by Matthew Thompson
(I purposely avoided any spoilers for any A Song of Ice and Fire readers or Game of Thrones watchers who are curious what this is about that haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I do talk in vague terms about what the book is about and how it was written though or this wouldn’t be much of a blog!)
For Christmas I got myself the new anthology, Dangerous Women, a collection of short stories across many genres with the theme of… well… dangerous women. They range anywhere from 20-80 pages long. I’ve read a few including a fun little western by Joe Abercrombie and it should be nice to try out some new authors and genres than I’m not accustomed to reading. The main selling point though was a new novella by Geroge R.R. Martin set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.
“The Princess and the Queen” takes place more than 150 years before the start of the Game of Thrones novel and TV show. It’s a time when the Targaryens ruled and dragons were still plentiful in Westeros. When King Viserys I Targaryen dies, both Rhaenyra, his daughter and only surviving child from his first wife, and Aegon, the eldest son of his wife and current queen, made claims to the throne. What resulted became known as The Dance of the Dragons, a bloody civil war amongst the ruling family and the other inhabitants of the Seven Kingdoms who decided to fight on one side or the other (it’s worth noting you’ll see plenty of other family names you are familiar with besides Targaryen). Over the course of about 80 pages “The Princess and the Queen” describes how this war played out both in the battlefield and in the council rooms that helped decide its outcome.
One thing that makes it a little different is the way it is written. Instead of the third-person point of view style that the main books employ, this is written more like a historical text from a crotchety old Maester of the Citadel in Oldtown. As such, it comes off much more dry and lacking a bit of the flavor that readers of the series are accustomed to. And yet, the Maester has some nice traits of his own. For instance, I like how he groused about the way singers and stories have distorted history with more appealing and romantic endings.
Regardless of how you warm to the new voice, there is a lot to like here especially for those that enjoy digging into the history of Westeros. The biggest selling point though has to be the dragons. This tale gives us a great look at the kind of things these beasts can do in battle as well as how fights between them play out. There is also some insight into the relationships between a dragon and its rider. All of these things should play into the stories we’ve been reading and watching before it’s all said and done which is an added plus.
If you are a sucker for all things Ice and Fire, this definitely seems like something you’d want to check out. Whether it is worth plopping down twenty dollars for it is another issue, though personally I’m happy with my purchase so far. It’s too bad “The Princess and the Queen” isn’t readily available on its own because I think it’d be a fun read for show watchers who never got into the books. It wouldn’t be a 5,000+ page investment and since it is a prequel, it wouldn’t spoil anything for those that just want to see everything unfold on their TV screens. And while the writing style wouldn’t be a great preview of series at large (there are always sample chapters for that), it does give some insight into the history of the show’s world which is something that the small screen adaptation has never been able to dig into in the way the books do because of the different approach and perspective.
Overall I enjoyed diving back into a world I have really grown to love in recent years, regardless of how brief this new piece of fiction was. It was especially fun for a big fan of Daenerys and her dragons like I am. Have you read “The Princess and the Queen”? Let me know what you thought. I’m also open to any questions you might have, so feel free to ask in the comments below. Thanks for reading!