Book Review: Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

Rating:★★★★★ (MY FIRST 5 STAR REVIEW!!!)

Author: George R.R. Martin

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We all know who the Targaryen’s are. Whether you’re a fan of the show or the books we all know that the Targaryen’s are the masters of dragons.

Who came before Daenerys? We know she had a brother, and obviously parents, but turn the sands of time back far enough, and we start to wonder where the Targaryens first came from.

In The Song of Ice & Fire we know that Dragons have been extinct for almost three hundred years, until Daenerys brought Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion over from Essos and began her wars against Cersei and The Night King.

While I was reading the book, there were a lot of moments that were very similar to things Daenerys had done in her adventures, and the phrase “Those who are ignorant of History are doomed to repeat it”  coming to mind.

But, that’s enough of Daenerys, though I’m sure we all enjoyed her in last night’s episode, the season premiere of Season 8!!!

From what I took away from Fire & Blood, the Targaryen’s are this near “godly” offshoot of humans that people seemed more than okay accepting as their rulers.

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Now this could be because of their unnaturally light coloured hair, their violet eyes, or the fact that if you didn’t think that there was a pretty good chance you could be burnt alive by a two ton flying lizard at the drop of a hat.

Fire & Blood was an interesting look into the rule of the Targaryen kings and queens (along with a few other family members) that ruled over Westeros until Robert’s Rebellion.

I was a bit disappointed that it only covered the first half of the Targaryen rulers, but after finishing it up, I’m glad it did. I think if George R.R. Martin had tried to put the entire history of the Targaryens into just one book, it wouldn’t be the same, which ties into my next point.

As a history book, I never thought I would be fascinated with the inner workings of a kingdom more than people fighting each other with their dragons in the Dance of Dragons.

I mean the war was pretty cool, and there were some brutal moments during it that I was excited to read about, but I was more excited to read about Jaehaerys and his wife Alysanne, or Aegon and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya.

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The political aspects of the book had me sitting on the edge of my seat more than the aspects of war, which takes some great writing to be able to do that.

Fire & Blood takes a look at all of the Targaryen rulers from Aegon I ‘The Conqueror’ all the way until the start of Aegon III ‘The Dragonsbane’ and something really surprised me.

Multiple times in the book there is mention that Targaryen’s don’t suffer from normal illnesses, or live normal lives. They see themselves as this family that sits on a higher pedestal than the rest of the world, and as the world progresses, the people begin to see that too.

But that really isn’t the case. After reading the book you realize that there are a vast majority of Targaryens that are some pretty shitty people.

Incest aside, many of them are terrible rulers, kill innocent people, take multiple wives, kill babies, family members, friends, and countless other issues.

Some fly  off to the pleasure houses of Lys, some are so uninterested in all aspects of life they don’t have a place in society, and some even devote themselves religiously.

When it comes down to it, they are just like any other family. They have some shining stars, like Jaehaerys, and they have some real duds like Viserys.

In my opinion there were two good rulers. Two rulers who actually benefitted the realm and had an era of prosperity that benefited commoners and lords alike. Aegon I and Jaehaerys. Some of the others were okay, but they didn’t tip the scales. More of a figurehead than an actual benefit to the realm.

Some rulers were bad, killing innocents or screwing up the realm.

Targaryens weren’t this godly family that could do no wrong. Maybe it was due to the generations of incest, but many of them were very flawed in some way. There were always a few diamonds in the rough, but no matter if they were a good or bad ruler, one thing made them better than the rest.

Dragons.

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Dragons played two roles in the Targaryen’s history.

Weapon and Symbol.

On one hand dragons were used for exactly what people imagined them to be. They were weapons, flying over the battlefields burning their foes to ash. When they weren’t burning their enemies alive, their enemies were kneeling. Surrendering to that powerful beast and the man or woman on its back.

We see this in the Dance of Dragons, we see it with Aegon I, we see it through the entire history of the Targaryen’s until they finally died out during Aegon III’s rule.

This idea of dragons being a weapon was what made the Targaryen’s the rulers of Westeros after the kingdoms were united. I mean how could you stand up to such raw power. In an instant thousands of your men could be burnt alive, and you were powerless to stop it.

As the kingdoms were united, and warfare between the kingdoms died out, the dragons lost their role as a weapon, and became a symbol. A symbol of peace to be exact.

It wasn’t until Jaehaerys I that the dragons truly became a symbol of peace. I might be wrong but I don’t think he ever used his dragon in a battle. His dragon was used for efficiency. He would fly it around the seven kingdoms and meet with lords and ladies, commoners and royalty alike to learn from them.

