A Song of Ice and Fire

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A Song of Ice and Fire

This article is about the series of novels. For the television adaptation, see Game of Thrones.

A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire book collection box set cover
Author George R. R. Martin
Country United States
Language English
Genre Epic fantasy
Published August 1996–present
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)

A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of epic fantasy novels by the American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin. He began the first volume of the series, A Game of Thrones, in 1991 and had it published in 1996. Martin, who initially envisioned the series as a trilogy, has published five out of a planned seven volumes. The fifth and most recent volume of the series published in 2011, A Dance with Dragons, took Martin five years to write. He is still writing the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter.

A Song of Ice and Fire takes place on the fictional continents Westeros and Essos. The point of view of each chapter in the story is a limited perspective of a range of characters growing from nine, in the first novel, to thirty-one by the fifth. Three main stories interweave a dynastic war among several families for control of Westeros, the rising threat of the supernatural Others in the northernmost reaches of Westeros, and the ambition of Daenerys Targaryen, the deposed king's exiled daughter, to assume the Iron Throne.

Martin's inspirations included the Wars of the Roses and the French historical novels The Accursed Kings by Maurice Druon. A Song of Ice and Fire received praise for its diverse portrayal of women and religion, as well as its realism. An assortment of disparate and subjective points of view confronts the reader, and the success or survival of point of view characters is never assured. Within the often morally ambiguous world of A Song of Ice and Fire, questions concerning loyalty, pride, human sexuality, piety, and the morality of violence frequently arise.

As of April 2015, the books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide and, as of January 2017, have been translated into 47 languages. The fourth and fifth volumes reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller lists upon their releases. Among the many derived works are List of A Song of Ice and Fire characters and World of A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world in which seasons last for years and end unpredictably. Nearly three centuries before the events of the first novel (see backstory), the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros were united under the Targaryen dynasty by Aegon I and his sisters Visenya and Rhaenys, with Aegon Targaryen becoming the first king of the whole of the continent of Westeros, save for the southerly Dorne. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, 15 peaceful years have passed since the rebellion led by Robert Baratheon deposed and killed the last Targaryen king, Aerys II, and proclaimed Robert king of the Seven Kingdoms, with a 9 year long summer turning finally to an end.

The principal story chronicles the power struggle for the Iron Throne between the great Houses of Westeros following the death of King Robert in A Game of Thrones. Robert's heir apparent, the 13-year old Joffrey, is immediately proclaimed king through the machinations of his mother, Cersei Lannister. When Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, King Robert's "Hand" (chief advisor), discovers that Joffrey and his siblings are the product of incest between Cersei and her twin brother Jaime, Eddard is executed for treason. In response, Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both lay separate claims to the throne. During this period of instability, two of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros attempt to become independent from the Iron Throne: Ned Stark's eldest son Robb is proclaimed King in the North, while Balon Greyjoy desires to recover the sovereignty of his region, the Iron Islands. The so-called "War of the Five Kings" is in full progress by the middle of the second book, A Clash of Kings.

The second story takes place in the far north of Westeros, where an 8,000-year-old wall of ice, simply called "the Wall", defends the Seven Kingdoms from the Others. The Wall's sentinels, the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch, also protect the realm from the incursions of the "Wildlings" or "Free Folk", who are humans living north of the Wall. The Night's Watch story is told primarily through the point of view of Jon Snow, the bastard son of Eddard Stark. Jon follows the footsteps of his uncle Benjen Stark and joins the Watch at a young age, rising quickly through the ranks. In the third volume, A Storm of Swords, the Night's Watch storyline becomes increasingly entangled with the War of the Five Kings.

The third story follows Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of the last Targaryen king of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Daenerys' story takes place on the continent of Essos, which is located directly east of Westeros across the Narrow Sea. Daenerys' storyline is isolated from the others until A Dance with Dragons. On Essos, Daenerys is married off by her elder brother Viserys Targaryen to a powerful warlord but slowly becomes an independent and intelligent ruler in her own right. Her rise to power is aided by the historic birth of three dragons, hatched from eggs given to her as wedding gifts. The three dragons soon become not only a symbol of her bloodline, but also devastating weapons of war.

