Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin is a prequel to the highly acclaimed Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. I had soaring expectations for this fantasy novel because George R.R. Martin is one of the most highly acclaimed fantasy writers of all time.
Although the book did not eclipse the Song of Ice and Fire series, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Let’s get into the Fire and Blood review!
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my book reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the book to give you an idea of whether or not this novel might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
These book reviews are meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary. I only include spoilers for previous novels if the novel is a sequential installment in a series.
In short, this Fire and Blood review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of Fire and Blood. Enjoy!
What is Fire and Blood about?
The story is based around the rise of the Targaryen dynasty and how they came to power in the fictional land of Westeros three hundred years prior to the time of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Consequently, Fire and Blood does not contain any of our favorite characters from A Song of Ice and Fire. Instead, the story presents an in depth view of their long dead descendants.
The story takes place at a time when dragons were aplenty and multiple factions were vying for total power over the entirety Westeros.
With all of these different kingdoms fighting for power came an influx of kings and queens. The internal and external conflicts of these long dead noble men and women serve as a baseline for the plot.
The story begins with reign of Aegon the Conqueror and concludes with the reign of Aegon III.
What reading genre is Fire and Blood?
Fire and Blood is considered a part of the epic fantasy genre.
What is the perspective of Fire and Blood?
The story is told from the third person perspective of an archmaester. His name is Archmaester Glydayn.
Truth be told, he is not the most trustworthy of narrators. This makes the story a bit more interactive in that at some points in the novel the reader is forced to draw their own conclusions of the validity of the events described.
Some regard the historical storytelling style of this novel to be a hindrance. In my humble opinion, I would have to agree.
The historical style of writing took away the thoughts and feelings of the characters that I was used to seeing.
The storytelling felt more like a dispassionate reporting of events. There was no feeling and no emotional attachment to the characters. This was largely due to the narrative perspective of this novel.
Others found this change of perspective refreshing. One major strength behind this new historical storytelling technique is that the events of Westeros are told in chronological order. There are no flashbacks of characters to disrupt the fluidity of the plot line.
Although it was satisfying to have the story structured in this organized manner, I do not believe this newfound sequential system was worth the sacrificing the phenomenal characterization we saw in A Song of Ice and Fire.
What are the weaknesses of the plot of Fire and Blood?
The plot is thickly layered, to the point where I had to backtrack on a couple occasions to re-familiarize myself with how the story was unfolding. It is almost as if the story had so many details that I lost track of the direction of the story.
The sheer density of this fantasy work has its pros and its cons. A major con being that there is simply too much content to take in all at once. Too many characters were coming and going to establish a real connection with any one persona.
Furthermore, there were far too many subplots. This lethal combination of an excessive amount of characters and plot developments was simply too much for me to handle at times.
What are the strengths of the plot of Fire & Blood?
George R.R. Martin employed his unpredictable style of writing yet again with Fire and Blood. When I actually knew what was going on in the story, I was caught off guard nearly every time a plot twist transpired. This helped to keep me turning the pages with ease.
Of course, the most riveting characteristic of the plot of Fire and Blood was hearing about the historical incidents that were hinted at in The Song of Ice & Fire. The heart-breaking deaths, unforeseen betrayals, and forbidden romances all came to light with this historical narrative.
Enthusiasts of A Song of Ice and Fire series finally learn of the history behind some of the most prominent family lineages in Westeros. The origins behind the stereotypes of each of the major families, like the Targaryens, Lannisters and Starks for instance, are unveiled in full force.
As you can imagine, these plot developments completely pulled me into the story. I was genuinely curious as to what historical milestones led up to the events in The Song of Ice & Fire. I had a sincere desire to learn of the descendants of some of my favorite characters.
George R.R. Martin gave me answers to the questions that I did not even know I had stored in my backpocket.
Like I said before, the density of this novel has its pros and cons. One major pro with gargantuan amount of content was the attention to detail in the accounts of the historical incidents.
His thoroughness when it came to describing these legendary chronicles sparked my imagination just like it did in A Song of Ice and Fire. There is just something about the creative style of George R.R. Martin that rekindles my enthusiasm for the fantasy genre.
How is the characterization?
There is a constant carousel of characters coming and going. Certain personas are well developed, while other individuals are introduced and killed off within the span of a single page.
Like I mentioned earlier, the relentless onslaught of characters page after page made establishing a real emotional attachment to any one character extremely problematic.
It was even somewhat burdensome to relate to characters, like King Jaehaerys or Maegor the Cruel, that received ample page time.
In order to establish a real solid connection with an individual character, the reader would have to make a real effort to sift through all the detail to get to the crux of their characterization.
What is the best part of Fire and Blood?
Above all else, my favorite aspect of the novel was the rise and fall of the dragons. The dragons were treated as characters in their own right, rather than simple beasts to be ridden at will.
In some aspects, certain dragons like the legendary Vhagar were characterized more prominently than the majority of the human characters.
