am 14. Dezember 1999
Having made a stunningly successful debut into Fantasy with "A Game of Thrones", Martin continues with the second volume of the Song of Ice & Fire saga, "A Clash of Kings". To his credit, Martin manages to keep up the quality of the first volume, despite the number of characters and sub-plots growing seemingly uncontrollably. In what is perhaps an effort to reduce the complications, Martin resorts to killing off some of the main characters, so that by the end of the second volume, the cast is back to manageable proportions. In a sense, it is difficult to review this book as it is clearly meant as a bridging novel to the upcoming book 3. Without revealing the story, let me say that the main focus of the volume is to resolve some of the burgeoning sub-plots and lesser characters. In the process, Martin does leave one wondering about the cut threads now dangling in mid-air. Presumably subsequent volumes will connect them up but for the moment the suspense is awkward. What happens to Melisandre back on Dragonstone? Does R'hllor play any further part? Where and how does Jaqen H'gar disappear and will he re-appear? What exactly happens to Jaime Lannister in the end? What was the point, if any, of Daenerys' Dothraki Diaspora? When, if ever, will Arya resume her Stark identity? One is left wondering and a bit unsettled at the lack of answers. But on the plus side, having got several sub-plots out of the way (for now?) Martin finally turns to the main plot. The battle (if not the war) for Kings Landing and the Iron Throne is settled and the Night's Watch rides north in force; now Jon Snow must face an unknown and unlooked for destiny. Excellent character depictions and scene descriptions remain Martin's strength. As many of us readers suspected, the Imp, sympathetically portrayed by Martin in the first volume, returns to center stage in the second book and Martin does appear to be speaking through him. Still however, Martin refuses to heed his readers' pleas for a prologue and most annoying of all for me at least, is unwilling to take the trouble of mapping the geography of his world. Westeros is slightly better charted in this volume but the Free Cities, the Dothraki Sea and the rest of his world remain off the edge of the maps. Please Mr. Martin, do something about this in book 3. For those who have already read A Game of Thrones, don't miss A Clash of Kings. For those who are new to the saga, you will do better to read book 1 first (A Game of Thrones).
am 10. Dezember 1999
George R.R. Martin is the last person I would ever have suspected of a secet desire to write heroic fantasy. Perhaps that's why his Song of Ice and Fire is so unexpectedly great. Martin, known better for his hard sf, draws together threads from dozens of books, transforming them as he goes: I've noticed his hat tipped to Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, Poul Anderson, Lois McMaster Bujold and Dave Duncan as well as Feist and Eddings and the whole pantheon of fantasy writers. This is a huge work, packed with characters, and written in a realistic, uncompromising style. Feudalism, with all its glory, honor, and starving peasants, has lasted for a millenium on this world; perhaps due to the weak grip of religion, or perhaps because of the decade-long winters caused by the wobbling axis of the planet. In the longest winters, the eerie dwellers in the frozen north can extend their sway into the lands of men, slowed only by the exiles of the Night's Watch who guard against the dark powers. It's all about honor and might of arms: you can gain a kingdom by force, but can you hold it without the consent of the governed? Does a lord deserve fealty if he rules unjustly? There are no clear-cut heroes in this book, and no simple moral choices. The evil and the less-evil rule, and only those able to play the game of thrones survive; and as the humans struggle for advantage in the warm southern kingdoms, the brutal wolf-winter gathers and inhuman creatures with glowing blue eyes mass to crush the warmblooded intruders forever. Across the sea, little Princess Dany and her dragons may be mankind's only hope. Caught between the grinding armies and maneuvering lords, a host of interesting characters rise and fall, advance and retreat, weep and rejoice. Fire and Ice? Love and Hate? All the extremes are here. The White Walkers in the north can match humanity hate for hate, sword for sword, strength for strength. Winter is coming, and only honor and love can burn hot enough to turn it back.
