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Game of Thrones Synopsis: Catch Up with a Song of Ice and Fire
The Song of Ice and Fire series by GRRM (martin rr) is considered by many as a modern classic of the fantasy genre, a sprawling epic that spans both years and nations and takes in hundreds of characters, each of whom is covered in enough depth and enough reality to surprise and delight the reader on every page. Nothing in martin rr's world is black and white- he delights in making an utterly contemptible character become entirely sympathetic within just a few hundreds pages and fills his thousands of pages with greyness, intrigue and a surprising amount of empathy. And after several thousand pages of dense text there's still plenty in there to keep us guessing. And there the problems arise- Martin rr produces these masterful books very, very slowly. And while we're all waiting for A Song of Ice and Fire book six, The Winds of Winter, it would be easy to forget just where the last book, The Dance of the Dragons left all of our favourite characters.
With this issue in mind, I wrote this guide to the state of the plot of a Song of Ice and Fire as soon as I had finished reading dance of the dragons. In brief, you might call it a Game of Thrones synopsis. I wrote it mainly because I have a terrible memory for this sort of thing, which is particularly likely to be an issue when it's likely that we will all have to wait a couple of years for book six of a Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter, to be published. And it's a hell of a lot of text to re-read each time a new book in martin rr's Song of Ice and Fire series is published. So this hub is a Game ot Thrones synopsis; a precis of the situations in which each of A Song of Ice and Fire's main characters, or the Game of Thrones characters find themselves at the end of the fifth book in the series, Dance of the Dragons.
A Game of Thrones synopsis concerning Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark of Winterfell. Jon Snow is currently the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch at the Wall. He has been working alongside King Stannis but still trying to keep a political distance and ensure the Night's Watch’s neutrality. He’s been letting wildlings through the wall, taking hostages and gold from them and allowing them to people the wall’s deserted fortresses. This is motivated in part from a basic humanity that many of his colleagues in the Night's Watch don't seem to share, but also from an understanding that eventually anyone left to die on the wrong side of the wall will rise again and add to the Night's Watch's problems. The policy has been very unpopular with the rest of the Night's Watch, and the last thing we saw was Jon Snow getting stabbed by the Night's Watch's Lord Steward, Bowen Marsh, and several accomplices, while he was trying to calm a situation in which one of the Queen’s men had picked a fight with the giant Wun Wun and lost. I've written a more detailed piece on specifically this passage from the book, concerning Jon Snow's death scene.
Jon Snow had also just received a letter from Ramsay Bolton, who is Lord Bolton’s bastard son and the newly proclaimed “lord” of the burned out shell that once was proud Winterfell. Bolton has just married Jeyne Poole (who was previously Sansa Stark’s childhood friend), who has been persuaded by the Lannisters to pose as Arya Stark, in order that he might make himself lord of Winterfell. Jeyne has just been rescued by Mance Rayder (former King of the Free Folk beyond the wall) and Theon Greyjoy, and delivered by them to Stannis’ camp. Ramsay Bolton’s letter to Jon Snow holds the Lord Commander accountable for this rescue and promises to harm him and smash the Night’s Watch. Snow was planning on going to take on Bolton with some of the Watch whilst the free folk went overland to rescue some stranded Night's Watch ships and free folk that are trapped at the port of Hardholme, beyond the wall.
Last we saw Stannis Baratheon, his army was snowed in but just about surviving, roughly three miles away from the walls of Winterfell. He’s been met there by Arnolf Karstark who is secretly a fifth columnist in cahoots with Roose Bolton, and is planning on turning on Stannis when they finally get to Winterfell. Asha Greyjoy (Theon Greyjoy’s sister) is Stannis’ captive. A banker from the Iron Bank at Bravos has just reached Stannis Baratheon's forces, assisted by men of the Night’s Watch. The bank this man represents is owed substantial amounts money by the Lannister throne that they are looking less and less keen on paying back. As a result, the bank is planning to support Stannis’ claim to the throne in order to get their money back. When they arrived, the banker and the Night’s Watch men brought Theon Greyjoy and Jeyne Poole with them, whom they found just outside Winterfell on their way to reaching Stannis, thus reuniting Theon Greyjoy with his sister, Asha.
In his letter to Jon Snow, Ramsay Bolton claims to have handed King Stannis a comprehensive thrashing at Winterfell, but so far we have only heard this story from Ramsay's own hand, so really have yet to see the truth of this purported victory.
Sansa Stark, the elder daughter of Ned Stark, has been taken by LittleFinger. He married her aunt who was, by marriage, the ruler of the Vale. With the aunt now dead, murdered by LittleFinger, LittleFinger now has control of her son, and therefore the Vale too, and he has Sansa Stark with him. He is obsessed with her because he was in love with her mother when they grew up together.
