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A Clash of Kings Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin.
A Clash of Kings is an epic fantasy novel by George R.R. Martin. First published in 1998, it is the second book in the award-winning series, A Song of Ice and Fire. In the book, rival factions struggle to claim control of the Iron Throne now that the kingdom’s peacekeeping rulers are dead. Critics claim that the series is one of the best fantasy sagas ever written. It is now a world-famous television series. Martin is a bestselling fantasy novelist. Before writing full time, he worked as a journalism teacher and a chess tournament director. He spent many years working as a story editor for CBS.
The book begins where the first book, A Game of Thrones, ends; Daenerys Targaryen wants to claim the Iron Throne. Whoever sits on the Iron Throne rules the entire kingdom of Westeros and its seven individual kingdoms. In Westeros, however, few people care about Daenerys, because a civil war threatens to tear the whole kingdom apart.
The rightful king, Robert Baratheon, has recently died, leaving the Iron Throne vacant. Now, his sons, Joffrey, Renly, and Stannis, are fighting to claim it. With the support of the high priestess Melisandre, Stannis declares himself king. He makes Renly is his heir, but Renly doesn’t want to wait for the throne. He wants it now.
Stannis’s cohorts hear rumors that Renly plans to steal the throne. In retaliation, Stannis arranges Renly’s execution. Soldiers sneak into Renly’s room one night and kill him. Stannis becomes king. Joffrey is too young to reasonably challenge Stannis, but a vicious young man, he plans to steal the Iron Throne.
In the meantime, the northern territories fight their own battles. The people declare Robb Stark their new king. At the same time, another man claims part of the north for himself and goes to war with Robb. The north doesn’t ask anyone else for help because it’s an independent territory. It handles its own battles and cares nothing for what is happening with the Iron Throne.
Meanwhile, the Queen Regent, Cersei, takes over matters in the south where the Iron Throne is. She appoints her brother, Tyrion Lannister, as an advisor. He is promoted to Hand of the King. Joffrey is installed as king over Stannis, and Cersei plans to influence the young king with Tyrion’s help. Tyrion arranges various noble marriages to cement alliances between warring families. These families now ally with the Lannisters to secure the Iron Throne forever.
Back in the north, Theon Greyjoy captures the main city, Winterfell. Theon pretends that he has killed two members of the Stark family, Bran and Rickon. The Stark loyalists attack Winterfell because they want Winterfell back and to revenge the murders. For a time, it is unclear who rules Winterfell.
The Stark family knows that to preserve their line and best serve the north’s interests, they must escape. Rickon goes in one direction while Bran and his manservant flee further north. Robb holds the line in Winterfell for a while before drawing the Lannisters into numerous battles. He wins these battles and rallies other people to his cause. Robb’s sister, Arya, poses as a boy and learns to fight.
At the same time, across the sea, Daenerys makes her own moves. She has three baby dragons at her disposal and a formidable group of loyal followers. She plans to use these dragons to convince others to follow her and support her claim. The problem is that when she shows other people the dragons, they want to keep them. Daenerys won’t relinquish control of her dragons and, instead, burns down various places. Her notorious reputation convinces others to rally behind her, even if they do so out of fear.
In the meantime, trouble brews beyond the walls of Winterfell in the north. Wild tribes, known as wildlings, attack the fortress. A young man, Jon Snow, leads the fight against these wildlings. He is an impressive fighter and he is popular with the men around him. Some even think he would make a good king.
Before Jon worries about the Iron Throne, he must deal with another threat beyond the wall. A dangerous king with supernatural allies plans to attack Winterfell, advancing through Westeros and claiming it for his own. It is only a matter of time before he reaches Winterfell’s primary defensive feature, the Wall.
In the final chapters, Stannis disappears. It is unclear where he ends up, but his fate is explored again in the third book. The Lannister family confronts the Stark forces in a dramatic battle. The Lannister family palace falls, and everyone is scattered. Their paths all cross again in the third book.