am 25. August 1999
Ok, the House of Lancaster(Lannister) and the House of York were the inspiration for the Songs of Fire and Ice. We see a little Richard the Third in Tyrion Lannister. Bravo. Any way, if you can read this book in large enough time segments that you get more than one vignette per character per reading, it is far more enjoyable than if you must read only a few chapters at a time. The myriad of viewpoints damages the story's flow, while it adds depth with all the extra detail, a feat which in lesser hands would make the book unreadable. The inexorable movement of the major parties toward serious conflict avoids being predictable. Tyrion Lannister, while one of the "bad guys,"is fun to read and I suspect is Mr. Martin's alter ego emerging in print. Even the tiresome updates on Dany's progress can be understood if one assumes a return of the Dragons in a later episode. The writing? In general, captivating. Martin really gets you into his characters and throws one surprise after another your way. The ribald tone, reminiscent of Chaucer, (who by the way would be a contemporary storyteller/bard/minstrel in this "world") suffers from the use of modern profanity. If one substitutes "swyve" "bugger" or "roger" for "fu**", the earthy tone would be retained, and hold a greater fidelity to the medevial setting. The few erotic scenes are brief, and add spice. Fantasy Authors take note. There is a fine line between ribald/erotic flavoring, and crass/pornographic digression. Martin uses the former to give his world depth. Unfortunately, this makes the book unsuitable for any but the most mature teenagers, confining the audience to college/adult readers. So what? Read and enjoy. You will have a hard time putting this book down, unless you read about Dany late at night. To Mr Martin: Well done, bring it on! And let's try to keep this series to 5 books or less, shall we? Mr Jordan has illustrated the problem of a gifted and prolific writer who simply cannot end a story. Please don't fall into the same trap.
am 29. April 1999
This book is a HIT as far as I am concerned. It is exciting, well-written, contains good descriptions, good character development, follow-up on events from differing perspectives, etc. There are characters I love to hate: the Queen-Mother/Regent, needs to be slapped, Jaime should just be hung up-side-down from the highest raftesr and tough luck to Little-Miss-Former-Betrothed stuck in the palace! And when that "priestess" in red squatted and "gave birth" to that shadow thing... well, that was just NASTY. This story is so well written that one can get jiggy with it; get into it; get down with it... enjoy it and feel moved by what is going on in it. As much as I liked the story and the writing, I didn't give it 5 stars because it peeves me that one can read a book series (the first two) of over 1,500 pages and there still is no end ! I have patience for a part three, but if this goes the way most stories are going these days, even that will not be the end of it. Lighten-Up George R.R. Martin! my purse is not endless. But, I guess that is the way of it for ALL fantasy novels. So be it. But, I don't like it. Really, why not finish it? Before I took up book #1, I was sitting here wondering, should I even begin this series or wait until I see how many additional episodes it will take to finish it all? Will this be a trilogy? Four books? 8 and still going on like Jordan's? .. hmmm... how many books does it take to finish it!!! Anyway, I have no choice. I am hooked now. I love Jon Snow, I love the character development with Bran, Tyrion and I was sick to my heart when Homey, the Lord Stark, got beheaded. And what's up with people not understanding that dead people are getting up and walking around in the Northlands? If there were any Brothers in the story, I can tell you that there would be instant belief that this was possible and there would be an immediate mass migration South. By the way, where is the missing direwolf that got shooed away so she wouldn't get killed for attacking Joffery? I like the whole Dire Wolf thing. That works for me. Anyway.. this is a fun read. Buy this book.
am 2. September 1998
Author George R. R. Martin has written a novel that is larger than the genre of fantasy. With an enormous cast of remarkably done characters and a keen eye for conflict, he has brought us a story that a reader of any genre will be enthralled by. That it is a fantasy makes it even better: he has driven the standard to new heights!
