A Clash of Kings

George R. R. Martin, Author Bantam Books $30 (768p) ISBN 978-0-553-10803-3
The second novel of Martin's titanic Song of Ice and Fire saga (A Game of Thrones, 1996) begins with Princess Arya Stark fleeing her dead father's capital of King's Landing, disguised as a boy. It ends with the princess, now known as Weasel, having led the liberation of the accursed castle of Harrenhal. In between, her actions map the further course of a truly epic fantasy set in a world bedecked with 8000 years of history, beset by an imminent winter that will last 10 years and bedazzled by swords and spells wielded to devastating effect by the scrupulous and unscrupulous alike. Standout characters besides Arya include Queen Cersei, so lacking in morals that she becomes almost pitiable; the queen's brother, the relentlessly ingenious dwarf Tyrion Lannister; and Arya's brother, Prince Brandon, crippled except when he runs with the wolves in his dreams. The novel is notable particularly for the lived-in quality of its world, created through abundant detail that dramatically increases narrative length even as it aids suspension of disbelief; for the comparatively modest role of magic (although with one ambitious young woman raising a trio of dragons, that may change in future volumes); and for its magnificent action-filled climax, an amphibious assault on King's Landing, now ruled by the evil Queen Cersei. Martin may not rival Tolkien or Robert Jordan, but he ranks with such accomplished medievalists of fantasy as Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. Here, he provides a banquet for fantasy lovers with large appetites--and this is only the second course of a repast with no end in sight. Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
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