Publishing history


Books in the Ice and Fire series are first published in hardcover and are later re-released as paperback editions. In the UK, Harper Voyager publishes special slipcased editions. The series has also been translated into more than 30 languages. All page totals given below are for the US first editions.

# Title Pages Chapters Words Audio US release
1 A Game of Thrones 694 73 292,727 33h 53m August 1996
2 A Clash of Kings 768 70 318,903 37h 17m February 1999
3 A Storm of Swords 973 82 414,604 47h 37m November 2000
4 A Feast for Crows 753 46 295,032 31h 10m November 2005
5 A Dance with Dragons 1040 73 414,788 48h 56m July 2011
6 The Winds of Winter Forthcoming
7 A Dream of Spring Forthcoming
Total 4,451 344 1,736,054 198h 53m

First three novels (1991–2000)

George R. R. Martin was already a successful fantasy and sci-fi author and TV writer before writing his A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Martin had published his first short story in 1971 and his first novel in 1977. By the mid-1990s, he had won three Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards, and other awards for his short fiction. Although his early books were well received within the fantasy fiction community, his readership remained relatively small and Martin took on jobs as a writer in Hollywood in the mid-1980s. He worked principally on the revival of The Twilight Zone throughout 1986 and on Beauty and the Beast until 1990, but he also developed his own TV pilots and wrote feature film scripts. He grew frustrated that his pilots and screenplays were not getting made and that TV-related production limitations like budgets and episode lengths were forcing him to cut characters and trim battle scenes. This pushed Martin back towards writing books, where he did not have to worry about compromising the size of his imagination. Admiring the works of J. R. R. Tolkien in his childhood, he wanted to write an epic fantasy, though he did not have any specific ideas.

When Martin was between Hollywood projects in the summer of 1991, he started writing a new science fiction novel called Avalon. After three chapters, he had a vivid idea of a boy seeing a man's beheading and finding direwolves in the snow, which would eventually become the first non-prologue chapter of A Game of Thrones. Putting Avalon aside, Martin finished this chapter in a few days and grew certain that it was part of a longer story. After a few more chapters, Martin perceived his new book as a fantasy story and started making maps and genealogies. However, the writing of this book was interrupted for a few years when Martin returned to Hollywood to produce his TV series Doorways that ABC had ordered but ultimately never aired.

"The first scene...chapter one of the first book, the chapter where they find the direwolf pups...just came to me out of nowhere. I was...at work on a different novel, and suddenly I saw that scene. It didn't belong in the novel I was writing, but it came to me so vividly that I had to sit down and write it, and by the time I did, it led to a second chapter, and the second chapter was the Catelyn chapter where Ned has just come back."

—George R. R. Martin in 2014

In 1994, Martin gave to his agent, Kirby McCauley, the first 200 pages and a two-page story projection as part of a planned trilogy with the novels A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter intended to follow. When Martin had still not reached the novel's end at 1400 manuscript pages, he felt that the series needed to be four and eventually six books long, which he imagined as two linked trilogies of one long story. Martin chose A Song of Ice And Fire as the overall series title: Martin saw the struggle of the cold Others and the fiery dragons as one possible meaning for "Ice and Fire", whereas the word "song" had previously appeared in Martin's book titles A Song for Lya and Songs the Dead Men Sing, stemming from his obsessions with songs. Martin also named Robert Frost's 1920 poem "Fire and Ice" and cultural associations such as passion versus betrayal as possible influences for the series' title.

The revised finished manuscript for A Game of Thrones was 1088 pages long (without the appendices), with the publication following in August 1996. Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan had written a short endorsement for the cover that was influential in ensuring the book's and hence series' early success with fantasy readers. Blood of the Dragon, a pre-release sample novella drawn from Daenerys's chapters, went on to win the 1997 Hugo Award for Best Novella.

