The Seven Gods who made us all, are listening if we should call. So close your eyes, you shall not fall, they see you, little children. (ASOS, Samwell III)
Opposite the Red Keep stands Baelor’s Sept. Within the walls of this massive cathedral lay the beating heart of Westerosi religion: the Faith of the Seven. Governing the form and functions of millions of adherents, the Faith of the Seven was one of the few Westerosi institutions whose reach extended from Dorne to White Harbor. At the pinnacle of this continent-spanning religion was a man known as the High Septon. Serving as Westeros’ version of a medieval pope, the High Septon was a powerful leader of this religion and was seen as the literal avatar of the gods themselves. However theoretically powerful this man was in though, he had practical limits imposed on him by Westeros’ history. A bloody war and the reforms of a Targaryen king had restrained the High Septon and curbed the power that the Faith of the Seven once held. By the start of A Game of Thrones, the Faith of the Seven had morphed into a placid, peaceful religion with a fat, corrupt religious elite presiding over the faithful, but this was about to change.
Within the span of two years, the country had seen its relative stability and peace evaporate into chaotic warfare. The War of the Five Kings had devastated the country, and it was not the warfighters who suffered. The smallfolk had borne the brunt of this war, and the brutalities inflicted on them upended the social fabric of Westeros. One of the chief victims of this upending of the social fabric of Westeros was the Faith of the Seven
Where once the Faith of the Seven had been a conservative, milquetoast part of society, the War of the Five Kings radicalized the religion. Standing atop this new movement was a man who would become known as the High Sparrow. And he was looking at the historical structure of the Faith of the Seven and seeing the power that the Faith once wielded.
A dragon has returned to Westeros, but not the dragon my father was expecting. Nowhere in the words was there a mention of Daenerys Stormborn… nor of Prince Quentyn, her brother, who had been sent to seek the dragon queen. (TWOW, Arianne I)
A Dance with Dragons closes Dorne with Doran Martell believing that his Targaryen Restoration Conspiracy was nigh close to success, but when we meet Doran Martell in The Winds of Winter, we see a man beginning to realize that everything has gone wrong. Daenerys Targaryen and Quentyn Martell had not arrived from Essos. Instead, Jon Connington had purportedly returned with Aegon Targaryen and ten thousand Golden Company sellswords with no word of Quentyn.
But who was this Aegon? Was he truly the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne? Or was a sellsword’s ploy? Was the lord who accompanied him actually Jon Connington? And even if the boy was indeed Aegon Targaryen and the man, Jon Connington, did they possess any hope of winning against the power of the Lannisters and Tyrells? These questions have dominated fan-discussion over Aegon, but they were also questions that Doran Martell was asking.
Prince Doran needed to send someone into the Stormlands to provide him a clear picture of what was happening to his north. Unfortunately for the Prince of Dorne, there were few people he could send. He could not send someone who was unfamiliar with his secret machinations to restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne, and most of those individuals who knew of the plot were dead, missing or incapacitated. In fact, Doran Martell had only one person he could send who was alive, present, able of body and read in on his plan: Arianne Martell.
Reluctantly, Doran Martell prepared to dispatch his only daughter into a chaotic war zone to gather intelligence on this dragon. Armed with seven ravens, Arianne’s orders were to head north and dispatch a raven back to Doran telling him of all she saw. At the end of her journey lay two men who desperately needed Dorne to side with them against the Iron Throne. Arianne’s job was to determine whether these men were who said they were and whether they had a chance against the Iron Throne. Her final raven would contain only one word: “dragon” or “war”.
An analysis of the prospective Euron vs Redwyne Fleets in “The Winds of Winter”
The fan theorists have spoken; Euron is a diabolical magical third act villain and may be the greatest threat to Westeros. I must admit that when reading Asha’s, Damphair and Victarion’s A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons chapters, I found Euron to merely be a manipulative politician with competent battlefield skills. As Euron sails out to meet the Redwyne fleet in “The Forsaken” I came to the realization that Euron was much more complex than my original conception of him — that Euron’s military strength may be metaphysical instead of conventional. While others have done excellent analysis of the Aeron’s dreams and the Lovecraftian themes that GRRM has tied to Euron; I believe that we can also look at the tactics Euron could use in his showdown with the Redwyne’s to anticipate that Euron is expecting more than a naval battle to occur on the Sunset Sea and that the rest of the Ironborn are in for a surprise.
