Book Review: A “Shipping” Song of Ice and Fire and A Clash of Kings

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When one “ships” a couple in a fandom, it usually means that the reader/viewer wants that couple to fall madly, deeply in love and remain together forever.  When I “ship” characters in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I do not do this, so I don’t really want to dub it shipping.  I want to call it matchmaking.  I don’t dream about a couple together forever.  I dream about a couple wedded and ruling the kingdom with love to follow or maybe not.  By the end of A Game of Thrones, I was matchmaking Robb/Dany because Robb seems to be making a decent leader and I like Dany and don’t think that she’ll let anyone but her husband or progeny sit comfortably on the Iron Throne so long as she’s alive.  By 100 pages into A Clash of Kings, I was considering a Gendry/Arya match, because Gendry is at least of Robert Baratheon’s blood and—actually, that might be a ship.  The circumstances of their meeting might just scream “future romantic coupling probable!” and even if Gendry can’t be crowned, I think I would still ship he and Arya—except that Arya is supposed to be wedded to a Frey—but maybe that would just make their ship more romantic, since it would be forbidden or impossible love.

A Clash of Kings, second in A Song of Ice and Fire, complicates the wars waged over Westeros by adding new would-be-kings of half or more of the island and new gods and cultures besides.  The world is expanding, and that I greatly appreciated.  Martin captures well the diversity of religious beliefs and rituals.

Martin’s writing seems both more advanced and less polished in this second novel.  Twists were more sudden and sharp.  Martin makes use of his multiple narrators to offer the reader foreshadowing and herrings, such that I second-guessed my initial and correct guess at least once.  Yet, the wealth of narrators has here become overwhelming.  In particular, the introduction of the narrator Davos, a once-smuggler now lord and always sea captain with a good heart, who questions more devious methods of war, left me floundering.  Each time he appeared as a narrator, I had to read half a page before I could remember who he was and for whom he fought, and this broke the spell of Martin’s narrative for me, however much I liked Davos when I did remember him and however much I understand why he needed to be given a narrative role.

My interest waned more so in the middle than it had in A Game of Thrones.

Sections of this story (Jon’s, Dany’s, maybe even Arya’s) may have been bridge sections, used purely to get the characters into the positions that he wants them for the third book.  Great swaths of untold story seemed to separate the narrative chapters of these characters, though post-read, I think that I can see where nothing of importance likely happened to these narrators between those chapters.  Other perspectives seemed to be missing, and I hope that their stories will be flushed out in future novels.  The end of A Clash of Kings leaves me with almost more questions than it does answers.  The end felt like no resolution, only another beginning.

***1/2

Martin, George R. R.  Song of Fire and Ice, Book 2: A Clash of Kings.  New York: Spectra-Bantam-Random, 1999.

This review is not endorsed by George R. R. Martin, Spectra, Bantam Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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