In A Clash of Kings, Westeros is thrown into chaos as various houses and families begin to vie for control of the Iron Throne. In the process, the main cast of characters is strewn about the world, searching for a way to return home and return to stability. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read A Clash of Kings.
WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ.
I am beginning to understand the joy and the furious frustration that comes with reading the Song of Ice and Fire series. It took me about three weeks to read A Game of Thrones, which is not that bad, considering I really only get time to read when I’m commuting to and from work on AC Transit or BART. I continued on into A Clash of Kings what what I thought was a good amount of preparation. I’d watched the show and then read the book the show was taken from, and it helped me to really wrap my mind around these characters, the names, the locations, and the beautiful character arcs of that first book. I was so ecstatic to find out what would happen to these characters that it took me eight days to finish A Clash of Kings.
And no amount of preparation helped me. Let’s compare my predictions to reality so we can all laugh at how terrible I was at guessing the direction of A Clash of Kings, shall we? It’ll actually be a great way to discuss a lot of this book, and then I’ll move on to some miscellaneous thoughts after that.
- Arya Stark will make it to the Wall, but it will be after Jon Snow has left to travel north of the Wall. I ACTUALLY THOUGHT THAT LYRA WOULD MAKE IT TO THE WALL! [Clearly my brain is still on HDM. ARYA. Not Lyra. ARYA.] My thoughts are so precious, aren’t they? But this is one of many things about this book that was so unexpected (and infuriating) that it made me want to never pick up the book again. The entire attack on the holdfast is so terribly upsetting to me, especially when Woth is killed, because it’s a sign that, if anything, A Clash of Kings is about chaos. There are so many variables, motivations, and emotional pursuits at stake here; because of that, it makes the story as unpredictable as one could imagine. The whole thing is one of the first moments of pure WTF-ery, but it’s not even CLOSE to the worst one.
- She will then discover a way to sneak out of the Wall and will meet up with Jon at the end of the novel. The amount of ironic tragedy in this prediction actually hurts me. Oh god, I had so much hope. So very much of it!
- Jon Snow will encounter something worse than a wight by the end of the novel. OH MY GOD DOES THIS COUNT. I am going to count the forced “betrayal” of Halfhand by Jon in order to infiltrate the wildlings as something worse than a wight. Because how fucking heart-breaking is that? It hurts. It hurts so badly. Seriously, Jon Snow, I love your journey, even though it pains me to read about how awful things are for you. Craster’s Keep, to Fist of the First Men, to the trek through the Skirling Pass, Jon’s entire plot in ACOK is one prolonged exercise in building tension until that unbelievable ending. And I love it. GRRM teases us with what’s beyond the Wall, takes us beyond it, and then gives us something we could never have anticipated. Oh god, I LOVE IT.
- Samwell will die when he goes north of the wall. (I hate typing that because I adore him so much, but if Ned Stark can die, any other character who I enjoy can die as well.) Well, thankfully Samwell is still alive, but ANYONE CAN DIE. ANYONE CAN DIE. And so many people die in this book, but I’ll wait to get to the best one.
- Bran will remember how he fell from the tower, and will use that information to help his brother Robb fight against the Lannisters. Well, no. Not at all. WHO COULD HAVE GUESSED THAT BRAN WOULD OPEN HIS THIRD EYE AND ENTER SUMMER? (Yes, this sounds dirty, but you know what I’m trying to say.) I mean WHAT THE FUCK. One of the things I love about A Clash of Kings is that it slowly enters the realm of the fucking bizarre. Davos’s chapters? Daenarys’s chapters? Renly??? oh my god THIS BOOK. I must admit, though, that it took me until the fifth of Bran’s chapters to actually be interested in his story. LOOK, I JUST WANTED HIM TO DO HIS WOLF THING AND MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE. I liked Jojen a lot, but the story just didn’t intrigue me much. It felt drawn out. And then….well, wait. I can talk about that in the next one.
