After finishing Game of Thrones, I had no trouble at all getting into A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin. But I could only read for short stretches, as mostly lots of bad things happen, horrible, gruesome, fascinating bad things.
Bad things happen to people you like and people you hate and you keep hoping things will get better for somebody. Silly reader. I mean you’ve got various kings vying for the throne who all seem like bad choices, so no matter who wins bad things will keep happening. The best thing seems to be that evil in the North might actually materialize and force them to unite against it for a little while before they go back to fighting each other.
So the thing that kept me reading was finding out how many of Ned’s children will survive. Robb gets your hopes up, even though you should know better. Arya is fierce, but she suffers so much it’s hard to keep reading. Sansa is weak and naïve. Bran’s dreaminess is leading him into intriguing magic, which might not be a great idea, since in this world, magic always leads to evil. Always. The youngest boy, Rickon, is just old enough to be a brat. Meanwhile, off in the north, Jon Snow starts doing smart things.
This is the book where I started to hate Catelyn, Eddard’s widow. She seems to be crystallized in grief, and all her efforts come to nothing. Conversely, this is the book where I started to like Tyrion. When you’re the black sheep among evil overlords, you look pretty good by comparison. I like how Tyrion thinks he is bringing justice, by getting rid of people he doesn’t like. I like how the harder he works and fortifying and defending his city, the more the people hate him. And I loved the battle at the end. I thought it conveyed well both the overall shape of the battle, and also the personal chaos the characters are plunged into.
And people die and nearly die and escape death by trickery. One new character, Theon, I was really glad to see take a fall. Another one, Davos, also appeared to be dead, but he was so interesting, I had a suspicion he was going to turn up in the next book. He better not.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Danaerys’s story crawls along, but you know that eventually she’s going to cause huge trouble. Maybe in the next book?