Despite early hand-wringing by some Game of Thrones fans, HBO has again created an excellent adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s work with House of the Dragon. The series depicts the so-called “Dance of the Dragons,” the first civil war of the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros as described in Martin’s fictional historical novel, Fire & Blood.
Fire & Blood is not like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in that there are no point-of-view characters. Instead, it’s a history of the Targaryen dynasty as written by a maester of the Citadel long after the events transpired. It covers hundreds of years of that history, and the HBO series depicts only a segment, but there are still very important details in the book’s pages that will affect the show dramatically.
Fire & Blood is a history book that uses a variety of sources, some seemingly trustworthy and others more dubious. Two of the major primary sources for the Dance of the Dragons sections are Septon Eustace and a court jester named Mushroom. The holy man and the dwarf both recorded the events of the war but often offer differing versions of what happened.
As is true of real-life historians, the in-universe author of Fire & Blood admits he doesn’t always and can’t know what is actually true. This is an important note to remember as House of the Dragon continues. Events may be changed from the book, but because the “facts” as presented in the book are up for debate, details that the show adds don’t necessarily contradict the book’s canon even when they seem to.
Age Of The Targaryen Dynasty
Something that is not well referenced in House of the Dragon but that hovers over Fire & Blood is how young the Targaryen dynasty still is at the start of the Dance of the Dragons. Viserys I is the great-great-grandson of Aegon the Conqueror, reigning only about 100 years after his ancestor conquered the Seven Kingdoms. Nearly every other important house in House of the Dragon is more ancient than their ruler.
This is important to note because these old houses will have experienced centuries of infighting and shifting dynasties, so a civil war would not be a novel experience for them. The Targaryens, on the other hand, have been more or less united since leaving Valyria. A split of such a magnitude in their family is not only dangerous but unprecedented.
The True Main Opponents
Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen have been successfully built up as the main characters of House of the Dragon in season one. Their friendship turned to bitter rivalry is the start of the Dance of the Dragons, and even their clothing choices are used to separate the dividing court, Greens vs. Blacks.
But in Fire & Blood, the eventual war does not necessarily see Alicent go head-to-head with Rhaenyra. It is Rhaenyra vs, Aegon II that is the real battle for the throne, as they are the two characters who could actually sit upon it. Show watchers may be surprised how much more important the young prince becomes in the next season.
At the end of episode seven of the first season of House of the Dragon, Otto Hightower explains how important it is that the Greens have Vhagar the dragon on their side. The power of dragons cannot be understated, and while their importance has slowly been building over the course of the series, Fire & Blood details their significance even more.
There remain a number of dragons that have still not appeared who are very important to the battles to come. Book readers will already know other dragons, not only those bonded to Targaryens but also the wild dragons Grey Ghost, Sheepstealer, and the Cannibal, still elsewhere in Westeros, waiting to make their debuts.
House of the Dragon fans would do well to keep in mind one important detail from the early episodes of the season. Mysaria, Daemon’s paramour from Essos, will have a much bigger role to play if the show runners plan on following the story of Fire & Blood.
The dancer from Lys plays a much bigger role in the rest of the Dance of the Dragons, and she could be the first sign of the Blacks growing willingness to commit atrocities against the Greens. Her story has already been shown to be sad, but her part in the war will become more tragic.
The Power Of The Velaryons
When Aegon the Conqueror took Westeros, his foremost allies were the Velaryons, another ancient house of Old Valyria. This made the house among the most powerful political players in Westeros, and Corlys Velaryon, aka the Sea Nake, made his house the richest in the realm.
This great family is almost as important to the Dance of the Dragons as the Targaryens themselves. It’s an important detail to remember that the Velaryons are not “vying” for the throne in the same way the Hightowers and Lannisters are, but whichever side they back will have a much greater chance of victory.
The Starks Exist
There has been only one brief mention of the Stark family in House of the Dragon. Rickon Stark appeared to pay Rhaenyra homage in the premiere but since then audiences have not seen anyone from the main house of Game of Thrones. Readers of Fire & Blood will note the detail that is his son Cregan who rules the North during the Dance of the Dragons.
House Stark, like it was in Game of Thrones, is one of the most powerful house in Westeros but for the most part stays out of the politics of Kings Landing. However, the Dance of the Dragons will force Cregan Stark’s hand. He and his formidable army eventually will become embroiled in the war. It may take a while for the North’s arrival, but viewers should not forget about House Stark, as it has a major role to play.
Larys Strong’s Story
Larys Strong, aka “the Clubfoot,” is one of the most mysterious characters in House of the Dragon. He appears to be loyal to Alicent Hightower, but his callousness and willingness to kin-slay means he can’t be trusted. Book readers should remember an important detail about the Lord Confessor, and it is that historical details about him are few and far between.
Larys is one of the least developed characters in Fire & Blood and his actions in the show have been invented and put to great use by an unnerving performance from Matthew Needham. The last line about the man is that no one, not even the writers of the book, can be sure of his true goals and loyalties. Larys’ story can go in almost any direction through the rest of the series.
Next: House Of The Dragon Characters Compared To Their Fire & Blood Counterparts