Have you read every book in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic, a Song of Ice and Fire? Have you seen every episode of it’s incredibly popular television adaptation, A Game of Thrones? Are you drinking out of an official House Targaryen glass stein, with a map of Westeros on your bedroom wall and the series 2 soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi playing in the background? All whilst waiting for winter to come?
Well, if you match these specific criteria, as I do, then you’re probably in the target audience for the giant wikipedia entry that is A World of Ice and Fire, the Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones.
I compare the book to a wikipedia entry because that’s how the book reads. It’s a historical encyclopedia and anthropology text, with it’s subject being the setting of a series of fantasy novels rather than the real world, thereby making it a lot less useful for pub quizzes. The book begins with a broad ancient history of the world, followed by a detailed description of the reigns of each of the Targaryen kings. It then moves onto the histories and customs of the various realms and houses of Westeros and beyond, broken down by region.
My urge to read this book was primarily spurred by the an obsessive need to fill the infamously lengthy void between Ice and Fire book releases. It’s written by the big man himself, George R.R. Martin, in collaboration with Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson, founders of the fansite Westeros.org.
It’s a book for truly dedicated ASOIAF fans only. Getting through the whole thing was quite an undertaking; more than once I felt like a literary wildling climbing a gigantic ice-wall of words. Personally, I loved it. Presented as though written by a Maester of the Citadel, it’s full of glorious little tid-bits, intriguing mysteries and flavourful descriptions of far-flung places never mentioned in the book series. All this new content makes The World of Ice and Fire much more than just a cataloguing of the information presented to us in the book series.
The book does require patience. If you ever tried and gave up with Tolkien’s similarly encyclopedic Silmarillion, then this isn’t the book for you. The good news is that as well as being a trove of information, The World of Ice and Fire is also a fantastic art book. Each page is adorned with beautiful art depicting the various locales and famous faces of Westeros. Ever wondered what the ancient city of Valyria looked like before the Doom? Or how it looks when a Triarch of Volantis is pulled apart by war elephants? Then you’re in luck. In my opinion there could be a few more dedicated full-page artworks, but even so I’d say that this gorgeous book is worth the price for its art and design alone.
Now I’ve finished the book, I truly feel like a Game of Thrones master. I literally can’t wait to go outside and impress girls with my detailed knowledge of Targaryen lineage and Dothraki history. If you’ve got the patience, and a wildfire-like desire to consume all things Game of Thrones, then this is the book may just tide you over until The Winds of Winter sees a release. If not, then turn your ship around, because here be dragons. 326 Pages-worth of the fiery bastards.