Some fans feel jaded about HBO's plans for many, many spinoffs of Game of Thrones, but the new shows are not pulled out of thin Westerosi air. In two weeks, the prequel House of the Dragon will premiere, but you can read the whole story — and then some — right now in Fire & Blood. This book by George R.R. Martin may be the blueprint for many seasons of television to come.
Martin created the world of Westeros in the 1990s for A Game of Thrones, the first of a series he then planned to be a trilogy called A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin continually expanded those plans and today he hopes to finish ASoIaF with a total of seven novels. In the meantime, the world of Westeros has grown geographically, expanded chronologically and deepened culturally. Outside of the five existing ASoIaF novels, Martin has written two ancillary books and three novellas. House of the Dragon is an adaptation of a portion of his Westerosi history book Fire & Blood.
Fire & Blood is an anomalous creation, even in the niche world of fantasy literature. In a recent interview on the Game of Owns podcast, Martin said that it all started around 2014 when excitement for Game of Thrones was reaching new heights. The show premiered in 2011, the same year the fifth ASoIaF novel was published, but the sixth novel was still quite a way off. Martin's publisher proposed a book of maps to fill the void while the author was still working on The Winds of Winter.
According to Martin, he began organizing his notes about Westeros and writing blurbs and explainers to go into the map book. This soon ballooned into its own project — an encyclopedia-style book called The World of Ice & Fire. Martin enlisted the moderators of a fan site to help him with "the World book" and ensure that he did not contradict himself. Meanwhile, the author himself admits that he got a little carried away fleshing out details and writing new material for the volume.
In the end, Martin had about 200,000 words of new material that needed to be removed from The World of Ice & Fire so that it could be published at a reasonable size. He held onto those writings and, a few years later, re-worked them into novelettes called "The Sons of the Dragon," "The Rogue Prince" and "The Princess and the Queen." These three stories were published in anthologies from 2013 to 2017 but were later pulled back together to be published as Fire & Blood.
Finally, Fire & Blood was published in the fall of 2018. The book is made up largely of material that had been cut from The World of Ice & Fire, including the three novelettes listed above. It is not a novel, but an "imaginary history book," as Martin calls it. It is written from the perspective of Maester Yandel, a Westerosi scholar who is an unreliable narrator. Yandel wrote the book during the reign of King Robert Baratheon I, and he relied on secondary sources for his research.
The result is an incredibly unique story, told from a distant, uncertain perspective with the ability to jump forwards and backward years at a time. Fire & Blood starts about 300 years before Game of Thrones, when the Targaryens first conquered Westeros and united all Seven Kingdoms. It describes about 130 years' worth of history from then on, focusing on the development of the royal power and House Targaryen itself. This is exciting, as it means the book could hold the seeds for many shows across the timeline.
House of the Dragon will begin by adapting the story from the last few years in Fire & Blood — about the last third of the book or so. It will flesh out the events and take a much more straightforward narrative approach than Yandel's version, which may answer some mysteries from the book. Showrunner Ryan Condal told The Hollywood Reporter that he hopes to complete this part of the story within about four seasons.
After that, Condal hopes that HBO will allow him to adapt other chapters from Fire & Blood into future seasons of House of the Dragon, perhaps exploring the conquest of Westeros or even going back to the Doom of Valyria, which sent House Targaryen fleeing to Westeros in the first place. Meanwhile, Martin plans to write a second volume of Fire & Blood which will cover the rest of House Targaryen's history right up to the beginning of Game of Thrones. This could include several more enticing stories for TV, including the Blackfyre Rebellion wars.
House of the Dragon's unique relationship to its source material, Fire & Blood would be interesting enough on its own, but in the context of Game of Thrones, it's even more fascinating. Game of Thrones became infamous when the show exceeded the source material, ASoIaF before Martin had finished writing it. The distinct collaborative style being developed here may have a lasting legacy in the worlds of TV, literature and screen adaptations in general.
Fire & Blood is available now in print, digital and audiobook formats. House of the Dragon premieres on Sunday, Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.