Friday, 25 April 2014

‘The Rogue Prince, or, a King’s Brother’ – George R.R. Martin

A consideration of the early life, adventures, misdeeds, and marriages of Prince Daemon Targaryen, as set down by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown.
Anyone looking to get a little extra fix of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ could do a lot worse than pick up the anthologies that GRRM edits with Gardner Dozois. I've still to read some (OK, most) of them but I know that GRRM has a rather welcome habit of popping ‘ASOIAF’ stories in these collections; usually right at the end.

With the forthcoming ‘Rogues’ anthology (I would have loved to have seen a ‘Rogue Squadron’ story here but can totally see why that didn't happen…) GRRM has given us a tale of the ‘Rogue Prince’ Daemon Targaryen and how his actions helped contribute to the tragic ‘Dance of Dragons’. I've got to say that Daemon doesn’t come across as particularly roguish in my eyes; sure there is a large amount of whoring and general dallying with royal cousins etc but the staid tones that GRRM has his narrator adopt rob Daemon’s actions of the kind of vibrancy that you would expect from a rogue. This isn't a story so much as it is a recounting of events and while there is a lot to recommend ‘The Rogue Prince’ the energy that it really needed to thrive just isn't there. GRRM also doesn't do himself any favours having Gyldayn question the veracity of the sources and introduce contradiction to the tales. Not only does Daemon come across as not particularly roguish but the reader is left wondering if certain things actually happened at all…
I get why GRRM took this approach and, when you look at the tale from its perspective as a historical text it’s an approach that works very well (posing the kind of questions that such a text would ask). It just doesn’t seem to work in the context of the collection that the story is a part of. Oh well…

That’s not to say that ‘The Rogue Prince’ doesn't work at all though. As a tale of dragons, courtly intrigue, a king who just wants a quiet life and knights hitting each other with big swords it’s an awesome read that I found myself really getting into. What I love most of all are the little details that open up GRRM’s world and leave you wanting to find out more. This time round it was mention of the Black Swan, a courtesan who rose to rule the city of Lys in all but name. Martin has a lot to finish off first but I’m hoping that one day, little asides like these will blossom into much longer works.

‘The Rogue Prince’ is an odd one then. While it has everything that makes GRRM’s work compelling reading it feels like it doesn't quite work as part of this anthology. Enjoy it for what it is though and I reckon you’ll be fine.

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