You’ve read all the books, you’re saddened that season two of the HBO series has concluded, and you’re left thinking the only way to get your Game of Thrones fix might be the upcoming *gulp* Facebook game. Luckily, a new collection of essays based on A Song of Ice and Fire are here to rescue you during the long wait until season three.
Beyond the Wall contains contributions from fantasy authors and science fiction experts and takes a closer look at everything from the history and timekeeping in Westeros to the recurring themes of feminism and power in the series to Petyr Baelish’s barely contained sanity. The book is kicked off with an excellent defense of the fantasy genre by the incomparable R.A. Salvatore, before launching into the essays by people like Westeros.org founders Linda Antonsson and Elio M. Garcia, Jr., authors Daniel Abraham, Susan Vaught, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, and many others. The essays are thoughtful and may cause you to rethink some of your views of the saga or give you new books to explore.
For instance, in Jesse Scoble‘s discussion, “A Sword Without a Hilt: The Dangers of Magic in (and to) Westeros”:
One of the reasons that many fans grow out of the fantasy genre is because the bookshelves have been overpopulated with unimaginative worlds recycling the same old ideas. If every adventurer has a backpack full of enchanted swords; a magic ring on every finger; and spells to hurl fireballs and magic missiles, as well as to boil coffee, and heal pimples, and maybe even raise the dead, the world becomes boring and dull because of the ubiquitous and predictable nature of the magic. That’s not the case in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Or Gary Westfahl‘s essay on fantasy prequels, entitled “Back to the Egg,” he reflects on George R.R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg series:
It might even become necessary to begin describing these prequels as the Duncan and Aegon stories, not the Dunk and Egg stories, to better reflect their burgeoning gravitas. Thus, instead of providing Martin with an alternative, lighter works to to accompany the more serious main components of the Song of Ice and Fire series, the Dunk and Egg stories have become a serious matter in themselves, a second important task that Martin must complete, on top of the original epic.
Beyond the Wall is a compelling read and provides plenty of food for thought when considering Martin’s writing. The essays cover a wide enough swath of Westeros and its inhabitants so as not to feel repetitive and the editor, James Lowder, does an exceptional job of bringing the opinions together without losing the authors’ voices. If you’re a fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series, give Beyond the Wall a look. It’s well worth the time.