War is ever-present in this story. The War of the Five Kings is ongoing at the novel's beginning, and it won't reach a definitive conclusion until later in the series. Importantly, though, much as the plot is driven by war in A Clash of Kings, the book looks at war as just one element of its fantastical society, showing how the consequences of violence on such a massive scale infect the realms of politics, agriculture, and economics. War, in other words, is one way in which we come to understand Martin's world—a big deal, but not the whole show.
Questions About Warfare
Despite many clashing armies, the novel only provides a detailed account of one battle, the Battle of the Blackwater. Why do you think this battle receives all the attention? What does this tell us about the novel's use of war as a theme?
Pick three or four characters. What is their role in the war? Do they enjoy their role? Hate it? Are they not even aware of it? Based on your answers, what can you say about the effect war has on individuals as well as society?
Consider Tyrion's account of battle fever and being in the heat of battle (62.Tyrion.15). What does this personal account suggest to you about the nature of war? Do you think it says anything about war on the large scale?
Chew on This
A Clash of Kings considers war to be a natural phenomenon, something people of all eras undertake simply due to human nature.
Arya's personal journey demonstrates how a war culture propagates violence at all levels of society, not just in soldiers and on battlefields.