- Robb will give Theon Greyjoy a huge responsibility during a specific battle, but Theon’s arrogance/ego will get in the way and he’ll fail at what he was ordered to die and he will die. FUCK YOU, THEON GREYJOY. I HATE YOU. THERE IS NO CHARACTER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER THAT I DESPISE MORE THAN YOU. First of all, his very first chapter makes me want to kill everything ever because HOLY MISOGYNY. Do you realize how hard it is to read chapters through a character’s eyes when that dude CLEARLY DESPISES ALL WOMEN FOREVER? I never want to read about Theon having sex again. Or having an erection. Or having anything to do with a living creature, for that matter. I hate him, I hate his stinking face, and I only wish terrible things would happen to him. In Theon, I am given what I think is one of the only huge flaws in these books: holy shit, not one sex worker/prostitute is given even the slightest bit of respect aside from Shae, and even that is barely enough. I think GRRM has written some fantastic women into his series, but like…dude, do any of these women have agency? Do they ever get chapters devoted to them, do they ever experience character growth, or are they ever more than what they do? Again, reading through Theon’s chapters was an exercise in how miserable I could be. If it weren’t for Balon Greyjoy putting Theon in his place, or the BRILLIANT Asha chapter/reveal, or for Theon’s utter failure at Winterfell, I would easily claim that Theon’s chapters were complete wastes and infuriatingly offensive. And then he MURDERS BRAN AND RICKON. OH MY GOD. That reveal, given so matter-of-factly from a third party, made me first feel guilty for not liking Bran’s chapters that much, and then I was ~filled with endless rage.~ That kind of rage that just makes me want to stop reading. How many times will GRRM do this to me? Oh god, probably a billion.
- We will finally meet Stannis Baratheon! We kind of have to, since he is laying a claim to the Iron Throne. Oh, yay! I finally got one right. STANNIS, YOU STONE FOX. You are quite wonderful, but your wife…well, I’ll get to that.
- Jamie Lannister will escape imprisonment by the halfway point of the novel. Hahahaha, seriously! Seriously, I was so wrong.
- Tyrion will attempt to travel to King’s Landing, but won’t make it there before the halfway point of the novel. I think something or someone will stop him from getting there. IT’S LIKE I SWITCHED ARYA’S AND TYRION’S STORY. Holy fuck, so so so so so wrong. But who else sort of LOVES Tyrion running King’s Landing? He’s a flawed character, for sure, but I’m drawn to the way he treats other people. It’s so different than anyone else. In particular, I came to enjoy every time he spoke with Sansa, and I thought he was the one person who dealt with her in the most genuine manner possible. Dare I say he cared just a tiny bit about what happened to her? Maybe just a smidgeon, but I think it’s there. He feels sympathy for her being forced into a position she has no say about, and that might be because he’s had the same lot in life. But I’ll discuss Tyrion and his work at King’s Landing separately from this.
- Cersei Lannister will take a more pronounced role as the Hand of the King/Regent (whatever she is), and will not allow Joffrey to make any real decisions, and that will in turn transform him into an even bigger shitbag than he already is. Okay, am I right about this? Cersei wasn’t the Hand of the King, but she basically was ruling King’s Landing to an extent and, independent of that, Joffrey became even more disgusting…okay, so I’m not right. DAMN IT. Fuck King Joffrey, by the way. Also, Cersei is SO CONFUSING IN THIS BOOK. I don’t know whether to despise her or sympathize with her and THIS PAINS ME.
