“Kill your darlings” is a popular piece of advice given in creative writing classes – it’s the concept that you shouldn’t ever be afraid to take drastic and destructive action on your precious baby of a novel in order to move the plot forward or improve the story. George RR Martin should be held up as the gold standard of this rule, since his books might as well come labeled with a giant “Don’t Get Too Attached” warning. It isn’t just major and beloved characters (Eddard Stark, you will be avenged!) that get killed off in the space of a sentence; entire plots that have been building slowly for hundreds of pages are laid to waste with a single action so a new clusterfuck can get started.
If Martin spent A Game of Thrones carefully constructing a miniature world and showing us around its various towns and characters, A Clash of Kings is when he suddenly starts stomping on everything and making Godzilla noises. Major characters aren’t the only ones who get the axe (sometimes literally) here – towards the end of the book, one of the major setpieces of the story, a place whose geography I was just starting to understand, is burned to the ground and abandoned. Just like that.
Even if these books aren’t your particular cup of tea (and they happen to be my particular cup of crack cocaine), you have to admire Martin’s ruthlessness when it comes to this world he’s created. Nothing and no one is safe, which makes reading the books a delightfully tense experience – nothing is off limits here, and I look forward to seeing how far Martin can push things.
(why only three stars, you might ask? Simply because this book, as I said in one of the comments, doesn’t really have much of a plot, when you think about it. This book really feels like the second of a trilogy, which means it’s mostly setting up events that will come around in the next installment. Still, I can’t wait to see what Martin rebuilds in the wake of the destruction he wreaked in A Clash of Kings)
Verdict: three out of five stars