Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The World of Ice & Fire, by George R.R. Martin
The book is divided into roughly two halves. The first half talks partly about the history of the world and the history of Westeros. The book very briefly talks about the Dawn Age and the Age of Heroes, but the majority of the history is focused on the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror and the reign of the Targaryens up through Robert's Rebellion. The second half of the book talks about each region of Westeros in detail, providing more historical information especially before the arrival of the Targaryens, and then goes to the various locales beyond Westeros including the nine free cities, the Dothraki lands, and territories even further beyond. It's a lot of great supplemental information designed for the super-fans of Song of Ice & Fire, but you can safely enjoy the series without having to read this. At least for now, anyway.
I think the biggest issues I had with this book were, as I said, that Martin leaves some important questions unanswered and it doesn't deliver some materials that I would have enjoyed learning about the book's universe. The biggest two issues I had were the Tragedy at Summerhall and what exactly happened to Lyanna Stark. The narrator of the book mentions both events within the book but makes comments that they're ''so well known'' within the universe that there's no need to talk about them further within this book. The problem is, we the readers know little or almost nothing about both events which leave them a mystery and by saying they're well-known within the universe so he doesn't have to explain them. For those that aren't familiar, Summerhall was a palace built by the Targaryens and where a large number of the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Aegon V's great-grandson, Prince Rhaegar. From the information we have available, we know that the palace burned down and a significant number of the Targaryen family died. A few other clues suggest that wildfire and dragon eggs were involved, with perhaps Aegon V trying to create dragons using wildfire. Other than that we don't know a whole lot. This doesn't play a huge role in the larger series, but it's frustrating that Martin keeps it vague.
The other big issue was Rhaegar's abduction of Lyanna Stark, which sparked Robert's Rebellion. This is one of the big sources of speculation within the series, with multiple theories abounding to explain the events. In all probability this is tied to some major plot point Martin has in reserve for later within the series, but I find that the book brushes the incident off as ''too well known to merit mentioning'' honestly rather frustrating. It makes me wish that Martin would go ahead and just finish the darn series so we can have all our questions answered rather than sitting around playing what if for forever and ever. (Yes, I know, there's the tv show but I'm in the book camp.)
Otherwise I was a little disappointed with what Martin ultimately included within the book. I personally would have appreciated more stories about Bran the Builder, Garth Greenhand, the Winged Knight, and Lann the Clever, the figures from the Age of Heroes who influenced the world of Westeros. We do get versions of the story of how Lann the Clever stole Castlery Rock from the Castlerys, but it's told in a very dry and historical way, I kind of wish that Martin had told it like an anthology of folklore instead of as a historical text.
Ultimately this is a history and geography text book for the series and it's probably going to be dry for even the most dedicated readers of the series. It's okay, but I wish we'd gotten more answers than we got and maybe I just want Martin to finish the series.