A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
This is the second novel in the Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones series. It continues where A Game of Thrones left off, introducing a lot of new characters and adding a religious element to the conflicts. Much of the action simply follows logically from the events at the end of the first volume; the first third to half of this book was spent tying up plotlines from the explosive ending of A Game of Thrones. As this book opens, there are four men calling themselves kings, as well as a queen in exile and a rebellious island ruler who’s taking advantage of the chaos to assert himself. They have some pretty epic battles and intrigues, including an assassination, a princess in hiding, a naval battle on a river delta in the middle of a city, and a couple child murders. This book was engrossing for all the same reasons that the first one was: a fast-moving plot with lots of interesting characters that a reader can easily become invested in. Even the unsavory ones have a coherent psychology that makes their actions understandable, if not wise or laudable. So much is happening that the books could probably be called “plot-heavy,” but they still have plenty of atmosphere, world-building, and attention to language on the sentence level. There’s even a good surprise at the end, a happy one to balance all the upsetting violence. Again, I strongly recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy and has the time for a bunch of lengthy novels that are impossible to put down. I’m looking forward to catching up with the second season of the HBO series (I always try to read the book first).