If you’re a Song of Ice and Fire fan, you’ve got to read this, no questions asked. It’s a detailed history of how the Targaryen takeover of Westeros actually happened. Not written in the style of a Ice/Fire book, it reads like an old man transcribing a large history tome, which was obviously Martin’s intention.
This book hit every expectation I had, though I was disappointed to see it’s only volume one in a two-book series and thus didn’t cover the two kings I’m most interested in learning about: Baelor the Blessed and Aegon the unworthy. But it expands on lightly covered corners of the world of ASOIAF, while adding more color to places and families that are familiar. It was striking to constantly see names like Lannister, Stark, Tyrell, Greyjoy, Baratheon, etc. knowing how the fates fell for them where the series currently is.
Martin, like me, shares a fascination with both court intrigue and family wars. Much like Game of Thrones, he clearly has a fascination with the famed Wars of the Roses as the Targaryen “dance with dragons” civil war draws heavily from that inspiration too. It was difficult keeping up with all fo the names but still fun to see how the family dynamics sussed out.
Reading this book is a labor of love. There parts that are tedious. I found my attention flagging and doing a lot of re-reading. Martin likes to be detail oriented and I appreciate that but I don’t think this book needed that much detail with random names and stories. Thus, finishing this book left me with the same feeling finishing other Martin books does: relieved that it’s done, exhilarated from what I read, missing it and wishing I was reading the next in the series.