- Sansa (I LOVE YOU SANSA) will plot with someone we have not met to murder Joffrey and Cersei, but will abandon this by the end of the book when a better plan is proposed. OH, SANSA. I have grown to enjoy you even more than in A Game of Thrones. She has become such a fascinating character to me. She’s been forced to accept that her idea of a fairy tale, majestic life in royalty isn’t a possibility anymore. Well, at least for the time being. Sansa’s chapters are difficult to read, but for an entirely different reason: I want her to escape King’s Landing more than anything. Her meetings with Dontos gave me some hope, but I felt like nothing would come to fruition throughout the book. I’m glad Sansa had hope, but I was also aching some moment of heartbreak in the future. That moment has nothing to do with Dontos, and instead comes when she has her first period. She’s in King’s Landing when it happens, and that means she’ll certainly be forced to have children with Joffrey. That broke my heart more than anything because it was the worst possible news for her. And then during the battle with Stannis, everything is even more awful because Ser Ilyn has been ordered to kill Cersei, Sansa, and everyone else if the city falls. And look, after Eddard, I don’t want to ever trust the threat of death being a fluke again. If GRRM says a character can die, GUESS WHAT. THEY CAN. So then I started panicking that Sansa would die and look, I really want her on the Iron Throne. There. I said it. I think she’s the best person for it. Look how she takes control when Cersei leaves Maegor’s Holdfast, and how she comforts those left behind. I stand by this claim COME AT ME BRO. And her story ends with a date for escape? OH GOD I DON’T WANT TO HAVE HOPE BECAUSE I KNOW GRRM WILL CRUSH IT.
- King Renly will eventually concede the crown to Stannis and join up with his brother by the novel’s end. Hahahahaahah WHAT THE FUCK!!!! So, literally, just after the disastrous meeting between Stannis and Renly, I found myself thinking, “Wow, I kind of like Renly a lot. He’s arrogant as hell, but I liked how he composed himself. Maybe he would be a good king, and maybe I should rethink who I want to reign victorious and HOLY GODDAMN SHIT WHAT THE FUCK HOW DOES A SHADOW KILL A MAN WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK. Well, there goes that hope.
- Daenarys and Ser Mormont will travel to Asshai first to begin recruiting people to cross the Narrow Sea. The existence of her dragons will help this. What the holy fuck was I even thinking? Asshai??? Was I sleep-deprived when I wrote this? Good god, I could not be more wrong. Again, I am enamored with the story of Daenarys, and I love what a huge contrast she is in ACOK when you compare her to how she was in AGOT. She commands attention and respect, yet she struggles with the Dothraki exodus. Her bloodriders, Ser Jorah Mormont, and a small band of folks stay with her and the dragons, and her once-large army is vastly reduced. I like that GRRM acknowledges that the mere existence of dragons only changes Daenarys’s predicament slightly. They’re not grown or controlled, though they do bring about a sense of power and wonder, which is what initially helps her out when she finally reaches Qarth. I say finally in that way that implies a heavy sigh of relief, because the chapters where Daenarys is crossing the Red Waste are INVARIABLY DIFFICULT TO GET THROUGH. I still think of her as experiencing her own story separate from that of the Iron Throne because of her geographical position, but I know that eventually, she’ll have to cross the Narrow Sea at some point. And I know that this puts her at odds with my totally awesome “Sansa-As-Queen-of-Iron-Throne” prediction, but I just want things to go right for Daenarys. I thought she was getting that moment in Quarth, but then THE HOUSE OF THE UNDYING. WHAT. WHAT. WHAT????? BEST SCENE IN THE BOOK OR BEST SCENE IN THE BOOK. Actually, there’s another one that might compete with that, and I’ll get to it in a second. I sort of want to write down all the visions the warlocks gave her because I bet GRRM will satisfy each and every one. OH GOD. Also I LOVE YOU XARO XHOAN DAXOS, YOU CAN MARRY ME, THANKS. Also SHE IS GOING BACK TO PENTOS holy god THIS FUCKING SERIES.
- Daenarys will encounter Dothraki soldiers by the end of the novel and will fight them, with the help of her dragons, to defeat them, thereby making her the most powerful force in the East, so that by the end of the novel, she will have gathered a massive army to cross the Narrow Sea. Oh, I am seriously a gift. How. How did I think this. What is wrong with me. Everything hurts.
- We will discover that Syrio Forel is still alive. Nope. Well, no real confirmation that he is dead, either.
- Lord Varys will be incredibly difficult with Tyrion when he arrives at King’s Landing, but we won’t find out why until the end of the novel. So fucking wrong, and SERIOUSLY LORD VARYS IS SO AMAZING IN THIS BOOK. I SHIP HIM WITH MYSELF ONLY SO WE CAN GO ON ADVENTURES. Oh my god, his transformation to assisting Tyrion is so beautiful I could weep. I cannot wait to see this on screen in season two of Game of Thrones.
