Happy Independence Day, Citizens. In celebration of a holiday born of revolt, I bring you Book Two of George R.R. Martin's magnificent A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings
Martin paints on a grand canvas, maintaining threads for each of the Starks as well as a small handful of others. Don't be fooled. I'm most of the way through the third volume Everybody Dies. Martin has no compunction whatsoever about sucking the reader in to a character and storyline, only to snuff it out.
Joseph Campbell, in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes the classic "hero's journey" thusly:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
This volume gets the "fabulous forces" and "mysterious adventures" in gear, larding on layers of myth, macabre and magic only hinted at in the first book. But who the hell are the heroes in this series? I've identified several potentials, only to see them offed. Other characters who, to all appearances seemed to be cast as villains, he rehabilitates with a change of perspective and/or circumstances.
I'm smitten at the same time. Martin is a brave and compelling writer. The stories twist and turn in unexpected ways, while maintaining a dramatic tension often lacking in Robert Jordan's more ponderous Wheel of Time series. The characters are more real, more engaging and more bloody too. Just what a day of ice (in the drinks), fire (on the grill) and fireworks needs!
What have you been reading?