Tower of the Hand

Stefan reviews The Rogue Prince

Tags: Review, TRP
6/17/2014 9:00:00 AM ET

In the newest anthology he has edited, Rogues, George R.R. Martin has included the aptly named "The Rogue Prince." As with his previous anthology, Dangerous Women - which included "The Princess and the Queen" - "The Rogue Prince" is a fragment of a much larger text about the inception of the Dance of the Dragons, the shattering Targaryen civil war that happened over 150 years before the events of the book series proper. This (shorter) issue concerns itself with the history leading up to the death of Viserys I, where "The Princess and the Queen" began, a story that, by a benign reader, might be read as being dominated by the titular rogue prince, Daemon Targaryen. Alas, I'm not benign.

rhaenyradaemon.jpgPrincess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon (Artist: Olga Maria Contreras Martinez)

"The Princess and the Queen" already posed the question whether or not it was really a short story and whether or not it concerned itself enough with the titular women to be in an anthology that explicitly had women as their main characters. To the not-so-benign reader, the answer could only be "no," but I was and am not that much into the other stories, and, as a proper fanboy, I bought the volume only to read Martin's contribution. It was full of new information and interesting pieces, and it gave plenty of food for thought and discussion, but it wasn't really a story - just a piece of background information. To advertise it as a narrative was tantamount to fraud, but I didn't really care because OHMYGODWESTEROSANDDRAGONS.

This time, it's different. Not only is "The Rogue Prince" shorter, its severed existence is also much more noticeable. Whereas "The Princess and the Queen" at least had a proper start and finish (the start of the war and its end), this story doesn't either begin or end - it just provides more information. You couldn't even call it a chapter because it just lacks any sense of closure; every normal chapter from the books is more complete unto itself than this supposed "short story."

Not that I wouldn't have ordinarily enjoyed reading it, mind you. I always want more information on Westeros, I always enjoy more adventures in this setting, and the Targaryen days of old never fail to fascinate. However, "Rogue Prince" is just too much of nothing. It provides the story of Viserys's reign, who, for all purposes, is much more of a central character than Daemon, who is, in the end, just a minor character. (Is he an important one? Yes, but more like Robb Stark in the first three books: always kind of there, but never really in the spotlight.) That's not enough for a story that's supposed to be about the guy, especially since three of his most defining moments are in the story that is supposedly about his wife. I'm usually not really quick of accusing Martin of "money-grabbing," and I won't start it now, because I'm still glad we have these stories. But they're simply not what they promise to be, and I find that a little bit startling.

That all being said, what's it about? As I stated earlier, the reign of Viserys I plays an important role, and we see how Rhaenyra was made his heir but also was immediately challenged by the ambition of Alicent Hightower, the queen in the title of the follow-up (or is that the previous?) story. The conflict between the children is explored in greater detail, as is the conflict between Viserys and the rogue prince, Daemon. Viserys seems to have been a largely harmless fellow, while Daemon is very aggressive and not really likeable - he's killing and maiming people for no reason and waging war for sport, against the Triarchy again. It's interesting to see the connections between Essos and Westeros in the early Targaryen days; they were obviously much deeper than in the contemporary Seven Kingdoms. I guess the disappearance of the dragons plays a role here, as well.

Otherwise, we don't get that much - at least, not that I really felt like it was much. And I guess that's the problem with the thing: it's just part of something bigger, and not an incredibly exhaustive part, at that. It's nice to read, yes, but it feels like someone ripped a page out of The World of Ice and Fire and arbitrarily tucked it into some anthology.

And given the number of samples and excerpts of the upcoming compendium out there, one should rightly wonder whether it's worth the trouble.

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