If you've been waiting patiently all year for Winds of Winter, you may have to be waiting even longer. The release of The Winds of Winter has famously been delayed more times than fans can count, but this is not to say we don't have any material at all. So far we don't have an exact release date for Winds of Winter. Earlier this year, George RR Martin confirmed that he still had hundreds of pages to write before The Winds of Winter is completed and ready to publish.
Over the years, author George R. R. Martin has released a number of The Winds of Winter chapters from multiple viewpoints. While not enough to satisfy fans, these chapters have ignited our curiosity and given us something to work with while waiting. Here are the chapters we have so far:
To the disappointment of her relatively small, but dedicated fanbase, Sansa did not make an appearance in A Dance with Dragons. In A Feast for Crows, we last saw her posing as Littlefinger’s illegitimate daughter, Alayne. She has adopted that identity well, to the point that her chapters are now named accordingly… but this is not the only change about her. Reading her chapter, which was released by George R. R. Martin in 2015 as a Winds of Winter preview, we see that Sansa has come a long way. No longer naïve or frightened, and having escaped from King’s Landing, Sansa lives much happier as the de facto lady of the Vale and has made some friends:
"They made a race of it, dashing headlong across the yard and past the stables, skirts flapping, whilst knights and serving men alike looked on, and pigs and chickens scattered before them. It was most unladylike, but Alayne sound found herself laughing. For just a little while, as she ran, she forgets who she was, and where, and found herself remembering bright cold days at Winterfell, when she would race through Winterfell with her friend Jeyne Poole, with Arya running after them trying to keep up.
By the time they arrived at the gatehouse, both of them were red-faced and panting. Myranda had lost her cloak somewhere along the way. They were just in time. The portcullis had been raised, and a column of riders twenty strong were passing underneath. At their head rode Anya Waynwood, Lady of Ironoaks, stern and slim, her grey-brown hair bound up in a scarf. Her riding cloak was heavy green wool trimmed with brown fur, and clasped at the throat by a niello brooch in the shape of the broken wheel of her House."
(Credit: George R. R. Martin)
With her wit, intelligence and ability to charm, she is likely becoming a formidable player. Of course, if reading George R. R. Martin’s works has taught us anything, we should never take a character’s happiness for granted or think it will last. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Sansa.
One of the most common complaints about the HBO show is its superficial treatment of Dorne, the power seat of the Martells. Arianne, the eldest daughter, and heir of Prince Doran Martell, is arguably one of the most compelling female characters in the books; intelligent, independent, and fiercely protective of her birth-right, Arianne spent A Feast for Crows plotting to crown Myrcella Baratheon before her brother, Tommen. But as is the case with most compelling characters, Arianne has flaws, and her plan goes horribly wrong. Losing most of her friends and allies, she finally has an honest discussion with her father about his plans for the advancement of House Martell. When Doran is informed that another Targaryen – the son of Doran’s late sister – might be alive, Arianne is sent to find out more. Her Winds of Winter chapter, released on Martin’s website in 2016, finds her traveling with her cousins, the Sand Snakes, to find the young man who calls himself Aegon Targaryen. While Arianne still laments what she had lost, her indomitable spirit remains:
Whereas if I am taken, the Iron Throne will take that for proof that Dorne conspired with these sellswords, and lent aid to their invasion. “It is brave for you to seek to shield me, ser. I thank you for that.” She took his hands and drew him back to his feet. “But my father entrusted this task to me, not you. Come the morrow, I sail to beard the dragon in its den.”
(Credit: George R. R. Martin)
Arya and Sansa Stark are as different as sisters can be. But while the two have not seen each other since the first book of the series, they have one thing in common; they have been through a lot, and their struggles have changed them. In the HBO TV series, Arya reclaimed her identity. The House of Black and White and the Faceless Men, a death cult that trained her to be a nameless, faceless assassin were long behind her by the end of the show. We have yet to see if the same will happen in the books. As of A Dance with Dragons, Arya has fully embraced her life as ‘no one,’ eagerly agreeing to be assigned yet another identity.
In her Winds of Winter chapter, which is included in A World of Ice and Fire as an excerpt, Arya wears the face of Mercy, a young actress. Of course, her ultimate goal is, once again, to assassinate a man:
“‘Valar morghulis,’ Arya whispered, but Raff was dead and did not hear. She sniffed. I should have helped him down the steps before I killed him. Now I’ll need to drag him all the way to the canal and roll him in. The eels would do the rest.”
(Credit: George R. R. Martin)
We can only speculate what the future has in store for Arya, but if the pattern we have so far is any indication, more killings and more new faces are to be expected.
While the Stark sisters appear under different names even in their own chapter titles, Theon has gone back to his name, which is a relief. Theon is a deeply flawed character, but the horrible torture Ramsay Bolton inflicted on him, making him regress into the identity of a servant “Reek” was hard to read about. Having escaped with Jeyne Poole, a girl made to pose as Arya Stark, Theon is now a captive of Stannis, who died unceremoniously in the TV show, but is still alive in the books, just a little before his battle with Ramsay.