He wanted to create a better kingdom, and learning from its people was the best way to do that, but horses were too slow. His dragon could get him across the world in a few days.

This efficiency, and his own nature made Jaehaerys the best Targaryen king in my opinion.

Now back to the dragon as a symbol of peace. Under his rule, Jaehaerys basically stopped all wars. There were some battles that took place during his time, but they were minor skirmishes for the most part, and it was in part to do with his dragons.

Imagine being a villager, living in a village you hadn’t been away from for more than a day, and a dragon flies overhead, landing in the next town. As cool awe-inspiring as that would be, it would be terrifying. This beast could kill you in an instant, and that’s how everyone saw it.

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Jaehaerys wouldn’t have done that. He would have found a peaceful solution to solve an issue, but the idea was there. Nobody wanted to fight against these dragons, so they became peaceful. They accepted peace, and didn’t look for war when there was no cause to.

I think Daenerys’ dragons are the opposite. Her dragons are weapons through and through, and come the end of the series I don’t think there will be a place for them.

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I don’t think the Westeros we have now, the one Danny wants to create has a need for dragons, and I hope she realizes that.

I could get in to how they are her children and maybe she can’t have human kids while they are alive, but I think that Danny might have to kill her dragons in order to get the world she wants.

She wants to break the wheel, and having dragons might help her do that, but it won’t help her make the new world that she wants to make.

What do you think the role of dragons will be for the end of Game of Thrones? Will they stay around? Will they survive the battle of Winterfell? 

And what do you think of the Targaryens as a family? This role as rulers has been put on their heads for nundreds of years, but maybe they arent as worthy as people think? Or maybe they are? let me know in the comments. 

8 Replies to “Book Review: Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin”

  1. Jaehaerys and Alysanne were the only exceptions to the rule. At least in this volume. The rest, including Aegon I, were unworthy and some even brutes. We’ve seen in the first episode, Daenerys seemed to glean a lot of satisfaction watching the smallfolk, the people she supposedly wants to protect and serve, cower in fear of her dragons. I hope the dragons die out… and I hope we never see her on the throne. Like you said, she could redeem herself, show she really cares about the people, if she dies a hero on the battlefield. Let’s hope!

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    1. I disagree about Aegon I. I don’t think he was unworthy, he was just the beginning of it all, which came at the cost of a lot of death. I think otherwise he did a pretty good job at uniting the realm. If you had cloned him and put him in the future I think he could have done a good job of ruling.

      I agree about Dany. She seems to be taking after Viserys and becoming “the dragon” and adopting the entitled attitude that comes with it. She wants to break this wheel and change how things are done, but she’s repeating the cycle of the bigger wheel. The cycle of her ancestors, but also the cycle of the entire world

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      1. I think what Aegon I did is what Daenerys is trying to replicate, she even remarks it in the 5th season I believe. That Aegon I went very far with fear. She is aware she’s causing death and destruction on her path to the Iron Throne. And she’s expecting Tyrion to clean up the mess afterwards like he did in Meereen. But here lies the difference, I agree, Aegon I was able to unite the realm as far as he could – except for Dorne, Daenerys isn’t. And she seems to be modeling her path based on Aegon’s.

        She’s simply restoring the monarchy and her dynasty. Tyrion was right. It would be far better for Westeros to have a democratically elected leader than a monarchy. You’re right, she’s repeating the cycle of the wheel. Do you think she’ll realise this by the end?

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      2. I think she might realize that she’s just repeating another cycle of the wheel when it’s too late. She will already be overthrown or killed or whatever it might be, and as she is dying/having her throne taken she will realize her mistake, and fight for it, possibly making things worse in the long run

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      3. Which is a shame. I don’t understand how she went from the breaker of chains to demanding servitude to the cycle that benefits her. Yes, I agree, I think she’ll be killed/overthrown and I’m guessing we both think it’ll be Jon who does the deed? Only love can kill her now. Her character is a Shakespearean tragedy.

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      4. I think she does need to die, because if she were to live, she’d always be a thorn in The side of whoever takes the throne.

        I think the only person in this show who could kill her is Jon, but maybe Cersei does. I think that could work if it done well, but yeah she needs to be killed by love and the only one who can do that is Jon, but since it’s Game of Thrones, it probably won’t be Jon. The only other one who loves her is Drogon

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      5. We needed all of Dany’s tyranny to show us how monarchy truly corrupts and only democratically elected officials should rule over a country, really.

        It’ll be Jon. That’s the only thing he can do now. Should have listened to Sansa. Women know people far better than men really when it comes down to it.

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