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“Battles, bloodshed, betrayals, love, lust, horror, religious wars, politics, incest, historical revision,” oh, my!
George R.R. Martin, the author behind the A Song of Ice and Fire saga on which HBO’s Game of Thrones is based, has promised all of these things and more in his next new book set in the world of Westeros — albeit, not the book so many fans have been waiting for since 2011.
Martin has announced a Nov. 20 publication date for “Fire & Blood,” a new book he describes as “imaginary history,” and very much “not a novel.” (He’s rather specific on that point.) The book, which is part one of a planned two-part series, delves into the history of Westeros in greater detail, focusing on the reign of seven different Targaryen kings — including Aegon the Conqueror, the first of Daenerys‘ ancestors to sit upon the Iron Throne.
Here’s the bad news: Martin also confirmed that “The Winds of Winter,” the sixth novel (emphasis on novel) in the Ice and Fire series from which Thrones takes its cues, will not arrive in 2018. The most recent installment in the series, A Dance With Dragons, was released in summer 2011, leaving fans with the cliffhanger of Jon Snow’s fatal stabbing at the hands of the Night’s Watch. Nobody knows yet how Martin plans to resolve that story thread and others, though Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss have certainly offered up their version of events.
While it was already suspected, Martin’s revelation that “Winds of Winter” will definitively not arrive in 2018 all but confirms a sad inevitability for fans of the novels, the first of which was published in 1996: Short of a miracle, Game of Thrones will conclude before the book series on which the show is based.
Martin’s announcement means “Winds of Winter” will release in 2019 at the earliest, possibly marking eight years or more since the publication of the most recent novel. “A Game of Thrones,” the first book in the series, was published in 1996, followed by “A Clash of Kings” in 1998 and “A Storm of Swords” in 2000. The fourth book in the series, “A Feast for Crows,” arrived on shelves five years later in 2005, focusing on Jaime and Cersei Lannister and a few other well-known Thrones figures, but not the major players: Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister.
Due to the increasing size of the novel, Martin decided to excise the stories of Jon, Dany, Tyrion and others from “Feast,” saving them instead for “A Dance With Dragons,” his fifth of seven planned novels in the Ice and Fire series. In a now infamous afterward called “Meanwhile, Back on the Wall…” at the end of “Feast,” Martin wrote: “Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Stannis and Melisandre, Davos Seaworth, and all the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in ‘A Dance With Dragons.'” The message is dated June 2005; “A Dance With Dragons” came out in 2011.
Since then, Martin has stopped short of promising a specific release date for any future books in the series, including “Winds of Winter.” As Game of Thrones trucked along on HBO with one season a year, the threat of Benioff and Weiss’ adaptation not only catching up with but surpassing Martin’s story became increasingly real. In 2016, months before the release of season six, destined to contain material that had yet to occur in the Ice and Fire novels, Martin provided what he prefaced as a disappointing update for those hoping “Winds of Winter” would land first.
“‘The Winds of Winter’ is not finished,” he wrote in January 2016. “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.” Martin went on to add that he would not specify a date for when to expect the novel: “I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out.”
Given that history, the author has been very careful not to announce publication dates prematurely, which is why his reveal of “Fire & Blood’s” November arrival is good news for readers who wish to spend more time in the Seven Kingdoms — even if not quite as exciting as a new novel centered on Jon, Tyrion, Daenerys and the gang.
With that said, Martin’s new work set in Westeros could very well provide fuel for future live-action adaptations. HBO and Martin are developing numerous Game of Thrones prequels with various different writers, including longtime Thrones writer and producer Bryan Cogman. There’s no news yet on which of these prequels will become a reality, if any, nor is there news on what the stories will cover. But in his announcement of “Fire & Blood,” Martin addresses the obvious question.
“I know I am going to be asked whether [the potential prequels] are going to be based on material from Fire & Blood,” he writes. “It’s a logical question. The only answer I can give is… ah, well, no one is sure yet, and anyway, I am not allowed to say. So let’s move that to the side.”
Not a confirmation, not a denial — and frankly, “Fire & Blood” has a certain ring to it as a Thrones successor. The content of the series certainly contains some extraordinarily exciting events for those who know their Westeros lore. Aegon’s initial conquest could span a full series on its own, let alone inviting other stories from further down the Targaryen line (“Fire and Blood” is the motto of House Targaryen). The second part of “Fire & Blood,” which won’t see release for another few years by Martin’s account, will likely include histories about Dunk and Egg, the two heroes at the heart of Martin’s Ice and Fire prequel novellas.
What’s more, Martin says he plans to use “Fire & Blood” as a means of chronicling “Aegon’s Conquest to Robert’s Rebellion,” the conflict that transformed the shape of the Seven Kingdoms mere years before the start of Game of Thrones. Many have assumed that the story of Robert Baratheon becoming king would never stand as the focus of its own prequel series; perhaps those assumptions are unfounded. Or perhaps this one is.
Regardless, Martin offers this tantalizing tease for fans of his fantasy universe: “[T]here are enough stories here for twenty novels.” How about 20 shows? A fan can dream, if not of spring.
What are your expectations for Martin’s new book? Sound off in the comments section below and keep checking THR.com/GameOfThrones for more coverage.
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