The next installment in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga is long, long, long overdue, at least according to fans of the book series. Thankfully, we’re finally getting some solid intel about the next book installment, The Winds of Winter, as Game of Thrones winds down on HBO. With the TV series officially diverging from the books, it’s a safe bet that readers will return to the world of Westeros with some favorite characters still hanging around and some big story arcs still going on, but what really awaits readers in The Winds of Winter?
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Here’s what longtime readers and fans of ASOIAF can expect from GRRM’s next installment, including the expected release date, plot, spoilers, currently available chapters, and all the latest news.
What Does The Winds of Winter Cover Look Like?
We’ve known since 2016 what the cover of the upcoming installment, The Winds of Winter, will look like. Confirmed by GRRM, the cover will be all black and feature the Horn of Winter, the legendary instrument that is apparently able to bring down the Wall and allow the White Walkers to travel south. If the Horn of Winter does, in fact, figure into the book (and considering it’s the only thing on the cover, it’s a safe bet it does), then we can consider this the first notable way the books will begin to diverge from the TV series. It’s unclear if GRRM will still turn one of Daenerys’ dragons into an ice dragon, but expect the Horn of Winter (which, to date, hasn’t appeared on the show) to figure into the plot somewhere.
When Is the The Winds of Winter Release Date? Is It in 2019?
This has been the million dollar question on the lips of every fan since A Dance With Dragons was released in 2011. GRRM has been candid and seemingly apologetic about the delayed release of the book, telling The Guardian in November 2018, “I’ve been struggling with it for a few years. The Winds of Winter is not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players, antagonists, allies, and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together against the march of time in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging. Fire and Blood, by contrast, was very simple. Not that it’s easy — it still took me years to put together — but it is easier.
A bit of controversy over the release date occurred in May 2019 when Game of Thrones actor Ian McElhinney, who played Barristan Selmy on the show, claimed during an EpicCon 2019 interview that GRRM had finished The Winds of Winter and the reported follow-up, A Dream of Spring, but that HBO had ordered him to wait to release them until Game of Thrones Season 8 had finished. GRRM swiftly responded on his blog, Not a Blog, shortly after the interview was posted to refute McElhinney’s claims, saying, “No, THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING are not finished. Dream is not even begun; I am not going to start writing volume seven until I finished volume six.”
Martin struck down McElhinney’s claims about HBO’s alleged orders to Martin about publishing the books, writing later in the blog post that “HBO did not ask me to delay them. Nor did David [Benioff] & Dan [Weiss]. There is no “deal” to hold back on the books. I assure you, HBO and David & Dan would both have been thrilled and delighted if THE WINDS OF WINTER had been delivered and published four or five years ago… and NO ONE would have been more delighted than me.”
At this point, you can start to exhale, because there’s no point in continuing to hold your breath waiting for GRRM to give you the exact date and time The Winds of Winters will be released. Fingers crossed, we could see it in the next year or two, but truly, your guess is as good as ours.
Which Character POVs Will We Be Reading About?
To date, GRRM has released nine chapters of The Winds of Winter for the public to read, likely as a way to ease frustration from readers about the book’s very delayed release date. A majority of the chapters exist on the World of Ice and Fire app, but you may also have to do some Googling to find excerpts or full chapters.
Based on what GRRM has released, the following points of view will be explored: Sansa Stark (who is still going by “Alayne” in the books), Arya Stark, Arianne Martell (who was cut out entirely from the TV show), Aeron Greyjoy (Euron Greyjoy’s brother who briefly appeared on the show but has never been developed), Victarion Greyjoy (another of Euron’s brothers who was cut out of the show), Theon Greyjoy, Tyrion Lannister, and Barristan Selmy (who was killed off on the show but is still kickin’ around in the books).
Are There Any Similarities Between The Winds of Winter and Game of Thrones ?
Currently, the books and the TV series are on two different paths.
GRRM is reportedly okay with Game of Thrones series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss taking the show’s story in another direction and making new decisions about the fate of each character. Per comments made at the Sasquan sci-fi convention in 2015:
“There was a period where I was worried about [the show diverging from the books]. Then I said, to hell with that. Worrying about it isn’t going to change it one way or another. I still sit down at the typewriter, and I have to write the next scene and the next sentence … I’m just going to tell my story, and they’re telling their story and adapting my books, and we shall see.”
That said, we know that A Dance With Dragons ended where Game of Thrones Season 5 ended: the death of Jon Snow. Additionally, The Winds of Winter is not only the title of the sixth book, but it’s also the title of the Season 6 finale. If you recall, that’s the episode where Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor with wildfire, killing Margaery and Loras Tyrell, as well as most of the nobility in King’s Landing. There’s been no confirmation from GRRM yet, but The Winds of Winter will at least have to deal with Jon Snow’s death and could possibly include Cersei’s wildfire shenanigans.
Okay, So What Else Do We Know About ‘The Winds of Winter’ Plot?
Other than these aforementioned plot points from the show, you can be confident that the books will continue to do their own thing. Apparently, a controversial Sansa POV chapter will be included, so brace yourself for possibly unexpected developments with the eldest Stark daughter. You can also expect to see more of Arianne Martell and Dorne (a character and kingdom that have been mostly excluded from the TV series but which GRRM clearly loves).
Finally, we know based on comments from GRRM that characters who are dead on the show will not be dead in the books. As he revealed in 2017:
“Winds of Winter will be different in some ways, but will parallel the show in others. At this point, there are probably a dozen characters who are dead on the show but alive in the books, so it would be impossible for the two to remain the same.”
This could mean that pivotal characters like Mance Rayder, Stannis Baratheon, or even Catelyn Stark (who currently exists as Lady Stoneheart in the books but hasn’t been resurrected on the show) will potentially still be featured prominently in The Winds of Winter.
Does George R. R. Martin Have Any Other Books Planned in the Series?
It’s been known for some time that ASOIAF will be comprised of seven novels. With The Winds of Winter set to be the sixth in the series, fans can expect the seventh, currently titled A Dream of Spring, to follow. But don’t you dare even think about tweeting at GRRM about when A Dream of Spring is coming out because he hasn’t even begun to write the final book, and it could be a while before he starts.
All we know at this point is that it will definitely diverge from the Game of Thrones series finale in some big ways.