Fire and Blood

Sure, this is not the George R. R. Martin work that everyone is waiting for. That goes without saying. Still, having loved The World of Ice and Fire back in 2014, I was curious to see how Fire and Blood would expand on all the revelations that made its predecessor such a memorable read. I've always been a sucker for backstories and I had a feeling that this new book would deliver on all fronts. And it did!

The World of Ice and Fire contained a section titled "The Reign of the Dragons" which focused on the Conquest, while another, this one titled "The Targaryen Kings", elaborated on every single Targaryen monarch in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. That and the following section, "The Fall of the Dragons", painted a somewhat clearer picture which allowed 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. Taken together, they comprised about one hundred pages of Targaryen history. To give you an idea of just how richly detailed Fire and Blood truly is, keep in mind that Martin spent over 700 pages exploring the first 135 years of House Targaryen, from the Conquest to the beginning of the reign of Aegon III.

Considering that this is roughly about half of the history of the Targaryen kings, it's no wonder that the vast amount of material Martin originally wrote for the sourcebook never made it into The World of Ice and Fire. Indeed, I never expected this quantity of minute details pertaining to each monarch and what marked each of their reign.

Here's the blurb:

With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author George R. R. Martin, this is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros.

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice and Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate game of thrones, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.

Fire and Blood is a history of the Targaryen Kings in Westeros written by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown. As such it reads like a history book, akin to Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Hence, readers expecting a novel in style and tone may be disappointed. Some of the material has already appeared as short fiction pieces in a number of anthologies that Martin edited, so fans might already be familiar with certain historical details found in The Princess and the Queen, The Rogue Prince, and Sons of the Dragon. But there is a lot more.

Another potential disappointment might stem from the fact that the historical period which influenced A Song of Ice and Fire the most is not covered in this work. Since Fire and Blood focuses on the Targaryen history from the Conquest to the end of the regency and the start of Aegon III's reign, nearly a century and half worth of details will be covered in the yet-to-be-written sequel to this book. I'm sure I'm not the only one who bemoaned the fact that we didn't get to discover more about the reign of Aegon the Unworthy, the Blackfyre Rebellions, the Summerhall tragedy, the reign of the Mad King, and everything else that led to Robert Baratheon's rebellion. In addition, I would have loved to learn more about the misadventures of Dunk and Egg before the boy ascended the Iron Throne.

Having said that, the detailed account of the civil war that decimated the Targaryen line which came to be known as the Dance of Dragons and its grave repercussions was by far the highlight of Fire and Blood. Martin spent two hundred pages exploring what led to the Dance of Dragons and all the ramifications engendered by the conflict. This war, with its dragons and loyalists on either side, was as complex and deeply realized as any storyline from A Song of Ice and Fire. Split into several parts, "The Dying of the Dragons" sections were amazing reads.

Even though this work is a detailed study of about half the history of the Targaryen line in Westeros, it is as crazy and convoluted as any of the plotlines that made the series such an unforgettable fantasy saga. Any readers wishing to discover more about the history behind A Song of Ice and Fire will find a lot to love about Fire and Blood. However, if all you want is to get your hands on The Winds of Winter and have little interest in a distant backstory that resounds with depth, then you should probably steer clear of this book.

As I mentioned, this is not the novel we are all eagerly anticipating. And yet, if you are looking for something that can scratch that ASOIAF hitch while we wait for The Winds of Winter, then Fire and Blood just might be what the doctor ordered!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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