“Words are wind, but wind can fan a fire. My father and my uncle fought words with steel and flame. We shall fight words with words, and put out the fires before they start.”
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, High Fantasy
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.
George R. R. Martin is a literary genius that comes around once in a lifetime and I’m so glad that I live in the era of Game of Thrones. This book exceeded my expectations. Combining historical fiction and high fantasy, George R. R. Martin shares with us the history of the Targaryen’s beginning with Aegon the Conqueror, Visenya and Rhaenys and ending, in this first volume, with Aegon III, the traumatised and young Targaryen King who is left to deal with the tense aftermath of the Dance of Dragons. While Aegon I launched a dynasty, it was King Jaehaerys the Conciliator and Good Queen Alysanne (a nod to Good Queen Bess?) who developed and cemented the dynasty by establishing laws, peace and even roads. The Dance of Dragons was my least favourite part as it focused mainly on military matters – which was only natural. Nevertheless, I am eagerly awaiting the second volume, so I can finally learn more about the fascinating and equally horrifying Targaryen’s.
The Targaryen’s weren’t and still aren’t usually fit to rule. Jahaerys and Alysanne were the exception to the rule based on this volume. The existence of dragons more often breeds terror and violence than it does in delivering justice.
If we take a look at Maegor the Cruel and the Dance of Dragons, dragons symbolised military power and that power wreaked much havoc and misery on innocent smallfolk. Whilst reading the Dance of Dragons, I was shocked by the number of times the innocent smallfolk were put to the sword and raped in a way that deemed it only natural to the way of men and war. In contrast, while Jaehaerys and Alysanne utilised their dragons, Vermithor and Silverwing, by displaying them to lords, ladies and smallfolk, it wasn’t to unleash the full wrath and might of the power of their dragons, but more so as a reminder of what the dragons represented.
Jaehaerys assembled his small Council in a manner which was reminiscent of when Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne by choosing to unite the realm through pardon and good faith. Queen Alysanne, in my personal opinion, was by the far most impressive Targaryen to date, using diplomacy and tact to achieve the Crown’s goals, build a strong rapport with nobles and smallfolk, enact convention-defying (and very much in the vein of feminism) legislature and even managed to warm (slightly) the heart of the stubborn, cold and practical-minded Lord Alaric Stark of Winterfell.
Jaehaerys and Alysanne perfectly captured how the pen is mightier than the sword. Though we can argue that the circumstances of the Targaryen brother-sister pair ascending the throne made it far easier to take the Throne because of the lack of competitors, it is undeniable that they acted with caution, good sense and alacrity. The only current Game of Thrones character with power who demonstrates the ability to be a competent administrator is Sansa Stark (yes, I’m leaving out Tyrion Lannister with good reason) who, coincidentally, very much reminds me of Good Queen Alysanne. Interestingly, both women have a female bodyguard respectively in Jonquil Darke and Brienne of Tarth!
Arya Stark oft pronounces her admiration for Visenya Targaryen who was both a warrior and dragonrider. But I couldn’t help but notice that the mother and son relationship between Visenya and Maegor the Cruel was very much like that of Cersei Lannister and her son, Joffrey Baratheon. Both mothers demonstrated a sheer lack of hesitance in protecting their son by any means possible. Tyrion remarks sarcastically that Cersei is “as gentle as King Maegor.” As we know, Visenya’s horrifying acts were in service of her son, Maegor, and brother-husband, Aegon. What I am intimating in a roundabout way is that I strongly disliked Visenya and the term ‘Cruel’ could just as easily have been attached to her too… and I’m disappointed in Arya for her choice of role model.
In the first Field of Fire, House Gardener are the Lords Paramount of the Reach and, by the end, are extinguished and replaced by House Tyrell. Before the second Field of Fire that we witnessed in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, House Tyrell is extinguished when everyone’s favourite matriarch, Lady Olenna Tyrell, is delivered poison by Jaime Lannister. Being a fan of irony, it was exciting to see things come full circle here. Who will be the next House to take the seat? House Tarly?
Rhaena Targaryen’s beloved former friend, Elissa Farman, assembles a small fleet to venture beyond west of Westeros by crossing the Sunset Sea. It is believed that she offered the three dragon eggs she had stolen to the Sealord of Braavos to finance the building of the ship. I found this particularly interesting on two counts:
- Westeros mirrors England and its history – A Song of Ice and Fire is based on the War of the Roses (1455 – 1485) – and later, Christopher Columbus embarks on a voyage and discovers America (1492). Though Elissa was never seen again, will there be a Christopher Columbus in the series? Could this be Arya Stark who has spoken about going west of Westeros?
- It seems that the three dragon eggs reportedly in possession of the Sealord of Braavos eventually are the three dragon eggs Daenerys receives as a gift and hatches, giving birth to Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. Why didn’t those eggs hatch when it was in the possession of the Sealord of Braavos? Does it require Targaryen blood? But we’ve seen Targaryen’s fail to hatch dragons. Does the hatching of dragons require a blood sacrifice? If so, Daenerys perhaps believes that it is completely her own doing, that she is a true dragon, when, in actuality, it could largely be attributed to the sacrifice of Mirri Maz Duur, Rhaego and Khal Drogo which allowed her dragons to come into the world again.
Though it would be satisfying to the see the Iron Throne destroyed, its destruction does not necessarily dispel the threat of the smallfolk instead rising up to claim power for themselves as we see happen during the Dance of Dragons. The absence of monarchy may do little to quell the hunger for power of mankind. As the feudal system effectively ended by the turn of the 16th century, perhaps we will see this, at the very least, come to an end by the end of the series.
What are your thoughts on the Targaryen’s? Should they rule? Would you like to see the continuance of dragons? If the Iron Throne is here to stay, who should rule and why? Let me know in the comments!
By Sophia Ismaa
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