Literature / A Song of Ice and Fire

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Here there be many a trope, in the great wide world of Ice and Fire.

"He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire."
Rhaegar Targaryen, A Clash of Kings

A Song of Ice and Fire is a bestselling Doorstopper epic fantasy series written by George R.R. Martin. The first book (out of a planned seven) was published in 1996 and most recently, Book 5, was published in 2011. In addition to the main books, there are a variety of spin-offs and related media, such as prequels and in-universe history texts.

The novels feature a large ensemble cast, narrated in chapters that relate action from the third-person limited perspective of alternating protagonists, some of them at times might be on the opposite side of a conflict. Some of the plots and subplots of the protagonists overlap with each other directly and indirectly, while others merely parallel the central action or counterpoint it in key ways. In general, there are three theaters of action in the books — the Wall, Westeros, and Essos — where a range of characters and factions gravitate around, slowly converging as the narrative of the series moves to the final act.

Most of the series is set on the continent of Westeros, a world where the seasons can last for years. Westeros was once a world suffused with magic. Beings like the Children of the Forest allied with the First Men against the Others, a race of inhuman ice beings and banished them to the Lands of Always Winter, with a giant Wall built to repel them. More recently, the dragon-riding Targaryen dynasty, refugees from the doomed Valyrian Freehold on the continent of Essos, unified the seven kingdoms of Westeros under a single realm. But some time later, even the dragons died, and with their death, magic has faded for more than a century across the known world prior to the start of the series. However, there are rumors, whispers, and prophesies that someday, the dragons will return.

The Targaryens outlasted their dragons for a century or so after the deaths of their mounts but their dynasty was toppled by a rebellion led by King Robert Baratheon in an alliance that ultimately included Lord Eddard Stark, Lord Hoster Tully, Lord Jon Arryn, and Lord Tywin Lannister. In the course of their rebellion, their alliance was cemented by marriage, with Lord Eddard Stark marrying Catelyn Tully, and governing the North. He has five children with Catelyn — Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon — and an illegitimate son Jon Snow, fathered with another woman. Lord Stark's household also includes Theon Greyjoy, a hostage raised in his household to check the ambitions of his rebellious father Balon. King Robert Baratheon married Lord Tywin Lannister's daughter Cersei, the eldest and most ambitious of her father's children. In addition to Cersei, Lord Tywin's two sons also have prominent roles in the series — Jaime, Cersei's twin brother, and one of the greatest knights of Westeros, who is currently serving Robert's Kingsguard, and the youngest child Tyrion, a dwarf who is The Unfavorite of his family. King Robert is also assisted by his brothers in governing the Seven Kingdoms — Renly being one of the most prominent courtiers of the Seven Kingdoms, with close ties to the wealthy and powerful House Tyrell; and Stannis, the resentful middle-child who is disliked for his difficult personality, with his only friend being the commoner Davos Seaworth.

At the start of the series, a long summer lasting for more than a decade is nearing its end, leaving many observers to fear the onset of an even longer winter which would be hard enough even during the best of times. Unfortunately, what follows would not be the best of times. In the wake of Lord Jon Arryn's sudden and surprising death, King Robert Baratheon resolves to make Eddard Stark his Hand of the King, his second-in-command, in spite of the grudges House Stark bears with House Lannister, the king's in-laws. The Alliance that opposed the Targaryen dynasty, which governed Westeros in the previous decade, fractures in the course of the first three novels, plunging the kingdom into civil war — even isolationist regions like the Iron Islands and the southern principality of Dorne take advantage of the crisis to assert their own agendas. Across the Narrow Sea, The Remnant of House Targaryen — the vengeance-mad Prince Viserys Targaryen and his younger sister Daenerys — live in exile, planning to return to Westeros and restore their dynasty. They court their own alliance of exiles, mercenaries, and ambitious local states to build an army that would eventually invade Westeros again, and bring them back to power. Naturally, the general instability of Westeros with almost every region in turmoil and civil war is amenable to their interests.