Details of naval tactics in Planetos are scarce and if I had an opportunity to ask GRRM a question it would be “What are your sources and inspiration of naval warfare?” Naval tactics rely greatly on the ship (referred also as a platform) used and Planetos contains a variety of platforms that all must use specific tactics to guarantee victory. The dromonds of the Redwyne fleet and the longboats of the Iron Islands would use different tactics, and it’s my intent to discuss both the capabilities that these forces would bring to the battle and how the battle might play out.
“It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.” (ADWD, The Watcher)
From his vantage point overlooking the Water Gardens, Doran Martell looked at the children at play in the pool below. To his side lay a letter from King’s Landing informing the Prince of Dorne that his brother was dead at the hands of Gregor Clegane. All around him, overripe blood oranges ominously fell from trees, giving off a sickly-sweet odor as they split open upon impact. While Doran watched, Dorne was angry — angry at the recent death of Oberyn Martell, angry at the murders of Elia Martell and her children at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. Doran Martell knew all this, and yet from all appearances, he did nothing.
The reality, though, could not have been more different. Doran Martell was doing something to avenge his lost loved ones, but the prince could not seek the immediate vengeance that his family and countrymen wanted. The Prince knew that if Dorne went to war against the Iron Throne, they would lose, and if they lost, it would be the children who would suffer.
However, events had finally shaped up to the point where Doran Martell felt that he had his chance to truly strike a blow for vengeance all the while avoiding deaths like those of his sister and her children so many years before.
A year and a half ago, I wrote the complete Winds of Winter resource and updated occasionally since that time. My last update was back in September 2015 and since then, there’s been enough new information about the book for a brand new post.
So, welcome to the ultimate Winds of Winter resource! The intent is to create the most thorough and complete resource of everything that George RR Martin, his editors and those in the know have said or written about The Winds of Winter. Further, my intent is to have something that stands in contrast to the mountain of clickbait news articles about The Winds of Winter.
To better organize all of the information, I’ve categorized things as follows:
Released Sample Chapters (and where to find them)
Winds of Winter chapters that GRRM has read at conventions/appearances
Winds of Winter chapters that are known to exist but have not been released or read at conventions
Unconfirmed but probable POV characters
Plot Points that GRRM or his editors have confirmed
So, buckle in, this is going to be a lot of information!
Spoiler Warning: Everything past this point will contain spoilers for The Winds of Winter.
Recently, I attended Balticon, where George R.R. Martin dropped a completely new chapter from The Winds of Winter on us: the long-awaited Damphair chapter. George actually offered the convention a choice: he could read the “Sons of the Dragon” (the extended cut of Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel’s history intended for Fire and Blood), the previously seen Mercy chapter, or the never-before-heard Aeron chapter (which had previously been offered at WorldCon 2011, but rejected in favor of Arianne II). By overwhelming applause, the assembly voted for Aeron, to which he warned us: “This is similar in character to Ramsay Bolton. You are some sick motherfuckers.” The attendees seemed to freely acknowledge the claim, and what followed was probably one of the most thrilling chapters I’ve had ever had the fortune of listening from any novel, easily as engrossing (albeit in a morbid sense) as the high climaxes of A Storm of Swords. George admitted that there might be some revisions, even substantive ones, between the reading we received and the final version that comes in the published book. However, even on its own, the chapter was spectacular. Many were in attendance, but I didn’t see a bored face in the room. This chapter was a while in the making, but every bit was as savory as it could possibly be.
As a note, this isn’t in perfect chronological order. I suggest going to this piece to read the notes from the con. This is organized by greater themes, not strict progression.
This is a piece I’ve had in the back of my mind for sometime now, like at least a year and a bit, and I’ve finally found the time to get around to actually doing it.
I’ve heard a lot of comments about how the character of Ramsay Snow comes across as being a one dimensional horror movie villain. In this piece I want to counter this position and really dig into the character of Ramsay Bolton. I will argue that Ramsay is more than a one note B villain. Instead, Ramsay is a well developed and multifaceted character in his own right.