Fire & Blood - GoT Review
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
by George R. R. Martin
Winter is coming… just not in this book! When I first heard about this book I was hoping George R. R. Martin FINALLY finished the 6th Game of Thrones book, Winds of Winter, and at first I was disappointed to learn this was not the case. However, when I found out what Fire & Blood was about, I was excited because I am a huge Game of Thrones fan so I love learning more and more about that world. This novel is built like a history book of the Targaryens reign 300 years before Game of Thrones. From my understanding, this is only part 1 of that history and there will be a part 2 sometime in the future (with George R. R. Martin that could be 1 year from now or 10 years from now). Even though you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, it’s hard not to when the cover is bright red and covered in flames!
The book begins with the Targaryens just barely escaping after “The Doom” when Valyria was destroyed by fire. Out of all the dragon riding families that lived there, the Targaryens were the only to survive as they made their way to make a home at Dragonstone. This book tells the story of Aegon the Conqueror (a name we have heard a lot in Game of Thrones), and how he managed to conquer and unite the 7 kingdoms with his 2 wives (and sisters - ew), Rhaenys and Visenya Targaryen. From there, the book details the family tree that derives from the surviving Targaryens. When they could, the Targaryens often married their children to each other which was met with fierce opposition by the High Septons who believed this was an affrontement to the gods. For years there was a consistent rivalry during the reign of the Targaryens due to their incestuous marriages which often influenced the people they ruled. While Fire & Blood details a lot about the family tree and the fights with the High Septon, they also detailed the construction of King’s Landing as it started out as an ugly dirty small town into the great King’s Landing it is known as today.
One of my favorite parts (as gruesome as it is) is when one of the younger Targaryen cousins jumps on one of the dragons and disappears. They look all over the kingdom to try to figure out where she would fly to until they realized the specific dragon she chose was a hard one to tame and may have taken her elsewhere. The dragon flies back to Dragonstone with the princess on his back covered in burns and boils, writhing in agony. The maester of Dragonstone kept details of this account as he tried to treat the princess and her unknown injuries. He places her body inside ice cold water which stops her heart instantly right as the boils in her skin burst open and out come writhing worm-like creatures that also die due to the ice cold water. It is assumed that the dragon may have taken her to Old Valyria and that this is a product of the after effects from “The Doom”. Grey Scale doesn’t sound half bad about now right?
Lastly, one of the most important features of the book is when it details the Dance of Dragons. For those that have read or watched Game of Thrones, they vaguely reference the Dance of Dragons and while it is the title of the 5th book in the series, it still doesn’t offer much detail. In Fire & Blood, they illustrate the Dance of Dragons as both a battle of dragon against dragon and Targaryen against Targaryen. There were times in the Targaryen history that a jealous uncle tried (and sometimes succeeded) in stealing the throne for themselves. However most times, it fell to whoever was the next immediate male heir. This came to be an issue when there was a battle between Green and Red, the green being the king’s wife who was a Baratheon and the red being the king’s sister who was a Targaryen. The green side believed that the next heir should be her son, however the red side believed that it shouldn't matter the gender, the king’s sister Rhaenyra was the next in line for the throne. Thus broke out the battle to rival all battles, the true Dance of Dragons. During this time, the kingdom was split in two as the Targaryens fought each other and in the end, all lost as this led to the extinction of the dragons.
Final Rating: 7/10
Like I said I am a huge Game of Thrones fan so I really really loved this book. I think George R. R. Martin is an extremely talented author in the way he writes. The way he’s built the Game of Thrones world throughout several books makes it feel as if it were a real place. The way he’s written these characters also make them feel as if they were real people in history. What I loved most about this book is it offers some insight into what the history of the seven kingdoms look like in more detail and how the lines of succession constantly changed whether it happened from child to child or through revolts due to sibling rivalry. Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the illustrations in the pages. While most of the book is filled with just text, you stumble upon several that have beautifully sketched visuals of scenes from the book so you can see how the Targaryens looked, the dragons looked, revolts in the streets, etc.
