Speculative Fiction Books that Kept My Interest in the Genre

Please note the title of this post refers to books! I will write a separate list containing movies, TV shows and video games related to speculative fiction sometime in the future. And, expect that list to consist of “originals,” not just media adaptations of books. Also, these are NOT my favorite speculative fiction books of all-time! I’m not even sure I can make a list without changing it every year; hence why I do an annual list.

            Everyone has a favorite genre of literature (and films, video games, etc.), but has it occurred to you why and how that came to be? Did someone introduce you to the genre? Was it an author’s book—or, several of them—that hooked your passion for the genre? Was it a pop culture moment? In other words, do you remember the moment—or, the story—that got you into your favorite genre(s)? This question can be asked of any format or medium, but I thought about which books got me into speculative fiction and how it influenced my love and my appreciation for the genre. It did take some time to think back on what I’ve read since I was a kid, but I realized that some of the books released in the past decade have been just as influential as the ones I’ve read growing up.

            I’ve managed to compile a list of 10 books/series that influenced my love for the speculative fiction genre. Please know that I listed the books in the chronological order I read them regardless of the book’s publication date. The reasons for this is obvious. I hope you read and enjoy them as much as I did. 

  1. Animorphs by K.A. Applegate

I’m a 90s kid, and there were several book series for kids—The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, etc.—but, I remember when the debut book in this series was released. I was 10 years-old, still in elementary school, and intrigued by the book’s cover: a boy changing from human to animal (a lizard). The story was about a group of friends who are given powers to change into animals by a dying alien in order to fight an invasion against a race of hostile aliens. This sci-fi series was the first book series in which I had to learn how to wait patiently for a book to be written and released when I wanted to devour the next one immediately. At the same time, this series introduced me to the blending of both the science fiction and the paranormal genres. Even though I didn’t know what paranormal was at the time, I knew this was different from other alien media I consumed with an explanation of D.N.A., permanent consequences, and the difficulties in balancing family, school, and saving the world. Animorphs was my first obsessive book series. 

2. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

I’m in 9th grade and one of many students who participated in an optional reading course through our English class. Two of my best friends participated in this course with me. However, the three of us chose different books to read during the second quarter. I can’t remember what one friend chose, but my other friend was upset with us for not selecting The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Why? Well, the description of Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie was more intriguing to me: a boy whose father loses the source of his stories, and he’s a storyteller. The boy, Haroun, goes on a journey to find out what happened to the “source” of the stories. The story is a twist on fairy tale tropes and fantastical elements with rounded characters and lots of humor. It wasn’t until I was reading The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (in 12th grade) that I learned about magic realism and Salman Rushdie’s contribution to the genre. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is one of my favorite books I read for (grade) school. And, before you ask, no I haven’t read The Once and Future King in its entirety, yet. 

3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I’m going to say something controversial: Harry Potter is not my favorite (fantasy) series of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong! I love that series and what it’s done for the speculative fiction genre, children’s and YA literature, the popularity of fantasy, and the reading and the writing communities. Yet, there was another series that came out at the same time and introduced me to the blending of fantasy, science and religion. I read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman after reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, and I found myself enjoying Lyra’s story more than Harry’s. I want to say it’s because the flawed characters were more believable, the aspects of science and philosophy in a fantasy worked with the plot, and the idea of “other worlds” was intriguing to me. I hadn’t read C.S. Lewis’ or Madeline L’Engle’s series yet, so Philip Pullman was my introduction to portal fantasy, and I’ve been obsessed with them since reading His Dark Materials trilogy. I’ve read The Book of Dust already, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the companion trilogy to His Dark Materials; and, I’m excited for Season 2 of the television series, too! 

4. The Modern Faerie Tale Trilogy by Holly Black

I still remember reading Holly Black’s debut novel, Tithe. The story is an urban fantasy about how a teenaged girl realizes she’s been interacting with faeries since she was a child, and what that means for her and her family and her friends. Yes, I read one of Laurell K. Hamilton’s books—her debut novel, Nightseer—so I had a fair idea of what to expect from fae fantasy, but urban fantasy blends the original variants of fae stories with mundane society; and, the fae are NOT nice beings. Fae are not what they are according to Disney movies. They don’t “play fair” and are usually in it for themselves. It makes for an interesting story combining folklore and modernity. I would meet Holly Black at the BookExpo I attended that year, which was my first one; and, I met Cassandra Clare there, too! I read and enjoyed the rest of the trilogy, and Holly Black’s other books, especially The Air of the Folk trilogy. This series was my gateway to reading other books in that genre, especially ones by Seanan McGuire, Ilona Andrews and Amelia Hutchins. 

