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Winter is coming… eventually.
For more than 20 years, George R.R. Martin has captivated audiences and transported them to Westeros and Essos in A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series on which Game of Thrones is based. It started as a trilogy, but eventually grew to a seven-book series as Martin expanded his epic story. To date Martin has published five of the seven planned novels. The remaining two books are titled The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, and are the sixth and seventh books in ASOIAF respectively.
The most recent novel, A Dance With Dragons, was released in 2011 shortly after Game of Thrones’ first season ended, and fans have been waiting for the next installment ever since. Thanks to the show’s massive popularity, the anticipation is higher than ever. But for those who’ve been on board since long before Daenerys Targaryen became a household name, the waiting game is nothing new. Fans waited years for A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, too.
Everyone is eager to read the next installment of course, but some fans’ fears that Game of Thrones would overtake the books have pretty much become a reality. Short of a miracle or time machine, we will see the end of Game of Thrones long before the final installment of ASOIAF hits store shelves.
Still, The Winds of Winter will have striking differences from the show. It has characters alive who are long dead on Game of Thrones, battles and events that could reveal themselves in different ways, and entire subplots that have yet to show up on HBO. (Looking at you, Young Griff.) And for those who can’t wait any longer, there are plenty of book tidbits out there to piece together.
The Winds of Winter release date
A release date for The Winds of Winter has yet to be announced, although speculation has been stoked over the years by unofficial Amazon listings and comments from those who’ve worked with Martin. As Martin has said before on LiveJournal, his preferred online platform, he’ll announce his completion of The Winds of Winter on LiveJournal when it’s finished—and not a moment before. He has since left LiveJournal, and moved communications to his personal website.
In an April 2018 blog post announcing the publication date for Fire and Blood, Martin dashed hope that The Winds of Winter would be released in 2018.
“No, winter is not coming… not in 2018, at least,” Martin wrote. “You’re going to have to keep waiting for THE WINDS OF WINTER.”
Although Martin himself mentioned the possibility that he might not publish both Fire and Blood and The Winds of Winter in 2018, the development is sure to disappoint some fans. But as Martin stressed at the end of his post, he’s going to focus on writing the book again.
“Archmaester Gyldayn [the fictitious author of Fire and Blood] is hanging up his quill for a while,” Martin said. “As for me, I’m returning once again to THE WINDS OF WINTER.”
The Winds of Winter news
Martin’s latest update on his book arrived in November 2018 as he’s in the midst of promoting Fire and Blood, and those hoping for good news will likely be disappointed. In an interview with the Guardian, Martin mentioned that he’s very conscious of Game of Thrones and ASOIAF‘s success and how much pressure is on him to deliver with The Winds of Winter.
“I’ve been struggling with it for a few years,” Martin told the Guardian. “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.”
Martin has been detailing his progress on The Winds of Winter sporadically online for years.
Despite it being the eventual source of a Winds of Winter release date, Martin’s blog isn’t really a spot for in-depth discussion. Martin will often ask fans to “please stay on topic” if they try to talk Game of Thrones or ASOIAF on a non-related post. He’ll use his blog for everything from the promotion of his work to sci-fi award discussion to his love of football. Actual updates on The Winds of Winter arrive occasionally—some of them only if you know where to look. (Hint: the comments.)
His largest update to date arrived in early 2016, nearly five years after A Dance With Dragons’ publication. It was bad news: He wouldn’t be able to publish The Winds of Winter prior to Game of Thrones’ sixth season. He cut down on attending most major conventions, hadn’t written an episode of Game of Thrones since season 4, and had several hundred pages already composed, but there wasn’t an end in sight. He wrote that he was just as disappointed as everyone else.
Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed… but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me. For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, “I have completed and delivered THE WINDS OF WINTER” on or before the last day of 2015.
But the book’s not done.
Another update posted in a comment in January 2017 was much briefer. While he’s made progress he’s not as far along as he hoped he’d be.
“I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year),” he wrote.
