Monday, 30 July 2012

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: A Clash of Kings

I've been building up to this bad boy since April, oh that fateful day in April where I came face to face with the man himself, George R.R. Martin. At that point, I had only read the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. So naturally, I bought the second in the series, a beautiful hardcover and had it signed. However, I vowed that I would be fair to all the other books that were in my reading pile and get through them first before reaching A Clash of Kings. Finally, early this morning, two weeks after I started reading it, I reached the end. And so, it is time to share my thoughts.

I will warn and apologise now, some spoilers for the events of A Game of Thrones may follow. You have been forewarned.

Now on with the show!

Let's take stock for a second. At the end of the first book, there are no less than four kings in the Seven Kingdoms. Here's the rundown: Joffrey Baratheon, "heir" to King Robert Baratheon and "rightful" king of the Seven Kingdoms, except that he's the bastard child of Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister, Queen Cersei Lannister. Ew. *Shudder*. Next up we have Stannis Baratheon, Lord of Dragonstone and brother to Robert Baratheon. He was the first to discover the truth of Joffrey's birth, but buggered off to Dragonstone before doing anything about it. So with his brother dead and the throne rightfully his, he decides to finally get off his butt, with a creepy Red Priestess at his side. But there's a twist.

His far more popular brother, Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End, has declared himself king and even married the maiden daughter of Lord Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden, thus bringing with his claim to the Iron Throne the vast majority of the southern lords. Not only are the Lannisters, who are naturally all rallied around King Joffrey, more than a little disconcerted by this, Stannis isn't too happy either.

Finally, there's Robb Stark, Lord of Winterfell upon his father's execution in A Game of Thrones, declared by his lords and bannermen as King in the North. He's won himself a neat little victory against Ser Jaime Lannister, taking the famed "Kingslayer" hostage, giving the Lannisters a little bit of pause for thought. So far he's pretty much the only one of the kings who doesn't want the Iron Throne.

Now I could try and sum up the plot...but good gods, that's a lot of information to try and distil into a small collection of paragraphs. You know how people joke about how you've "written an essay" when you write something ridiculously long in a space generally reserved for smaller trains of thought? This would be a thesis. So instead, I shall run through some of the characters (my favourites mostly) and through them hopefully some semblance of the plot.

I'll start with our dearly beloved favourite, Tyrion Lannister. As far as I'm concerned, he's the only forgivable member of House Lannister. As of A Clash of Kings, Tyrion has been sent to King's Landing to act as Hand of the King, despite the fact that his father Lord Tywin had been named to the post. In this position...well, he is just so brilliantly Tyrion. Plotting, scheming, having the back-stabbing Commander of the City Watch shipped off to the Wall to become a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch. And credit to Tyrion, he does his best to keep order while his nephew shows how much of a sociopath he is and his mother, Tyrion's "sweet sister", plots and schemes to keep Joffrey on the Iron Throne and the knowledge of her union with Jaime Lannister a neat little secret. All the way through, Tyrion never fails to be an intriguing, devious little character that I just love rooting for. If I was reading before going to sleep, I would finish a chapter, find the next one was a Tyrion chapter and have to read on.

But Tyrion's not the only compelling character. One of the continuing surprises in the compelling character category is Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. "The Hound", Joffrey Baratheon's loyal bodyguard. Seen only through the eyes of Sansa Stark, held pretty much prisoner in King's Landing, The Hound confounds and confuses. He's this brutish thug, only just a step above a murderer. And even though he's spending ninety percent of his scenes ruining Sansa's illusions of knights and chivalry, he's really opening her eyes. Now I'll admit, I didn't like Sansa in A Game of Thrones, but she's really matured in A Clash of Kings, starting to see the truth of the world. I wonder how much of that is due to The Hound's harsh, yet wise words.

Speaking of the Starks, there's Arya. Let's face it, she's my favourite of the trueborn Stark children (because the bastard Jon Snow stands in a class of his own) and her arc...well. She's turning into quite the little warrior. A sneaky little warrior. Having escaped King's Landing with Yoren, a Brother of the Night's Watch, she and Yoren's band of miscreants bound for the Wall manage to fall afoul of the war for the Iron Throne. But wait a second, the Night's Watch takes no part in any wars, right? Try telling that to the frakking Lannisters. No sooner than Yoren, Arya and co run into Lannister men, they are all but massacred and end up at the cursed fortress of Harrenhal. Now I must restrain from saying too much here, as when I met (for all of five seconds) George R.R. Martin, while waiting in line to get my book signed, I overheard the future of Arya's arc. And from what I read in A Clash of Kings...oh gods I can't wait to see where this ends up going! Yeah, I'm rooting for Arya Stark here. She's badass.

Of course, no rambling of thoughts and feelings on a Song of Ice and Fire book would be complete without rambling a little bit about my personal choice to take the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen.

Let's face it. Daenerys has dragons. Not just as the sigil of her house, but...godsdamnit, the girl has three actual dragons! Now my friend Wench pointed out that dragons shouldn't really be the entitlement to the Iron Throne, but...watching Daenerys come from this scared little girl to mature into such a strong leader...okay, so she doesn't have a host of thousands like the Lannisters, the Starks or Renly Baratheon, but she has spirit, determination and...well...DRAGONS! Daenerys is spending most of her time in Qarth, with people flocking around her, all but trying to buy her dragons from her. And she's having none of it. Sucks for her, because she wants an army, then want the dragons...nobody's getting what they want here. But Daenerys will find a way. She better, because I really want her to become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. While others are fighting each other to gain the throne, Daenerys is running across half of Essos, enduring the loss of her beloved husband Khal Drogo and stillbirth of her son, Rhaego. I just feel that Daenerys' personal trial of fire (pun not intended now that I realise it) is earning her, slowly but surely, her right to claim the Iron Throne. That and by the time she gets her ass to Westeros, chances are everyone will have killed everyone else. Though I'm hoping Robb Stark survives and Daenerys lets him remain King in the North. I just think it would be cool.

Also, personal theory...the Red Priests/Priestesses of Asshai are totally behind the whole war for the Iron Throne. Seriously. The clues are there...or I'm reading far, far too much into it. Guess we'll find out. I've already started reading A Storm of Swords and I have all the books up to A Dance with Dragons. And I'm just going to power through them all, one after the other. I would be fair to my other books, but the way A Clash of Kings ended...I have to keep going! Then I imagine the end of A Dance with Dragons will torture me even further. Like I say, we'll see. Until then, this has been my ramble about A Clash of Kings.

Oh and during conversation with Thief during the writing of this blog, I have invented a new word: Tyrionical. Similar to Machiavellian, it relates to any plan/scheme that involves an exceptional displays of cunning, deviousness and brilliance. Just like Tyrion Lannister, the word's namesake.

So there you have it. Tyrionical. Use the word well.

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