The first book in this series set up a clear precedent in terms of Martin's writing style. This author likes to carry the reader through the action using the perspective of different characters, has no qualm in killing characters that would never die in most books, and enjoys shocking his audience with totally unforeseen events. In the end of "A Game of Throne" we find out that dragons have just returned to this world, a fact that left most readers eager to jump right into "A Clash of Kings" as soon as they could. Himself's copy disappeared so I was left longing for a couple of months!
Summer has ended after more than ten years, and everyone is getting ready for the long winter that is certainly coming. But there are other much more important things to consider, because after the death of King Robert, the Seven Kingdoms are divided once more. Joffrey was named King, but there are already people challenging his right to the throne on the basis that his mother, Cersei, has not borne any children by King Robert. All the kids are the result of Cersei's affair with her brother Jaime, and this is slowly becoming vox populi. Joffrey is the most dislikable character I have come across in a long time - seriously the kid is a little shit who has now become king. There's strong sociopathic tendencies to him where he likes people to die for his own entertainment and has no loyalty whatsoever to anyone except himself. Of course a lot of this is Cersai's doing, she put him on a pedestal for all his life and when it comes to sparing the rod someone should have kicked seven shades of shit out of Joffrey years ago. At least Tyrion manages to slap a little sense into him. There is a duality to most characters in the book but Joffrey is not one of them. He's an evil fool who thinks he's playing a game.
Joffrey is being challenged from multiple fronts, Stannis and Renly, King Robert's brothers, are both seeking to rule in the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, Robb Stark is consolidating his power in the North and is ready to fight. Of course there are other layers that complicate matters even more, since Robb holds Jaime Lannister as a prisoner, while Cersei controls the destiny of Robb's sister, Sansa. The girl is betrothed to Joffrey, but now she does not want to be his wife anymore and is being held against her will.
Gendry, Robert's illegitimate child and real heir to the throne does not even know about his rights, and has been taken out of King's Landing by a company that is traveling towards the Wall to join the Black. Arya is also part of this group, traveling disguised as a boy and trying to escape unharmed from Cersei's reach. Another character that I feel must be mentioned is Tyrion, Cersei's brother, and new Hand of the King. The dwarf is my favorite character so far because of his intelligence and the way in which he compensates for his physical disabilities with his crafty schemes. I also like the fact that it is almost impossible to determine whether he is using his ploys to go about his evil ways or to find justice for those that deserve it. He is loyal to his family the Lannisters as a whole but he hates them all. I love the Tyrion chapters and can't wait for them to roll around.
This duality in most of the characters is one of the main factors that make this series so enjoyable. It is uplifting to find an author that has no fear from separating himself from the traditional good vs. bad pattern and presents the readers with more human characters, who possess both good and bad qualities. Even Cersai who is arguably one of the most 'evil' characters in the book has a back story to allow you some sympathy - after all lying under the fat sweaty Robert Baratheon from the age of girlhood while he pines for Lyanna and whores around would drive many a good woman to murder. In a way I could liken her to Sansa, Sansa has become a more likable character in this book because she's had to grow up. She's no longer the simpering little lovestruck fool that she was in the first book and if she were forced to marry Joffrey I could see her too turn out like Cersai.