5. The Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi Ono

Yes, there is a fantasy series by the same name by Jeffe Kennedy, but the name of the series is where the similarities end. The 90s saw an expansion of anime series: Pokémon, Gundam Wing, Sailor Moon, etc. Manga and books were being translated and imported to the U.S. The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow was translated and released after I graduated from college, and I was introduced to Asian inspired dark fantasy. The story follows Yoko Nakajima, a high schooler who lives a mundane, yet lonely life. To make matters worse, she stands out due to her red hair—she is the biological daughter of Japanese parents. One day, Yoko is abducted at her school, transported to another world, abandoned and left to fend for herself in a new world. This series introduced me to a fantasy world in which the “traveler” is not welcomed as a “hero” and survival is based on realistic situations. The theme of xenophobia in fantasy is presented in a way that will make you think about what could happen in other fantasy worlds, especially when—SPOILER ALERT—the protagonist chooses to remain in that world instead of returning home, and how and why such a choice is made. So, if there are any fans of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, then you’ll love this series, too. 

6. Monstress by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

Growing up, I read comics, graphic novels and manga, and many of them were recommended by friends and relatives. In fact, that’s how I learned about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. However, for several years, I didn’t read as many graphic novels as I wanted. I didn’t lose interest, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to read. I did take a course about graphic novels in college, but I took another one when I was in grad school—where I read Watchmen—and learned about the format and its growing influence, especially for the memoir and biography genre. At the same time, two of my friends and classmates introduced me to recent bestsellers and new releases. Not only did I begin to read Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series and Saga by Brian K. Vaughn, but a new series with an eye-catching cover intrigued me: a woman standing in front of a brass door with a matching mechanical arm. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda is a dark fantasy in which a young woman searches into her mother’s research and her lost memories as she deals with demons both real and inner. The artwork will engross you into the world both the author and the artist present. While describing the series as a “visual fantasy” isn’t 100% accurate, it is a way to get speculative fiction fans into reading this graphic novel series. 

7. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

What can I say about this trilogy that hasn’t been said by everyone else who has read it, including myself? This Hugo Award winning series—yes, it swept the Hugos for Best Novel in consecutive years—is a gateway into the future of the speculative fiction genre and the type of stories that can be told withing the genre. N.K. Jemisin not only writes a brilliant science fantasy series, but also incorporates the atrocious practices humanity continues to perform, which forces readers to consider the realities of human society and its future. For me, this series introduced me to modern speculative fiction and the new set of expectations that it brought to the entire community! Jemisin’s contemporaries: Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, Jesmyn Ward, Tochi Onyebuchi, P. Djèlí Clark, Marlon James, Rivers Solomon, etc.—all have taken familiar tropes of the genre and presented readers with new methods of telling and writing these stories. If you haven’t done so already, then go and read this amazing trilogy!

8. Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

This is not the first folklore retelling I’ve read, but it’s one of the most beautiful written ones I’ve come across; and, it brings a new appreciation for the season of winter. This series follows Vasya as she grows from child to adolescent to adult in a patriarchal society during a transition where “old traditions” are fading and being replaced with a “new” religion. Vasya fights to maintain the old traditions while Russian society undergoes several changes. Folklore is the cultural and the societal traditions that are passed along from generation to generation through a web of communication; and, history plays a role in folklore as well. Katherine Arden presents a balance amongst folklore, history and fantasy in this trilogy. This series will remind speculative fiction fans of the beauty within the genre and how it can remain from beginning to end. 

9. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

While this is the first book in The Metamorphosis series—it’s the only one translated into English so far—it’s a great and mind-blowing introduction into the metaphysical genre. Not to mention, it takes the trope of the “magic school” and provides a more realistic, yet twisted story of what could occur at such a place. This story will make you think of Alan Moore and your concept of reality. In addition, you’ll start to think of these “magic schools” as drafts instead of opportunities. Other genres in speculative fiction has readers asking questions about the world around them, but metaphysical fiction has readers question the reality of their existence. The difference is it seems that a limited population experiences the metaphysical compared to fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, magic realism, etc. This series and genre will make you question everything!