- Lord Baelish will die by the end of the book. NOPE. HE HAS HARRENHAL. GOOD LORD. WHAT THE HELL.
- By the halfway point, we will find out that Benjen Stark died. Nope. Not even close again.
- Tywin Lannister will forbid Shae from coming to King’s Landing, and it will break Tyrion’s heart to leave her behind. However, she will find a way to sneak in by the end of the book. What is this? Didn’t Tywin forbid Shae to come to King’s Landing in A Game of Thrones? Why did I type this? Also, SO WRONG ABOUT SNEAKING HER IN. Also, I feel like GRRM kind of wasted her potential in this book. She wasn’t in the book as much as I would have liked.
- Catelyn Stark will return to Winterfell to be with her sons and will not join Robb in battle. No, I seriously understand how fucking amazing it must be to read my predictions and just laugh until you can’t breathe. I mean, I wasn’t even on the same fucking WAVELENGTH with this prediction. I do like Catelyn quite a bit, though I wish she’d get over her hatred of Jon Snow because clearly he is magical and wonderful, though her parts in this book thankfully stayed far away from that. We are given a woman who is fierce, determined, and purposely breaks the roles she is supposed to follow in this caste society. Yes, she’s not fighting battles, but how many women (and widows of “traitor” kings) go to make peace alone on behalf of men? She straight up doesn’t care, and I really adore that about her. Also, Brienne + Catelyn = Everything I Want From Life. We’ll get to Brienne later. But for now: IS CATELYN GOING TO KILL JAIME. OH MY GOD. Also, her backstory is SO SAD. This book. This book.
- Bran will discover some sort of ~magical~ method to heal his paralysis, will agree to do it, but it will not work. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
- Jon Snow will learn of a possible character who could be his mother by the end of the novel. Yeah, pretty sure Jon had a million other things to deal with. The only reason I made this prediction is because people said it was a “thing” that people were trying to guess who Jon’s mother was, so I wrote this, and then I embarrassed myself. Multiple times. In a row. Oh, the shame.
- Jon Snow will get separated from Ghost until the end of the book. WHAT IS THIS PATHETIC PREDICTION.
- Catelyn will find out who sent someone to kill Bran with Tyrion’s dagger. OH, HOW FANTASTICALLY SATISFYING WAS CATELYN’S LAST CHAPTER WHERE SHE CONFRONTS JAIME? Oh my god, I am so pleased. I can see how the show included just a bit of this at the end of episode ten of Game of Thrones, but it packs a much bigger punch here, especially because Jaime admits so much of what happened. And I actually believe him that the Lannisters had nothing to do with the dagger and the attempt on Bran’s life. So….yeah, I have no fucking clue who is responsible. BACK TO SQUARE ONE.
- Arya will train her sword fighting at the Wall, and her improvement will save someone’s life at the end of the novel. MY HEART. MY POOR HEART. Not in a million years would I have thought that Arya would be intercepted on her way to the wall, LET ALONE BE TAKEN TO HARRENHAL. Oh my god, I love the parallel to Sansa. Both of Ned’s daughters are held captive in places far from home, and both fear doing anything to set themselves free. Arya’s story is still my absolute favorite out of every character in the series, and it’s great to see her develop a friendship with Gendry, who I expected to NEVER SHOW UP AGAIN. And now he’s a main supporting character! And he is lovely! But their relationship is not as intriguing to me as the one between Arya and H’ghar. When Arya started to develop that prayer that named every person she wished were dead, I got this idea in my head that I would love if this book turned into Arya becoming an assassin to AVENGE HER FATHER’S DEATH. Then H’ghar shows up. And does it for her. Twice. He also helps with overthrowing Harrenhal as well. (Um….so Petyr is made Lord of Harrenhal. I assume Tywin Lannister has no idea what happened there? Won’t that be weird when he arrives?) I am so excited to see when and where H’ghar will show up again. Though I suppose the biggest development in Arya’s character comes right at the end, when she slays a guard without the slightest hesitation. It’s not the first time she’s done it, but she killed that child at the end of A Game of Thrones in a much less calculating method. Here, she helps Gendry and Hot Pie escape by slitting a guard’s throat. WHAT WILL THE FUTURE HOLD????
