Martin, who occasionally posts excerpts from his other books like The Winds of Winter on his blog, preempted the post by noting that the section he was debuting was brand new. Other parts of Fire and Blood’s first volume—a chronology of House Targaryen’s reign from Aegon the Conqueror to the Dance of the Dragons that is told from the perspective of Archmaester Gyldayn—have been published and excerpted before in fantasy anthologies and the world-building history of Westeros and Essos, The World of Ice and Fire.
This excerpt takes place around 58 AC (After the Conquest) and during the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen, but it particularly focuses on his wife, Alysanne Targaryen, who’s best known for giving 25 additional leagues of land to the Night’s Watch after she traveled to Castle Black. The gift, which she did after she and her dragon Silverwing visited the Wall, thoroughly pissed off the Starks, who had previously owned that land.
While we’ll have to wait to see how exactly that incident played out, we’re given insight into the beginnings of that journey. Jaehaerys and Alysanne had both planned to visit Lord Alaric Stark in Winterfell, but Jaehaerys is held back to negotiate peace between the Free Cities of Pentos and Tyrosh. Alysanne goes alone to represent her husband, which brings her to White Harbor (home of House Manderly) and Winterfell before going to the Wall. In both locations, she uses her wit and charm to disarm the men around her from their antiquated and lofty expectations about how a queen would act. She’s not particularly malicious, but she proves that she’s willing to listen and entertain new ideas. She’s also a perfectly well-mannered and respectable house guest.
But Martin has another trick or two up his sleeve. Fans have theorized that the timing behind the release of chapters featuring Alayne (Sansa Stark in disguise) and Arianne Martell to be a dig at something in Game of Thrones—like how the show’s handled or flat-out cut those characters’ stories. This particular chapter, which arrived a little over a week after Game of Thrones’ multiple Emmy wins, could be interpreted as knocking at some of season 7’s creative choices toward the end of the season.
The show has been criticized by fans and critics alike over the episode “Beyond the Wall” for how it ignores all rules in storytelling in regards to time. Toward the end of the episode, Daenerys Targaryen traveled beyond the Wall to rescue Jon Snow and his friends from a swarm of wights, arriving in near-record time after receiving a letter from Gendry. Even for a fantasy series, one in which Martin kept matters like distance and time vague so his readers wouldn’t correct him, it was a stretch.
Fire and Blood appeared to allude to this on two occasions. When describing Alysanne’s travel to the Wall, Archmaester Gyldayn noted that “the distance [between Winterfell and the Wall] was not negligible, even flying,” and that traveling by dragon didn’t get her to the Wall right away. And later on, once Alysanne arrived at the Wall, she noted in a letter to Jaehaerys that not only did Silverwing not like the Wall, the dragon refused to fly north of the Wall.
A new video from Random House also debuts two different covers for Fire and Blood with Martin explaining the mechanics behind the writing of the book and how much the Targaryen family line has been affected by its long history of incest.
“They were not gods, they, they were people, but they were people with a very particular heritage and very particular abilities that could be very good and very bad,” Martin said. “Plus, it has dragons. It has a lot of dragons, at least up until Aegon III.”