10. The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

Although I’ve heard enough about Joe Abercrombie, Peter McLean, John Gwynne, and Anna Smith Spark enough to buy their books, it was Gareth Hanrahan’s debut novel, The Gutter Prayer, which introduced me to the grimdark subgenre. Yes, I’m a reader and a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, but to me that series is more of a historical low-fantasy series rather than straight grimdark (I could be wrong about that). This book introduced me to characters who are all “gray” with “reasonable” motivations who strive towards those goals as their lives and the world fall to pieces. As grim, dark and sad as the characters and their stories are, it continues with the knowledge that life goes one no matter how many people die and are resurrected and die again. This book and its contemporaries represent the harsh side of a fantasy world that reflect ours. 

So, there is my list of speculative fiction books that kept my interest in the genre since childhood. While my list of all-time favorite speculative fiction books continue to change over and over, this list of books influenced my love and my appreciation of this genre of literature. And, from my perspective, I appreciate the influence and the bridging from one book or series to another with a similar genre structure. Which books got you into this genre? Have you read any or all of my picks or any books by the authors mentioned in this post? Comment below or send me a link to your online response. 

The Disclosure Behind the 2020 Hugo Awards

A lot can happen in a week. Politics and COVID-19 aside, it seems like “everyone” wants to return to a time when “things were the way they used to be.” Out of all of the prejudices that’s been going around, it seems that ageism continues to be accepted widely due to the notion that “the new will replace the old.” Unfortunately, it seems that “the old” keeps finding ways to hold out for a bit longer, which is equivalent to years. Not only have Americans been forced to admit the issues surrounding race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and domestic violence, but also delve into several generational gaps and the beliefs that come from a particular age group. “Trumpeters” aside, it seems that many older White men have nothing better to do than to whine about how modern society is uprooting “the morals and the structure of ‘their youth’.” Yes, because White men have had it so bad, they get to complain about what they no longer have as opposed to other groups of people who are still denied the basic rights and privileges they continue to take for granted. And, it seems that the microcosms are reflecting the macrocosm as certain in-groups continue to find ways to make themselves exclusive as they express their desires to omit other groups of people and to keep them from participating alongside them. In recent years, we all witnessed this happening more and more in Hollywood and film, and in the video game industry. Not to mention, it’s happening within the literary community and the fandom are familiar with the ongoings within speculative fiction.

            One week after Tom Shippey’s comments about fantasy novels in The Wall Street Journal, the 2020 Hugo Awards was livestreamed during Worldcon, which would have been held in New Zealand if it wasn’t for the global pandemic. The good news was, many fans were able to watch the Award Ceremony; the bad news was, those same fans were reminded that those who write speculative fiction are not as open-minded as their stories make them out to be. More people were able to witness the blatant sexism and racism that is whispered about in the publishing industry. Obnoxious doesn’t even begin to describe the behavior of those grown men. 

            First, let me address George R.R. Martin’s mispronunciation of the names of several of the nominees and the presenters. As someone who has worked within education for over a decade, yes there were times when I mispronounced A LOT of names; and, I’m not limiting that list of names to “minority” ones. One, there are some European names a lot of people cannot pronounce. Two, your name maybe unusual and/or hard to say for someone else. Three, names do not always equate to your concept of gender (think of unisex names). So, why were so many people upset with GRRM? It was because many of the nominees saw the name butchering as unprofessional, which it was. Some authors are friends with each other, and they all often attend the same events (I’m assuming here), so it is understandable when after a while the mispronunciation comes off as rude. I understand how those authors felt, and it did ruin the Hugo Award experience for several people, especially the nominees (and the winners). Then again, there are several authors—whose works I’m a fan of—whose names and book titles I cannot pronounce to save my life (audiobooks have been a huge help). I know GRRM issued an apology, but that is neither for myself nor for the fandom to accept because it is for the authors and the creators who were nominated to decide. Whether or not they want to accept it is NOT up to us, it is their choice.

            There was another thing GRRM mentioned that night that has me upset, and it was his statement regarding all of the Finalists for the “Best Novel” category being women. Maybe he was trying to be funny when he said, “maybe we’ll see some men nominated next year,” but the context of that statement—especially after Robert Silverberg’s rant about John W. Campbell’s “legacy”—remains to be open to interpretation. 

