At this point in its life cycle, everyone knows George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series–which burst onto the fantasy scene in 1996 and amassed cultural clout with the arrival of the HBO adaption in 2011– isn’t going to be completed any time soon. It’s been eight years since the last main-series installment, and, while we’ve been given numerous ASIOF themed books and spinoffs, things have gotten to the point now where the TV series has surpassed the show, and fans who don’t want things spoiled for them (that’s me) will have to hide under a rock for years starting this April, It sucks, but that’s the way it is.
Our constant clamoring for the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter, has been heard by Mr. Martin, and while he has continued work to work on the book since the completion of the last one, he’s shared his struggles with completion time and time again. It’s unfathomable why writing a series with literally hundreds of characters and nearly 5,000 pages of text might get difficult after the fifth book, but George has been having a time with it*. For those of you who are more addicted to ASIOF than a rat to cocaine, there is a silver lining: The end of November saw the release of Fire and Blood, a Game of Thrones .5, if you will. The book is the first part in a two-volume history that takes readers back 300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, to a land ruled by dragons and those damned Targaryens about whom everyone in the main series keeps talking. Fire and Blood is less novel and more textbook, opting for a (mostly) linear march through time as it chronicles the reign of every Westeros king from Aegon the Conqueror to Aegon III. The book is teeming with historical information, and if you’ve ever wanted to know how Maegor’s Holdfast got its name, Fire and Blood can deliver than answer. It’s absolutely fantastic if you’re immersed in the Ice and Fire universe, but readers who have only dabbled in the first book or two would probably be better served staying away. Though compelling and characteristically witty, Fire and Blood only sustains its charm for so long. Eventually, it becomes a laundry list of names and places with little significance to the average fan who likes to watch direwolves bite Lannisters. Fire and Blood caters to the niche ASIOF fan, and unless you fit that bill, you may want to wait out The Winds of Winter with the rest of the world.