The 300 pages removed from the A Game of Thrones manuscript served as the opening of the second book, entitled A Clash of Kings. It was released in February 1999 in the United States, with a manuscript length (without appendices) of 1184 pages. A Clash of Kings was the first book of the Ice and Fire series to make the best-seller lists, reaching 13 on The New York Times Best Seller list in 1999. After the success of The Lord of the Rings films, Martin received his first inquiries to the rights of the Ice and Fire series from various producers and filmmakers.

Martin was several months late turning in the third book, A Storm of Swords. The last chapter he had written was about the "Red Wedding", a pivotal scene notable for its violence (see Themes: Violence and death). A Storm of Swords was 1521 pages in manuscript (without appendices), causing problems for many of Martin's publishers around the world. Bantam Books published A Storm of Swords in a single volume in the United States in November 2000, whereas some other-language editions were divided into two, three, or even four volumes. A Storm of Swords debuted at number 12 in the New York Times bestseller list.

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Bridging the timeline gap (2000–2011)

After A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, Martin originally intended to write three more books. The fourth book, tentatively titled A Dance with Dragons, was to focus on Daenerys Targaryen's return to Westeros and the associated conflicts. Martin wanted to set this story five years after A Storm of Swords so that the younger characters could grow older and the dragons grow larger. Agreeing with his publishers early on that the new book should be shorter than A Storm of Swords, Martin set out to write the novel closer in length to A Clash of Kings. A long prologue was to establish what had happened in the meantime, initially just as one chapter of Aeron Damphair on the Iron Islands at the Kingsmoot. Since the events on the Iron Islands were to have an impact in the book and could not be told with existing POV characters, Martin eventually introduced three new viewpoints.

In 2001, Martin was still optimistic that the fourth installment might be released in the last quarter of 2002. However, the five-year gap did not work for all characters during writing. On one hand, Martin was unsatisfied with covering the events during the gap solely through flashbacks and internal retrospection. On the other hand, it was implausible to have nothing happen for five years. After working on the book for about a year, Martin realized he needed an additional interim book, which he called A Feast for Crows. The book would pick up the story immediately after the third book, and Martin scrapped the idea of a five-year gap. The material of the written 250-page prologue was mixed in as new viewpoint characters from Dorne and the Iron Islands. These expanded storylines and the resulting story interactions complicated the plot for Martin.

The manuscript length of A Feast For Crows eventually surpassed A Storm of Swords. Martin was reluctant to make the necessary deep cuts to get the book down to publishable length, as that would have compromised the story he had in mind. Printing the book in "microtype on onion skin paper and giving each reader a magnifying glass" was also not an option for him. On the other hand, Martin rejected the publishers' idea of splitting the narrative chronologically into A Feast for Crows, Parts One and Two. Being already late with the book, Martin had not even started writing all characters' stories and also objected to ending the first book without any resolution for its many viewpoint characters as in previous books.

With the characters spread out across the world, a friend suggested that Martin divide the story geographically into two volumes, of which A Feast for Crows would be the first. This approach would give Martin the room to complete his commenced story arcs as he had originally intended, which he still felt was the best approach years later. Martin moved the unfinished characters' stories set in the east (Essos) and north (Winterfell and the Wall) into the next book, A Dance with Dragons, and left A Feast for Crows to cover the events on Westeros, King's Landing, the Riverlands, Dorne, and the Iron Islands. Both books begin immediately after the end of A Storm of Swords, running in parallel instead of sequentially, and involve different casts of characters with only little overlap. Martin split Arya's chapters into both books after having already moved the three other most popular characters (Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Daenerys) into A Dance with Dragons.

Upon its release in October 2005 in the UK and November 2005 in the US, A Feast for Crows went straight to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Among the positive reviewers was Lev Grossman of Time, who dubbed Martin "the American Tolkien". However, fans and critics alike were disappointed with the story split that left the fates of several popular characters unresolved after A Storm of Swords' cliffhanger ending. With A Dance with Dragons said to be half-finished, Martin mentioned in the epilogue of A Feast for Crows that the next volume would be released by the next year. However, planned release dates were repeatedly pushed back. Meanwhile, HBO acquired the rights to turn Ice and Fire into a dramatic series in 2007 and aired the first of ten episodes covering A Game of Thrones in April 2011.