            Robert Silverberg is an award-winning author of over 1,000 sci-fi and fantasy stories, some of which won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Awards. In addition, he was the Toastmaster of several Hugo Award Ceremonies throughout the years. Silverberg’s publishing career started in 1954 and he retired around the early 1990s. As he mentioned in his rant—which was prerecorded—he is a fan (and I want to say a friend) of John W. Campbell’s stories—he is considered to be “the father of modern science fiction”—which he wrote and published during the 1930s, and he talked about the sort of “person” Campbell was when he met up with other authors, including those who were influenced by him. In fact, Silverberg was so defensive of his “idol” that he decided to insult the author who “insulted” Campbell after winning the award that was renamed once it was rediscovered that he was a bigot. Did anyone else notice how many viewers “left” once it became obvious what Silverberg was saying a loud? No one is denying the contribution Campbell made to science fiction, but the truth of the matter remains in tandem with his legacy, which is that Campbell was a racist and a sexist. Like many other (fantasy) readers of my generation, I enjoyed and I’ve been influenced by the Harry Potter series. However, J.K. Rowling has some disturbing views about transgenders (which, she has voiced more than once). Neither the fantasy community nor the fandom—myself included—cannot deny the contribution Harry Potter has had. Yet, while we are able to separate the art from its creator, we must know when to say, “that’s not right.” 

            Let’s face it, everything is changing whether or not we want them to change. I grew up during the 1990s during a time when the Internet was becoming communal tool. Yes, I have my moments of nostalgia, but I don’t wish for things to revert backwards! There are a lot of things that must change and there are some things that we all look forward to happening. Halting progress or returning to the past brings about chaotic results, something we are all witnessing firsthand on a global scale!

            Now, I’m going to sound like the English teacher/instructor I used to be: did you all even bother to read (or, to watch or to play) any of the works that were nominated for the Hugo Awards?! I was under the impression that members of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) got to vote for the Hugo Award nominees and winners. Don’t get me wrong, it is NOT easy to attempt to read ALL of the books that get nominated for awards (my Shortlist Award Reading Challenge is a challenge), but to act as though these works aren’t worth reading because it didn’t suit your “preferences” or “expectations” of the genre? Or, were you worried that you wouldn’t be as familiar with the context of works written and created by females, BIPOC/BAME, and/or LGBTQIA+ individuals as you are with those of yourself and your peers?! No one is denying that the authors of the past (and the present) contributed to the genre, but there shouldn’t be a “shared model” for a genre that is dependent on the imaginations and the creativity of each individual. No genre is supposed to remain the same overtime. This is because stagnation kills progress of any kind! If science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the other genres, and the subgenres, within speculative fiction have changed over the course of the last century, then why should it remain constant in order for the genre to befit YOUR preferences? As John Scalzi mentioned on his blog, “’The canon’ didn’t just somehow ‘happen.’ It is a result of choices…” The genre was different before I was born, it has branched out and evolved since my childhood, and it will go beyond our expectations and imaginations with posterity. However, we get to decide on what we read based on what is available, which is A LOT!

            Here is my first of many proposals (hopefully). There are books about the history of fantasy, the encyclopedia of literature, the companion to science fiction, etc. In literature and in poetry, there are “schools” and “literary movements” and “periods” that categorizes the evolution of that “form” of literature based on the era in addition to literary form and genre. We are all familiar with the general history, the definitions, the genres and the subgenres of speculative fiction. However, if the influences and the changes of the genre are going to keep getting mentioned by the “elder” generation, then we should at least consider compiling “schools” and “periods” of the genre so that there is more comprehension than saying, “this author was a contributor of this subgenre due to the works which reflected the genre,” or “this author’s stories cemented this movement within the genre, etc.” For example, one of the most familiar eras of fantasy are “The Inklings.” When that group is mentioned, many know it refers to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and other Oxford professors of literature who were also fans of folklore, and wrote stories based on those tales. We need more groups and/or eras like that so that there is recognized clarity within the community. Is this similar to canonization? Yes. However, if time frames and eras are going to keep being brought up, then we can find ways to make it all easy to understand.

            This could be the opportunity the genre needs in order to progress further. I’m not saying that this will resolve any of the issues that have been and continue to be brought up within the speculative fiction community, but it with academic scholars, numerous awards, and an ever-growing fandom, we should consider a plan and/or a project that will involve everyone; especially, if we want the genre to continue to be taken seriously without all of the attention focusing on “elder White heterosexual males” who won’t stop bringing up the past. Think about it because the Hugo Awards are a celebration of the best of the (current) year, and not just the past. All of the groups within this in-group should start working together more in order to include all who participate in the speculative fiction community. For that to happen, we have to acknowledge (and perhaps learn) of all of the eras and the communities within the genre. 