So. I got 2 out of 25. That has to be a world record or something. What a miserable performance. Yet, that excites me! Who knew I’d be so awful? Oh, that’s right: GRRM knew. And he is cackling at me right now.
I still have a lot of thoughts. Can we discuss them?
- Melisande. Yeah, hello. You confused me for so long, and I didn’t understand your religion. I understood why people despised you and feared you, but I didn’t understand why Stannis himself was so enamored with you. (I’m not sure I do yet, but all of the chapters from Davos’s point of view give me a better idea.) You worship the Lord of Light, from the East, with few followers in Westeros. I still don’t get the ramifications of this religion, but I understand that their messiah will wield a sword of fire? Or something like that? Either way, I didn’t expect to learn much about you, but I knew that there was something strange about you. How else could Renly have died by a shadow?I will say that there is no moment in all of A Clash of Kings that is as shocking, bizarre, or bewildering quite like when Davos accompanies Melisande to Storm’s End and watches her GIVE BIRTH TO A FUCKING SHADOW PERSON WHO SNEAKS INTO THE CASTLE TO MURDER SOMEONE. Oh, and the shadow LOOKS LIKE STANNIS. I can’t. I CAN’T. WHAT THE HOLY FUCK.
- Brienne is wonderful and I love her awkwardness because it is my awkwardness, and I love how much she loved Renly, and I adore her relationship with Catelyn, and I just want to be best friends with her, okay?
- THE BATTLE OF BLACKWATER RUSH. Who fucking knew that ships sailing against one another could be so exciting? It’s pure chaos, perhaps the most chaotic moment of the whole book, and GRRM does a beautiful job navigating the details, the action, and a huge bout of character development for Davos and Tyrion without ever confusing me for a second. That is talent, my dear readers. Also, I HOPE DAVOS IS NOT DEAD. Also, TYRION WAS BETRAYED. As if his life needed anymore complication or terror, GRRM nearly kills him off. It’s almost worse than if he’d just killed him off, and for a second, I actually believed he was dead. For a man who wants to be in the action and who plotted throughout A Clash of Kings to wield control away from his sister and from Joffrey, his end is an utter nightmare. He is incapacitated, deformed by a cut to the face, his father has taken his position as Hand to the King, and Bronn has been knighted. And he’s stuck in bed. Good fucking god.
- I’m so glad Osha is around so much. She’s become one of Bran’s best friends, and I respect her loyalty to him.
- Speaking of Bran, HE IS NOT DEAD! When I got to the final chapter and saw it was from Bran’s point of view, I thought it would all be a dream. But Theon killed THE WRONG PEOPLE. He and Rickon survived, though Winterfell and Master Luwin did not. That final line is so powerful, too, because even if he recognizes his limitations, it feels like a huge turning point for him. He is not gone; perhaps he will use this to his advantage in the next book.
- Theon’s not dead, is he? GOD, WHY NOT.
- Hey, so….not much of Robb at all. That’s weird. He won a lot of stuff?
- WHAT DOES THE COIN THAT H’GHAR GAVE ARYA MEAN?
- seriously unprepared.
I’ll post my predictions for A Storm of Swords next week. I don’t know what day I’ll have them done, as I haven’t written them or started the third book in the series, but it won’t replace a Harry Potter review. You’ll just get two posts that day!
I am just noticing that this review is creeping over four thousand words in length, so I think that for the next book, I’ll split my reviews into two or three parts for the sake of brevity on my part. The next book is massive in length, and it was already hard enough to condense this all down to a single review. I’ll let you know on Twitter (@MarkDoesStuff) when the next review is coming up, and what chapters it covers! Until then, happy reading!