In early 2015, Harper Collins UK in conjunction with Waterstones, a British Book Retailer, released pictures of a letter that George RR Martin wrote to his agent Ralph Vicinanza in 1993 outlining his idea for this brand new book that he was writing entitled A Game of Thrones, the first book in an exciting new trilogy that George RR Martin was calling A Song of Ice and Fire. This early letter provided insights to George’s agent on how he could promote this new series as well as provided a plot diagram for where GRRM thought that A Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire were going.
In Episode 10: The Book That Never Was, we do a detailed analysis of this letter and the book that could have been had GRRM written A Song of Ice and Fire to follow his initial diagram. We cover the topics of:
The History of ASOIAF: How it came to be and where we are now
GRRM’s original idea of plot, counterplot and murder centered on dynastic struggle
Daenerys Targaryen: Dothraki Conqueror
The, um, interesting love triangle had in mind
Similarities and differences to the material that was published
The foreshadowings that never were: leftover lines intended to foreshadow plot points that never came to be.
Our take on the blacked out text and what it could mean for the future of A Song of Ice and Fire
Spoilers Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter
Prince Aegon spoke. “Then put your hopes on me,” he said. “Daenerys is Prince Rhaegar’s sister, but I am Rhaegar’s son. I am the only dragon that you need.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)
Aegon Targaryen, the purported son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne, is set to have a fateful impact on Westeros in The Winds of Winter. His landing in the Stormlands sets Westeros on a path that brings more war, and Aegon’s future promises more suffering, and more destruction for an already war-ravaged kingdom. But that reality will be offset by a public perception that will likely view Aegon as the conquering hero and liberator of Westeros. But who is Aegon? Who are his supporters? What are his and their goals? And what exactly will that fateful impact look like?
Welcome to Part 1 of Blood of the Conqueror, a speculative analysis of the coming Winds of Winter arc of the Young Dragon, Aegon Targaryen. In this essay series, we’ll examine Aegon’s impact on Westeros. To do so, we’ll examine the background, conspiracies, alliances and battles that look to dominate Aegon’s arc in The Winds of Winter.
In a later installment, I’ll do in-depth battle analysis of the Battle of Griffin’s Roost and the Golden Company’s landing in the Stormlands, but in today’s essay, I thought it might be fun to examine this event in the meta-venue of how A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter were written and re-written. And I thought it might be fun to do so by examining a minor mystery that I came across while reading George RR Martin’s notablog. It’s a mystery that takes place in the Stormlands around the time that Griffin’s Roost fell, and it involves how George RR Martin originally structured this event in A Dance with Dragons and why one of Martin’s famous restructurings of A Dance with Dragonsmight reveal how GRRM originally planned Aegon’s invasion of Westeros and why a key rewrite makes Aegon’s invasion and the involvement of a major player in the game of thrones that much more poignant.
A Song of Ice and Fire is nothing if not a character study painted against the canvass of politics, war and culture. George RR Martin is fond of paraphrasing Faulkner’s “The human heart in conflict is the only thing worth writing about.” As such, we expect that GRRM will continue to develop characters in The Winds of Winter. But interesting for our purposes, George RR Martin seems to enjoy contrasting and comparing character growth to historical and currently-living characters in the series. Characters often wonder about whether they’re the Smiling Knight, Tywin Lannister or Doran Martell.
But in contrast to the sometimes-popular view that all the characters are moving into dark moral and plot paths in The Winds of Winter, Nfriel, SomethingLikeaLawyer, Militant Penguin and I believe that there are some who are moving towards more positive or neutral directions. As such, part 1 focuses on the good. Thus was born a podcast idea and topic.
So, today, we analyze the following POV characters:
Tyrion & how he’s moving from Mushroom to Lann the Clever
Jaime & how he’s evolving from the Smiling Knight to Ser Arthur Dayne
Bran’s wolf-knight to knight of the mind development
Theon’s surprising redemption & movement from Reek to Torgon the Latecomer
Asha’s pine-cone evolution & her desire not to be a boneheaded Iron Kraken.
Arianne’s movement from Cersei to Doran Martell
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Fire and blood. Dany’s arc in A Dance with Dragons ends with her recognition that dragons plant no trees and that her words are “fire and blood” – not just as the house words of her dynasty, but as her personal motto validating her rediscovered turn towards the mother of dragons and a violent vision of prophecy.
