Tuesday, 3 June 2014

‘The Princess and the Queen’ – George R.R. Martin

A brief update from yesterday, I didn't get the job after all. Oh well, next time is the charm :o)

‘The Princess and the Queen’ can be found in the GRRM & Gardner Dozois collection ‘Dangerous Women’ and follows on from the events of ‘The Rogue Prince’ (which was reviewed over Here). Proof then that not getting round to reading things when they are published can actually work out very well indeed. Go me :o)

While I attempt to clear the decks for a big ol’ ‘ASOIAF’ re-read (looking very unlikely right now but stranger things have happened) it’s been nice to catch up on the world of Westeros by reading some of the shorter pieces. ‘The Princess and the Queen’ is one of the longer shorter pieces, weighing in at around eighty pages long which makes it a novella according to the front of the book. It recounts a Targaryen war of succession, a couple of hundred years before 'ASOIAF' and GRRM being GRRM, the story actually feels like it’s four or five times that many pages (at least); not only is there a lot happening but it’s all carried by a cast so long that (yet again) I developed a small headache, behind my left eye, trying to keep track of who was who. They pretty much all die by the end which made the headache even less worthwhile, I should have expected it really.

Find your way past the overpoweringly large cast though and ‘The Princess and the Queen’ becomes a treat of a read for fans who are starting to get itchy feet about ‘The Winds of Winter’. It has everything to it that the main series has, just condensed into a much smaller space. This can work for and against the plot; you don’t get much in the way of character development, for example, but they all seem to do a lot more. There isn’t that constant politicking (which you may or may not appreciate) but the story itself moves along at a brisk pace which, for me, really made up for it. Basically, have a think about what you like best about ‘ASOIAF’ and then be aware that there may not be enough room in ‘The Princess and the Queen’ for GRRM to go with it like he normally would. There is still a lot to get out of it though (the sheer scale of events depicted in such a short space is astonishing), not least of which is full on dragon warfare across Westeros.

To go from a world where there are only three half grown dragons to a world where the Dragon Pit in Kings Landing is full… It’s an amazing experience, especially when the dragons on both sides go at it in the skies above Westeros. We all knew that GRRM could write a mean battle sequence but what he does with the dragon fights is something else; you really get a feel for the brute impact of battles fought with tooth, claw and fire. GRRM doesn’t treat his dragons any better than his human characters; big players die when you least expect it and by the end of the tale you’re in no doubt that the ‘Dance of Dragons’ marks the passing of an age.

Definitely one for fans then but ‘The Princess and the Queen’ also feels like a good jumping on point for anyone who just watches ‘Game of Thrones’ and wants to know what GRRMs writing is like without getting into a multi-volume epic. Of course, that would currently mean you buying a massive anthology but, you know what I mean… ;o)

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