I first read Mr. Martin's work many years ago--the first I believe, a short story about a knight.... I read a few other stories over the years, and--while impressed, I made no effort to read his works unless I chanced across them. When I saw his name on the cover of _A Game of Thrones_, I decided to give it a try. I can only say that I now have made it a point to go back and discover as much of his work as I can!
With plenty of knights, nobles, lords and ladies, he has also included a rich tapestry of common folk, so often forgotten by many authors. He has created a rich history for his world, and balances the elements of fantasy in a manner that never over-powers the characters or setting, but that always lets the fancies of the mind take flight. Political intrigue has seldom been so intriguing, and his characters keep true to themselves, and so--whether or not you like them--you follow them eagerly through the wilds, across seas, down hall-ways, and into the depths of their hearts, ever anxious to see what happens next.
Truly, here is an author tapped into the primal soul of story-telling. For the first time, I find that I consider there to be an equal to my favorite fantasy author and master, R. E. Howard...and I think he would smile down on Mr. Martin's wonderful new series and other works! The sacred genre has a fine new champion!
am 1. Juni 2000
Everyone! There are like seven would-be Kings and Queens trying to take over the Seven Kingdoms! I haven't seen anything like it- Armies crawling all over the countryside. All throughout this book you find yourself trying to imagine who will run into whom. Hoping so-and-so gets his hands on this guy, and so on. And when they do encounter each other- it's incredible! You will love this series!
This story is told from the point-of-view of nine (at present) distinct main characters with a great supporting cast, and while some feel this gets too confusing- I love it. It feels like you are reading nine stories at the same time. Most are excellent... Sansa and Catelyn might have to go if they don't get better, but Tyrion is one of my favorite characters ever. What really rivets you is the fact that Martin is not afraid to kill off his characters. Not like in Wheel of Time where everyone manages to escape or make a comeback (look for Moiraine and Lanfear in the next one).
One small factor does manage to irk me... the language. Not the cursing mind you. That was used rather tastefully and not over done. What I refer to is the annoying speech habits of certain characters... The Crow was fine yelling, "Corn!" or whatever, but then you have the alchemist saying "...hmmm." in every sentence, Stannis' fool with, "I know! I know! Oh! Oh!" and there's a few others not to mention HODOR! This was annoying, but just a minor gripe.
I don't feel it was quite as good as Game of Thrones, but it sure comes close, and still enough for a "5 star". Martin's plotting and dialogue are truly masterful and you'd be a fool to pass up on reading this series (6 books projected). But there is a lot of painful waiting between each new installment and at least six years until the end- Oh the agony!
am 9. August 1999
Martin's world is one that grows on you. A year after reading GofT, I found myself arguing to myself about the characters, and having to read it again. A book that does this to you--it's some kind of brilliant.
I bought A Clash of Kings in a personally purchased hardcover because I was itching to know more and couldn't wait--well, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say at the end of this book I still feel exactly the same way--without the satisfaction of feeling like the plot has moved forward. Martin has killed off a bunch of his characters--that should simplify some things, right? But where's the story's forward momentum? The best example of lack of forward momentum in this story has to be what goes on with Arya, Eddard Stark's tomboyish daughter. At the end of GofT, Arya, separated from her family and wolf, is struggling to make her way north through hostile territory to rejoin them. At the end of CofK, Arya, separated from her family and wolf, is struggling... What, truly, has changed for Arya between the end of book 1 and book 2? Yes, events occur in the course of this book, but there are no major new realignments to the situation as we are left to understand it from book one. Most agregious is the way Martin sends Daenerys on a futile jaunt due East (or whatever) directly away from Westeros. Sure, once again, loads of STUFF happens--but this is not a very subtle way to delay Daenerys's return for a later book!
So--this time Martin got me. I had to read CofK in Hardcover because I couldn't wait for the Paperback edition. But I feel burned. One day I will own Book Three, and Book Four, and whatever. Martin is master of fantasy and I want to support his writing by buying his books. But definitely not in Hardcover again.
am 3. November 1998
In life, and in literature, we are often accosted by not only images but words. Whether it be by bold and flashy titles, or by ripe and rustling female appendages, the feeling we experience is the same: We are left feeling less and wanting more. Not so with George R. R. Martin's book, "A GAME OF THRONES".
