When a blood red comet streaks the sky the kingdoms are divided.
Where once one king ruled over Westeros, now the Seven Kingdoms are splintered.
Swords and sentiments clash over who is the rightful ruler.
The sequel to 'A Game of Thrones' took me longer to finish - and not just because of its greater length - but I left it just as eager for the next installment. I once again listened to the book on audio, and it was definitely Roy Dotrice's excellent narration that helped keep hooked.
Martin is a master at world building, and while his cast of characters is vast and I frequently struggled to keep some of the lesser characters' names and roles straight, I became invested in the journeys and conflicts of the book.
'A Clash of Kings' continues the same point of view characters as the first installment, minus that slain, with two new additions: Davos the Onion Knight, a member of Stannis' court, and Theon Greyjoy, an established secondary character. Despite finding Theon to be a repugnant character, I was more engaged in his story-line than Davos', despite the latter being a far more sympathetic and level-headed character.
It was interesting to have an introduction to Stannis' character, as he was only alluded to in 'A Game of Thrones.' He is the quintessential jaded middle child. While not likable, his bitterness is well rooted and understandable.
My favourite characters remain to be Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark. Arya's journey guised as a boy was a compelling and tense one. She definitely grew in such hostile and erratic surroundings. Tyrion is a fascinating character. He values intelligence over brute strength but also willing to face battle when the situation proves most dire. His is a peculiar character, as his allegiance is so tightly bound to his blood, even when several of his family members are so poisonous toward him.
Martin is skilled at raising the stakes, and always teases at several paths a character's journey may take, but never settling on the easy route. The novel ends at many turning points for the POV characters and I look forward to seeing where they lead in the next installment, 'A Storm of Swords.'
Trigger Warning: Physical and sexual abuse.