‘Fire and Blood’ by George R.R. Martin

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next hbo Dragon Housea prequel to his successful game of Thrones series, is based on George R. R. Martin’s fire and blooditself a prequel to his Song of ice and fire books. In anticipation of the series, it seemed fun to go ahead and read the source material, but it turned out to be a very boring read. There is a potentially wonderful, exciting and suspenseful story hidden deep within the 711 pages of Blood and firebut it is lost under the suffocating weight of unnecessary padding that surrounds it.

[Warning: Spoilers from George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood are below!]

Blood and fire billed as history

From the beginning, the narrator tells us, readers, that the book is a story of how Westeros became a united country under the rule of the Targaryen line, and readers would do well to believe him. The book never takes on a narrator character, just a dry, omniscient narrator. The story tells of how Aegon and his sisters conquered and united Westeros, and how future generations nearly tore it apart fighting for the infamous Iron Throne. But he does all of this with no personal thoughts or motives from the characters, just basic accounts of their actions.

It reminded me a lot of a school history book: very dry and impersonal. Most of the narration was devoted to the overview. Long lists of lords and knights, where they were from, and how many and what kind of troops they brought with them dominated the pages. Battles that must have been both devastating and exciting turned into a boring attendance list before and after the troop count.

bored dragons

Even dragons, the story’s big draw, were reduced to impractical vehicles. The most said about dragons was “the king flew here, then here, then here, then here”. They were mentioned in battles occasionally, but much less than one would assume and again, in very dry terms that were along the lines of “dragon rained fire and ranks were broken”, end of story.

Although dragons are a big part of why the Targaryens are deemed worthy to rule Westeros, they don’t actually feature much in the book. Eggs are placed in the cradles of newly hatched Targaryens, but thanks to the high mortality rate among royalty, very few of these appear in subsequent events. And apparently, dragons grow slowly, so even those that are born and raised by their riders are rarely ridden.

Mostly the same older dragons are reused when their riders die and are reclaimed by younger members of the family. But then again, they are mainly used to get from point A to point B quickly. They are occasionally used in battle and, even more rarely, they fight each other. But these battles should have been exciting and they turned out to be clinical and boring, like all other battles, their performance took their lives away.

Keeping the names straight fire and blood

fire and blood includes a lot of death. Lords, knights, kings, princes, peasants, soldiers, they all die constantly. This means that jobs are constantly being filled, which creates longer and more boring lists of people’s names and where they come from. What makes it worse is that Martin brings the medieval European practice of recycling names to Westeros, so instead of having lots of different names to remember, you have a bunch of the same names over and over again to keep them straight. At one point there were multiple Aegons in the same generation! Not to mention the older and younger generations. I get that it’s an ancient practice, but Westeros is an imaginary place, leave that behind and let people have different names so readers can tell who is who.

What made things even more confusing was the Targaryens’ practice of incestuous marriages. So now each generation had the same few names, and they were all marrying each other, so trying to remember whether they were talking about Aegon and Rhaenys or the last generation was confusing. It got worse when the family started fighting among themselves over the succession. There were people with the same name trying to kill each other and it became difficult to follow them. All I’m saying is tradition is nice, but it wouldn’t have hurt Martin invest in a baby name book.

The narrative style was a poor choice.

Part of the reason the story in fire and blood The detached narrative style is so boring. It does not focus on any one character, and more specifically, the inner thoughts and feelings of any character are not revealed. The result is a narrative without investment. I didn’t really care much what happened to any of the Targaryens. I didn’t care who sat on the Iron Throne because I hadn’t connected with any of them.

Martin refers to the writings as a story over and over again throughout fire and blood and from that point of view, I suppose he achieved his goal. The history of Westeros and the Targaryen line is passed on, but I’m a grown woman and I don’t really want to read a history textbook of an imaginary kingdom in my spare time. I want people I can connect with and care about. It’s sad because it happened to me long enough to appreciate that in a different style it would have been an exciting and moving story, but instead it was boring.

just wait dragon house on hbo

So this is only the second time in my 38 years of reading thousands of books that I say this, but just wait for the show. The one thing film adaptations always do is remove details from the books they are based on. That’s why I’m usually disappointed with them, it’s the details that make books so far superior to screens, usually. However, when a book is full of unnecessary detail or presented in a boring format, you can bet the screen will fix it. Video is all about emotion and movement, it will burn away anything that bogs down the story until that beautiful core of a tall tale is buried within. fire and blood is revealed and shared.

Rating: 4/10

fire and blood by Jorge R. R. Martin it is available on amazon Y other booksellers. You’ve read fire and blood? What did you think of the novel? Let us know in the comments or more at Twitter! And if you haven’t already, check out my latest comic book review at by Neil Gaiman The Sandmanan excellent series that has now been adapted by Netflix!

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