Giving Depth to Westeros
The newest literary extension to George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series is a history of Westeros extensively cataloging the reigns of the Targaryens and their fall, giving a backstory to the events of Martin's main work. A collaboration between Martin and Elio M. Garcia & Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice & Fire is not a mystery-solving or spoiler revealing book but gives the reader the historical knowledge that the characters of Martin's series had giving them a better appreciation to the numerous references that characters give one another.
The oversized 300+ page book with over 170 original illustrations reads like a scholarly work that some times borders on being dry, however the information is pretty well thought out and expounded upon by all three authors as they give depth to the backdrop that is Westeros in ASOIAF. The illustrations include many portraits and landscapes, some of which reveal for the first time people or places mentioned in the books but not traveled to. "World" begins at the literal beginning of Martin's creation as the fictional author recounts the legendary beginnings of Westeros and it's peopling through with the inclusion of other parts of the world that have a later impact on the continent. The majority of the first third of the book deals with the near 300 year history of Targaryen Conquest, Rule, and Fall. The next third is the individual histories of the main Kingdoms of Westeros both before and after the Conquest, as well as family histories for all the leading families of the realm. The final third deals with the world beyond Westeros, which includes many strange people and places.
Although some might dislike the sometimes dry recounting of history that in various ways still keeps certain mysteries, well mysterious, in truth it's hard not to find something to dislike in this book. While a map with location names would have been nice for places beyond Westeros so the reader would have a better sense of a location's relationship to everything else, one could argue that was located in another literary appendage. The artwork was fantastic though on a few occasions the same individual was depicted multiple times by different artists but looking completely different, which sometimes made the reader do a double take. However one has to appreciate the audience-creation that each artist did in relation to the same information given them.
Overall The World of Ice & Fire should be thought of as a in-universe history book that allows readers to see Westeros the same as the characters, especially the nearly 300 year history of the Targaryens on the continent that shaped the landscape of ASOIAF. As long as readers and fans approach this book in the correct way, they will enjoy it (even with the arms of House Blackfyre mysteriously on the cover).