In the comments section of a recent blog post, Martin described The Winds of Winter as being a parallel of Game of Thrones in certain ways after one fan asked if his next book would differ from it. Martin’s essentially referring to the butterfly effect, which shows how much two stories divulge when you make an adaptation change, have characters’ fates differ from the source material, or not include them in Game of Thrones at all.
“WINDS will be different in some ways, but will parallel the show in others,” he wrote. “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. (Also, of course, there are characters in the books who have never even existed on the show, like Victarion Greyjoy, Jon Connington, Penny, Arianne Martell… )”
He also reiterated that he wouldn’t be writing any more episodes of television—Game of Thrones, the successor shows in the works he’s involved with crafting, or the newly announced Who Fears Death adaptation optioned by HBO— until after The Winds of Winter is completed.
In a July 2017 blog post, Martin revealed that he would publish the first volume of Fire and Blood, a complete fake history of the Targaryen royal family that is already “largely written,” in late 2018 or early 2019. But he also provided fans with an update on The Winds of Winter amid disputing articles claiming he already finished ASOIAF or that he hadn’t written any of Winds.
Amid that, he also offered a pinch of optimism that fans might have two books from him set in Westeros in 2018.
“I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that’s all I care to say,” Martin wrote. “Whether WINDS or the first volume of FIRE AND BLOOD will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018… and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream…”
On Jan. 15, Strand Bookstore—a famous independent bookstore located in New York—published a post to Medium that previewed 20 books readers could look forward to in 2018. Several “Honorable Mentions” were listed at the bottom of the post, including The Winds of Winter, which had a listed release date of Sept. 6 in bold. It quickly led some to question if Strand accidentally leaked the release date for The Winds of Winter early—indicating that the book would be published on Sept. 6—or if it was a giant fake out or hoax.
By Jan. 19, 2018, the language in the Medium post had changed. The original text of Sept. 6 release date attached to The Winds of Winter no longer appeared. Instead, Strand replaced it with “fingers crossed!” in parentheses without acknowledging the change.
However, that date might still be significant. On Amazon, there’s a listing for The Winds of Winter ~ Preview Collection, which collects sample chapters from The Winds of Winter into a 196-page paperback book. Instead of Bantam, the U.S. publisher of ASOIAF, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (a self-publishing platform run through Amazon) is listed as the publisher. The release date for that preview collection? Sept. 6, 2017.
Martin appeared on the cover of the Chinese version of Esquire, and in an interview conducted on Sept. 15, 2017, he talked briefly about The Winds of Winter. With the help of Google Translate (so take the translations with a grain of salt), fans have discovered that Martin discussed a character who never made it to the show but still has a big role to play in the series.
“After Catelyn’s resurrection, it was Lady Stoneheart who became a vengeful and merciless killer,” Martin said. “In the sixth book, I still continue to write her. She is an important part of the entire book.”
He also mentioned that he’s “jumping between six different projects” on any given day. While that includes The Winds of Winter, he could also be referring to Wild Cards (an anthology series he edits), Fire and Blood, any of the Game of Thrones successor shows, and other projects he has in the works.
Martin briefly touched on his progress on The Winds of Winter at the 2018 Emmys, which he attended on behalf of Game of Thrones. (He won for outstanding drama series as one of the show’s co-executive producers.) He noted that he didn’t take the time off to visit one of the show’s sets as it filmed season 8 so he could write.
“I’m working on [The Winds of Winter], and I wish I’d been done four years ago, but I’m slow and the book is very complex, although there are a lot of great distractions out there,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
The Winds of Winter cover
Martin’s publishers (Bantam Books in the U.S., HarperCollins in the U.K.) have yet to release an official book cover for The Winds of Winter, but some fans could point to one anyway.
The most famous fan cover was first posted to r/gameofthrones in 2012 as what the designer believed the Winds cover would look like. It features an intricate horn that could either be the Horn of Joramun, which wildlings believe could bring down the Wall, or Dragonbinder, a horn that will reportedly make dragons obey whoever blows it—both which could potentially play a role in the novel. It’s simple and elegant, and in that initial thread someone predicted that “this is definitely going to run around the webs as the ‘real’ cover for awhile.”
