The next installment in Martin’s series is The Winds of Winter. The book is long overdue, but thankfully, there’s enough information — including where the HBO series left us and what it could mean for the final two books — to keep readers occupied until The Winds of Winter is released. Among the information we have is news about how a shocking series finale choice could also be included in Winds of Winter, as casually revealed by actor Isaac Hempstead Wright in late May 2019.
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So, what’s the complete 411 on Winds of Winter and GRRM’s plans for the ending of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga? Here’s everything we know, 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 Martin, the cover will be 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 Martin 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. Martin 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 for The Winds of Winter 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 Martinhad 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.
Martin 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 Martin 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 Characters Will Be in The Winds of Winter?
To date, Martin 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 Martin 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).
Did a Game of Thrones Actor Really Spoil How the Books End?
Speaking with Making Game of Thrones actor Isaac Hempstead Wright, who played Bran Stark on Game of Thrones, seemed to imply that Bran would also become king in Winds of Winter or the planned final book A Dream of Spring. Per Hempstead Wright, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed via GRRM two major Bran-centric plot points that would happen on the show and in the books.
“[Creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] told me there were two things [author] George R.R. Martin had planned for Bran, and that was the Hodor revelation, and that he would be king. So that’s pretty special to be directly involved in something that is part of George’s vision. It was a really nice way to wrap it up.”
Just because Hempstead Wright has implied that Bran will become king because GRRM once decreed it so doesn’t mean that plans for Bran’s literary future will change. With no confirmation or comment from GRRM about whether Bran will become king in the books too, this is just one more loose end readers will be clamoring to have tied up.
Is There Any Other Overlap Between The Winds of Winter and Game of Thrones ?
We know that Martin was 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. But that doesn’t mean Martin will stick to what Benioff and Weiss chose to do with his characters and simply regurgitate the show in novel form.
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. 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 Martin yet, but The Winds of Winter will at least have to deal with Jon Snow’s death and likely resurrection and could possibly include Cersei’s wildfire stunt.
It’s unclear if Martin will include any plot points or general story arcs from seasons 7 and 8 in The Winds of Winter. Martin has teased in the past that he had always had three shocking reveals planned out for the book series, including Shireen Baratheon’s death and the origin story behind Hodor and “Hold the Door.” It’s entirely possible Game of Thrones sought Martin’s counsel to incorporate the final shocking moment (the death of Dany or Bran being crowned king, as seen in the series finale?) in the show and it will be seen once again in The Winds of Winter.
It’s also possible that major arcs or pivotal plot points from seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones, like Dany’s campaign to reclaim the throne or the impending battle against the Night King, could come up in The Winds of Winter but will be handled in a different way to potentially different outcomes (e.g. Arya might not kill the Night King, Dany might not watch two of her dragons die, Jon might not find out about his true parentage from Sam, etc.).
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 Martin clearly loves). Certain memorable sequences from the show, Dany’s Battle at Meereen, which took up one-fourth of one episode in Season 6 but occupies several Winds of Winter chapters, will also get more detail in the upcoming book.
Finally, we know based on comments from Martin 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 A Song of Ice and Fire 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. This book will most likely work at the speed of Game of Thrones Season 8 in terms of wrapping up the story and hitting big beats fairly quickly. The Game of Thrones series finale hinted at the changing seasons as Bran was crowned king, the Seven Kingdoms became Six Kingdoms with Sansa taking over control of the North, Jon returning to the Wall, Arya sailing west of Westeros, and the citizens recovering from war. The title A Dream of Spring hints that a similar change of seasons as fortunes of the characters change could happen, too.
But don’t you dare even think about tweeting at Martin 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.