The Winds of Winter, the long, long-awaited sixth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, is among the most-anticipated works of fiction. The next entry in the fantasy saga on which HBO’s Game of Thrones was based has been in the works since Book 5, A Dance with Dragons, which was released back in 2011. In the 13 years since, HBO aired Seasons 2-8 of Game of Thrones and Season 1 (and soon 2) of its first GoT spinoff series, House of the Dragon.

While Martin continues work on the next A Song of Ice and Fire novel, we’ve compiled an overview of everything we know about The Winds of Winter, from Martin’s comments on the book’s length and publishing timeline to the story’s characters and differences from the show.

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A Song of Ice and Fire Box Set

Contains the set of 5 books.

Winds of Winter Release Date

There is no release date or window for The Winds of Winter.

Martin and his publishers initially hoped to have the manuscript completed by the end of October 2015 in order to release Winds the following March ahead of Game of Thrones: Season 6, according to Martin. That soft deadline then turned to the end of 2015, which also came and went without a completed manuscript. In January 2017, he expressed optimism that it’d be out before that year’s end. In 2020, the author aimed to finish the project’s initial work by 2021, though that timeline didn’t pan out. This seems to be the last time Martin made a public estimation for when Winds will be published.

In October 2022, Martin said he was about 75% done with the manuscript. Little progress was seemingly made over the next year, as Martin announced in November 2023 that 1,100 pages had been completed — the same amount he mentioned in a December 2022 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Martin last mentioned Winds in a December 2023 blog post, in which he stated he’d been working on the book in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he resides.

Winds of Winter Length

The Winds of Winter will be around 1,500 pages. Martin said, as of November 2023, he had written roughly 1,100 pages and had “hundreds more pages to go.” The author has said the final two A Song of Ice and Fire books will collectively come in at over 3,000 pages.

Should The Winds of Winter come in at 1,500 pages, it’d be the longest A Song of Ice and Fire book so far. The current longest is the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which was just over 1,000 pages in its original hardcover release.

Winds of Winter Story

There are no spoilers in this section, save for the names of characters who will appear in The Winds of Winter.

The Winds of Winter will continue the events of the fourth and fifth books: A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. (Books 4 and 5 followed different characters but narratively ran parallel to each other.) Martin, speaking with Smarter Travel in 2012, said Winds will start with a bang:

“There were a of cliffhangers at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Those will be resolved very early. I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice [between the forces of Stannis Baratheon and Roose Bolton in and around Winterfell] and the battle at Meereen — the battle of Slaver’s Bay [between the forces of Daenerys Targaryen and the slavers of Yunkai across the Narrow Sea].”

Daenerys Targaryen’s and Tyrion Lannister’s paths will finally cross “in a way,” Martin told EW in 2014, “but for much of the book they’re still apart. They both have quite large roles to play here. Tyrion has decided that he actually would like to live, for one thing, which he wasn’t entirely sure of during the last book, and he’s now working toward that end — if he can survive the battle that’s breaking out all around him. And Dany has embraced her heritage as a Targaryen and embraced the Targaryen words. So they’re both coming home.”

In that same interview, Martin confirmed the Dothraki will return “in a big way” and, as the end of Book 5 suggests, “a lot of stuff is happening at The Wall.” On a more direct yet less consequential note, Martin has said Winds will introduce his “interesting take on unicorns,” according to Winter Is Coming.

Overall, Martin has said to expect things to “get worse before they get better.” “There are a lot of dark chapters right now in the book that I’m writing,” Martin said at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 2016 (via EW). “It is called The Winds of Winter, and 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.”