In the years since, the fan cover has become so synonymous with Winds that Martin has even used it in his post announcing that he wouldn’t be publishing the book. A comment from that same blog post from Martin appeared to indicate that the horn cover was the cover of Winds.
“Yes, for the moment,” he replied to a fan. “Though these things have been known to change.”
The Winds of Winter excerpts
Although we aren’t getting The Winds of Winter anytime soon, fans have already been able to read and hear a decent amount of it thanks to Martin.
In the years since the release of A Dance With Dragons, Martin has released numerous excerpts from The Winds of Winter one at a time on his website for fans to devour. Other excerpts have appeared as previews in newer copies of A Dance With Dragons and on official apps. Some haven’t appeared in print at all and instead were read by Martin at conventions. Thanks to diligent fans in attendance we have a good idea of what happens—even if we don’t have all of the words.
To date, Martin has released or read 11 chapters of The Winds of Winter. Here’s where you can find those chapters and dive into them, although some things might change between now and whenever The Winds of Winter is published.
Summary: Theon is a captive of Stannis Baratheon prior to the Battle of Winterfell. He witnesses Stannis negotiate with Tycho Nestoris and asks one of his men that Shireen be placed on the Iron Throne if he dies in battle.
Summary: Arianne reminisces as she travels to meet Aegon Targaryen to make an alliance with Dorne.
Summary: Victarion arrives in Meereen on his ship and reveals more about the horn his brother Euron gave him.
Release date: April 6, 2012
Event: Olympus Eastercon
POV character: Tyrion Lannister
Summary: Tyrion attempts to persuade the commander of the Second Sons—a sellsword company in Essos—to switch his allegiance back to Daenerys before ships are spotted coming into Slaver’s Bay.
Release date: Feb. 18, 2013
POV Character: Barristan Selmy
Summary: The Battle of Meereen is underway as Barristan recognizes the ships coming into Slaver’s’ Bay as belonging to the Ironmen, although he doesn’t know which Greyjoy is leading it.
Summary: Barristan Selmy (who’s still alive in the books) makes sure everything is in order before Meereen fights soldiers from Yunkai.
Summary: Tyrion is among the Second Sons as Victarion Greyjoy and his men arrive and the battle for Meereen begins. At this point, Viserion and Rhaegal are both freed.
Summary: Arya, who’s in disguise as an actress, is performing in a play that’s heavily implied as being based on events that happened in Westeros. She lures a man she knew from Harrenhal who’s part of a Westerosi envoy in attendance to her room and kills him before she needs to go onstage.
Summary: Sansa is in the midst of preparing for a tourney at the Vale when she meets the man she is to become betrothed to—and learns more about the finer art of playing the game from Littlefinger.
Summary: Arianne continues her journey toward Storm’s End to meet Aegon Targaryen. She sends one of her men in her place in case there’s something amiss.
Release date: May 29, 2016
POV character: Aeron Damphair
Summary: Aeron, one of Theon’s uncles, is kept prisoner aboard his brother Euron’s ship and physically and mentally tortured by his older brother. Confessions are made and dark memories return before Euron plans to kill Aeron by strapping him to the prow of Euron’s boat.
Partial Asha Chapter
Summary: Most of the chapters we’ve heard, read, or read about from The Winds of Winter were released by Martin through official means or read by him at conventions and events. But this particular chapter featuring Asha Greyjoy (who’s goes by Yara in Game of Thrones) is not one of those instances.
The only reason fans know it exists is because they caught the briefest of glimpses at Martin’s DOS computer screen—he writes in WordStar 4.0—during a cameo he made in a 2014 Last Week Tonight segment and fans meticulously tried to transcribe what they saw on Martin’s screen. There’s no indication that any of these few (and incomplete) paragraphs will end up in The Winds of Winter and fans have no context for the scene at hand, but it could potentially offer a little more context to some of what we’ve already read, particularly chapters involving characters in the North like her brother Theon.