A much bigger threat than the instability of the government and potential invasion from Essos lies in the far North, in the Lands of Always Winter. The Wall was built to keep the Others from returning to Westeros and to this end, an organization called the Night's Watch was instituted to permanently garrison the structure in a network of castles that divides the Seven Kingdoms from the far North. The decline of magic has led to the institution of the Night's Watch being deprecated and understaffed over the centuries. It was once regarded as a noble institute by all Seven Kingdoms but now that the Others are believed to be a Sealed Evil in a Can, only the North regards the Night's Watch as a noble and honorable calling. While younger sons and illegitimate sons of noble houses — primarily from the North — still join the Night's Watch voluntarily, it has mostly become an Army of Thieves and Whores who spend most of their time putting down rebellions by Wildings, barbaric tribes who defy the customs of mainland Westeros and who periodically try to get past the Wall. This status-quo gets unbalanced thanks to reports of sightings of the blue-eyed Others, who have led attacks on many Wildling villages as well as ranging parties sent by the Night's Watch. The Others are cold, unnatural, and seemingly immortal beings whose powers allow them to converted the dead into wights, to serve as slaves in an inhuman army of the dead. This leads the Wildlings to band around Mance Rayder, King-Beyond-The-Wall and mount the largest wildling rebellion in the history of the Watch.

Should the Others return to full strength and get past the Wall, Westeros will be plunged into an eternal winter, a long night that never ends, and it won't matter then whose head wears which crown.

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    Main Books 

Main series

  1. A Game of Thrones (1996)
  2. A Clash of Kings (1998)
  3. A Storm of Swords (2000)
  4. A Feast for Crows (2005)
  5. A Dance with Dragons (2011)
  6. The Winds of Winter (TBD)note 
  7. A Dream of Spring (TBD)

    Prequels and Companion Media 
  • Archmaester Gyldayn's Histories:
    • The Princess and the Queen, or, The Blacks and the Greens: A novella written as an In-Universe history text, narrating the events of the Dance of the Dragons, a war of succession between rival Targaryen branches 170 years before the time of the main series.
    • The Rogue Prince, or, The King's Brother: A novella narrating the exploits of Prince Daemon Targaryen, including the events leading to "The Princess and the Queen", published in June 2014 as part of an anthology of short stories Martin helped publish called Rogues. (Martin also provided the foreword)
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg - Novellas set 90 years before the conflict of the main series. Three tales - "The Hedge Knight", "The Sworn Sword" and "The Mystery Knight", have been published, but George R. R. Martin has announced that this will be an ongoing series that will eventually chronicle the complete adventures of Dunk and Egg. These have also been adapted as graphic novels.
  • A World of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. A Game of Thrones Guide): A smartphone app offering details on a multitude of events, characters, and locations written by Elio M. Garcia Jr. and Linda Antonsson, the admins of popular fansite Westeros.org.
  • The Lands of Ice and Fire: A book of poster-sized maps, including regions of the world that have yet to be explored in the novels.
  • The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones: A series encyclopedia, co-written by Martin, Garcia, and Antonsson. The book is framed as a history written by one Maester Yandel and presented to King Robert as a gift.

    Adaptations 
  • The series was adapted for television as Game of Thrones which despite borrowing the title of the first book is an adaptation of the entire series, and between Seasons 1-4 faithfully adapted the first three books. The unusual circumstances of its conception and genesis (an adaptation of an as-yet incomplete series of novels), means that the later seasons have compressed books 4-5, and as of Season 6 is set to move past the chronology of the published books and finish before the author completes his books. Martin has been supportive of the project writing the screenplays for one episode per season (for Seasons 1-4)note . He has also given Weiss and Benioff the outlines for the remaining books in the series in case they outpace him, which they did in 2016.
  • A video game, A Game of Thrones: Genesis, has dramatized some of the stuff that's All There in the Manual, covering the last thousand-or-so years of Westerosi history. It was joined by a negatively received video game, also called Game of Thrones. A browser-based online MMORPG called Game Of Thrones: Seven Kingdoms is also in the works.
  • Another video game, this one made by Telltale Games.
  • A table top Role-Playing Game was licensed through Green Ronin and currently has three books released, a rulebook, a sourcebook, and a licensed adventure.
  • A tabletop strategy game and two editions of a CCG have been published by Fantasy Flight Games.
  • A cookbook, A Feast Of Ice And Fire and a map folio The Lands Of Ice and Fire have been published.

For more information, see the character sheet and GRRM's "Not-a-blog".

As the page for the novels is already considerable and ever growing, please enter the tropes found only in the live action series and video game on their own pages.

This series provides examples of:


Alternative Title(s): A Song Of Ice And Fire

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