I chose this book while my fiancee' and I were out for a movie. She was in Dietrich's Coffee, drinking her beloved frapuccino, while I was crouching down among the stalls (not what you might think) at our local book store. After an hour of assault by titles and poorly executed prefaceing, I saw the cover of "A GAME OF THRONES", and was instantly intriqued by how the cover picture appealed to me. Here was something I could relate to: A man, almost as good looking as myself (they almost always are), and his dog. Of course, I shouldn't forget the sword. Nothing fancy, just primal. This drew me to the book immediately.
As Firemarshall Bill would say, "Let me tell you something": This book is great!
It has sexuality (very important for married, almost married, or lonely readers), it has the famale and male perspective, and it has class. I must say, Robert Jordan (he is also one of my favorites along with Stephen R. Donaldson)was right when he said: "It's brilliant." Whatever the case, I assure you that you won't be disappointed. It will restore your faith in fantasy, and if your lucky, convince wife or significant other that fantasy isn't always about boys and their toys. If you read this, Mr. George R. R. Martin, well done. You have succeeded where most fail!
am 1. Mai 1999
With A Clash of Kings, George RR Martin has shown himself to be one of the very best writers of Fantasy. He especially excels in creating characters with so much depth and complexity that you really take an interest in them. Rarely have I found Fantasy writers capable of creating such three dimensional characters. More often you get supermen w/ little personality besides being perfect in every way. Very few of the people in this story are completely evil or completely good, which makes them all the more intriguing and real. One of Mr. Martin's most refreshing tactics is to provide us with "good guys" that are not too likable and villains, such as the Imp, that you may actually find yourself rooting for. These sympathetic villians are his very best creations. Even the Hound, a disfigured muderer, makes you feel pity for this unfortunate man so full of self hate. Another great tactic is to rarely give us a good view of the major evil threat, "the others". Just as in Jaws, the knowledge that this evil is lurking unseen just beyond our sight creates great suspense. The less we see of the creatures, the more scary and mysterious they are. If the quality of the future books are as good as this, I'll be happy to buy the next four books. Martin does not seem to be the type of writer to fall prey to the out of control spiral that has made Robert Jordan's books a rambling boring mess w/ no conclusion in sight. I personally look forward to finding out whether the next book confirms who Jon Snow's real parents are(as per Martin's subtle hints) and seeing how this leads to the story's conclusion.
am 26. Juni 1999
While working in a bookstore I picked up the paperback version of AGOT on the advice of a coworker. Aside from Jordan, I hadn't been reading fantasy for a while, but it sucked me in like no book had done in a long while. I snapped up "Clash" the day it came out, and found it surprisingly easy to dive back in to this complex and immense weave of plots and characters! If you've grown out of the predictability and niceties of other writers (all mentioned elsewhere here, you know'em), and are ready for some pull-no-punches, hardcore, life-is-hard-get-a-helmet fantasy, open to page one, you WILL NOT be dissapointed!
What can be said that hasn't already about these characters?? Martin takes you on a trip into their souls, and whether they're "good" or "bad" guys, men or women, you see a little of yourself in all of them, and that is what allows him to pull off this epic tale, which I agree does have that "spinning out of control" feel. It's like a violent carnival ride you're on, pitching and groaning, your stomach's in your throat but yet you don't want it to end just the same.
Many have bemoaned Eddard's death in the first novel (I swear I felt something on my neck), but was he really a major character?? Both he and the larger-than-life Robert Baratheon were really just setups for the real struggle just beginning as their wives and children battle for survival and power, all the while unsuspecting of the magical and supernatural forces that are massing against them...I can hardly wait for the next one, and the one after that, and after that...write on, George!!