I can’t think of another living writer of fantasy whose world is so extensive that a book like this could be written (and written well.)
I have chosen to cast aside my frustrations over the long overdue Winds of Winter and to not let it affect my rating of this book. As annoyed as I am (and as annoyed as many of you are), I urge you to read and enjoy this for what it is. That's all we can do.
And I surprised myself by writing these words because I honestly expected to write a review lamenting over the fact that we are still waiting for the sixth book in the series, and we will probably be waiting for a few more years to come. But instead I was enthralled by the richness of the history and the lore associated with the Targaryen dynasty.
In a way, it has reminded me why I love the series so much. These are the histories of all the long dead and crazy Kings and Queens we’ve heard our favourite characters dream about and wish they were. These are heroes and tyrants, these are noble lords and evil psychopaths. As Ser Barristan tells Daenerys in A Dance With Dragons:
"King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."
So there’s a rather eclectic bunch of characters chronicled here. And I can’t fault it whatsoever. For the three days I spent reading this I forgot the outside world existed as I learnt more about my favourite house. I loved hearing about Maegor the cruel, how he got his name and how absolutely ruthless he was towards his own family. Buffs of Westeros lore will know how he met his end; it is referenced a few times in A Game of Thrones so I’ve not bothered with a spoiler warning. But as ever with Martin’s world nothing is quite simple. His death appears straight forward, he was found with his wrists slit having died from exsanguination after cutting himself on the throne. Though this seems exceedingly suspicious; the man was a renowned warrior and tactician, he would not have gone down so easily and stupidly. Someone murdered him, no doubt, because of his tyrannical ways. His history, and that of Aegon’s original conquest, were the most interesting sections for me.
The only other work of fantasy that is this ambitious is The Silmarillion. And of course Tolkien’s world is much more developed and finely crafted, but it’s important to realise that many fantasy realms are not even big enough to have such a platform as this. I can’t think of another living writer of fantasy whose world is so extensive that a book like this could be written (and written well.) And that sort of says a lot about how big this book is and how big this world is. It’s a fantastic addition to the A Song of Ice and Fire cannon. And it's a real achievement.
Don’t let your frustrations get in the way of you reading it.
Review by Sean Barrs
241 positive reader review(s) in total for the A Song of Ice and Fire Companion series
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