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Book Review

This fantasy adventure by George R.R. Martin is the second book in the " A Song of Ice and Fire" series and is published by Bantam Spectra, a division of Bantam Books, owned by Random House.

A Clash of Kings is written for ages 16 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

At the fortress of Dragonstone, Maester Cressen serves Lord Stannis Baratheon. After the death of his brother, King Robert Baratheon, Lord Stannis wants to conquer the Seven Kingdoms as their rightful king. None of the common people and very few of the noble houses will support Lord Stannis as their king. Cressen advises Lord Stannis against trying to take the throne, but a priestess named Melisandre convinces Lord Stannis that he can win the Seven Kingdoms if he assassinates his brother and competitor, Renly.

Arya Stark is a 10-year-old nobleman's daughter disguised as a peasant boy. After her father, Eddard Stark, is executed in King's Landing, a man named Yoren cares for her. He decides to take her back to her home in Winterfell.

Arya's sister, Sansa, is attending a small jousting tournament in honor of her fiancé King Joffrey's 13th birthday. Sansa is disgusted by having to act like an adoring sweetheart to the boy who had her father killed, but she hides her hatred of Joffrey in order to save her life. Sansa receives a message from Ser Dontos, a knight she saved from being drowned by King Joffrey. Dontos wants to help her escape from the capital city, but he is not certain how he will accomplish this.

Joffrey's uncle, Tyrion Lannister, rides into King's Landing with an army of Lannister soldiers and wild men who joined his cause. Tyrion takes his place as the Hand of the King, working together with Cersei, Joffrey's mother, to keep Joffrey from pointless violence and poor decisions. Cersei fears attacks from Lord Stannis, Renly Baratheon and Robb Stark, the newly crowned King of the North. Tyrion exiles Janos Slynt, the man who helped kill Eddard Stark. Then he deals with small matters of justice, as the entire city is falling into chaos. Food is scarce, and the city is overcrowded with refugees from nearby lands. Queen Regent Cersei spends her time preparing the city for battle while young King Joffrey simply keeps himself amused. Tyrion talks to important men in the city and finds ways to make Maester Pycelle, Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) and Lord Varys all support him and carry out his plans.

At Castle Black, Eddard Stark's illegitimate son, Jon Snow, prepares for a ranging mission beyond the great Wall with other members of the Night's Watch. After the group of boys pledged to belong to the Night's Watch are attacked by Ser Amory Lorch, Arya's protector, Yoren, is killed. As Jon ranges beyond the Wall, he and other members of the Night's Watch lodge with a wild man named Craster. Craster marries his own daughters, and one of them, Gilly, begs for Jon to rescue her and her unborn child from Craster. Jon has to travel onward without helping her.

Arya and a few of her friends march onward, trying to find food. Arya reveals to Gendry that she is a girl, and the daughter of Lord Stark. Arya, Gendry and another named Hot Pie are captured by Gregor Clegane's soldiers, who are in the service of the Lannisters. Arya travels with a group of captives who are to become the slaves of Lord Lannister. Gregor Clegane has men, women and children tortured to death in every village they pass. The host arrives at the castle of Harrenhal, where Arya becomes a kitchen maid.

Robb Stark sends a message to Cersei: If she frees his sisters and renounces all claims to the land of Winterfell, he will be ready to offer her peace. Catelyn, mother of Arya, Sansa, Bran and Rickon Stark, learns that the Lannister armies have been ransacking many towns and homes across the realm.

At Dragonstone, Ser Davos watches as the statues and shrines of the Faith are destroyed to make way for a new religion that follows the Lord of Light and his priestess Melisandre.

Daenerys Targaryen and her ragtag group of followers travel across a harsh landscape as they follow the bloodred comet to whatever fate it might bring them. Daenerys fears for the lives of her three young dragons, and for her people who are dying along the way. They find a deserted town and rest there, regaining their strength. Daenerys rides into the city of Qarth, where the Qartheen leaders are ready to offer her soldiers and ships to win back the Seven Kingdoms.

Catelyn Stark travels to meet with Renly. Lord Stannis attacks Renly's people. In Winterfell, Bran gains two new companions, Meera and Jojen Reed. Jojen has dreams of the future, and he believes that Bran is a warg, a person who can become one with animals.

In King's Landing, Joffrey has Sansa beaten bloody because her brother Robb is attacking the Lannisters far away. Tyrion rescues her from Joffrey. Catelyn watches as Renly is killed by a shadow warrior, an act of dark magic ordered by Lord Stannis. A female knight named Brienne swears to serve Catelyn.

At Harrenhal, Arya meets one of the men whose lives she spared in a fire. Jaqen H'ghar repays her kindness by promising to kill three men of her choosing. Arya picks a cruel soldier named Chiswyck, and Jaqen makes his death look like an accident. Later, Arya asks Jaqen to kill her harsh taskmaster, Weese.

Theon Greyjoy attacks and overthrows Winterfell. Arya asks her dangerous friend Jaqen help her begin a revolt at Harrenhal. Jaqen kills many guards and releases some prisoners before changing his appearance completely, as if by magic, and leaving Arya. Arya becomes the cupbearer and servant to Roose Bolton, the new lord of Harrenhal.