Why You Need to Read: “The Queen of Raiders”

The Nine Realms #2: The Queen of Raiders

By: Sarah Kozloff

Published: February 18, 2020

Genre: Fantasy

            I could lend my Talent to (the) Raiders. I could attack the Oros in their lair, (Chapter Thirteen, Slagos to Alpetar).

            The wait between books in a series are often long. There are times when the book comes out the next year, or in two or three years. Then, there was the case of Alan Garner’s Tales of Alderley Trilogy which had a 50-year wait between the 2nd and the 3rd books! And, of course fantasy fans still await for the next books by both George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, patiently. Meanwhile, author Sarah Kozloff gifted her fans and readers with a one-month waiting period between each book in her The Nine Realms Quartet! And, The Queen of Raiders begins where A Queen in Hiding ended.

            Book 2 starts off with Thalen and the other survivors of the invasion of the Oromondo army. Thalen decides that a small group of raiders instead of a large army would work more to their advantage in fighting back. Once the first rounds of recruitment are over, Thalen and his Raiders travel into Oromondo in order to liberate the Free States. Meanwhile, Wren—now under the alias of ‘Kestrel’—escaped detection from Lord Matwyck but had to leave her foster family. She arrives in the Green Isles and Kestrel must decide her next move before she is recognized again and captured. Gustie, one of Thalen’s friends from the Scolairíum, has been captured by the Oros and is forced to serve one of the generals, but she decides to fight back with the other captors. And, Lord Matwyck continues to increase his power and corruption as Lord Regent of Weirandale, leaving only his son, Marcot, to question his governorship without fear of losing his life. Each of these characters develop more into themselves due to the Oromondo aggression. Out of all of these protagonists, only Matwyck ignores the Oromondo threat, which serves as a reminder that Matwyck is ruling for himself and for power, and not for the benefit of his country or its people. Thalen, Kestrel, Gustie and all of the other characters are aware of the extent the Oromondos can have on their nations if they’re not stopped. The only thing Marcot can do is work behind his father’s back and learn how Matwyck’s selfishness is affecting everyone else in Weirandale. No one is safe from either Matwyck or the Oro army. The complexity lies not amongst the characters, but how they deal with their complex scenarios. These characters develop because of these hardships and conflicts.

            The main plot in The Queen of Raiders is the resistance and the retaliation against the Oromondo army. Thalen is the Commander of the Raiders and he leads his small army into enemy territory knowing that the odds are stacked against them. Gustie uses her location amongst the Oros to her advantage and plots various attacks on the Oro army from the inside. And, Kestrel decides to participate alongside the Raiders in order to protect her citizens and to get vengeance for Weirandale. There are two subplots within this novel. The first is the continued corruption of Lord Matwyck and his “council.” It’s been over a decade since Matwyck seized control of Weirandale and he’s become obsessed with power. Matwyck’s corruption and desperation to maintain power has him posting bounties of the missing heir in other realms and executing the nobles who remain loyal to the Nargis Throne. The citizens suffer and Cerúlia remains in exile. The second subplot focuses on both the survival and the world-building in the other realms affected by the Oromondo invasion. The army didn’t just invade the Free States, but the realms bordering Oromondo as well. It turns out that because the Oromondos suffered, it lead to the suffering of the neighboring realms in the name of survival. So, these other realms decide to fight back as well, and the protagonists (and the readers) learn about the culture and the livelihood of the denizens of those realms, and what they need to do in order to survive the war and the occupation. Kestrel doesn’t return to Cascada due to the Oromondo invasion. She knows that the bigger conflict must be dealt with first before she reclaims the Nargis Throne. This is necessary to know because Kestrel is aware of her responsibilities as the queen she hopes to become. 

            Once again, the narration is told from several points-of-view. The protagonists and the other characters are reliable narrators as they provide this chronological sequence from first-person P.O.V. and their stream-of-consciousness. Just like in A Queen in Hiding, the readers will know everything that is going on everywhere consecutively. Only this time, the motivations and the actions of the characters aren’t as complicated and justified as they were in the first book.   