Things still don’t look good for Theon however, as Stannis plans to execute him for his crimes. But like his sister, Asha, tries to ensure that Theon will at least die with some dignity, Theon himself doesn’t seem afraid. He has found some peace returning to his real identity and considers death preferable to being recaptured by Ramsay. If Theon’s arc in the TV show is any indication, though, we can assume his journey is far from over.
“And suddenly there came a wild thumping, as the maester's ravens hopped and flapped inside their cages, their black feathers flying as they beat against the bars with loud and raucous caws. "The tree," one squawked, "the tree, the tree," whilst the second screamed only, "Theon, Theon, Theon."
Theon Greyjoy smiled. They know my name, he thought.”
(Credit: George R. R. Martin)
Like many fan favorites, Tyrion didn’t appear in A Feast for Crows. A Dance of Dragons found him escaping to Pentos, following his murder of his father, Tywin. After many misadventures and a meaningful encounter with another dwarf, named Penny, Tyrion joined the Second Sons, secretly hoping to win them to Daenerys’ side. Unlike their tv show counterparts, the two major characters have yet to meet formally in the books, but with them being close geographically, this will most likely happen in The Winds of Winter.
Martin has written at least two Winds of Winter chapters from Tyrion’s point of view. One of them was read at Miscon 2012, but there is currently no video or transcript for it. Another chapter is included in A World of Ice and Fire and follows Tyrion as he learns more about the Second Sons' actual allegiance and hopefully comes closer to meeting Daenerys.
Towards the end of A Dance with Dragons Daenerys loses control of one of her dragons, Drogon, and finds herself at a hill in the Dothraki sea, unable to return to her people. Her absence has affected many characters, including Ser Barristan Selmy, once a knight in King’s Landing, who now serves the dragon queen. In The Wind of Winter chapter, which is included in A World of Ice and Fire under excerpts Barristan and Grey Worm prepare to repel the Yunkish threat. Barristan speaks to his squires, admitting they are outnumbered, but still determined to fight. We can only hope that he will be more successful than his tv show counterpart.
Theon is not the only Greyjoy with a Winds of Winter chapter. His uncle, Aeron Greyjoy, priest to the Drowned God and the self-proclaimed prophet also makes an appearance. Following the death of Theon’s father, King Balon, the Ironborn voted for their next king among his relatives, as was their custom. When Aeron’s brother, Euron, a violent, mad pirate, managed to take the throne, the pious Aeron opposed him, not wanting a ‘godless’ man as his king. From there on, Aeron was never seen again and was presumed dead.
But The Winds of Winter finds him drugged and imprisoned by his brother. Over the course of his chapter, he is joined by other, mutilated prisoners.
“The only light in his wet world came from the lanterns that the visitors brought with them, and it came so seldom that it began to hurt his eyes. A nameless sour-faced man brought his food, salt beef as hard as wooden shingles, bread crawling with weevils, slimy, stinking fish. Aeron gobbled it down and hoped for more, though oft as not he retched the meal up after. The man who brought the food was dark, dour, mute. His tongue was gone, Aeron did not doubt.”
The chapter leaves little room for hope for Aeron, but since he survived so far, he might yet have a role to play.
As was the case with A Feast for Crows, it looks like The Winds of Winter might focus on the Greyjoys quite a lot, as there is at least one known chapter from Victarion’s point of view. Unlike his brother, Aeron, Victarion, who also wished to be king of the Ironborn, nevertheless declared his allegiance to Euron. He was then sent to deliver Euron’s marriage proposal to Daenerys, but he secretly hoped to court her himself.
Victarion’s The Winds of Winter chapter that Martin read at a convention was partly transcribed by a Reddit user. It follows Victarion and his fleet as they arrive in Meereen, to find Daenerys.
“A restlessness was in him, a hunger for the dawn and the things this day would bring. Death or glory, I will drink my fill of both today. The Seastone Chair should've been his when Balon died, but his brother Euron had stolen it from him, just as he had stolen his wife many years before.”
Of course, it should be noted that characters seeking to court Daenerys for her throne, such as Quentin Martell, Arianne’s brother, have had horrible things happen to them. The release of the series’ sixth installment might reveal whether a similar fate awaits Victarion.
Martin has additionally confirmed point of view chapters of Areo Hotah, Asha Greyjoy and Cersei Lannister. In June 2020, the author also confirmed that he expects to complete the sixth instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire at some point in 2021.
For those who are just getting started with Martin's books and hope to finish the existing books before The Winds of Winter is released, we have compiled the reading order for A Song of Ice and Fire. And for those who want to try something different, Martin has written several other must-read books.