Fire & Blood

(Targaryen History , Bk. 1). 21 CDs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2019. 26:25 hrs. ISBN 9781984838711. $60. digital download. SF
This fictional history of House Targaryen takes readers back three centuries, prior to the events of Game of Thrones, covering Westeros history from the time of Aegon the Conqueror, when Daenerys's ancestors unified the Seven Kingdoms, to Aegon III's ascendancy nearly 150 years later. Martin reveals that civil wars, royal incest, power struggles and betrayals are nothing new to Westerosi history, as the dragon-riders live up to their house motto, bringing vast quantities of both "fire and blood" to bear as they hold tight to the Iron Throne. This is a history of the fictional kingdoms portrayed in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series and comes across as such—readers hoping for a novel of Westeros in the style of the rest of the works will be disappointed. This title could serve as an outline for hypothetical prequel books, but fitting a century and a half of story into a single volume means that characters are born and die within the space of a few chapters. The unnamed Westerosi historian relating the story keeps a high-altitude distance from events (readers are frequently cautioned that "historians differ on what happened next" and presented with a variety of possible outcomes), and dialog is sparse; all this makes attachment to the narrative stakes a little difficult, despite a number of genuinely exciting and engaging moments. Veteran reader Simon Vance expertly brings life and gravitas to the audio edition.
VERDICT Recommended for the most die-hard of "Ice and Fire" fans craving more depth and backstory for the long-running series.

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