The story of A Game of Thrones continues in the second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Unfortunately, it is not quite as compelling as the first part. At least, I didn’t find it so. More than ever I am compelled to say that this is just my interpretation and mood is a strong factor when one is little inclined to read – or is reading some other things in between. However, the fact that I did indeed read eight other novels while having A Clash of Kings lying about may reflect on my inclination.
But let’s start with what happens: when last we were in the Seven Kingdoms, there were a handful of kings fighting over land and riches, a young maiden – also a queen – far away from home and willing to go back where she should reign. Well, nothing much changes. Stannis, Robert Baratheon’s brother (and rightful heir since Joffrey, reigning king, is not really Robert’s son), now also wants a piece of the Iron Throne but he has little to go for him: he is not charming, he is not likable but he has some evil priestess working for him. This evil priestess (she herself does not see herself as evil but good) kills Stannis’ younger brother Renly who is no rightful heir but good-looking, charming (and also gay), with magic. Stannis takes over his host and with it some disloyal courtiers.
Tyrion Lannister does everything in his power to protect the city from attacks but it goes mostly unnoticed because he is a dwarf and not taken very seriously. Everybody has their own agenda and everybody wants to have a crown or a title or some kind of power – this is at least true for the men, the women mainly want their children to be safe.
I have already written about the sexism that seems inherent in the medieval trope and it holds true. There is some comment between the lines that tells us that the women within the story are all brave (many braver and stronger than the men) but the problem is that the only one who seems to openly comment on sexism and what it has made of her is Cersei Lannister – and she’s a bitch. So, feminism becomes once again the realm of the bitter woman who seeks too much power (the woman with the penis-envy). And yes, I like the women in the book and I actually think they are well written but it is disturbing (and frustrating) to see that they are paralyzed within the story-telling because they are women.
Which brings us to another problem, one I have also already written about: rape as plot-device. While the first book made a comment on it in the form of Daenerys, no such comment is bothered with in the second book. It actually gets worse as rape as plot-device is drifting into rape as background noise. It seems that every 50 pages a woman is raped (preferably by multiple men), and every twenty pages a woman is threatened with rape. And this is unacceptable.
I have begun to watch Once Upon a Time, a tv show that is about an evil queen who curses all the good people of a fairy tale land to live in our world, a world without magic. At some point she makes the huntsman her sex-slave. Well, needless to say tumblr was all a-twitter with comments on this. How evil, how bad, how not fit for a family show, what have you. A woman raping a man is bad. Well, I have yet to read a single tumblr blog where the number of women raped on A Game of Thrones is commented on. Abuse is abuse – but there seems to be a distinguishing factor that makes abuse against men something to comment on and abuse of women in great numbers forgettable.
Well, I will not forget and I will not forgive. A Song of Ice and Fire is obviously not for me. It grieves me, really. I came to like some of the characters, especially Cersei Lannister and Arya Stark, I came to ship some unlikable pairings, like Catelyn Stark and Brienne of Tarth, and Cersei and Sansa Stark (I know… not gonna happen but what’s in a canon that cannot be redeemed by some clever head-canon?). But I will not continue reading. A friend recommended Joe Abercrombie to me, so he will probably be the next from the genre of fantasy I will be reading. Hopefully, I will like his stories better than Martin’s.