Before Game of Thrones there was the age of the Targaryens, the only family of Dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria. And so they came to Westeros to rule. But before they could be kings and queens Aegon the Conqueror had to destroy those who stood against him. With his legendary sisters and their dragons against them the lords of Westeros bent their knees.
This history recounts his reign and on through Maegor the Cruel to the civil war known as the Dance of Dragons that began the extinction of the dragons. It is the first of two parts that cover all the Targaryen rulers down to the Mad King.
This thing is a beast. It’s over 700 pages and has taken what feels like weeks to get through it all. But I’m done. And it was just fine. There’s not a lot of tension, given the matter of fact/historical way it is told. It’s mostly a by the numbers telling and so you don’t get attached to anyone or care about motivations/relationships. I found the beginning particularly difficult to get into as it felt more like a litany or great houses and lords and it was very dry. Once Aegon was on the Iron Throne and it got into the politics of it all it got a bit more interesting and far more readable.
One thing that doesn’t help keep all of this straight is the same or so-similar-they-might-as-well-be-the-same names everyone has. There’s a bunch of Aegons of course, but most of them are separated by time at least. Then there’s Rhaenys/Rhaenyra/Rhaena/Rhaella, Alyssa/Alysanne/Alicent, Daemon/Daeron, etc. And this makes sense in terms of family names but makes it hard to follow at times. I gave up attempting to keep straight who was who. It didn’t feel like it mattered that much anyway.
It makes me boggle at the amount of information Martin can keep in his head though. So many names he’s come up with and histories and back stories and threads he has to keep hold of. Characters who disappear for long stretches only to return later as important to the plot. It’s insane.
For me the illustrations left something to be desired, not just for the art itself but for the details it depicted. We’re told a king lost his fingers but there he is in a scene that is definitely after the loss with his hand intact. A dragon’s wing is broken, but it’s the opposite of the one in the text. A lady is ‘thin as whip and flat-chested as a boy’ but curvy/has boobs in the image. Maybe the artist wasn’t briefed correctly, I don’t know, but it irked me.
This was a nice stop-gap into the world of Westeros as we wait for the next in a Song of Ice and Fire, but I am ready to read more of those characters I’ve followed for years (and especially now that the show has come to a [disappointing for me] end). I don’t say this in a ‘get on with it, Martin’ way, cos I am sure trying to write this thing with this much pressure sitting on it feels impossible, but that I’m a fan and still want to see how the author will end it.