Brandon Stark has been taken beyond the wall by the brother and sister greenfolk people, who remain loyal to the Stark family, to meet the last of the mystical children of the forest. He is in a cave in the far north, learning how to see through time through the medium of the Gods Wood trees. He and Rickon are believed dead because Theon Greyjoy faked their deaths. Brandon Stark's abilities are growing exponentially.
Rickon Stark, the youngest of Ned Stark's sones, has been taken off by the woman, Osha. Wyman Manderley, who was a bannerman of Ned Stark's, has pledged his support to Ramsay Bolton, but secretly has also agreed to give his support to Stannis in return for Davos Seaworth going off to find Rickon and return him to his place (assuming that Bran is dead) as heir of Winterfell.
Arya Stark, Ned Stark's younger daughter, has been in Bravos learning to be a faceless man. This is a religious order whose members assassinate people in return for pledged allegiance to their god. She has successfully completed her first job and has been sent on an apprenticeship somewhere else. We’ve not yet seen her there.
Cersei has been released by the religious types but is waiting trial, having done a walk of shame in the nude from the Great Sept to the palace. Her uncle Kevan has returned to Kings Landing and is serving as the regent in her place, with Mace Tyrell as the King's Hand. Ser Kevan has just been killed by Varys, whom we know now has been supporting Aegon Targaeryn throughout the past 12 years. Varys has used a crossbow to murder Kevan in hopes that everyone will think it was Tyrion and that this will stir up further distrust and confusion.
What Martin rr had in store for Jaime Lannister during Dance of the Dragons was to take an army to the Riverlands to defeat the last remaining resistance there. He was last seen leaving his ranks in the company of Brienne of Tarth, who reappeared out of nowhere and promised to take him off to meet The Hound (whom the reader already knows to be dead).
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne had been tasked by Jaime to find and protect Sansa Stark. In the process of carrying this out, she has been captured by the shade of Catelyn stark, who has been working with the Red Knight and his dwindling band of outlaws. Catelyn was going to hang Brienne, Pod (Tyrion’s old squire) and their associate unless Brienne brought Jaime to her. Brienne was reluctant to do so because Jaime has impressed her with his efforts to achieve redemption and insistence on acting in a morally correct way.
During Dance of the Dragons Tyrion Lannister has killed his father and disappeared, re-emerging in the narrative on his way to see Daenerys, but en route he was caught by Ser Jorah who wanted to present him to Daenerys Targaryen in order to win her hand back. Instead Tyrion, Jorah and Penny, another dwarf, were captured by pirates and sold into slavery. They have escaped by signing up with one of the free companies of mercenaries, whom Tyrion has promised a payment of Casterly Rock gold in return for their assistance.
Daenerys married a local Mereenese aristocrat in a bid to bring peace to her rule, but soon afterwards disappeared when her biggest dragon returned out of the blue and she got on its back and flew off. She spent some time in the desert learning to fly him, with only limited success, and was last seen stood next to him when happened upon by a Khal who used to be an associate of her first husband, Drogo.
In her absence, Ser Barriston Selmy has arrested her husband as he suspects him to have been guilty of trying to poison her, and Barriston Selmy is ruling in her stead at the head of a council.
Doran Martell’s son has just died in his attempt to steal one of Daenerys’ other two dragons. Selmy has offered his two accomplices a job in recognition of their bravery and as a way of brokering a peace.
Prince Aegon is Rhaegar’s son, who was thought to have been killed in infancy, but was not (presumably kept safe through Varys’ intervention). He’s been living with Jon Connington, a lord and friend of Rhaegar’s, whom Mad King Aerys exiled. They have recently arrived in the south of Westeros, assisted by one of the free companies, and are busily taking over castles. They have set their sights on King Stannis’ mostly empty castle, and are contemplating offering marriage to Doran Martell’s daughter in order to get the support of Dorne. Jon Connington is secretly dying very slowly of Greyscale.
Victarion Greyjoy is Asha Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy's uncle, who has been sent by the new king of the Ironborn (his own brother, whom he despises and plans to betray) to bring home Daenerys for the king to wed. He plans to keep her to himself and has just rescued a Red priest whose predictions are proving unnervingly accurate.
Do let me know what you think- what's your Game of thrones synopsis? Where do you think all the Song of Ice and Fire characters will find themselves during the Winds of Winter? Will Stannis prevail at Winterfell? Is Jon Snow really dead? Comment below, let's get some banter going...