ASOIAF fans suffering through their own personal Long Night waiting for The Winds of Winter got something of a reprieve with the publication of Fire and Blood. Set in the world of ASOIAF, it covers the history of the Targaryen dynasty from Aegon’s Conquest through the beginning of Aegon III’s rule following the Dance of the Dragons.
The book is written from an in-universe perspective, purporting to be a history tome penned by a master. While this makes the tone somewhat dry, it allows Martin to comment on the difficulty of compiling a “true history” of anything. The narrator acknowledges that some of the historical sources he’s consulted contradict each other, and that some were written by people who might not be entirely trustworthy for one reason or another. It’s a great reflection of the way history is really written and the difficulties scholars can face in evaluating historical sources.
A character briefly mentioned in The World of Ice and Fire, Septon Barth, is a major character for a good chunk of the book. Following a disturbing incident that I don’t want to spoil, he becomes keenly interested in the mystical side of Planetos. As we know from TWOIAF and some of the narrator’s comments here, some maesters and septons found his work too willing to acknowledge the setting’s occult history. Given that this history is coming back with a vengeance in the main storyline, Barth’s work may turn out to provide important clues for the characters. I liked Barth, and I also loved the hints at the deeper mysteries of Westeros.
Most of my books are in electronic format, but I made sure to buy this one in hard copy, and I recommend that other readers do the same. There’s some beautiful artwork here, and a lot of the detail would be lost on a screen.
Fire and Blood is the first volume of two, with the second being planned to take the reader all the way through the fall of Mad Aerys. While I certainly hope TWOW comes out in a reasonable timeframe, I find myself also looking forward to Part 2 of the Targaryen history. The dragonlords are fascinating to read about, and it’s interesting to see how the events of Westeros’s past planted the seeds for the story we all know and love.