The Winds of Winter POV characters
ASOIAF is told through the eyes if its many characters. Each chapter is named after a viewpoint character—or whatever guise they take on in that chapter—and everything we see is filtered through their eyes and their experiences. Each book contains a prologue (and sometimes an epilogue) from a minor viewpoint character, who usually dies in or soon after the chapter ends. The rest of the book is told through primary characters.
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While the first novel started out with limited viewpoints—the Starks (except for Robb and Rickon), Daenerys, and Tyrion—future books add even more viewpoint characters who drop out of the narrative when they die (or aren’t part of the narrative for a time).
Based off of Martin’s released chapters, we have at least eight confirmed viewpoint characters—nine if you include the unofficial Asha chapter. Chapters for other characters such as Davos Seaworth, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Connington have been confirmed (but not released) while there’s at least one Bran Stark chapter that didn’t make it into A Dance With Dragons. Other characters such as Jaime and Cersei Lannister, Melisandre, Areo Hotah, and Samwell Tarly have yet to be confirmed but are still alive, so there’s a strong possibility that at least some of them will appear as viewpoint characters.
After all of that, we’re left with Jon Snow. While Game of Thrones flat-out killed Jon properly before having Melisandre resurrect him in season 6, his fate was left up in the air at the end of A Dance With Dragons. (Martin would not confirm Jon’s death in a 2011 Entertainment Weekly interview, asking EW’s James Hibberd, “Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?”) He almost certainly will return in the books, though the circumstances may differ. But will he continue to be a viewpoint character?
Catelyn Stark, who book fans now know as Lady Stoneheart, stopped being a viewpoint character after her resurrection by Beric Dondarrion. But that might not be the case for Jon. Read in a certain light, two separate interviews with Martin via the Austin Chronicle and io9 may indicate that Martin is still working on Jon’s story and that he might continue to be a viewpoint character after he’s brought back.
The Winds of Winters spoilers
At this point, what Game of Thrones may have spoiled is all conjecture. As Martin likes to remind fans whenever Game of Thrones airs a controversial episode or when fans decry Game of Thrones spoilers: The books are the books, and the show is the show. They’re more or less telling the same story (the Game of Thrones showrunners know how ASOIAF ends), but they may not arrive at the conclusion the same exact way.
One smaller example of this is the meaning behind Hodor. It means “hold the door” in both Game of Thrones and ASOIAF, but that revelation won’t play out the same way as the heartbreaking conclusion of “The Door.”
And to be sure, Game of Thrones has already covered a portion of what will likely occur in The Winds of Winter, in a way. The Battle of the Bastards isn’t guaranteed, but other plot points may line up. (And who knows, we might actually get Cleganebowl on the page!)
There are a few things we’ve already watched on-screen that we’ll likely see play out on the page. Because of circumstances, characters removed, and the butterfly effect, it’s not as much as you’d think. Two of the big battles set up for Winds—Winterfell and Meereen—will likely play out differently in the books. We’ll almost definitely see Jon’s resurrection, although the manner may differ).
We can point to other plot points and reveals that will happen, but what’s less certain is when they’ll happen, in Winds or A Dream of Spring. It doesn’t take much of a leap to guess that Dany will eventually make her way to Westeros. Jon and Daenerys will meet at some point; “Beyond the Wall” director Alan Taylor revealed that Martin told him that “the meeting and the convergence of Jon and Dany were sort of the point of the series.”
At some point, we’ll learn that R+L=J is canon; showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss famously (and correctly) answered Martin’s question about Jon’s parents to get to adapt ASOIAF. Fans are already debating if the other factors of the Jon bombshell—that Jon is legitimate Targaryen, making him the true heir to the Iron Throne, and his real name is Aegon—are canon, but there’s certainly evidence in the books to support both of those reveals. Sansa may also be involved with Littlefinger’s eventual death in the books thanks to a line from a prophecy from the Ghost of High Heart suggesting that a maid would slay “a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”
Shireen’s death and the meaning behind “Hodor” are two “holy shit” moments Martin told Benioff and Weiss ahead of time, but it’s less clear when exactly we’ll learn about them.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.