The enormity of the book reminds me of my old 9th grade AP history textbook, but with content much more interesting. The format and story is more similar to a non-fiction book than a work of fiction, but its visuals make the book a little easier to read. Honestly I enjoyed the art more than the content, however, it can be cumbersome to read at times and it somehow it feels like it has a dearth of information. Depraved and thirsty for more A Song of Ice and Fire material I went to this book to satisfy my cravings, but came away hungry for more. That’s the thing with this story, I don’t think it’s possible to be satisfied.
George RR didn’t write this, but he did edit it. The “story” is written from the perspective of a fictional maester, so everything included isn’t technically fact because this is a character’s interpretation of history, but for the most it’s safe to assume the content is accurate. The book has a never ending output of names, especially at the Targaryen Dynasty, so it can be hard to differentiate characters and it can be a little overwhelming for some readers.
The book starts off with the early periods of Westeros history, eventually getting to Aegon the Conqueror and the Targaryen Dynasty that follows. The early information is the most interesting part of the book, with the Targaryen parts feeling vaguely familiar. The book then splits off to cover the history of the individual 7 Kingdoms and even some brief history of the lands beyond Westeros.
The map on the front cover was beautifully drawn, but I felt like it didn’t have enough detail. The chapters crisscrossed with information from different time periods and locations like the editors weren’t sure where to place content, resulting in things feeling a little overwhelming and overlapping at times. It was hard for me to read through without a storyline and the countless facts started to take it’s toll on my enthusiasm for finishing the book. Even with all of this information, at times it felt lacking in content, for example I wanted to know more about the North and characters like Bran the Builder, but that felt skipped over. The Targaryen Dynasty was gone over in the most detail and you can tell how much thought Martin put into the history of this family, but at times the broad overview and the endless similar Targaryen names were hard to follow.
It wasn’t until I read the short story in the book Dangerous Women that I understood everything about the Dance of Dragons war. While the story read more comprehensively and more like a story similar to what I grew accustomed to reading the series, it still felt like more of a non-fiction telling of an event. Together the story feels properly told, but apart, both fall a little short and are confusing to read. I’ve never been more frustrated with the characters in Westeros when dragons were dropping left and right, such a waste!
I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful the artwork of the landscapes, castles, and historic figures were. Much of the art in the book can be found on line, almost all of this artist’s works are featured in the book. These were also all in the book. Every drawn character looks like a supermodel, wow were the Targaryens a bunch of stunning people. I don’t blame them for the incest thing any more, I 100% understand.
All of the information and content is neat, but it’s not a must read, even for die-hard fans. It’s a nice trinket to have and can serve as a neat coffee table book, it’ll have trouble fitting on most bookshelves. There’s not a dull moment in the history of Westeros, every time period seems to have some legendary hero or king. After a while the feats become saturated and less impressive, but nonetheless the information remains interesting throughout. I wouldn’t buy this book because of its size and I probably wouldn’t put too much effort into reading this book if I could do it all again, but it’s nice to skim through and look at the pretty pictures.