Like many people today, I’m a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice & Fire” series. The books are both a delight and a terror as Martin builds a tremendously brutal, violent and uncaring landscape upon which he populates his characters. Like the best of the fantasy genre, a great deal of the work goes into building that landscape – the cities and nations of Westeros and Essos, the history that colors the various points of views and pressures that each of the characters must contend with, the intricacies of their societies and the rules that give power and take it away.
However, unless you’re the most devoted GRRM fan, it’s unlikely that you’ve the encyclopedic knowledge of when which Targaryen ruled the Seven Kingdoms, where Lys is in relation to Slaver’s Bay, who killed whom during Robert’s Rebellion or just what a shadowbinder is. Here’s where Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson – the creators of the popular Westeros.org website – often came in. They provided a lot of the background information and have even helped Martin himself in keeping facts straight when he got himself tangled onto his own world. Not surprising, they are co-writers with Martin in this latest venture: a pseudo-encyclopedia of this fantasy world.
Taking the guise of a epic compilation by Maester Yandel of the Citadel, The World of Ice & Fire provides a history of sorts to the various realms of Westeros and Essos. From the Dawn Age through the Age of Heroes and onto the Conquest of Aegon Targaryen and finally the Rebellion of Robert Baratheon, Maester Yandel traces the various “sources” to reveal the backstory of the lands of Ice & Fire. Then, the book begins speaking of the various kingdoms and their key houses before finally touching on the various free cities of Essos – from Braavos to Asshai by the Shadow. Along the way, he also speaks on some of the more famous figures, factions and even weapons that factor into the story.