Daenerys sees a number of nightmarish, magical sights contained in the rooms at the Undying City. She sees chaotic visions of the future.

In King's Landing, the starving peasants revolt against the nobles. Tyrion restores a modicum of peace. In the sea outside of King's Landing, most of Lord Stannis' fleet catches fire, due to some careful battle strategy by Tyrion. Lord Stannis dies and Lord Tywin Lannister enters the city. Tyrion is wounded and disfigured in the battle. Arya Stark and her friends Hot Pie and Gendry escape from Harrenhal. Jon Snow is taken captive by wildlings of the North.

Catelyn Stark is told that her two youngest sons, Bran and Rickon, have been killed by Theon Greyjoy. Later, the reader learns that Bran and Rickon are not dead. Their servant Osha saved them and kept them hidden in the Stark crypts as Winterfell was burned by invaders.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

A massive comet in the sky is seen as a symbol of a new king's rise to power. Some see it as an omen of war, or of the coming winter, and almost every character in the book has a different interpretation of what the comet foretells. A street prophet in King's Landing says that the comet in the sky means that the judgment of the gods is coming down upon the people because of their unrighteous leaders.

There is a new religion cropping up in the Seven Kingdoms, worshiping a single deity called the Lord of Light instead of the seven faces of the god of the Faith, or the nameless old gods of the forest. Melisandre is a priestess of the Lord of Light, and she is also referred to as a shadowbinder and sorceress. The Lord of Light's name is R'hllor, and he is also called the Heart of Fire and the God of Flame and Shadow. Lord Stannis manages to kill his brother Renly through the use of Melisandre's dark magic.

Bran dreams of wolves and of the godswood, his family's memorial to ancient, nameless gods. A servant named Osha thinks the gods are trying to communicate with Bran through his dreams.

Jon Snow appreciates the old nature gods, but his faith in them does not extend to any actual worship.

Most of the citizens of the Seven Kingdoms belong to the Faith and worship the seven faces of the god: Maid, Mother, Warrior, Smith, Crone, Father and Stranger. Theon Greyjoy has to swear allegiance to the seven when he returns home to the Iron Islands. Theon kills a man in Winterfell as a sacrifice to the Drowned God of the Iron Islands.

Sansa says that the gods have answered her prayers by sending Ser Dontos to help her escape.

Craster is said to sacrifice his infant sons to the forest gods.

Jojen Reed has the greensight, the ability to see the future through dreams. Jojen and Bran both have prophetic dreams involving crows, and both boys began having their dreams after near-death experiences. Jojen says that Bran shares a consciousness with his pet direwolf, Summer.

Bran and Maester Luwin talk about the children of the forest, faerie-like people who were rumored to exist before the Targaryens' long rule. The greenseers of the children of the forest had power over the trees. They also could control animals and birds.

Catelyn prays to the Mother face of the seven-faced god. She wonders if Cersei prays to her, too. Sansa prays and worships in a sept, the temple of the seven-faced god. Arya prays to the old gods of the wood for guidance.

Authority Roles

Maester Cressen is on old adviser to Lord Stannis, but he views Lord Stannis as a son and loves him. Lord Stannis disdains the old man and replaces him as soon as he is no longer of use. Lord Stannis has Cressen publically humiliated by making him wear a fool's cap covered with bells.

Bran is the young lord of Winterfell, but he is only 8 years old. He makes mistakes. He welcomes the two young Walder Freys to Winterfell and shows them hospitality, but he soon grows to resent their ability to move about freely while he is crippled. Bran offers kind words to Lady Hornwood, a woman who visits Winterfell after losing her husband and her only son in battle.

Robb Stark has been crowned the King of the North at age 15. He offers mercy to the men who fight against him. He and his mother, Catelyn, argue about many issues, but they show each other courtesy and respect. Robb asks his mother to leave him, however, because she reminds him of uncomfortable truths. Catelyn loves and respects her own father, Hoster Tully, who is suffering from dementia and other illnesses.

Daenerys is 14, but she is the leader of 100 people. Daenerys knows that her people are weak outcasts, so she resolves to be courageous as an example to them. She feeds and nurses one of her servants until the girl dies.

During a battle, Arya risks her own life to drag a small girl to safety. She also runs into a burning barn to throw an axe to some chained men, so that they might free themselves.


Some words are used frequently, such as a form of d--n, s---, the f-word, c--k and b--ch. Other words are used less frequently, such as h---, t-t, c--t and a--, and b--tard is used continuously to refer to illegitimate children.

Davos Shorthand got his nickname from the punishment he received for smuggling. The tips of each finger on his left hand have been cut off, down to the first joint. Davos keeps his chopped fingertips in a pouch around his neck, for luck.

Among the troop of boys headed for service at the Wall, one child boasts of having kicked another boy in the genitals until he died — the boy later admits that he did not do this. Arya beats one of the boys bloody when he threatens her. As punishment for her violence, Yoren beats Arya until her thighs bleed. In battle, Arya cuts off an attacking man's fingers. Arya kills other men in the battle and feels sorry for doing so. Arya slits a man's throat as she escapes from Harrenhal.

