Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin is a must-read companion book to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The events described in the book takes place 300-150 years before the events of A Game of Thrones, touches on the doom of Valyria and the arrival of the first Targaryens at Westeros, and chronicles the first 150 years of Targaryen reign, from Aegon I Targaryen, or Aegon the Conqueror, to Aegon III Targaryen, and all the Targaryen Kings and Queens in between. This book is the first volume of what will be the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros, featuring more than eighty all-new illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley (No word yet on when we can expect volume 2).
As recorded by Archmeaster Gyldayn, the reader is privy to fact, rumour and speculation of the great Targaryen events in history. While Archmaester Gyldayn presents himself as an unbiased scribe, he is rather quite biased in his loyalty to the Targaryens and his disregard for sources outside of the Maesters’ recordings. It is up to the reader to decide who and what to believe.
While giving greater detail on events ASOIAF readers still ponder about, Martin leaves the question open just enough to encourage further speculation. On certain events I would have appreciated certainty, though, such as what was in the letter Dorne presented to Aegon I to end their conflict? Did they have his love, Rhaenys, still alive after the fall of Meraxes? Did they threaten to torture her if he continued his pursuit of Dorne, or offer to mercy-kill her if he left them be? Why did Aegon immediately fly to Dragonstone?! Was Rhaenys there, dead or dying? Did the Martells steal something from Dragonstone (such as information on how to tame, breed or kill dragons? Or dragon eggs? Or Dragonbinder, the dragonhorn?), and Aegon went to verify their claims? Alas, all we know is that Aegon read a letter from Dorne upon the iron throne which affected him to the point of clenching his hand so tightly that the throne cut him open; he burned the letter, mounted Balerion and flew to Dragonstone. The next day he accepted Dorne’s terms of peace. I understand though, that since Aegon never shared the content of the letter with another, Archmaester Gyldayn couldn’t possibly know. My hope is that someone in Dorne still knows the tale and can share it before the conclusion of ASOIAF.
|Aegon The Conqueror parading on Balerion The Black Dread|
We learn more about Aegon’s Conquest than we knew before, we discover the competition and strife between Aegon’s heirs, the reign of Maegor the cruel, the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons and much more. We find out more about what happened to the Princess Aerea, who likely visited Valyria after the doom, on the back of Balerion the Black Dread. We discover how three dragon eggs came to be in Essos, which eggs would play a pivotal role some 300 years later in the life of the exiled dragon queen, Daenaerys Targaryen. We discover what Jaehaerys I did differently to his predecessors to get the Faith and the faithful to tolerate, if not accept the Targaryen tradition of marriage of brother to sister, cousin to cousin, niece to uncle and the like.
To my mind (thus far) the best rulers of the Seven Kingdoms were King Jaehaerys and Good Queen Alysanne. King since the age of 14, Jaehaerys was wise beyond his years and a fair but fierce ruler. Under the reign of Jaehaerys, Westeros knew its longest period of peace in history. Jaehaerys and Alysanne truly cared about the lords, ladies and smallfolk of the Seven Kingdoms and often held court to hear the concerns of their people. What a team these two made! Alysanne even held women’s courts where she heard the worries and woes of the women. It was at Good Queen Alysanne’s urging that Jaehaerys abolished the right to the first night, whereby lords could claim maidens on their wedding nights, and many others known as Queen Alysanne’s Laws. Queen Alysanne was also a fierce supporter of the Night’s Watch and ensured that Jaehaerys gifted them with more lands and made sure that they had enough men to man the Wall. King Jaehaerys also set about making King’s Landing a cleaner, more sanitary city, and building roads to and from other cities. Fire and Blood does a remarkable job of allowing the reader to experience the expansion and world-building of Westeros as we journey with the Targaryens from the humble beginnings of King’s Landing to the building of the Red Keep, Maegor’s Holdfast and the Dragonpit.
While the book doesn’t capture the tone of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, if read with the mindset that the book is a recollection of historical events, it is no less gripping. I thoroughly enjoyed this look into the past trials and tribulations of House Targaryen and found myself deeply emotionally invested, and even more disappointed in the fall of the dynasty and the aftermath of Robert’s Rebellion. While it is no The Winds of Winter, it will surely tide me over until then… or at least until Volume 2, which I look forward to very much. I would actually also very much enjoy such a chronicle of the history of House Stark! The glimpses we got of Starks of old were most fascinating indeed…
Title: Fire and Blood
Title: Fire and Blood
Series: Companion book to George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series
Author: George R.R Martin
Publisher: Bantam Books