No spoilers here: The land north of the Wall, from "The Lands of Ice and Fire" (Bantam)
No spoilers here: A glimpse of the lands to the north of the Wall, from a map included in “The Lands of Ice and Fire” (Bantam)

I’m well into “A Feast for Crows” — book 4 of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” epic — and I’ve lost my breath and had my heart broken countless times by this series. Oh, I know, there’s plenty more to come, but I need to be careful: The surprises can be ruined if you don’t watch out.

If you relish this series, you’ll find it difficult not to buy everything else connected to the series, and that can only mean one thing: Read related works at your own risk for spoilers abound. Here are a few Martinesque items to consider for your bookshelves … along with my advice:

“The Lands of Ice and Fire” (Bantam):  Even imaginary landscapes need to be treated like real places — J.R.R. Tolkien demonstrated that with his sketches of scenes and maps for “The Hobbit.” The same is also true of George R.R. Martin’s tale. Until now, the only maps of Martin’s heroic world have been mostly simple: black-and-white sketches included in the volumes of the series. Or else you might check out images of Norway — kindly supplied at Ajaytao’s blog — to get some idea of what the frozen country located to the north of the Wall is really like for Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch

This is  a lovely collection of maps that gives us Westeros along with the rest of the surrounding continents in vivid, topographical detail. I’ll admit that I picked up one of the maps, “Beyond the Wall,” hoping for some additional clues about The Others. No luck. While this map doesn’t reveal any of Martin’s secrets, one thing is certainly true: It’s too bad Lord Snow didn’t have this one in his pocket when he went out in search of Wildlings!

Verdict: Dig up every gold dragon that you can find and buy this!

“Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ ” (BenBella Books): I wish I could say the same thing about “Beyond the Wall,” but I can’t.  It has nothing to do with the quality of this book: Editor James Lowder has assembled a great collection of essays by a variety of authors who celebrate Martin’s saga.  But this book is the dessert once the main meal has been eaten — if you’re not finished with Book 5, this book is liable to ruin your experience of getting there.  I grabbed a copy of this book, opened to its table of contents and felt my heart skip a beat.

Verdict: Ok, buy this book, but shelve it … and be patient!

“A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official ‘Game of Thrones’ Companion” (Bantam): I love this book because it shows us how to make all those wildly strange dishes digested by kings and queens, bannermen, maesters and simple folk. The authors present us with a superb collection of recipes so that you can bring the meals of Westeros into your own home.

Verdict: A great book, but be careful — each recipe is accompanied by a quotation selected from books 1 – 5.  These aren’t lethal spoilers, but they can sometimes drop hints that you wish you hadn’t seen.

“Epic: Legends of Fantasy” (Tachyon): This collection of stories by epic novelists — including Rothfuss, Le Guin, etc. — includes a story by George R.R. Martin called “The Mystery Knight.”  Martin gives us an extended story of Westeros that precedes our introduction to Lord Eddard Stark and his wolf clan.

Verdict: No spoilers here, but a great tale to occupy your time as you await Book 6.

Any other books that we should know about? All you citizens of Westeros — please, let me know!


  1. Oh. I’ve heard a lot about this series, but it seems so long that I am afraid I won’t finish it. Is it that interesting?

  2. It’s definitely interesting, but not for every reader. At first, I was intimidated by the size of the series, but the first few pages intrigued me and I just kept going. It’s a good story if you love history, especially English medieval history, but it’s also a big time commitment. I think that’s why I appreciate your posts on your blog: you’re directing readers to a lot of cool titles that won’t take several years to read!

  3. You know, I included that book in my list, but for some reason I dropped the most important word from the title “Cookbook”! Sorry about that — it’s the one titled “A Feast of Ice and Fire.”

    Sounds like you may own that book. If you were brave enough to try any of the recipes (like snail soup), let me know how it turned out!

  4. I love history and English medieval story. But like you, I am intimidated by its size. I hope I can shut down everything for a year and catch-up with my reading.

    Thanks for your kind words.You are free to select some titles in my site as a breather, you know.

  5. I agree with you — the black-and-white maps in the books (created by James Sinclair) are pretty complete in showing us all the towns, routes, ruins, etc. of Westeros.

    On the other hand, those maps are also pretty flat and two-dimensional. I was blown away by the book of maps: Not just what’s beyond the wall, but also by another map called ‘The Known World’ — we get to see Westeros in the context of all the other continents and distant lands, and it’s really amazing.

    I’ve always had trouble imagining the size of Westeros from Sinclair’s maps, but the ones in this collection of maps really do give a better sense of scale. I’d definitely dig in my pocket to get it if I were you — and then tape up a few of them in one of the rooms of your house (if the rest of the family gives permission, of course!).

    I wanted to upload an image of this map to my reply, but there’s no upload function here. So, go to google images and you should be able to find a version. Very very cool.

  6. On your heart being broken.
    Fantasy writers conference. Joan Rowling complains about the difficulties she faced when she had to kill off one of the lead characters. “You know”, says George Martin, “you really shouldn’t be here among us”.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s