I originally read The World of Ice and Fire upon its publication in 2014, not long after finishing the Song of Ice and Fire books for the first time. I re-read the series the following year, and since then have been slowly working back through the associated stories – Dunk and Egg, the Dance of Dragons, and now finally The World of Ice and Fire. The reason it’s taken me so long to finish this one again (bearing in mind that I started five months ago, in April), is that after absolutely delighting in Harry Lloyd’s narration of Dunk and Egg, I purchased this too in audio format, narrated by Roy Dotrice. This proved to be a monumental mistake, sucking all the joy and life out of the book, and reducing it to just a dry old Maester’s text. It was the first time I’ve ever used Audible’s generous refund system, and on any future re-read, I’ll definitely stick to the beautiful printed page. The real problem is, it’s now made me want to re-read the main series yet again. I just can’t justify the months it will take, and while I could perhaps make an exception for the audiobooks, those too are narrated by Dotrice – and I really don’t want to risk falling out of love with the series.
All this said, my original review still stands – and so here it is, as written in December 2014:
This book is just gorgeous. When I started reading Game of Thrones this summer at the urging of a friend, I found myself peppering her with background questions. Who are the Rhoynar? What’s a crannogman? Hey, tell me everything about these Children of the Forest… The World of Ice and Fire is precisely the book I hoped existed then. It’s an in-depth look at the history of Westeros, and to a lesser extent, neighbouring continent Essos. The bulk of the book focuses on the many Targaryen kings, followed by a potted history of six of the seven ‘kingdoms’, plus the Iron Islands. We then travel over to many of the major cities in Essos, and towards the end go further afield, drifting towards the far east and mysterious Asshai.
The tone of the book is perhaps a little dry in places, but it’s framed as being penned by a Maester of the Citadel, so for me that worked (although in later sections I think the editing could have been tighter, as small repetitions and spelling errors became more frequent). Certainly the histories we’re presented with become vaguer, more rumour than fact, the further afield we travel, but as this is a world where few from Westeros dare to travel that far, it fit with the perspective the book took.
I think this is definitely more for the obsessive rather than casual fan, and I’d definitely recommend reading the Dunk and Egg stories first (I may or may not have got quite emotional during the history of Aegon V’s reign, and had to put the book down a few times…). If you’ve read the history of the first Dance of Dragons, it’s quite heavily condensed here, and there are other places where it definitely feels as though Martin has much longer histories waiting to be told when time permits. One of the biggest selling points of the book is the absolutely stunning artwork. I’m normally a ‘nice picture, turn the page’ kind of girl, but The World of Ice and Fire starts with a painting of Dragonstone so stunning you can all but taste the sea salt and hear the crash of the waves on rocks, and it only gets better from there. This is definitely a book you want to hold in your hands rather than flick through on a Kindle – the only problem being that it’s so big and heavy, I did find it difficult to get comfortable with it.
I seriously, seriously love this book, and have already bought an extra copy to give as a Christmas present.
[Read from 29 Nov-14 Dec 2014; 23 Apr-26 September 2016]