In The Winds of Winter, that recognition and acknowledgement of her true self will morph into action. Early through her Winds of Winter arc, she’ll bring her mother of dragons persona and vengeance to Khal Jhaqo & the Dothraki. But after she unites a giant khalasar by fire and blood, she’ll turn her dragon’s mercy to Meereen. Nor will her full wrath end at the pyramids of Meereen. Instead, I believe that the city will be a mere stepping stone to the full expression of the dragon’s mercy.
Aiding Daenerys in her conquest will be new advisers and groups whose personalities and aims look to keep Daenerys’ footing firmly tied to her identity as the mother of dragons.
Tywin Lannister’s name and reputation in A Song of Ice and Fire is associated with the consequentialist political mantra of “the ends justify the means.” But how true is that sentiment when examined against the text? And if true, does the series’ gray morality give Tywin a wider moral berth for his conduct?
Tywin Lannister is a fascinating character in that his actions result in such differing fan-opinions of the character. For his supporters, he’s viewed as someone willing to do evil to achieve a greater good best seen in his defense of his conduct during the Sack of King’s Landing.
“As stupid as he was, even he knew that Rhaegar’s children had to die if his throne was ever to be secure. Yet he saw himself as a hero, and heroes do not kill children.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
Tywin’s detractors see his actions as dark, evil acts perpetrated by an evil man for politically nefarious reasons. Eddard Stark was firmly in this camp.
I would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin. (AGOT, Eddard II)
But both perspectives miss something fundamental about Tywin’s conduct. He may have shrouded his actions in political terms, but subtext and context shows that Tywin actually couched all of his major evil actions from a deeply personal perspective.
In this analysis, I’ll hope to show Tywin’s deeply personal reasons for his brutalities through 3 seminal events, all of which took place prior to events of the main book series:
The Reyne/Tarbeck Rebellion
The Defiance of Duskendale
The Sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion
At the end of A Dance with Dragons, the cords of the Meereenese Knot were chaotically coming together in Meereen. Plague-ridden corpses were flying into Meereen, sellswords were plotting betrayal, Victarion and the Iron Fleet were sailing into battle and two dragons were loose in Meereen. To put it mildly, the situation in and around Meereen was fluid. To add further chaos to the scenario, battle was finally at hand. And it would be a battle that will likely leave tens of thousands dead — and not all of them from sword, spear, arrow or lance.
In this section, I’ll break down the factions on the eve of battle, estimate army sizes and dispersions and then talk about the loyalty of all the factions involved. And then, I’ll go into the battle plans, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the battle plans and then leave this part off moments prior to the start of Barristan’s attack on Yunkai’s lines. In part 6, we’ll jump right into the battle itself, talk about all we know from the sample chapters, speculate on the outcomes and who will lie dead on the battlefield and then finally do a broad “What does the future hold for Meereen and the characters in and around Meereen.”
Spoiler Warning: Previous sections contained spoilers from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, but just to re-iterate, this section will consist almost entirely of material taken from the sample chapters from The Winds of Winter.
The war that Daenerys had tried to hard to avoid was coming to Meereen. Her flight from Daznak’s Pit would be the ostensible first blow for the war between Meereen and Yunkai. Indeed her departure atop Drogon will be the last I’ll write about Daenerys’ actions for a while. In previous installments I hope I’ve shown in previous installations that war was unavoidable due to both the political situation within and without Meereen as well as the struggle between war and peace within Daenerys herself. Needless to say, the last chapters from A Dance with Dragons rapidly advance the plot and the characters within the Meereenese Knot towards war.
This essay will use material from A Dance with Dragons to illuminate events within and without Meereen that propelled the city to war. I’ll write at length about the Skahaz/Barristan conspiracy within Meereen, the Yunkish dithering on the eve of war, the last leg of the Iron Fleet’s journey to the shores of Meereen
However, in part 5 (the next part of this series), I’ll be using material fromthe sample chapters of The Winds of Winter. In this, I’ll re-visit and revise the factions on the eve of war, the battle plans of Barristan, Victarion and the Great Masters of Yunkai, and I’ll conclude just moments prior to the battle itself. In part 5, I’ll use the sample chapters to write on the battle itself, analyze the tactics and strategies involved and do some lengthy speculation on what George RR Martin has yet to reveal on the battle and predict the outcomes of the battle, who will lie dead in the field and what this will mean for the various interweaving plotlines of the Meereenese Knot.
Administrative Note: This will be the first of a six-part series detailing speculation and analysis on the upcoming Battle of Meereen. This post will primarily be a summary of events from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. However, in parts 5 and 6, there will be significant spoilers from the preview chapters of The Winds of Winter.
“You will not make Meereen rich and fat and peaceful. You will only bring it to destruction, as you did Astapor.” (ADWD, Daenerys III)
At the end of A Storm of Swords, Daenerys Targaryen stood as the unrivaled master of Slaver’s Bay. Her sack of Astapor, defeat of Yunkai and conquest of Meereen vaulted her and her band of followers to positions of hegemony over the region. However, in A Dance with Dragons, things began to fall apart. Plagued by a homegrown insurgency in Meereen, her situation was only worsened by the arrival of plague and a resurgent Yunkai. Surrounded by Yunaki and its allies and beset with plague, Daenerys’ arc was building to a great battle: The Battle of Fire.
Previously, I wrote a series of essays on Daenerys’ Campaign in Slaver’s Bay. In that essay, I detailed how Daenerys acquired her army and started a war of liberation in Slaver’s Bay. When she finally arrived at Meereen, Daenerys made a fateful decision: she would remain at Meereen and learn how to rule. But her rule of Meereen would be contested by the internal and external forces. And this conflict was all building to a great battle.
A few months ago, I wrote a two–part series on the upcoming Siege of Winterfell. The Battle of Fire (or Battle of Slaver’s Bay) will be the second battle to open The Winds of Winter. Shortly after the publication of A Dance with Dragons, George RR Martin was asked what he had in store for The Winds of Winter.
“I’m going to open [The Winds of Winter] with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there.” Smart Travel Interview with George RR Martin
In this 6-part series, I’ll analyze and speculate how the Battle of Fire will transpire. Parts 1-4 will primarily be a summary and analysis of events from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Part 5 will be an in-depth look at each side on the eve of battle and look at how each faction (Barristan & Meereen, Yunkai and her allies and Victarion and the Iron Fleet) is planning to win the battle. In part 6, I’ll finally delve into the battle itself utilizing released and read sample chapters from The Winds of Winter; I’ll close part 6 with speculation on who will win the battle, who will lay dead in the field and what the outcome will mean for the future of Meereen and Daenerys’ arc. And while this essay series will touch on the motivations and inner character conflict within each of the major characters in the series, this will primarily be campaign analysis. To get into the character conflict rife with Daenerys, Barristan and others, I strongly encourage you all to to read Adam Feldman’s Meereenese Blot, particularly his essays on Daenerys.
I’m in the middle of another re-read of the series, and I finished A Game of Thrones about a week ago. In this re-read, I’m giving special attention to a few plot points. One of those plot-points is Roose Bolton and when he turned against Robb Stark. In popular telling, Roose Bolton turned against Robb Stark when he determined that the Stark cause was lost after the Lannister victory against Stannis Baratheon at King’s Landing. However, after re-reading the first book, I think the evidence of betrayal goes farther back in the timeline than originally thought.
Now, before I jump too far into this post, I want to make a disclaimer. I don’t think that Roose Bolton was a Lannister stooge from the get-go. I think that Roose’s turn to the Lannister side occurred around the end of A Clash of Kings. Prior to that, Roose was as much an enemy to the Lannisters as he was a traitor to the Starks as we’ll see below. That said, I believe that Roose Bolton was never loyal to Robb Stark, and he actively worked to further his and his family’s ambition from the start at the expense of the Starks.
In part 1, we examined Hoster Tully’s actions before the A Song of Ice and Fire series began. 3 years before the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Hoster Tully became bedridden with a serious illness to the stomach. Despite this infirmity, Hoster was sitting comfortably, having married his two daughters to the Starks and the Arryns. Even more than this, he had the gratitude of the sitting king, Robert Baratheon. But like the wasting disease threatening his life, trouble on the horizon threatened to erode the successes that Hoster had worked so hard to achieve.