A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (1998) -- the second addition to his exceedingly popular Song of Ice and Fire series. In A Clash of Kings Martin continues his fantasy series that satisfies the non-fantasy reader.
At the start of the book, the formerly united kingdom of Westeros is divided into factions supporting four or five different kings. Who can keep track! The children of Ned Stark are equally divided: His oldest son, Robb, is leading an army as the King of the North; Sansa is locked away at King's Landing and still betrothed to the evil Joffery Lannister; Asha is posing as an orphan boy and on the run from the Lannisters; Jon Snow, the bastard son, is becoming an invaluable member of the Night Watch; and the crippled Bran and young Rickon are holding Winterfell.
Martin doesn't seem to be much of one for happy reunions or easy solutions, so things generally get more complicated for all our characters as the book progresses instead of easing up. But we wouldn't have it any other way, George!
Once again this book is filled with impressive set pieces, and awesome kills, and Martin's famous disregard for killing off main characters gives every near-miss a hint of finality. Martin also continues to keep the magic reigned in -- and when he lets some sneak out it is used to such good effect that an anti-magic/dragon reader like me doesn't mind at all.
I'm going to take a little breather, but the wonderful John has already lent me the third volume, so A Storm of Swords is on the horizon. If I don't post for a couple weeks, you will know what's going on.