On many accounts, I think A Clash of Kings is a 5 star read. Many of the characters and their stories are excellent, fresh and engaging. The author's writing is masterful. I'm thoroughly engaged and seldom bored despite a tome of over 1000 pages. Still, some of the descriptions go on and on and I wonder why so much padding - but that is a matter of taste. Also, while the violence and depravity, such as child rape, may be necessary, the descriptions are mostly over the top and leave me sickened, which is not why I read novels, especially when I could turn on the news media for that. Still, what a story!