‘The World of Ice and Fire’, the new book by ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (ASOIAF) saga author George R.R. Martin, is released on October 28.
The saga gained worldwide fame when it was adapted onscreen in HBO’s hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones’.
The book is a history of the Game of Thrones world created by Martin. To say that it has been eagerly awaited is a huge understatement. It is already the #1 ranking best-selling book in various categories on Amazon thanks to pre-orders.
Here are a few ideas - some official, some leaked - of what to expect from 'The World of Ice and Fire'. The review contains spoilers for all broadcast seasons of the 'Game of Thrones' TV series.
The book, the complete title of which is ‘The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones’, is co-authored by Elio M. Garcia Jr and Linda Antonsson.
The two, long-time fans run Westeros.org, the largest online ASOIAF community. They are described on Martin's official website as “perhaps the only people who know [the ASOIAF world] almost as well as its visionary creator”.
Martin, also known as GRRM, has indeed used their encyclopedic knowledge of all things ASOIAF while writing, checking with them for consistency.
The book’s 336 pages, according to the website, contain “all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers”.
The book spans a period of time of several thousands years, until the most recent events covered in the ASOIAF novels.
Epic coffee table book
The very chunky coffee table book, packed with gorgeous artwork and maps, includes the full family trees of the Houses Stark, Lannister and Targaryen.
The content is "all-new material, more than half of which Martin wrote specifically for this book". The tome also describes at length the other cultures in various parts of Westeros and Essos, the two continents of the world of ASOIAF.
Two excerpts from the book have already been released.
One tells the story of the Targaryen departure from the legendary city of Valyria on the continent of Essos, to the Westerosi island of Dragonstone, thus escaping the natural catastrophe, known as the Doom, that destroyed Valyria.
The other sample narrates the hopeless war fought by the Rhoynar, an Essosi people, against Valyria and its allies centuries before the events of ASOIAF.
In the excerpts GRRM, with the help of his co-authors, manages to write in his distinctive style a fantasy history which is both painstakingly detailed and gripping, featuring epic battles and famed heroes.
GRRM had previously published similar pseudo-historical detailled accounts of the world of Westeros. In 2013 there was ‘The Princess and the Queen’ and in 2014 ‘The Rogue Prince’, both novellas.
While very dense, even dry at time, both works provide insights into the history of Westeros, with a focus on the Targaryen dynasty before it was brought down by Robert Baratheon’s rebellion.
The cover art of The World of Ice and Fire
The book follows a meeting in 2004 between GRRM and Garcia in Santa Fe. He publishers were interested in an encyclopedia-type work. A contract for the book was signed in 2006 according to Garcia and Antonsson.
She explained in a May 2014 video with Garcia (full version at the end of the article) that “the book is written by a maester [a member of the erudite healer order advising noble families in Westeros], he has only in-world knowledge of things so he could be wrong on some points and chose to leave some things out”. This scholarly, but ultimately flawed point of view, will prevent an omniscient narrator revealing too much about the coming ASOIAF books.
On the section dedicated to ASOAIF on Reddit, a community which has more than 165,000 subscribers, user feldman10 posted a message claiming he had had early access to the World of Ice and Fire and shared his review.
While feldman10 is a well respected contributor, winning the forum’s 2013 award for “Best Theory-Debunking”, euronews could not independently verify the claims made and they should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.
“This book is called ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ and it’s obvious why — this is a world here that GRRM has built, and the level of detail he’s put into it is simply incredible,” feldman10 writes, “Every place mentioned has a history and some complexity to it — often a great deal of complexity.”
“The book excels when it lets vivid characters shine through. Highlights include the glories and blunders of the various Targaryen kings, the harrowing voyage of Queen Nymeria, the First Dornish War, and the story of Tywin and the Reynes,” according to the privileged redditor.
He adds: “Elio and Linda, writing as Maester Yandel, clearly have a lot of fun with the material, often offering several potential explanations for mysterious or disputed events before dismissing one as silly, or mischievously skipping over material they can’t reveal by claiming it must be already well-known to the reader.”
While feldman10 confirms the design of the book is “impeccable,” one negative point according to the post is that “as it gets further removed from the main story and its plotlines, both chronologically and geographically, it becomes less compelling.”
“Overall,” the redditor concludes: “It is a deep, rich, and dense book. I come away from it with a new respect for GRRM’s achievement in creating this world.”
Putting fan theories to rest?
ASOAIF fans theories abound online, springing out of the imagination of deprived readers, craving and waiting ‘The Winds of Winter’, GRRM’s next opus the release date of which is still unknown. Many fans hope ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ will confirm at least some of them.
Last year, ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ co-authors tweeted this teasingly-worded message:
While it was not a maester’s raven, the tweet caused a stir in the intrigued ASOIAF fan community. The pair refused to give definitive details regarding which fan theories – there are dozens – was laid to rest.
However, in a post on the r/ASOIAF subreddit, Garcia said “(…). It’s a little on the fringe, I think, actually.”
He added that the book is “not just dusty history, some of the stuff there in has some bearing to the narrative of ASOIAF”. The post actually left lots of doors open, which was confirmed when Garcia admitted in the May 2014 video that “details of significant theories are confirmed, or denied”. He especially mentioned the history of Tywin Lannister, the patriarch of the proud and powerful Lannister family, slain by his dwarf son Tyrion.
Searching for clues, the fans, who avidly dissect and archive everything GRRM says, were quick to note that, on October 7, he commented on a post in his blog: “Most of the material contained within is history, set centuries before the events depicted in the novels, so spoilage should be minimal… but there are passages that will give things away, yes.”
The author’s admission was enough to trigger discussions on forums and Reddit, building more anticipation only days before the release of the book. One couldn’t hope for a better marketing campaign.
Watch 'The World of Ice and Fire' co-authors Elio M. Garcia Jr and Linda Antonsson discuss the book.
Credit photo CC by Flickr/the_eggwhite