Blackfyre Rising takes place in King’s Landing, the capital city of the Six Kingdoms of Westeros. The Six Kingdoms are so called because they had once been ruled separately. Aegon the Conqueror, of the Targaryen family, united the land by force of dragons almost two hundred years ago, and since that time there has been relative peace. All acknowledge the right of the Targaryens to rule.
The Six Kingdoms take up the bulk of the continent of Westeros. In the southern part of the continent is one other sovereign nation, called Dorne. Dorne names their ruler a prince rather than a king, and has been ruled by the Martell family for some thousand years. There is another continent lying across the sea to the east. Some ships cross the sea for trade, but there is little other contact with the strange eastern lands.
The Six Kingdoms of Westeros are a feudal society. Seven great houses swear fealty to the king, and control a region of Westeros. Under these seven houses are a number of lesser noble houses, known as bannermen. By law, lands and title pass to the eldest son upon the death of the lord of the house.
Fierce fire-breathing beasts, they once dominated the skies of Westeros. Each dragon belonged to a Targaryen. They were always few in number, and their numbers dwindled until there was just one left. It is said the last dragon was a small and sickly creature. It died some 35 years ago.
There is virtually no magic in Westeros. However, the eastern continent is rumored to be full of all manner of dark sorcery.
The men with medical knowledge are called Maesters. Maesters must swear an oath to serve, and give up their family name and any claim to an inherited title. Their training takes place at the great citadel in Oldtown. It consists of forging a chain, one link at a time. Each link stands for a different practice they have mastered – healing arts, astronomy, warcraft, ravens (for sending messages), etc. Maesters are always men.
Throughout Westeros, the practice of slavery is despised. Men in the Six Kingdoms (and in Dorne) have never kept slaves – all men are born free. However, it is known that in the eastern continent, slavery is common.
A great wall, hundreds of feet high, marks the far northern border of Westeros. Beyond the wall lie Wildlings, a barbarian people who would overrun the kingdom should the wall be breached. An order of men was formed, known as the Night’s Watch, to live on the Wall and keep it secure. Although some volunteer for this harsh duty, the bulk of the Night’s Watch is made up of criminals. Rapists, poachers, and the like sometimes are given a choice between the dungeons or "taking the black" and serving on the Wall. It is as much exile as anything else – men of the Night’s Watch live far from any town, and desertion from the watch means death.