With around 1600 pages in manuscript length, A Dance with Dragons was eventually published in July 2011 after six years of writing, longer in page count and writing time than any of the preceding four novels. The story of A Dance with Dragons catches up and goes beyond A Feast for Crows around two-thirds into the book, but nevertheless covers less story than Martin had intended, omitting at least one planned large battle sequence and leaving several character threads ending in cliff-hangers. Martin attributed the delay mainly to his untangling "the Meereenese knot", which the interviewer understood as "making the chronology and characters mesh up as various threads converged on [Daenerys]". Martin also acknowledged spending too much time on rewriting and perfecting the story, but soundly rejected the theories of some of his critics that he had lost interest in the series or would bide his time to make more money.

Planned novels and future

Martin believes the last two volumes of the series will be big books of 1500 manuscript pages each. The sixth book will be called The Winds of Winter, taking the title of the last book of the originally planned trilogy. Displeased with the provisional title A Time for Wolves for the final volume, Martin ultimately announced A Dream of Spring as the title for the seventh book in 2006. Martin said in March 2012 that the final two novels will take readers farther north than any of the previous books, and that the Others will appear in the book.

The Winds of Winter

Further information: The Winds of Winter

The Winds of Winter will resolve the Dance with Dragons cliffhangers early on and "will open with the two big battles that [the fifth book] was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle [...] of Slaver's Bay. And then take it from there." By the middle of 2010, Martin had already finished five chapters of The Winds of Winter from the viewpoints of Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Arianne Martell, and Aeron Greyjoy, accumulating to around 100 completed pages. After the publication of A Dance with Dragons in 2011, Martin announced he would return to writing in January 2012. He spent the meantime on book tours, conventions, and continued working on his The World of Ice & Fire companion guide and a new Tales of Dunk and Egg novella.

In December 2011, Martin posted a chapter from The Winds of Winter from the viewpoint of Theon Greyjoy; several other chapters have been made public since. Four hundred pages of the sixth novel have been written as of October 2012, although Martin considers only 200 as "really finished"; the rest needs revising. In 2011, Martin gave three years as a realistic estimate for finishing the sixth book at a good pace, but said ultimately the book "will be done when it's done", acknowledging that his publication estimates had been too optimistic in the past. Martin did not intend to separate the characters geographically again.

In 2015 there were indications that the book would be published before the sixth season of the HBO show but in early January 2016 Martin confirmed that he had not met an end-of-year deadline that he had established with his publisher for release of the book before the sixth season. He added that there was "a lot still left to write" and that completion of the book was "months away still...if the writing goes well." Martin also revealed there had been a previous deadline of October 2015 that he had considered achievable in May 2015, and that in September 2015 he had still considered the end-of-year deadline achievable. He further confirmed that some of the plot of the book might be revealed in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. In February 2016, Martin stated that he dropped all his editing projects except for Wild Cards, and that he would not be writing any teleplays, screenplays, short stories, introductions or forewords before delivering The Winds of Winter.

During the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico in early December 2016, Martin offered the following hint as to the tone of this book:

There are a lot of dark chapters right now ... I've been telling you for 20 years that winter was coming. Winter is the time when things die, and cold and ice and darkness fill the world, so this is not going to be the happy feel-good that people may be hoping for. Some of the characters [are] in very dark places.

A Dream of Spring

Martin is firm about ending the series with the seventh novel "until I decide not to be firm". With his stated goal of telling the story from beginning to end, he will not truncate the story to fit into an arbitrary number of volumes. He knows the ending in broad strokes as well as the future of the main characters, and will finish the series with bittersweet elements where not everyone will live happily ever after. Martin hopes to write an ending similar to The Lord of the Rings that he felt gave the story a satisfying depth and resonance. On the other hand, Martin noted the challenge to avoid a situation like the finale of the TV series Lost, which left some fans disappointed by deviating too far from their own theories and desires. In 2015, Martin said that he was not writing A Dream of Spring together with The Winds of Winter, and in early 2016, he said he did not believe A Dream of Spring would be published before the last season of the HBO show.

