When it was originally announced that a detailed ASOIAF sourcebook would be published, I wasn't particularly excited about the news. After all, the last time a bestselling fantasy series had given birth to such an encyclopedia, fans got it up the ass pretty bad in 1997 when Tor Books released the insulting travesty that was The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. The public uproar that followed in the wake of its release caused, not without reason, quite a stir in SFF circles back then. That companion book turned out to be a veritable turd on so many levels that I was concerned that Bantam and Harper Voyager would want to take the path of least resistance and milk George R. R. Martin's seminal work for all it's worth, aware that such a sourcebook would be another bestseller regardless of the quality of its content.
Not unexpectedly, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones was postponed at some point. But there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel. The names of the quality artists who would work on the book were revealed. Immediately, fans realized that we wouldn't be served with low-quality caricaturesque illustrations such as those featured in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Even better, we were informed that GRRM himself had produced over 200,000 words worth of text to be included in the companion book.
When, earlier this fall, extracts and images that would grace the pages of The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones were unveiled, I wasn't the only one who was salivating at the thought of holding this work in my hands. And now that I've read it, I can vouch for the fact that no effort was spared to make this as informative and as gorgeous a work as humanly possible.
Here's the blurb:
THE NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN HISTORY OF WESTEROS AND THE LANDS BEYOND • WITH HUNDREDS OF PAGES OF ALL-NEW MATERIAL FROM GEORGE R. R. MARTIN If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin’s masterwork—the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time—warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice & Fire. This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator. Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers, including • full-color artwork and maps, with more than 170 original pieces • full family trees for Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen • in-depth explorations of the history and culture of Westeros • 100% all-new material, more than half of which Martin wrote specifically for this book The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire is indeed proof that the pen is mightier than a storm of swords.
The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones was written by Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, creators of Westeros.org, in consultation with George R. R. Martin. It's told from the point of view of Maester Yandel, who offers up this history of the Seven Kingdoms to King Robert Baratheon. Kudos to the authors for producing an easy-to-read ASOIAF companion book filled with such a wealth of historical details.
The book is structured in several sections focusing on various historical periods, kingdoms, and Houses. The first one, "Ancient History", explores such epochs as the Dawn Age, the Coming of the First Men, the Age of Heroes, the Long Night, The Rise of Valyria, the Arrival of the Andals, and the Doom of Valyria. This section was quite interesting, for we learn a lot about the early history of the land, even if many of those mysteries are shrouded in the mists of time.
And yet, the following sections are by far the most fascinating of the book. The second one, "The Reign of the Dragons" focuses on the Conquest, while the third one, "The Targaryen Kings", features nearly one hundred pages elaborating on every single Targaryen monarch in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. That and the following section, "The Fall of the Dragons", paint a somewhat clearer picture which allows fans of A Song of Ice and Fire to understand exactly how events escalated and how they led to the fall of the Mad King and Robert Baratheon's rebellion. That, in and of itself, is worth the cover price. I kid you not.
"The Seven Kingdoms" section features over one hundred pages focusing on the history, the cities, the castles, and the Houses of the North, the Wall, the Riverlands, the Vale, the Iron Islands, the Westerlands, the Reach, the Stormlands, and Dorne. Considering the staggering amount of historical details contained within this section, it's no wonder that The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones took such a long time to write. But in light of all this depth, the time spent to get everything right was time well spent. In "Beyond the Sunset Kingdoms" the authors focus on the Free Cities, the Summer Isles, the Basilisk Isles, the Shivering Sea, Yi Ti, Leng, Asshai-by-the-Shadow, and beyond. I would have loved to get more maps of those distant lands, even with the caveat that they were unofficial.
The book ends with appendices featuring the lineage of the Targaryens, the Starks, and the Lannisters. The last appendix focuses on the reign of the kings.
Every single section is embellished by the gorgeous illustrations of a panoply of talented artists such as Michael Komarck and Justin Sweet. In this day and age in which digital editions are more and more popular, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones is one of those works that you need to own as a hard copy. The oversized coffee table book is the only format that can truly do justice to the beauty of the art contained within its pages.
In the end, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones is the absolute companion book and the perfect Christmas present to offer to any ASOIAF fan. Yes, it's expensive. But believe me when I say that it's worth every penny!