Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: no, this isn’t an announcement of The Winds of Winter, the sixth installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, which readers have been waiting for since before the HBO series that made the books a truly international phenomenon even premiered, and which may not be published before that show reaches the end of its seven-season run.
That Mountain-sized caveat aside, there’s no reason not to be excited about a new book set in this expansive fantasy world, which has grown as rich and complex as anything in the genre without the name “Tolkien” on the cover.
Fire and Blood, which was officially announced today for release on November 20, 2018 (just in time for Black Friday, not to be confused with the Red Wedding—or the Purple one), doesn’t move forward on the timeline, but backward—and pretty far back, at that. The full title is Fire and Blood: 300 years before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History), and it promises to chronicle (part of*) the history of House Targaryen, that hotbed of incest and madness whose rise and fall tracks pretty closely to the fate of Westeros as a whole.
*this likely won’t be the full history of the Targaryens; more on that below.
Here’s the full cover and official blurb from the publisher:
The thrilling history of the Targaryens comes to life in this masterly work by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for HBO’s Game of Thrones.
With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author George R. R. Martin, this is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros.
Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.
What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than 80 all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.
With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate game of thrones, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.
Martin is fond of commiserating with Tolkien, who famously said that the tale of Middle Earth “grew in the telling.” That’s certainly what happened here: Fire and Blood in fact began as a short section within The World of Ice & Fire, an illustrated, in-world pseudo history of Westeros, written by Martin and collaborators Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson and published in 2014.
The intent was to provide a complete accounting of the events that explain why the politics of Westeros are in such a sorry state as the series opens, and why there are no more dragons in the skies.
The parts of that book that focus on Targaryen history are from the perspective of one “Archmaester Gyldayn,” and were penned by Martin himself. But, as these tend to go in a series that started as a single book, then ballooned into a trilogy, and then into a septet, Martin wound up with more words than he intended.
Reportedly some 200,000 of them, in fact. That’s 640 pages’ worth.
Fire and Blood includes a great deal of this excess material, yet represents only the first half of the complete history of House Targaryen (book two is planned for publication after the release of the last book in the series proper, so…don’t hold you breath or anything).
A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the definitive, crowd-sourced repository for information on the series, has pieced together snippets of interviews and comments from the author to assemble a tentative list of the material this volume is likely to contain:
- The Targaryen Conquest: The story of the first Targaryen king’s struggle to unite and rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
- The Peace of the Dragon: An account of the reign of Aegon I, and the first Dornish War.
- The Sons of the Dragon: An account of the lives of Aegon I’s sons, King Aenys I Targaryen and King Maegor I Targaryen (portions of this section appeared in the 2017 anthology The Book of Swords).
- Heirs of the Dragon: Discussing the rule of Aenys’ son Jaehaerys I, and telling of the succession crisis that arose following the deaths of his proper heirs (portions previously appearing in the 2014 anthology Rogues).
- The Dying of the Dragons: An account of the conflict better known as the Dance of the Dragons, oft-referenced throughout A Song of Ice and Fire (parts of which were published in the 2013 anthology Dangerous Women).
- Aftermath—The Boy King and His Regents: A chronicle of the reign of Rhaenyra’s son Aegon III, who took the Iron Throne as a child, giving over rule of Westeros to a series of regents.
If you missed it in the official blurb above, these histories will be extensively illustrated by artist Doug Wheatley—though in black and white, rather than the full color of The World of Ice & Fire.
So there you have it—everything we know about the next George R.R. Martin book that’s not quite a part of A Song of Ice and Fire (there’s additional prehistory to be found in the quite excellent A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms). We can only hope it’s a prelude to the speedy release of the Song’s penultimate verse.
There’s still time to get it out before season seven starts, George. Just saying.