If you're really into Game of Thrones and/or A Song of Ice and Fire, we've got something you'll want to see.
Author George R. R. Martin has been hard at work on the sixth volume in his bestselling series, The Winds of Winter, for several years now, but it's not the only Ice and Fire book in the works. Martin's also been collaborating with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson -- founders of the beloved Westeros.org fansite and exhaustively knowledgeable Song of Ice and Fire fans -- to create The World of Ice and Fire, the "definitive companion" to Martin's massive world that will chronicle its history, with the help of extensive illustrations, from the present day all the way back to what's been dubbed "The Dawn Age." If you just can't get enough of Westeros and its history and culture, this might just be the next indispensible volume to add to your library.
Yesterday, Martin released an excerpt from The World of Ice and Fire on his website, and it chronicles one of the most important periods in the history of the Seven Kingdoms: Aegon's Conquest. For those of you who don't know or who may just be a little fuzzy on that phrase, the "Aegon" in question is Aegon Targaryen, who eventually became Aegon I, the first king of a united Seven Kingdoms. Three hundred years before the events of A Game of Thrones, Aegon planned and executed a massive conquest of Westeros with the help of his sisters/wives Visenya and Rhaenys, and the family's three dragons, including Aegon's own dragon: the legendary beast known as Balerion the Black Dread (the image above is "Aegon on Black Dread" by artist J. Gonzalez, and will probably be featured in the book). Aegon's Conquest marks the beginning of Targaryen rule in Westeros, and of the system of government that's in place at the beginning of the Song of Ice and Fire series proper. It's also an epic story in its own right.
The excerpt Martin posted stops just short of documenting any of the battles fought during the conquest (for that, you'll have to buy the book, I guess), but it does provide background for how the Targaryen family first settled in Westeros, what ties they had to the legendary Doom of Valyria, and how and why Aegon planned his conquest in the first place. Here's a small snippet:
"The Aegon who is known to history as Aegon the Conqueror and Aegon the Dragon was born on Dragonstone in 27 BC. He was the only son, and second child, of Aerion, Lord of Dragonstone, and Lady Valaena of House Velaryon, herself half-Targaryen on her mother’s side.
"Aegon had two trueborn siblings; an elder sister, Visenya, and a younger sister, Rhaenys. It had long been the custom amongst the dragonlords of Valyria to wed brother to sister, to keep the bloodlines pure, but Aegon took both his sisters to bride. By tradition, he was expected to wed only his older sister, Visenya; the inclusion of Rhaenys as a second wife was unusual though not without precedent. It was said by some that Aegon wed Visenya out of duty and Rhaenys out of desire.
"All three siblings had shown themselves to be dragonlords before they wed. Of the five dragons who had flown with Aenar the Exile from Valyria, only one survived to Aegon’s day: the great beast called Balerion, the Black Dread. The remaining two dragons — Vhagar and Meraxes — were younger, hatched on Dragonstone itself."
(Via George R.R. Martin)