Sansa is betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, who frequently orders his knights to beat her. She uses loose clothing to hide her bruises. Sansa recalls when Janos Slynt picked up her father's severed head and waved it at the crowd of people watching the execution.

The warrior woman Chella wears a necklace of dried ears, taken from living men she has defeated.

One of Tyrion's warrior chiefs tears out a man's throat with his bare hands. A man spears a wounded boy through the throat.

Lady Hornwood is locked in a room with no food for so long that when her dead body is discovered, she has eaten her own fingers.

In a gruesome scene, the priestess Melisandre strips off her robe and bleeds as she gives birth to a large shadow-creature.

The eunuch Lord Varys tells a story of how a magician bought him as a boy. The magician drugged him, cut off his genitals and used them in a dark magic ritual.

Theon Greyjoy supposedly had Bran and Rickon killed. He has the children's heads mounted on the wall of Winterfell, and he displays their bodies inside the castle. As it turns out, Theon displays the bodies of a miller's children instead of the Stark boys.

A mentally disturbed man named Biter is seen eating the hand of a corpse.


Yoren warns Arya that the boys in their company are criminals and that most would rape her if they learned she was a girl.

Tyrion crassly confronts Cersei about her incest with their brother, Jaime, and jokingly suggests that she might offer him the same service before concluding that he does not find her attractive. Jaime is the father of Cersei's children, but Cersei is outraged when anyone accuses her of adultery or incest. Cersei has her spies spread a rumor that Lord Stannis' child is the product of adultery between his wife, Lady Selyse, and Patchface the fool they keep as an entertainer.

Tyrion keeps a prostitute named Shae in his service. He views Shae as a girlfriend and treats her with some affection. Shae and Tyrion have sex and exchange sexual banter. Tyrion hires some homosexual guards to take care of Shae, so that neither she nor her guards will be tempted by each other while Tyrion is away. Tyrion performs oral sex on Shae.

Jon Snow turns down an offer to visit a brothel with his friends, all of whom are in their mid-teens.

Theon Greyjoy engages in explicit foreplay with a captain's daughter, who is trying to persuade him to take her ashore with him. He teaches her how to perform oral sex on him. He leaves her abruptly and says that with any luck, she'll be carrying his child, which he says is a great honor. Theon soon meets another woman in the Iron Islands, whom he propositions. Esgred tells him that she is married, pregnant and uninterested in his advances, but she still touches his private parts through his pants. She eventually agrees to his request to go home with him. When they arrive at Theon's castle, the woman reveals that she is actually his sister Asha, who he has not seen in 10 years. After Theon overthrows Winterfell, he delights in bedding a common woman in Lord Stark's bed.

Daenerys' adviser, Jorah Mormont, says that he had affairs with many women both before and after his marriage. He said that he and his first wife had sex out of a sense of duty. When his first wife died, he married a young woman named Lynesse who left him when he lost all his money. Lynesse willingly became the concubine of a wealthy merchant.

Tyrion visits a brothel where he sees women in various states of undress entertaining their customers. Chataya, the woman who owns the brothel, suggests that Tyrion have sex with her own 16-year-old daughter. In Chataya's country, prostitution is considered honorable. However, Tyrion does not engage the girl for any services because he is only coming to the brothel so that he can secretly discuss important matters with Lord Varys. On later visits to the brothel, another girl tries to catch Tyrion's attention by grabbing his private parts.

Littlefinger claims to have taken the virginity of both Catelyn and her sister, Lysa Arryn.

It is said that the knight Gregor Clegane raped a woman immediately after killing her baby son. A knight tells a story about how Ser Gregor raped a serving girl in front of her father and allowed all his men to do the same.

Bran sees one of his lords and an unknown woman having sex against the castle wall. Bran is unsurprised.

Craster the wildman marries his own daughters. He has 19 wives, most of them his own offspring. His daughter Gilly is pregnant with his child/grandchild.

The elderly Maester Pycelle is found naked in bed with a teenage serving girl.

It is revealed that Cersei has sex with her 16-year-old cousin, Lancel, the young man who helped kill Cersei's husband. Tyrion is concerned that Cersei may get pregnant, but Lancel says that he is careful to ejaculate outside of Cersei's body to avoid pregnancy.

Daenerys suspects that Xaro Daxos is a homosexual, considering that he has many attractive young male servants he keeps scantily clad.

A dull-witted noblewoman named Lollys is reportedly raped by several dozen men when the peasants revolt.

Sansa tries to burn the sheets that contain the evidence of her first period. She is afraid that she will be forced to marry Joffrey and have sex with him when the queen learns that she has reached maturity. Queen Cersei advises Sansa that she should learn to use the weapon between her legs as soon as possible, because most of a woman's power comes from her ability to seduce.

One of Roose Bolton's soldiers is said to be attracted to little boys.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Characters get drunk on various alcoholic beverages. Arya is 9 years old when she drinks beer at an inn.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

16 and up


George R.R. Martin






Record Label



Bantam Spectra, a division of Bantam Books, owned by Random House


On Video

Year Published



Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel, 1999


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