Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. I have finally read George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings! And this is good stuff, let me tell you!;-)
Once again, I really enjoyed this second volume. But where A Game of Thrones was perfectly paced, this sequel suffered from occasional sluggishness. Nothing major, mind you, but it was a bit slow-going at times.
There is little progress where worldbuilding is concerned. Martin utilizes the traditional medieval setting, but the author's eye for details brings the world alive in a manner that only Katherine Kurtz can rival. Interestingly enough, the only two storylines involving some worldbuilding were my two favorites. Daenerys' flight east was particularly well-done, and I found the locales and their societies to be exotic and fascinating. This character annoyed me in the first volume, yet she's truly coming into her own as the story progresses. Jon and the Night's Watch's foray beyond the Wall was my favorite plotline in A Clash of Kings.
The characterizations are superbly executed. This might sound like a bold claim, but I believe that George R. R. Martin could well have no equals when it comes to telling a tale through the eyes of multiple POV characters -- fantasy fiction or otherwise. He moves the story along with the sure assurance of a master storyteller, making A Song of Ice and Fire a vastly superior series to what is the norm in today's market.
Having said that, I think I'm beginning to understand why some fans of Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson don't necessarily get into this series as much as Martin's rabid fans, and vice versa. Both Jordan and Erikson work on a much bigger scale. Compared to these two, Martin doesn't work on such an epic scale. With first-rate characterizations, Martin somehow reduces everything to a smaller, more intimate scale. And as such, some readers prefer one approach, while others prefer the other. As for me, I enjoy both -- when they're done well, of course.
We all know that fantasy writers have their quirks. Jordan feels the urge to describe every facial feature imaginable on every character, great and small, as well as their entire attire, rdown to the last thread of embroidery. Erikson, for his part, tries to insert the words "must needs" in every chapter or so. Martin, well the man is obviously a "food" person. I've never seen an author go to such lengths to describe the food being eaten. While the battle for Blackwater Rush is raging around King's Landing, Martin shifts the narrative to a Sansa POV that tells us all about the different courses of the women's meal, right down to what's in Cersei's salad! What's up with that!?!
I'm actually shocked that Arya, Jon and Tyrion have all managed to survive this one -- even if the Imp is alive, but not kicking. I'm a bit disappointed by the body count, to tell the truth. I was expecting much worse. But the proverbial shit has hit the fan, and the stage is set for A Storm of Swords.
I love the way Martin shifts his POV characters from book to book, permitting us to see how the different storylines unfold through the eyes of a very disparate group of men and women.
The final verdict: 9/10
For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe