The Winds Of Winter: release date, pre-release chapters, returning characters and everything we know

A Song of Ice and Fire continues with this, the sixth book in the series started by George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones

Every George R.R. Martin fan wants to know The Winds of Winter release date. It’s been almost six years since A Dance With Dragons, the most recent book in Martin’s A Song of Ice And Fire series. Numerous deadlines have been missed and fans are rabidly awaiting news of when book six will finally hit the shelves. Below you’ll find everything we know about The Winds of Winter so far, and we’ll update this page as we receive more news.

First, a warning to Game of Thrones fans who have seen season 6 but haven’t read the books: the story described below will probably be unfamiliar. Not only has the series taken liberties with the storylines in George R.R. Martin’s books thus far, but it’s also now gone beyond the first five books’ narratives – so we can presume that some of the storylines we saw in season six may not appear at all in The Winds of Winter. Ok – now back to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Will The Winds of Winter be out before Game of Thrones season 7?

Good question – we don’t know yet. But for what it’s worth, we’d assume not. Despite George R.R. Martin’s frequent declarations that he’s focussing on writing The Winds of Winter, he asked fans on January 23 for help with a completely different project – he’s asking for art submissions for the Wild Cards series to go in an online gallery. Since then, he’s also announced that in October, he’ll release a completely different short story set in Westeros. It’s called The Sons of the Dragon, and it’ll be released as part of an anthology called The Book of Swords.

Ok, so what’s the release date for The Winds of Winter?

Sometime in 2017, according to George R.R. Martin.

On January 10, 2017, he said of the sixth A Song of Ice and Fire book: “Not done yet, but I’ve made progress. But not as much as I hoped a year ago, when I thought to be done by now.” He went on, “I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year).”

If you think he’s not got a plan for the novel, you’re wrong: “I don’t get writer’s block in the conventional sense,” Martin said in 2014, “but I do get derailed by distractions. I do my best writing when I’m not distracted. I’m not like some writers who can write while on the road or on book tours, some people do that. I can’t do that. I try, but I can’t do that.”

How many more books are left in A Song of Ice and Fire?

Unless GRRM changes his mind, there are two remaining: book six (The Winds of Winter) and book seven (A Dream of Spring). Some fans have optimistically speculated that the reason The Winds of Winter is taking so long is that George R.R. Martin is planning to release both it and its follow-up, A Dream of Spring, at the same time. This is probably wishful thinking.

Where did we leave the main characters previously in the ASOIAF series?

Here’s where everyone important was at the end of book five, A Dance with Dragons.

Jon Snow: stabbed loads of times by his own men at the Black Keep, left for dead.
Sansa Stark: in the Vale, undercover as Alayne Stone with her sort-of ally, Littlefinger, who’s posing as her father.
Arya Stark: still training with the Faceless Men in Braavos.
Bran Stark: north of the Wall. He’s just learned ‘greenseeing’ with his teacher, Bloodraven.
Rickon Stark: said to be in hiding on the island of Skagos, whose inhabitants are rumoured cannibals.
Daenerys Targaryen: stuck in the Dothraki Sea, surrounded by Dothraki warriors.
The Hound: left for dead by Arya.
The Mountain: remains something of a mystery. His skull was supposedly delivered to Doran Martell in Dorne as recompense for the death of Oberyn Martell. But a new knight on the Kingsguard, presumed a product of Maester Qyburn’s experiments, is eerily similar to The Mountain. Ser Robert Strong never takes off his helmet, never eats, never uses the ‘privy’ and has supposedly taken a holy vow of silence until Cersei’s innocence is proven.
Cersei Lannister: has just completed the walk of shame.

Cersei Lannister completes the Walk of Shame in Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of A Song of Ice and FireHBO

Tyrion Lannister: now a member of the Second Sons, waiting outside Meereen for everything to kick off.
Lady Stoneheart: in the Riverlands. She’s just tasked Brienne of Tarth with bringing Jaime to her.
Jaime Lannister: being led to find ‘Sansa’ by Brienne of Tarth; possibly heading to his death at the hands of Lady Stoneheart.
Stannis Baratheon:
in an encampment near Winterfell, planning the battle with the Boltons. The Freys and the Manderlys, under the command of Roose Bolton, are marching on his position.
Theon Greyjoy: Stannis’ prisoner, awaiting execution. He has just helped Mance Rayder and his spearwives rescue Jeyne Poole (posing as Arya Stark) from Winterfell.
Roose Bolton: at Winterfell.
Ramsay Snow: also at Winterfell. Has just sent Jon Snow a letter claiming to have defeated Stannis and Mance Rayder, and asking for him to turn over Jeyne Poole, Selyse, Shireen, Melisandre, Val, Gilly’s son and Reek. He claims he will attack Jon at the Wall if he does not get what he wants.
Victarion Greyjoy: entering Slaver’s Bay to help Daenerys fight Yunkai.
Samwell Tarly: has arrived in Oldtown to train as a Maester.
Jon Connington: is moving to capture Storm’s End with his ward, purported to be Daenerys’ nephew Aegon Targaryen.
Davos Seaworth: has been told to retrieve Rickon Stark from Skagos by the Manderlys.
Varys: in King’s Landing, having just shot Kevan Lannister because he was doing too good a job of undoing Cersei’s failures.
Margaery Tyrell: in King’s Landing. She’s just been released into her father’s custody and awaits trial by judges for the accusations made by Cersei.
Loras Tyrell: dying of wounds sustained while trying to retake Dragonstone at Cersei’s command.

Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, the adaptation of A Song of Ice and FireHBO

Who else might return?

The Dothraki: Martin has teased that the horse-riders will return to the books “in a big way”, and one of the characters he’s teasing in particular is Mago. Khal Drogo’s former bloodrider (Mago deserted Dany after Drogo’s death) is dead in the series, but Martin has said he’s not in the books. “He’s going to be a recurring character in The Winds of Winter,” he said in 2011.

Marillion: In previous books the glib bard was blinded and had some of his fingers removed as he was tortured into (falsely) confessing to Lysa Arryn’s murder. Martin has since said “Marillion has more to do”. Cryptic…

Osha: Rickon’s guardian was last seen getting offed by Ramsay Bolton in the show. That’s a shame, because in the books, she’s still alive and well, and Martin has said that when he brings back Osha in the new book, “I’ll have Natalia [Tena, who played Osha] in mind and perhaps give the character more interesting things to do.”

The Sand Snakes: Ahead of their introduction in season five of the show in 2014, Martin expressed his hope that fans liked them at San Diego Comic Con. “You’re also going to be seeing a lot of them in The Winds of Winter,” he said.

Jeyne Westerling: Robb Stark’s widow will definitely make an appearance in the prologue of The Winds of Winter. The POV character in these prologue chapters always dies, but Martin has explained that Jeyne will not be the POV character – so we can presume she’s safe. Ish.

Edric Storm/Gendry: With sightings of Gendry actor Joe Dempsie on the set of Game of Thrones season 7, it’s all but officially confirmed that Gendry (another of Robert Baratheon’s bastards, who in the series absorbed Edric Storm’s storyline) will be returning for the new series. That may mean we can assume Gendry and/or Edric Storm will be making a comeback for The Winds of Winter.

Joe Dempsie as Gendry, rumoured to reappear in Game Of Thrones season sevenGetty

How will The Winds of Winter begin?

George R.R. Martin has said the new book will begin with “a big smash with the two enormous battles”. The battles he’s referring to? Yunkai’s siege of Meereen, and Stannis’ siege of Winterfell. He’s also promised “more deaths… more betrayals… more marriages. A lot of stuff is happening at The Wall.”

Will The Winds of Winter be split into two volumes?

Quite possibly. The author split both book three (A Storm of Swords) and book five (A Dance with Dragons) into two volumes because they were so bloody long. Talking about the forthcoming final two books in the series, he’s said they’re “enormous” and has called book seven, A Dream of Spring, “another 1500 page monster where I try to wrap things up.” That’s right, “another”. This means we can presume Winds may well get the two-volume treatment.

**WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE OPENING CHAPTERS OF THE WINDS OF WINTER**

What happens in the 11 chapters so far released from The Winds of Winter?

Plenty of stuff. Allow us to explain.

Since 2011, Martin has been releasing chapters of The Winds of Winter on his website and reading them aloud at conventions to keep fans satisfied while they wait for the whole thing. Some of these chapters are on the internet for you to read, others are on YouTube, and more still are on the World of Ice and Fire app. Links are below to the ones you can read/watch online, but we’ve summarised each chapter so far too.

Theon 1

The one-time Reek – now at Stannis’ beleaguered camp near Winterfell – has just helped Mance Rayder rescue Sansa’s old friend Jeyne Poole (who had been disguised as Arya Stark at Winterfell and married against her will to Ramsay Bolton). Stannis decides to send her to the wall to her ‘brother’ Jon Snow, while Theon becomes Stannis’ prisoner, and is condemned to death for ‘murdering’ Bran and Rickon Stark (who are, of course, still alive). While in captivity, Theon hears that Stannis is planning to use the Iron Bank’s money to hire mercenaries to help with the forthcoming battle with the Boltons.

Theon’s sister, Asha, convinces Stannis to kill Theon himself in the Godswood, because Ned Stark would have done the same. (“Give him to the tree,” she says.) As she says this, the maester’s ravens appear to say Theon’s name – some fans speculate Bran or his teacher Bloodraven have something to do with this, and that it might mean Theon will survive somehow.

Arianne 1 & 2

Arianne journeys to meet Jon Connington and his ward, Young Griff (supposedly the long-disguised Aegon Targaryen, son of Arianne’s aunt Elia Martell and nephew of Daenerys). Arianne thinks about where her brother Quentyn has ended up – the reader is aware, though, that Quentyn went to propose to Daenerys in Meereen and ended up getting toasted by one of her dragons when he tried to steal it.

In the second Arianne chapter she discovers that the mercenary group The Golden Company have taken Mistfall of House Martyn, noting that the Company have never been successful in their invasions of Westeros. The chapter also reveals that Nymeria and Tyene have accompanied Myrcella to King’s Landing, with no suggestion that they plan to kill her as in the show – and there’s also news that Aegon Targaryen has taken the Baratheon stronghold of Storm’s End, with an army from King’s Landing coming to get him.

Victarion 1 [read aloud at a convention]

Perhaps the most interesting chapter yet: Victarion is in Slaver’s Bay preparing to join the fight outside Meereen, and planning to use the six-foot Dragonbinder horn given to him by his brother Euron to bind one of Dany’s dragons to his will (the side-effect being that whoever blows the horn dies of internal burning).

Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of A Song of Ice and FireHBO

Ser Barristan 1 [available in the US paperback of A Dance With Dragons] & 2

Barristan gets on Dany’s silver mare and rallies his troops for battle: they’re planning to charge out of Meereen and confront the enemy at the gates. In chapter two, there’s plenty of battle description, and it’s noticed that the Ironborn Fleet is on Dany’s side, fighting against the Yunkai.

Tyrion 1 [read aloud at a convention] & 2 [in the World of Ice & Fire app]

Tyrion tries to convince Brown Ben, commander of the Second Sons, to switch sides and fight for Daenerys. In the second chapter Brown Ben does this.

Mercy 1 (Arya)

Arya is working in a mummer’s troupe in Braavos and acting as her sister Sansa, in a version of the play we saw on screen in Game of Thrones season 6. She sees Raff the Sweetling in the audience – he’s on her list for killing her friend Lommy – so she leads him away from the theatre, kills him and puts his body in a canal.

Alayne 1 (Sansa)

Sansa, undercover as Alayne and pretending to be Littlefinger’s daughter, meets Harry, the heir to the Eyrie, who Baelish is planning to marry her to. Sansa reveals she knows he’s got two illegitimate children by two different mothers and teases him.

Aeron 1 [read aloud at a convention]

Aeron moves about several dungeons and encounters the victims of his powerful brother Euron. Euron is clad in a set of Valyrian steel armour, and because of this Aeron believes his claim that he has visited the legendary region of Valyria. Euron binds a load of priests to the front of his ships, with Aeron at the front of his own, the Silence.

Will Martin release any more chapters from The Winds of Winter?

No.

On February 2, 2017, he wrote on his own website, “I may give readings at upcoming cons, but they will probably be of chapters I’ve read before at other cons. There comes a point when you are simply putting too much of the book out there. It was not such a problem before the internet, but now everything I read gets transcribed and posted and leaked all over the world, so…”

What questions does The Winds of Winter need to answer?

1. Is Quentyn Martell still alive?

Unless Quentyn Martell shows up suddenly in Game of Thrones season 7 (unlikely, given that all his family is dead) TV viewers might be a bit stumped by this name. There are a few crazy theories about Quentyn Martell, the son of Doran Martell who was sent to Meereen to offer Daenerys his hand in marriage and ended up trying to steal one of her dragons after she left the city on Drogon. The reason that makes this theory really interesting is that the person we see as the dying (and finally dead) Quentyn has been burnt into an almost unrecognisable state by Dany’s dragon Rhaegal – meaning it could conceivably be an imposter. Another reason is that alongside Prince Quentyn in the plan was a man known as the Tattered Prince – both of them were both wearing masks when they entered the dragons’ lair. Many people believe that Quentyn, who has Targaryen blood, managed to tame Dany’s other dragon, Viserion, and rode off on his back, while the dying Tattered Prince was mistaken for him. But it is a pretty convoluted theory.

2. Will Stannis survive the siege of Winterfell?

In the series, Stannis was killed off in Season 5 by Brienne after losing most of his men to Ramsay Bolton’s forces outside Winterfell. Brienne and Stannis have not met for a long time in the books, and although Brienne is still furious with Stannis at this point for killing her beloved Lord Renly, she is currently with Jaime Lannister in the Riverlands – not anywhere near Winterfell.

Still, he could still be doomed. Stannis is in a perilous state, running low on supplies, sitting out in the cold and he has no tactical advantage should Ramsay Bolton exit Winterfell and come for him. Or has he? When Theon questions his poor defences in a Winds of Winter preview chapter released by GRRM, Stannis indicates that he’s got something up his sleeve: possibly a large nearby lake that his men have been overfishing, making the ice dangerously thin. If Stannis actually prevails in the battle for Winterfell, it would be a hugely different outcome to what happens in the show, but it’d make the rest of the book more interesting.

3. Where is Brienne taking Jaime?

When we left Brienne, she said she was taking her old pal Jaime to save Sansa from the Hound somewhere in the Riverlands – but we know Sansa is in the Vale at the moment, so it’s generally believed that Brienne is lying. Prior to this point, Brienne was tasked by Lady Stoneheart (the resurrected, vengeful Catelyn Stark) with killing Jaime Lannister. Either she’s taking him somewhere secluded to off him, or she’s taking him to Stoneheart for a trial. Or she’s got another plan up her sleeve – but what could it be?

4. Will Davos find Rickon?

In the last book, Davos Seaworth the ‘Onion Knight’ went to see Wyman Manderly at White Harbour, in the north east of Westeros, to try and get his allegiance to Stannis. But the Freys were there, so he got arrested and was sent for execution. Then Manderly organised a lookalike criminal to be executed in his place. Then, he said he would give Stannis his support if Davos went to fetch Rickon Stark from the isle of Skagos, which is full of cannibals. We don’t know why Manderly wants Rickon, but given his fate in the show we can only guess it’s not for good reasons – perhaps the execution schtick was simply a feint to gain Davos’ trust. Either way, Davos will be exploring the mysterious island of Skagos soon. Until then, people will keep making concept art like te one below, which suggests Rickon is now a wild Lord of Skagos, who rips Davos in two on his arrival…

5. Will Victarion capture a dragon?

In the books, Euron’s brother Victarion – who doesn’t exist in the show – has been sent to Meereen with a horn called Dragonbinder that supposedly has the power to control dragons – but it kills whoever blows it. As the Greyjoy fleet arrives in Meereen in the midst of a massive siege, will he be able to use it to command Rhaegal or Viserion?

6. Will Jon Snow survive his betrayal?

This one’s pretty obvious, really. Resurrecting Jon isn’t the kind of thing the show could do without George R.R. Martin’s permission. But there is the question of how Snow survives. Will Melisandre bring him back to life, or will he rise, Daenerys-style, from a funeral pyre, as many show-watchers were expecting? After all, we now know from the show that he’s almost definitely part-Targaryen.

7. Will Arya return to Westeros?

In a preview chapter of TWOW released by George R.R. Martin, Arya is in an actors’ troupe like the one we see in the show. She’s meant to be following the orders of her new mentor Izembaro, but instead she recognises someone she has an old vendetta against – Raff the Sweetling – and kills him, going against her status as ‘a girl’ or ‘no one’. Does this mean she’ll be leaving the Faceless Men as she did in the show, embracing her old Arya Stark self, and returning to Westeros?

8. Will Aegon take Storm’s End?

Aegon, aka Young Griff, is supposedly the nephew of Daenerys Targaryen, saved from slaughter at the hands of the Mountain when Varys switched the baby him with a random baby and shipped him over to Essos. He’s recently landed back in Westeros with an army of mercenaries, and in a preview chapter from book six, his Dornish cousin Arianne Martell is on the way to meet him – but what will his next move be? Will he take Storm’s End? And, if Daenerys eventually makes it over the Narrow Sea and back to Westeros, will he give his growing support to her, or will he become her competition for the Iron Throne? And is he even a true Targaryen? Some fans think not

9. Will Sansa marry Harry the Heir?

Don’t forget Sansa. In the show she had to marry Ramsay, escaped and joined her brother Jon in the north, before making a pact with the slimy Littlefinger and saving the day in the Battle of the Bastards. In the books, she’s still in the Vale with her cousin Robin Arryn, and she’s being set up by Littlefinger not with Ramsay but with Harrold Hardyng, aka Harry The Heir – the man who would succeed to Lord of the Vale should any harm come to young Robyn. Harry is very promiscuous, but Littlefinger has nevertheless arranged for him and Sansa – posing as his daughter Alayne Stone – to be betrothed, with the idea that he’ll reveal her identity and use the Vale’s forces to retake Winterfell for her. But in, yes, another preview chapter from GRRM, Sansa seems to have other plans when she rejects his request for her favour at a tourney. How very Game of Thrones.

10. Will Barristan survive the siege of Meereen?

Alongside Stannis’ siege of Winterfell, the siege of Meereen this is the big opening battle that we’re waiting for. Bit of context: at the moment, Tyrion has just escaped from slavery – it’s the slavers who are besieging the city – and has joined the Second Sons in the midst of a horrible plague of the camps surrounding Meereen. Now the Second Sons say they will join Daenerys (who is absent from the city, having flown off on Drogon) and Barristan is in charge of the city’s defences in her place. In the show, Barristan Selmy doesn’t survive even up until this point, so will he make it any further, or will this battle be his last?