had never hatched before. I always assumed it was because she heated up those eggs in fire and the fire is what helped hatch them, however that was more the final step to hatch the eggs. There are three dragons and Daenerys sacrificed 3 lives in order to awaken her dragons: Khal Drogo, the witch, and her unborn child. During this time, to follow the pattern of three, she gets a prophecy given to her.
“Three fires you must light… one for life and one for death and one to love… three mounts you must ride… one to bed and one to dread and one to love… three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…”
Based on this prophecy, we already recognize 1 of the 3 fires, which is the fire which brings life which is the dragons. The 2 of the 3 mounts might also be her Silver (horse given to her by Khal Drogo) as this was her first ride and the second might be Drogon when he becomes big enough to mount as he is often compared to Balerion the Black Dread. We also can see 2 of the 3 treasons. The witch that cursed Khal Drogo and her unborn child would be the treason for blood while Jorah Mormont would be the treason for gold as we know he was spying on her for Varys in the first book. So while we are also keeping an eye on who the “prince that is promised” really is, we also have to keep an eye out for this prophecy for Daenerys to see what comes to pass. Once again, George R. R. Martin turns a novel into a carefully crafted puzzle that adds more questions with each book.