As mentioned in my previous post, I did think that George R. R. Martin publishing Fire and Blood was important since it contextualized the events of the main series. I still hold that opinion upon reading it, though I do have mixed feelings overall.
Basically, it is the history of the Targeryen kings all the way from the conquest of Westeros up to Aegon III Dragonbane. The gimmick behind this book is that it was recorded by an Archmaester named Gyldayn.
There are also detailed descriptions of the families most closest to the Targeryens, such as the Velaryons, Celtigars, and Baratheons. However, there were moments when the story did meander from focusing on the Targaryens and more on them.
Dragons, as much as the Targaryens, figure within the story, since they helped the Targeryens conquer Westeros. They are shown as having their own distinct colors and personalities. It also shows their decline in relevance within the span of the Targaryens’ reign, especially during the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons when so many dragons were killed.
There plenty of battles which are vividly described, either in terms of the flanks that the lords and their armies take or the theaters of war involving dragons. This is practically an important part of the book, since a history book is nothing without war unfortunately.
Religion also plays a role in showing the controversy involving the incest common in the Targaryen family. This was definitely important to document since the Targaryens would have been considered abominable to even the followers of their religion the Seven, which forbade incest.
Many of the people, low-born, base-born, or of nobility, are vividly described by their physical characteristics as well as by their demeanor. They include the people in the councils of the kings, the Targaryen consorts and children, the Targaryen enemies, and others, even including low-born.
Though the main characters it can be argued would have to be Gyldayn and Mushroom. In the case of Mushroom, since he had access to Rhaenyra’s personal life during the Dance of the Dragons, it would be important that Gyldayn would rely on his input. However, he was also her fool, which meant that everything he said would have to be taken with a grain of salt.
There was an interesting point when Gyldayn’s and Mushroom’s accounts conflict. During the Dance of the Dragons, Gyldayn described Rhaenyra has becoming so angry she made her own hands bleed, though Mushroom recalls making her laugh. This moment, however minor, highlights a key point that Martin himself made in several interviews, which is the conflicting historical perspectives on people.
As a fool, Mushroom provides a lot of humor in his recounting of the Targaryens that came before and during his time as fool. Not just Mushroom, but also Gildayn and the historical figures he talks about also talk very wittily. That definitely made the reading experience worth it, since I could easily understand it and I was humored at some points.
Just like the Song of Ice and Fire series, but more so in this anthology, he utilizes the concept of speculation. In his typical Martinian way, there are moments where he never explicitly mentions either a character’s death or existence in the first place. This leaves the reader to wonder if there were supernatural forces or poor recording involved.
Although I am tempted to say that Martin allowed his political views influence the way in which the Targeryen women are viewed as being empowered, I have to keep in mind that this was all through the perspective of one of the figures in this legandarium. I can definitely see that Archmaester Gyldayn would have bias in favor of the Targaryens, since he constantly mentions good aspects about them, especially during Jaehaerys the Conciliator’s reign. Throughout the book, he is constantly mentioning other scholars and Mushroom in a form of critical conversation, either agreeing with them or discounting them. This is method of having a biased third person perspective is not new to Martin, though I did think that it actually worked in this book since
However, I did have trouble reading in terms of what exactly the book was supposed to be. It is supposed to be a fictional history of the Targaryen dynasty during the beginning of their reign, however it read more like one of his novels. There are plenty of moments that were written which clearly would not have been witnessed or recorded by Gyldayn or Mushroom or any of the Westerosi maesters.
Although A Dead Dragon, The Scales Are Good Enough For Armor
Although it filled a lot of holes that would have been present in the main series, Fire and Blood would have been a phenomenal book if it had a purpose to its entire existence. I would have given this rating a much higher praise if that central purpose did more than historicize every choice that the characters make in the main series. I do not blame this book for consuming Martin’s time which would have theoretically been spent writing the final two installments of the Song of Ice and Fire series, though I did think that it should have been written well before the series even began.