I was enthralled by the entire development of the dragons. Seeing them rise from infancy to adolescence and eventually reach the age ripe for combat was a journey in itself.
The dance of dragons was a staple of this novel. The buildup, suspense and eventual climax of each fight was beautifully executed. The clash of beasts in aerial battle made the entire read worth it. Forget the characterization! I’ll take a dragon battle over characterization any day.
How long is Fire and Blood?
Fire and Blood logs in at 736 pages total. For the average reader, it takes about 15 hours to read this novel from start to finish. Evidently, Fire and Blood is a bit of a lengthier read.
For the true fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, however, let it be known that this is the standard length of a George R.R. Martin novel. You true fans should not have any problem getting through this one.
What are the major themes in Fire and Blood?
A dominant theme in Fire and Blood is revenge.
The theme of revenge should come as no surprise. With all George R.R. Martin works, revenge is a staple throughout. Fire and Blood is no exception to this trend.
Many of the families and factions in Fire and Blood commit terrible transgressions in their pursuit for power. Family vanquishes family in the rise to the top.
Those individuals that are left in the dust hold everlasting grudges against those who cast them in the dark. Many of these perpetrators have committed unforgivable acts. As a result, the oppressed turn to revenge to carry out their own sort of perverted justice.
The theme of revenge in this novel brings out a side of human nature that is rarely seen. Cruel oppression, unforeseen betrayal and inhumane torture frequent Fire and Blood.
It adds a dynamic element to this novel and an aura of volatility in that no one character is completely safe, especially those in power.
Another commanding theme in Fire and Blood is the negative impact of greed.
Nearly every family in the world of Westeros is obsessed with power. These families prioritize their pursuit of power over everything. Age old alliances can even take a backseat if it means a better title and more lands for their namesake.
The world of Westeros is stained with corruption. Sooner or later, nearly every family pays the price for this corruption. It is always pleasing as a reader to see these tyrannical families finally get what they deserve.
Without the prevailing theme of greed and its negative effects, there would be no narrative to Fire and Blood. After all, it is the story of how the Iron Throne came to be. Greed is the cornerstone of any ruling dynasty origin story.
Anything else worth mentioning about Fire and Blood?
Chapters are also occasionally broken up with hand drawn images of certain characters, like the pictures of Maegor the Cruel and Rhaenyra Targaryen shown below:
Maegor the Cruel
Although these pictures seem like a small little addition, it would feel wrong if I failed to give these images their due credit in this Fire and Blood review.
I applauded that someone took the time to design and include these illustrations. It definitely helped me better depict characters in my mind and also identify characters of prominence throughout the story.
They also afforded a welcome break between sections before starting a chapter anew.
Not to mention these stunning portraits were a marvel to behold!
Will there be a sequel to Fire and Blood?
Yes! According to George R.R. Martin, Fire and Blood is the debut novel of a two part narrative. Fire and Blood covered 150 years of the timeline, and the second portion of the saga is intended to cover the latter 150 years, leading into A Game of Thrones.
Although I am still skeptical as to whether the world will ever get to see this latter portion of the saga.
Fans of the esteemed Song of Ice & Fire series know all too well that George R.R. Martin likes to take his time when wrapping up a series. The fantasy reading community has yet to reach closure with the original cast of characters in the realm of Westeros. But this is beside the point.
Despite my doubts, I believe George R.R. Martin will pull through. When? That question is beyond me.
Fire and Blood Review Recap
Although many are disappointed that Fire & Blood is not the long anticipated sixth book to A Song of Ice and Fire (myself included), I tried to put these grievances aside when writing this Fire and Blood review.
When I gave this book a chance and judged it independently from A Song of Ice and Fire, I realized that this book was not that bad. In fact, it was good! After all, another seven hundred pages to be in the land of Westeros again is not too shabby.
Overall, I consider Fire & Blood to be worth the read.
It is certainly an extended read and the spotty characterization has its flaws. Yet, the mythical engagements with dragons alone make up for these weaknesses.
Not to mention, the nostalgic atmosphere of being hauled back into one of my favorite fantasy worlds ever earns this novel a spot in my recommendation list.
Hopefully this Fire and Blood review helped you make your own decision of whether or not this novel is worth your time! If you would like a physical copy or audible version of Fire & Blood, check out the low prices at Amazon.
Underrated fantasy novels like Fire & Blood are some of the best reads. To be pleasantly surprised by another fantasy book, check out this list of My Top Underrated Fantasy Books.
“The seeds of war are oft planted during times of peace.”
“Then the storm broke, and the dragons danced.”
“Only you could have won me away from the sea. I came back from the ends of the earth for you.”
“The vilest of men and the wickedest of women likewise may do good from time to time, for love and compassion and pity may be found in even the blackest of hearts.”
Fire and Blood Review Rating: 7/10
Back of the Book Blurb
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 & 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 was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel’s worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? 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.
With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire & Blood is the the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.