📚 Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire; A Targaryen History

Reviewed Apr. 2019

Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 26 hours 25 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2018

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Summary

The thrilling history of the Targaryens comes to life in this masterly work by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for HBO's Game of Thrones.

With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally best-selling 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 & 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 was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel’s worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? 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 80 all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Listeners have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & 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 EmpireFire & Blood is the ultimate game of thrones, giving listeners a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

I wasn't originally intent on reviewing Fire & Blood. Moreover, I didn't even intend to finish it when I did. I started it as a casual listen late last year after it was released and then picked it up again last week. The Season 8 premiere of HBO's adaptation, Game of Thrones again inflamed my decade-long passion for this series and I needed more.

I decided to review Fire & Blood after it occurred to me that, although I have read all 5 primary installments of the series and every novella I can get my hands on, this was the first audiobook from George RR Martin that I have heard. I read the 5 primary books back in 2010 on my Kindle, way before I got into audiobook listening.

Side note: Yes, I am that person who points out that I've read all of the books in every Game of Thrones conversation. Have you seen the size of those things? I earned the right to brag. It's like if someone gives birth to a 10+ pounds baby. They have earned the right to talk about it for the rest of their life.

Side-side note: Now that I think about it, these books aren't as huge as I remember... But back in 2010, they seemed mammoth.

But back to my point: I was so pumped last week about the Season 8 premiere that I wanted to cram all the Game of Thrones/ASOIAF available into the rest of my week, which lead me back to Fire & Blood. I'm not sure why I went straight to Fire & Blood instead of A World of Ice and Fire, which I also have on audio and in hardback. Maybe because it's newer or maybe because its Targaryen-centric.  

The written styles of A World of Ice and Fire and Fire & Blood are nearly identical. If you're already familiar with the style A World of Ice and Fire is written in, you shouldn't have any problem with Fire & BloodHowever, if you're not familiar with either, allow me to clarify: 1) This is not the next installment of A Song of Ice and Fire (the main series) and 2) This is not written as a fictional narrative. It's written as if it is a history book from the Citadel. The style is that of a work of nonfiction and could therefore be offputting to more casual listeners.

Fire & Blood details the first 150 years of Targaryen rule in Westeros, starting with Aegon the Conqueror and ending midway through Aegon III's rule. [The Targaryens are Daenerys's family.] It was a really odd choice to end this 26-hour book in the middle of someone's reign, but we are talking about GRRM here and splitting books is nothing new to him. It really was as if he just split the Targaryen history down the middle. You think you would have at least finished the account of Aegon III's rule instead of ending it as his regency ended, but whatever, George...

That's why I said I didn't even mean to finish the audiobook when I did. The ending was completely abrupt, but it worked out nicely that I was able to finish it before tonight's episode. I'm actually pretty proud of myself for finishing this. As with A World of Ice and Fire, I thought Fire & Blood was going to be one of those large pieces of reference material that I casually peruse, but never completely consume. But I will say that Fire & Blood seemed more digestible for general consumption than did A World of Ice and Fire. I don't have a physical copy of Fire & Blood, but from what I can gather online, there are only a few black-and-white illustrations and possibly some family trees missing and I think you get PDF versions of the trees from Audible (I listened on Scribd). For that reason, I do recommend the audiobook of Fire & Blood.

However, you will definitely need family trees handy. At the very least, you'll need the Targaryen family tree and possibly the Velaryon and Baratheon trees as well. Trust me, a lot of frustration can be avoided by having these handy from the start. A World of Ice and Fire has a great Targaryen family tree, but make sure it is the updated one. GRRM made major changes to the children of Jaehereys I when writing Fire & Blood, so older editions of A World of Ice and Fire (like mine) won't reflect these latest changes.

It should be noted that Fire & Blood does not completely contain new material. I'd wager that most of it is recycled from the various novellas George has written through the years. For example, a large part of Fire & Blood details the "Dance of Dragons", the battle over succession rights after Viserys I's death. This bit may seem familiar, or even redundant (as it was to me), to those who have read the novella "The Princess and the Queen". This novella was part of the 2013 anthology Dangerous Women, edited by GRRM, and is also recounted in great detail in A World of Ice and Fire. Much of the other material is from previous novellas and A World of Ice and Fire too. Yes, that's disappointing, but I will say that it was nice to have all of this is previously scattered material now available from one source. Hard-core fans and collectors will likely enjoy what this audiobook has to offer.

Narration review: Simon Vance did a fine job narrating Fire & Blood. It wasn't his most impressive performance, but this also wasn't a title where he could show off his vocal skills because it was only narrated by one person (a maester). I can't compare his narration to that of Roy Dotrice, as I've only heard Dotrice's narration in bits and pieces. For what it's worth, I have no complaints regarding Vance's narration. It was a little on the dry side, but so was the material. ♣︎

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