‘Game of Thrones’: What We Learned From ‘The Winds of Winter’

While our collective attention has been focused on HBO’s Game of Thrones, let us not forget, Season 6 is based (at least loosely) on a yet-to-be-released novel from George R.R. Martin. It’s been five years since the last book in his Song of Ice and Fire series released, and now for the first time ever, the TV series has outpaced its source material. We still don’t have an official release date for that sixth book, titled The Winds of Winter, although there are persistent rumors that say it could come out soon.

[Update, 9/6/16: An Amazon France listing for  ‘The Winds of Winter’ indicates that the book will be released in March 2017 — not long before ‘Game of Thrones’ will likely return for its seventh season.]

More recently, George R.R. Martin provided an update on his progress on The Winds of Winter via his official blog: “Not done yet, but I’ve made progress,” wrote the author. “But not as much as I hoped a year ago, when I thought to be done by now. I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year).” [Update, 1/11/17: Added update from George R.R. Martin’s official blog.]

Stoking the flames of that chatter is a released chapter, posted by Martin himself to his personal website. The excerpt is told from the perspective of Arianne Martell, princess of Dorne and heir to the seat at Sunspear occupied by Prince Doran. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you as a non-reader, that’s because Arianne was cut from the HBO series, as part of the show’s massive overall of the Dorne plot arc. That’s not all that was changed for television either, so let’s break down the new material, shall we?

1. No really, they changed everything about Dorne

Dorne - Game of Thrones

FYI, this didn’t happen in the books | Source: HBO

Of all the various stories and perspectives featured in George R.R. Martin’s novels, few are as maligned and confusing as Dorne’s. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were likely all too aware of this, and made a concerted effort to change just about everything about the Land Where Exciting Stories Go to Die. Unfortunately, their version of events on Game of Thrones is even worse than what we got in the books. But we digress.

For all you non-readers out there, in the books, Dorne is currently weighing their options, trying to determine whether or not they should join a small rebellion against the Iron Throne started by Lord Connington (more on him soon). Prince Doran has sent his heir, Princess Arianne Martell, to survey the situation, get a gauge of how serious the rebels are, and to report back her findings. The excerpt details her journey with the Golden Company, sellswords from Essos hired by Connington to fight his rebellion. She’s joined too by Elia Sand, a bastard daughter of Oberyn also axed from the TV series (in the books, Oberyn has eight total daughters).

2. Lord Connington

Lord Connington - Game of Thrones

Lord Connington is a large character left out of the TV series | Source: Winteriscoming.net

A TV series juggling upward of five to six separate stories on a weekly basis is bound to cut something from the even-more-dense source material. The most significant “something” HBO opted not to use was the story of Lord Jon Connington. Connington was Hand of the King to Aerys II during Robert’s Rebellion, before he was exiled to Essos following a crushing military defeat at the Battle of the Bells. When he shows up again in the books, he’s escorting Tyrion Lannister to Meereen to meet Daenerys Targaryen, secretly contracting greyscale after a run-in with the Stone Men (a role filled by Ser Jorah Mormont on the TV series).

Fast forward to The Winds of Winter, and Connington has abandoned his quest to meet Queen Daenerys, and has instead conscripted the Golden Company to lead a rebellion against the Iron Throne. While he doesn’t appear directly in the new excerpt, rumor has it that he’s taken Storm’s End by force (the ancestral home of House Baratheon). Now, he’s about to meet a Tyrell army in battle, and requests the presence of Arianne Martell before the siege begins in order to ensure her safety.

3. There is another Skywalk– *ahem* … Targaryen

House Targaryen - Game of Thrones

House Targaryen lives on even stronger in the books | Source: HBO

Martin’s Winds of Winter excerpt refers a couple times to Lord Connington’s “pet dragon.” No, there isn’t a fourth dragon running around in the books, but there is another Targaryen. As it turns out, Viserys and Daenerys weren’t the only relatives of Rhaegar to escape Westeros following Robert’s Rebellion. There was a third child, the infant Prince Aegon, who was stolen away across the narrow sea by Varys. Aegon is now in the care of Connington, known more commonly as “Young Griff” to hide his identity.

In the lore of Martin’s novels, Prince Aegon is the only Targaryen currently in Westeros (sorry guys, Jon Snow is still book-dead until further notice). This makes him the biggest and most immediate threat to take the Iron Throne, and with the Lannisters’ attention otherwise occupied, the time to strike is now. Connington and his young ward have control of Storms End, and they’re ready to continue their conquest of Westeros. The only question now is whether Dorne will lend their support to the cause. Arianne Martell will be the final word on that matter, and once we get the rest of The Winds of Winter, we’ll know what she decides.

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