If you're a fan of George RR Martin's famous fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, you'll find the companion book, The World of Ice and Fire, a compelling read, and the artwork is amazing.
Early King's Landing
I'd go out on a limb and suggest this one's strictly for hardcore fans of the books. I'm guessing those who are purely fans of the television series may get a serious case of 'eye glaze' (with the text, not the pictures – the pictures will be enjoyed by anyone with a pulse!). It is a 'History' told by Yandel, a 'humble Maester of the Citadel'. From him we are privy to detailed accounts about various eras in Westeros's known history at the time of King Tommen.
The book is divided into sections beginning with Ancient History. It was fascinating to learn more about the Children of the Forest and their initial conflict with the First Men in the Dawn Age. About who exactly is thought to have built the Wall. About those Valyrians and their power over dragons. About the war of Ten Thousand Ships, reminiscent of our Ancient Rome. And about something mentioned often in the books – the Doom of Valyria.
The power of an army with dragon-fire
The three sections that follow Ancient History – The Reign of Dragons, The Tagaryen Kings, and The Fall of Dragons – are intriguing for the descriptions of how the Targaryens, who claimed to have descended from dragons, could control the fiery beasts. And the pictures will enthrall.
A glimpse of battles from the reign of the Targaryen kings
The Glorious Reign begins the next section, in which we get a close-up look at the seven kingdoms we've all become so familiar with, and other places like the Wall and Storm's End. It's interesting to learn how the kingdoms evolved over time.
The Red Keep at King's Landing
The final section gives the history of other lands and cities with Beyond the Sunset Kingdom. I enjoyed the section on Braavos, a city built in secret by slaves from various cultures, who all spoke Valyrian and worshipped not one god, but all gods. One of my favourite chapters in this part is the last one that tells of the mysterious Asshai-by-the-Shadow – "a city steeped in sorcery."
Asshai-by-the-Shadow – a secret city on the very edge of the known world
Other things I've enjoyed are the little hints. Not spoilers, I'm happy to say, just clues that get you thinking. Here's one favourite about a certain prophecy, from a chapter called 'The Long Night':
It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R'hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return.
Can't wait to see what it all means.
I was initially drawn to this book to get a look at how the author originally pictured the characters and the settings, some of which are vastly different to the HBO adaptation. Here's few of examples:
The Iron Throne as imagined by George RR Martin
Jon Snow with Ghost
Let me be honest, I'm a fan girl of the Ice and Fire books. I love the epic, longwinded nature of the storytelling and all the little details that many readers, in a world that demands more 'fast-paced' fiction, are turned off by. Such rich storytelling allows epic fantasy fans (like me) to become fully immersed in the world. So, this 'History' is right up my alley. I'd recommend it to any other raving fans of the books who enjoy the 'little details' of the background as well as the main events. But if you're purely a fan of the TV show, well, you'll enjoy the pictures at least.
Highly recommended for all the book fans