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Blood and fire fuel the action on Game of Thrones, but the feuds between warring families run deeper than the carnage displayed on the show.
The simmering tensions between Starks and Lannisters alike are outlined in detail in Game of Thrones: The Noble Houses of Westeros, a new book from Running Press out this week, covering the events of the HBO show through its first five seasons. It’s a helpful tool for fans aiming to brush up their knowledge of the legacies left behind by fallen houses and the legends in the making from those who are still alive — and it provides insight into some of the show’s most game-changing twists, too.
Here are seven of the most interesting details gleaned from the book:
1. The Horrors of House Stark
Beginning with Eddard’s beheading and continuing as recently as Jon Snow’s demise, the Starks have been on the receiving end of some of the most tragic twists in Thrones. But this is not a new development. Noble Houses dives into the Stark family history, describing the brutal murders of both Ned’s father and brother in the lead-up to Robert’s Rebellion, not to mention his sister Lyanna’s mysterious death. Indeed, the entry on House Bolton mentions rumors “that the skins of several ancient Starks still hang in the dungeons of the Dreadfort,” so the fact that bad things are befalling the main family of Thrones is, sadly, business as usual.
2. A Twist on the Song
One of the most popular Thrones theories posits that Jon Snow’s true parents are Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, two of the figures at the heart of Robert’s Rebellion. It would put both fire and ice in Jon’s veins, and make him the product of a powerful and forbidden love — unless it wasn’t love. Most people in Westeros believe that Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna, rather than the two of them mutually agreeing to run away together, and Noble Houses backs up that exact word. Is it possible for the so-called “R+L=J” theory to still pan out, albeit without romance at the heart of the tale? Or is Noble Houses simply leaning on the popular interpretation of events within the Seven Kingdoms? The possibilities remain wide open.
3. Jon Snow’s Fate Is Revealed
There’s good news and bad news here, and we begin with the bad. Noble Houses backs up the frequent refrain that Kit Harington’s long-haired hero did not survive season five. House Stark’s family history is detailed, and Jon is described as being “murdered at Castle Black by his own men.” The phrasing answers the question about whether or not Jon Snow is dead. However, it leaves the question wide open about whether or not he’ll return from beyond the grave. Given recent marketing for season six, count on a comeback.
4. So Long Stannis
There was some ambiguity in Brienne of Tarth swinging her sword in the general direction of Stannis’ face, but Noble Houses confirms his fate with this description of Gwendoline Christie’s character: “Knowing that Stannis was responsible for the death of his brother Renly, whom she served and loved, Brienne killed Stannis.” Not a lot of wiggle room there, and even fewer reasons to believe Stannis will receive the gift of resurrection. That sound you hear is the heartbreak of book-reading fans, who now know Stannis’ fate on the show before it’s been revealed in the novels.
5. The Kiss of Death
One more confirmed kill to add to the lineup: Myrcella Baratheon is no longer with us. Joffrey’s younger sister was “rescued” from Dorne at the hands (all one of them) of her father/uncle Jaime, but a poisonous kiss from Ellaria Sand seemingly ended her life. According to Noble Houses, there’s no “seemingly” about it; she’s described as “dying of poison” in Jaime’s arms. As with Stannis, consider this another show death to scoop the A Song of Ice And Fire series.
6. Meet The Freys
We haven’t seen hide nor hair of Walder Frey since the morning after the Red Wedding in season three, but they’re painted in detail here in Noble Houses. The book gives names to several members of House Frey, including Black Walder Rivers, the bastard son of the wretched Lord Frey, and the man who slit Catelyn Stark’s throat at the end of “Rains of Castamere.” Now fans have a name to associate with the despicable face of Catelyn’s killer.
7. The Beauty of Westeros
It’s easy to look at Game of Thrones and see little else beyond destruction and decay, especially as winter marches upon the land, and as each of the noble houses of Westeros works tirelessly toward dismantling one another. But Noble Houses highlights the exquisite beauty of the realm, too, specifically by highlighting the wardrobes and artifacts featured throughout Thrones. For example, the wicked Ramsay Bolton wields a sword with a flayed man as its handle; a disgusting concept, but beautifully rendered by the Thrones art department. The book is loaded with similar forms of eye candy, enough to keep fans flipping through pages for weeks and weeks.
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