George R.R Martin's outstanding "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga.
(SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN'T READ A GAME OF THRONES) A Clash of Kings picks up shortly after the events of A Game of Thrones. The king is dead, and various lords have declared themselves kings of their respective regions, in defiance of the heir apparent. No alliances seem possible, save for how it will aid in the overthrow of the Lannisters. Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen assembles her forces to retake the Iron Throne, and as with A Game of Thrones, no character is completely good, and none is completely evil.
Shades of gray continue to pervade Martin's epic tale, and that only strengthens the story itself. The tapestry of back stories, intrigues, plots and subplots is a masterfully woven cloth that draws the reader in and holds them from chapter to chapter as the story unfolds.
"A Song of Ice and Fire" is an epic tale that is proving to not be a "light" read; its complexity would belie any effort to turn it into one, but it is a story that is like a multi-course meal at a fine restaurant: a rich indulgence meant to be savored and enjoyed rather than gulped down without thought or regard to the flavors within.
Like A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings is a hefty text (the hardcover version clocks in at over 700 pages), but at no point does it seem overly long. It is well-paced, and Martin's writing and storytelling remain strong and even. Even though this is a fantasy novel, it reads closer to realistic historical fiction, and his use of magic as a storytelling device remains light and secondary to the story and characters. However, "A Song of Ice and Fire" remains a story for adults rather than young people or even young adults. The violence remains graphic as does the use of adult situations and language. However, none of these are gratuitous in nature as each propels the story forward or reveals something further and important about the characters and the way they view and interact with their world.
Highly recommended for lovers of well-crafted fantasy as well as those more inclined towards stories of political intrigue and realism. From Bantam Books and available from your local, independent bookstore. (Want to make a difference? Shop your local, independent bookstore!!)