Winds of Winter Characters

As of 2016, Martin was not planning to include any new point-of-view characters in Winds. Here’s a quick list of all the characters confirmed to have chapters told from their perspective, per Martin’s hitherto released preview chapters, blog posts, and public readings:

  • Tyrion Lannister
  • Cersei Lannister
  • Jaime Lannister and/or Brienne of Tarth
  • Arya Stark
  • Sansa Stark
  • Bran Stark
  • Theon Greyjoy
  • Asha Greyjoy
  • Victarion Greyjoy
  • Aeron Greyjoy/Damphair
  • Barristan Selmy
  • Arianne Martell
  • Areo Hotah
  • Jon Connington

While unconfirmed, it’s all but certain Daenerys Targaryen will again be a point-of-view character. Other potential POV characters include Davos Seaworth, Samwell Tarly, and Melisandre. We also know Robb Stark’s wife Jeyne Westerling (replaced in the TV series by a character named Talisa Maegyr) will appear in the prologue, according to Hypable, though Martin didn’t say the section would be written from her perspective.

Winds of Winter: Book vs. TV Show

Given the larger cast and overall scope of the book series, Winds of Winter will differ from what viewers experienced in Game of Thrones. Martin has said characters who died in the series won’t die in the books, and characters who survived in Game of Thrones won’t survive in the books. New characters will be introduced; characters who never appeared on-screen will have important roles to play in the story to come.

Martin wrote about the topic in length in a 2022 blog post:

What I have noticed more and more of late, however, is my gardening is taking me further and further away from the television series. Yes, some of the things you saw on HBO in Game of Thrones you will also see in The Winds of Winter (though maybe not in quite the same ways)… but much of the rest will be quite different.

And really, when you think about it, this was inevitable. The novels are much bigger and much much more complex than the series. Certain things that happened on HBO will not happen in the books. And vice versa. I have viewpoint characters in the books never seen on the show: Victarion Greyjoy, Arianne Martell, Areo Hotah, Jon Connington, Aeron Damphair. They will all have chapters, and the things they do and say will impact the story and the major characters who were on the show. I have legions of secondary characters, not POVs but nonetheless important to the plot, who also figure in the story: Lady Stoneheart, Young Griff, the Tattered Prince, Penny, Brown Ben Plumm, the Shavepate, Marwyn the Mage, Darkstar, Jeyne Westerling. Some characters you saw in the show are quite different than the versions in the novels. Yarra Greyjoy is not Asha Greyjoy, and HBO’s Euron Greyjoy is way, way, way, way different from mine. Quaithe still has a part to play. So does Rickon Stark. And poor Jeyne Poole. And… well, the list is long. (And all this is part of why Winds is taking so long. This is hard, guys).

Oh, and there will be new characters as well. No new viewpoints, I promise you that, but with all these journeys and battles and scheming to come, inevitably our major players will be encountering new people in lands far and near.

One thing I can say, in general enough terms that I will not be spoiling anything: not all of the characters who survived until the end of Game of Thrones will survive until the end of A Song of Ice & Fire, and not all of the characters who died on Game of Thrones will die in A Song of Ice & Fire. (Some will, sure. Of course. Maybe most. But definitely not all.) ((Of course, I could change my mind again next week, with the next chapter I write. That’s gardening)).

And the ending? You will need to wait until I get there. Some things will be the same. A lot will not.

Martin’s comments should be good news for the many fans who felt the quickened pace of Game of Thrones’ final season diluted the character arcs and overarching narratives that came before it.

One last tease: Martin told IGN in 2016 that The Winds of Winter will feature a major twist that couldn’t be done in the show. “It’s something that involves a couple characters,” said Martin, “one of whom is dead in the show [by the end of Season 5] but not dead in the books.”

A Dream of Spring and Other Future Works

A Dream of Spring is the seventh and final book Martin has planned for A Song of Ice and Fire. It, too, is expected to be 1,500 pages or more, according to Martin. As for the story, Martin offered this during the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 2016: “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.” There is no timetable for its release.

In addition to finishing Winds and preparing for A Dream of Spring, Martin is authoring a second volume of his Targaryen history, potentially titled Blood & Fire, and additional stories in his Tales of Dunk and Egg series of novellas, which serves as the basis for HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones spinoff, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Martin continues to serve as an editor of Wild Cards, a shared-universe sci-fi book series he created in 1987. He’s also a producer for two active TV series: House of the Dragon and AMC’s Dark Winds.

Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.

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