I have to admit, I wasn't sure if Martin could top his award-winning "A Game of Thrones". But he has. "A Clash of Kings" not only equals the first book in terms of action, complexity, characterization, and plotting; it surpasses it. "A Clash of Kings" is darker, grittier, and more complex than the original, and is filled with surprises, cliffhangers, and hair-raising scenes of action and intrigue. The climactic battle that ends the book is worth the price of the entire novel. The only down side is that you'll go crazy waiting for the next book in the series. Martin's saga is definitely the best epic fantasy series of the decade, and when all is said and done, may even surpass Tolkien. Martin has proven that he is not merely interested in writing a carbon copy of "Lord of the Rings". He is trying to re-invent the genre and take it in new and exciting directions. He is not afraid to kill off "good guys", even main characters. Martin writes good literature. The fantasy setting adds spice to the tale, but it is the story of these characters and their wounded world that makes it one for the ages.