Martin offered the following hint as to how the series would conclude during a Q&A at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. "I'm not going to tell you how I'm going to end my book, but I suspect the overall flavor is going to be as much bittersweet as it is happy."

TV series and other writings

Early during the development of the TV series, Martin told major plot points to producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. (The New York Times reported in 2011 that, at age 62, Martin was by all accounts in robust health.) Martin was confident he would have published at least The Winds of Winter before the TV series overtook him. Nevertheless, there was general concern about whether Martin would be able to stay ahead of the show. As a result, head writers Benioff and Weiss learned more future plot points from Martin in 2013 to help them set up the show's new possible seasons. This included the end stories for all the core characters. Deviations from the books' storylines are also being considered, but a two-year show hiatus to wait for new books is not an option for them as the child actors continue to grow and the show's popularity would wane. Martin indicated he would not permit another writer to finish the book series. On January 2, 2016, Martin confirmed that the sixth volume would not be published before the start of the sixth season of the HBO series.

Regarding A Song of Ice and Fire as his magnum opus, Martin is certain never to write anything on this scale again and would only return to this fictional universe in the context of stand-alone novels. He prefers to write stories about characters from other Ice and Fire periods of history such as his Tales of Dunk and Egg project, instead of continuing the series directly. A possible future side project is a prequel set during Aegon's conquest of Westeros. Martin said he would love to return to writing short stories, novellas, novelettes, and stand-alone novels from diverse genres such as science fiction, horror, fantasy, or even a murder mystery. However, he will see if his audience follows him after publishing his next project.

Inspiration and writing


George R. R. Martin believes the most profound influences to be the ones experienced in childhood. Having read H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert A. Heinlein, Eric Frank Russell, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, and Mervyn Peake in his youth, Martin never categorized these authors' literature into science fiction, fantasy, or horror and will write from any genre as a result. Martin classified A Song of Ice and Fire as "epic fantasy", and specifically named Tad Williams as very influential for the writing of the series. One of his favorite authors is Jack Vance, although Martin considered the series not particularly Vancean.

"[Martin's Ice and Fire series] was groundbreaking (at least for me) in all kinds of ways. Above all, the books were extremely unpredictable, especially in a genre where readers have come to expect the intensely predictable. [...] A Game of Thrones was profoundly shocking when I first read it, and fundamentally changed my notions about what could be done with epic fantasy."

—Fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie in 2008

The medieval setting has been the traditional background for epic fantasy. However, where historical fiction leaves versed readers knowing the historical outcome, original characters may increase suspense and empathy for the readers. Yet Martin felt historical fiction, particularly when set during the Middle Ages, had an excitement, grittiness, and a realness to it that was absent in fantasy with a similar backdrop. Thus, he wanted to combine the realism of historical fiction with the magic appeal of the best fantasies, subduing magic in favor of battles and political intrigue. He also decided to avoid the conventional good versus evil setting typical for the genre, using the fight between Achilles and Hector in Homer's Iliad, where no one stands out as either a hero or a villain, as an example of what he wants to achieve with his books.

Martin is widely credited with broadening the fantasy fiction genre for adult content, including incest, paedophilia, and adultery. For The Washington Post's Writing for The Atlantic, Amber Taylor assessed the novels as hard fantasy with vulnerable characters to which readers become emotionally attached. CNN found in 2000 that Martin's mature descriptions were "far more frank than those found in the works of other fantasy authors", although Martin assessed the fantasy genre to have become rougher-edged a decade later and that some writers' work was going beyond the mature themes of his novels. Adam Roberts called Martin's series the most successful and popular example of the emerging subgenre of grimdark fantasy, influencing other writers associated with that style, such as Joe Abercrombie.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The original article may be a bit shortened or modified. Some links may have been modified. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.



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