Reviewed in the United States on November 26, 2018
I rarely bother posting a review of a book with nearly a hundred reviews. For one, neither the book nor the prospective buyer need my thoughts in order to make an informed decision. And second, for me it requires some soul searching and a good deal of thought when I am trying to shed some light that others might find of interest. In other words, I cannot simply state, "Loved it," or "Hated it," and call that a review. And, further, I abhor reviews that tell us all the intricate details of a plot and then go on and try to read the novel. Okay, now you know, I am a stubborn curmudgeon. If that annoys you, at least you can't say I didn't warn you...
My review of Fire & Blood is sure to be a different take than any other review. In such light,. My review may be the least helpful to most readers. Why? I have not yet successfully read any works of Mr. Martin, because I find them a daunting challenge. Note that I state challenge, not that his writing is unappealing or uninteresting. What I mean is, I greatly respect his ability to weave great yarns. I just have difficulty in immersing myself into the worlds he creates.
Anyway, I decided to approach his works from a different angle. I chose to read the history he prepared, then I will move on to Game of Thrones.
I mention all this so you can skip my review if you are already a Martin fan, because what little light I might shed on the topic probably will be of little use or interest to you.
On with my review…
BLUSH FACTOR: You probably won’t want to read this story to your children aged 13 and younger due to three eff-words and a reference to men and sheep. Unless, that is, you have raised your children to on a farm and providing you have a sense of humor regarding sheep and find them prettier than the local maidens… Okay, I am parroting Martin’s humor at location 5406.
POV: Third person.
WRITING & EDITING: Readers tend to gage the writing of history somewhat differently than fiction. At least I do. With a history I don’t expect quite the same sort of flow. With “Fire & Blood” we don’t get the same flow as with, say, Game of Thrones. But, since we don’t expect to, we can more readily accept such ebb and flow as exists in “Fire & Blood.”
ADVENTURE: Yes, there is plenty of adventure, even if it is not as layered through as creative writing would be in an epic story of conquest. To better show the adventure and character building that does exist in “Fire & Blood,” please refer to the below excerpt.
‘…his summons. Lastly he descended upon the seat of House Doggett, reducing it to ash. The fires claimed the lives of Ser Joffrey’s father, mother, and young sister, along with their sworn swords, serving men, and chattel. As pillars of smoke rose all through the westerlands and the riverlands, Vhagar and Balerion turned south. Another Lord Hightower, counseled by another High Septon, had opened the gates of Oldtown during the Conquest, but now it seemed as if the greatest and most populous city in Westeros must surely burn.
Thousands fled Oldtown that night, streaming from the city gates or taking ship for distant ports. Thousands more took to the streets in drunken revelry. “This is a night for song and sin and drink,” men told one another, “for come the morrow, the virtuous and the vile burn together.” Others gathered in septs and temples and ancient woods to pray they might be spared. In the Starry Sept, the High Septon railed and thundered, calling down the wroth of the gods upon the Targaryens. The archmaesters of the Citadel met in conclave. The men of the City Watch filled sacks with sand and pails with water to fight the fires they knew were coming. Along the city walls, crossbows, scorpions, spitfires, and spear-throwers were hoisted onto the battlements in hopes of bringing down the dragons when they appeared. Led by Ser Morgan Hightower, a younger brother of the Lord of Oldtown, two hundred Warrior’s Sons spilled forth from their chapterhouse to defend His High Holiness, surrounding the Starry Sept with a ring of steel. Atop the Hightower, the great beacon fire turned a baleful green as Lord Martyn Hightower called his banners. Oldtown waited for the dawn, and the coming of the dragons.
And the dragons came. Vhagar first, as the sun was rising, then Balerion, just before midday. But they found the gates of the city open, the battlements unmanned, and the banners of House Targaryen, House Tyrell, and House Hightower flying side by side atop the city walls. The Dowager Queen Visenya was the first to learn the news. Sometime during the blackest hour of that long and dreadful night, the High Septon had died.
A man of three-and-fifty, as tireless as he was fearless, and to all appearances in robust good health, this High Septon had been renowned for his strength. More than once he had preached for a day and a night without taking sleep or nourishment. His sudden death shocked the city and dismayed his followers. Its causes are debated to this day. Some say that His High Holiness took his own life, in what was either the act of a craven afraid to face the wroth of King Maegor, or a noble sacrifice to spare the goodfolk of Oldtown from dragonfire. Others claim the Seven struck him down for the sin of pride, for heresy, treason, and arrogance.
Many and more remain certain he was murdered…but by whom? Ser Morgan Hightower did the deed at the command of his lord brother, some say (and Ser Morgan was seen entering and leaving the High Septon’s privy chambers that night). Others point to the Lady Patrice Hightower, Lord Martyn’s maiden aunt and a reputed witch (who did indeed seek an audience with His High Holiness at dusk, though he was alive when she departed). The archmaesters of the Citadel are also suspected, though whether they made use of the dark arts, an assassin, or a poisoned scroll is still a matter of some debate (messages went back and forth between the Citadel and the Starry Sept all night). And there are still others who hold them all blameless and lay the High Septon’s death at the door of another rumored sorceress, the Dowager Queen Visenya Targaryen.
The truth will likely never be known…but the swift reaction of Lord Martyn when word reached him at the Hightower is beyond dispute. At once he dispatched his own knights to disarm and arrest the Warrior’s Sons, amongst them his own brother. The city gates were opened, and Targaryen banners raised along the walls. Even before Vhagar’s wings were sighted, Lord Hightower’s men were…’
Martin, George R. R.. Fire & Blood (A Song of Ice and Fire) (Kindle Locations 1270-1300). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I enjoyed this fiction that felt like a true history. I confess that I enjoyed the Audible edition a bit more than the Kindle edition, but, for me, that is becoming the case with most reading. I read the Kindle edition when I can, and listen to the professional narration edition while commuting or otherwise enjoying the countryside in what “The People’s Almanac” referred to as ‘The Empty Quarter.” Listening to “Fire & Blood” while cruising through these wind-blown prairies, I found myself speculating that perhaps, just perhaps, when the ancient ones entered these lands several eons ago, they may have slew dragons and brute goliaths to wrestle the Upper Midwest free from some precursors of the human race…THAT is one mark of a good writer of fantasy, the learned one some refer to as George R. R. Martin.
The one downside of this epic history is that this book is only the first volume and the author himself admits that he has other pressing epics to bring forth before he can get around to writing the conclusion. In that sense, this book ends without being complete. An annoyance to me and, I’m certain, many other readers.
At least now I can tackle “A Game of Thrones.”
Four stars out of five.
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