I also feel like it offered interesting Easter Eggs that relate back to the original series (both show and book series). These are some of the most interesting connections I found:
Daenerys Dragon Eggs
When I read this part, I was so excited because one of the things Game of Thrones fans wonder is where in the world did they find these dragon eggs? Well, one of the Targaryen’s cousins, Elissa Farman, was being held at Dragonstone when she sailed off into the “unknown”. It wasn’t until after she had left that everyone realized there were 3 dragon eggs missing (sounds familiar). Story tells that she sailed to Braavos and sold the 3 dragon eggs to a Braavosi Sealord in exchange for her own vessel to sail the seas and explore. After a couple years of tracking, King Jaehaerys I managed to find that Braavosi Sealord who vaguely mentioned owning a trio of dragon eggs that have turned to stone and if King Jaehaerys would ignore that he possessed these stone eggs, that he would convince the Iron Bank of Braavos to forgive the throne of half of their current debt. He took the deal and it looks like those eggs may have found their way to Pentos and then to our beloved Daenerys Targaryen.
Dragons Don’t Like the Wall at Castle Black
This book only mentions the Wall at Castle Black once when Queen Alysanne (wife of King Jaehaerys I) decides to visit Castle Black after being the first Targaryen to visit the North. While she is completely blown away at the magnitude of the wall, her dragon, Silverwing, was less than impressed. She was uncomfortable and unsettled during their entire stay at Castle Black and when Queen Alysanne tried riding Silverwing past the wall, Silverwing refused to go not once, but 3 times.
Dorne and the Iron Throne Have Had Problems Since the Beginning
When reading (or watching) Game of Thrones, it is clear that there is a long time rivalry between Dorne and Westeros. While we are led to believe the reason the Martells hate the Iron Throne was because of the murder of Elia Martell under the orders of the Lannisters, in the book Dorne has always fought against the Targaryens. Of Aegon’s wives, they actually killed Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon in her feat to conquer Dorne to be a part of the seven kingdoms. In the book, it details the various wars and disputes between the Martells and the Targaryens during their rule.
There May Be Multiple Lines with Targaryen Blood
This is one that I think is most surprising and could explain for example why Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones was able to be around Daenerys’ dragons without being barbequed. While the Targaryens are most known for their incestuous marriages, there were those in the Targaryen line that married outside of their family, either for strategic reasons to build relationships with the certain families or because there weren’t enough Targaryens available to be married off to. Some of the families that the Targaryens mixed with were the Lannisters, the Baratheons, and the Starks, not including hundreds of Targaryen bastard children. While there could be others in the current world of Game of Thrones that have Targaryen blood, it doesn’t always guarantee that they will be able to bond with dragons since during the Dance of Dragons several bastards were killed trying to mount dragons.
The reason I didn’t give this book a 10 is for a couple reasons. One is because I think if you really don’t enjoy Game of Thrones, whether the book or show (please don’t be my friend then), then I don’t think you will appreciate this book for what it is. It is not meant to be a captivating novel with a beginning middle and end. It is not meant to follow a set story nor does it have any strong dialogue among characters or any kind of true character development. But, it was not intended to be that kind of book. This was meant to offer more insight into the world of Game of Thrones and have a general understanding of what happened before the events of Game of Thrones. However, even I can admit that the reading is dry at times, especially the first 50 pages where it feels like it was taken directly out of a history book. While George R. R. Martin is known for his use of detail, sometimes maybe a little less detail will help liven up the book.
Another reason I don’t give it a 10 is because I feel like he never mentioned the White Walkers besides the weird situation with the dragon not wanting to pass the wall. If people watched or read Game of Thrones, you will know why the dragon freaked, but if someone was reading this book for the first time, they would have no idea why the dragon was freaking out. I also think in the book series, they haven’t mentioned the White Walkers or the Night King as frequently or as in depth as I would like them too. This could be because this is strictly meant to be a novel about Fire & Blood but if that is the case I hope George R. R. Martin is working on a novel that could speak more about the history of the White Walkers so we can get a more full rounded story in the Game of Thrones universe. Overall, I recommend this book to Game of Thrones fans or fantasy/ history novel fans.