It’s been almost four years since HBO aired the finale of Game of Thrones, its epic fantasy adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga. The final episode of GOT left fans divided and still arguing about how the show should have ended. On the other hand, fans of the books remain wishing, at the very least, that they could say the same because Martin has yet to wrap up the show’s source material.
As of this writing, Martin has been working on his next installation of the series, The Winds of Winter, for 12 years. The much-awaited book is supposedly ASOIAF’s penultimate novel. Martin has confirmed that the series will contain seven installments, with its last book to be titled A Dream of Spring.
Martin has long given up on setting a deadline after missing each one he’s made. In 2016, the author aimed to finish The Winds of Winter to coincide with Game of Thrones’ sixth season, only to miss it again. Martin wrote in a blog post from January of that same year, "I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out."
Since then, Martin’s most promising update appeared in May 2019. In yet another blog post, the author gave fans his express permission to lock him up until he finishes The Winds of Winter: "But I tell you this — if I don’t have THE WINDS OF WINTER in hand when I arrive in New Zealand for worldcon, you have here my formal written permission to imprison me in a small cabin on White Island, overlooking that lake of sulfuric acid, until I’m done."
We have yet to receive official word of an actual publication date– but less than a thousand pages left to go sounds promising enough. That said, how much do we know about The Winds of Winter anyway? And for TV fans looking to get into the books, where did they even stop and deviate from the show? All excellent questions, and we’ve got it covered.
Where did A Dance With Dragons end?
Suppose you’re a fan of the Game of Thrones shows looking into reading the books to get a quick GOT fix (since House of the Dragon is still on break). In that case, it’s probably worth mentioning that the tv adaptation has surpassed the books by quite a lot, and many important arcs and storylines didn’t make it to the show.
In a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, Martin explained that although he had to give the showrunners the "broad strokes" of what was to come for the books in order for them to move on with the adaptation, he was "hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me."
That said, the last of the books ended with Jon Snow’s brothers in the Night’s Watch attacking him after making the unpopular decision of marching south with the Free Folk to rally against Ramsay Bolton. This places the books' current spot in the timeline at around season five of the show.
Jon's brother, Bran Stark, is also nearby and is now North of the Wall, where he is learning more about his powers with the help of the Three-Eyed Raven. As for the other Stark children, Sansa has assumed the name of "Alayne Stone" and is living in disguise in the Vale as Littlefinger’s daughter, while Arya is training to become one of the Faceless Men. The youngest of the siblings, Rickon, is still missing, and many assume he’s dead, except for Lord Wyman Manderly.
Like in the show, Cersei also does her walk of atonement and awaits her trial with Margaery Tyrell. Cersei’s son Tommen is the current king but is mainly being manipulated by Cersei’s Uncle Kevan. As for Jaime—and this is where the books significantly diverge from the show—he is with Brienne of Tarth, who leads him right to Lady Stoneheart, the undead and vengeful reanimated corpse of Lady Catelyn Stark, out for blood following the events of the Red Wedding.
Another plotline omitted from the show, but one which played an intriguing part in the books, involves Aegon Targaryen. If you can recall, towards the end of the Mad King’s reign during the sack of King’s Landing, it was mentioned that the late Crown Prince Rhaegar had two young children who were brutally murdered by the Mountain that Rides. In Dance with Dragons, Tyrion Lannister meets a boy called the "Young Griff" aboard a ship on its way to Volantis to meet Daenerys Targaryen. While on the vessel, Tyrion eventually puts two and two together and figures out that the Young Griff is actually Aegon, who survived the sack after being switched with another infant. Many fans have speculated through the years that Aegon may not exactly be Rhaegar’s son, as Martin has been known for setting up characters with hidden identities and agendas across all the books.
Daenerys was last seen flying away from Mereen but eventually encounters a group of Dothraki. Elsewhere, the Martells are plotting against the Lannisters and are hoping to forge an alliance with Daenerys, while Euron Greyjoy hopes to do the same. Now the new King of the Iron Islands, Euron—much like everyone else, is looking for Daenerys to marry her for her dragons.
What are the preview chapters for The Winds of Winters?
The past twelve years haven’t been a wholly empty abyss. Through the years, Martin has provided fans with some reprieve through eleven preview chapters, which were either personally released or read at conventions. In 2017, the writer did, however, state that he would stop releasing these sneak peeks and has since followed his promise.
The books are written using a point-of-view format and span numerous chapters. We can safely assume these 11 preview chapters are out of order. If you want to check them out, we’ve compiled links to where you can read them below:
- Theon I
- Victarion I
- Tyrion I
- Arianne I
- Barristan I
- Barristan II (This preview is a summary)
- Tyrion II
- Arya (Entitled Mercy)
- Sansa (Entitled Alayne I)
- Arianne II
- Aeron Greyjoy (Entitled The Foresaken)
What characters will be in The Winds of Winter?
In addition to the characters above, Martin has confirmed through his blog that Areo Hotah and Bran Stark will again be POV characters in The Winds of Winter. We can also probably expect more POV chapters from Cersei, Jaime, and Brienne, considering that they have had chapters told from their perspective in previous books.
Martin also confirmed the appearances of Samwell Tarly and Asha Greyjoy but made no mention as to if they will be returning as POV characters. All in all, however, Sam has had 10 chapters told from his perspective, while Asha has had four.
During the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, Martin hinted at the return of Robb Stark’s widow, Jeyne Westerling, who was omitted from the show. In the adaptation, Robb marries a healer named Talisa instead.
What can we expect from The Winds of Winter?
First and foremost is the glaring matter of whether or not Jon survives being stabbed by the brothers of the Night’s Watch. In the show, Melisandre brings him back, and we can only hope for the same in the books, because his fate has been unknown since 2011.
Martin has mentioned, however, that the sixth book will touch on all the cliffhangers from A Dance with Dragons early on. In 2012, he even confirmed that the book would open with two major battles: "I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle at Meereen—the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there."
The Battle of Ice referred to here pertains to the books’ pending Battle of Winterfell, which will see Stannis Baratheon coming head-to-head with the Boltons. The Game of Thrones show cut this arc out of season six and instead opted for the equally epic Battle of the Bastards.
Martin has also mentioned numerous times that the final two books will be significantly longer than all the previous ones.
Will the A Song of Ice and Fire books have the same ending as Game of Thrones? How much did season eight reveal about The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring?
Martin has always described himself as a "gardener" in his writing process. As a writer, he has been more inclined to develop his ideas as he goes rather than plotting everything out before writing. In a recent 2022 update, the writer confirmed that the books would end a little differently from the show:
"I have been at work in my winter garden. Things are growing… and changing, as does happen with us gardeners. What I have noticed more and more of late, however, is my gardening is taking me further and further away from the television series. Yes, some of the things you saw on HBO in GAME OF THRONES you will also see in THE WINDS OF WINTER (though maybe not in quite the same ways)… but much of the rest will be quite different. "
In the same post, the author reminded fans that several vital POV characters and plotlines never made it on the show, such as Jon Connington, Lady Stoneheart, and Young Griff, leaving a ton of surprising twists for the remaining novels.
Still, it’s also worth mentioning that the show has, on some level, spoiled The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. As explained above, Martin had to provide the showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss with the "broad strokes" and rough arcs for each of the characters as the show progressed from season six, so we can still expect at least a few similarities. A great—but unfortunate—example of this would have to be Shireen Baratheon’s tragic death, which Benioff and Weiss have suggested stemmed from Martin himself.
We’ve yet to receive any new updates from the man behind the world of ice and fire, but until then, we still have House of the Dragon, the books’ many companion novellas, and upcoming spinoffs to look forward to.