            The style Sarah Kozloff uses in The Queen of Raiders focuses on military occupation and military strategy. Other recent military fantasy series written by R.F. Kuang and Myke Cole are about the realities of war. War isn’t just fighting and dying. Not all soldiers are trained fighters and are able to survive harsh conditions and injuries. Supplies run out, wounds become infected, horses die, etc. The stories told afterwards mentions all of the heroics and the battles; however, what occurs in the present are the planning, the struggling, the decision making, the suffering and the dying are often left out of those tales. The author presents war and occupation as a long-term conflict, not a quick battle. Anyone who participates with the fighting unit—cooks, medics, etc.—is just as vulnerable as the soldiers to the costs and the conditions of war. Success is often paid with death. The mood in this book is the occupation of hostiles and the terror that comes with it. Victims of the Oromondo army are held as slaves within their own homes and the denizens of Weirandale are suppressed by Matwyck and his “council.” The tone of the novel is rebellion. Both groups of oppression rebel in catches as opposed to one large group. This is done in order to derive suspicion from everyone else while succeeding with smaller victories; victories that garter hope for the oppressed and reflect the same fear back to the oppressors. Sometimes warfare becomes a necessity for survival.  

            The appeal for The Queen of Raiders will be a positive one. I say this because both the narrative and the pacing continues where A Queen in Hiding ended, leaving no open questions to be asked by the readers. Anyone who enjoyed the first book in The Nine Realms will be pleased with the short waiting period so that they can start back where they left off. And, with the cliffhanger at the end of this book, many readers will be happy that the wait for Book 3—A Broken Queen—is a short one! I want to mention that the final publications of the books do contain maps of the realms so following along the treks of all of the characters makes it easy for the readers to keep track of the events everywhere in the author’s world. 

            The Queen of Raiders is an excellent follow-up to A Queen in Hiding. Fans will appreciate how the conflicts continue in their own direction while all of the characters develop and participate in maintaining order through those conflicts. This action-packed part of the series reminds readers that there are other responsibilities individuals must rise up to in order to becomes the leaders they must be.

My Rating: MUST READ IT NOW (5 out of 5)!!!

The Bittersweet Conclusions that are Coming in April 2019

Note: There are some spoilers and theories surrounding Game of Thronesand the MCU. I don’t have any knowledge of what’s going to happen in either Game of Thronesor Endgame.

Just like everyone else, I’m excited for both Season 8 of Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. Both the television show and the movie are continuations of popular media adaptations of speculative fiction. Each one will pick up after a “shocking” ending, and the fandom has no idea what to expect in these upcoming installments. George R.R. Martin has announced that there will be differences in his final two books from the TV show. Marvel and Disney have announced some of the upcoming movies for “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—Spider-Man: Far From Home and maybe an appearance of the Defenders (?). So yes, no one knows what to expect in April 2019 except for action and heartache. 

            Before I go into the obvious differences here are the similarities. Both Game of Thronesand Endgamewill take place after the characters suffer a major lost and are working to fight and to survive in the final showdown. Both involve forces in which there is little to no knowledge about. And, both have confirmed deaths of many of its characters. How will The North win against The Night King? What methods will be used to defeat Thanos and return the other half of the universe’s population? Who is going to die, because not everyone makes it to the end? Fans of either or both are anticipating finales that will destroy them emotionally. The actors and the actresses did admit to crying at the end of shooting their parts. Will it be the same for us? 

            Game of ThronesSeason 8 promises us epic battle sequences, lots of CGI, and several deaths. George R.R. Martin has told his readers to expect a “bittersweet” ending in the books, which should be reflected in the show. And, because the show has diverted from the books so much, it will be difficult to determine which of the minor characters are going to die. In terms of the major characters, Jamie and Cersei are definitely going to die; at least one more Stark will die; and, Winterfell will provide a winning strategy for surviving—and hopefully winning—the war. As for the minor characters, anyone is fair game. Although we didn’t see any footage in the trailer, the Battle for King’s Landing is going to be as epic as the Battle for the Dawn. 

            Less than two weeks after the premiere of the final season of Game of ThronesAvengers: Endgamewill be released in theaters. This latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place a few months after Thanos snapped his fingers. The surviving teammates are scattered and are brainstorming on how to defeat Thanos. There isn’t much to go on except that there will be a final showdown of some sort; Captain Marvel will make her appearance to both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy; and, at least one of the remaining Avengers—Captain America—will die. Thus, paving the way for Civil War II—read the graphic novel. However, it has already been confirmed that the characters who died before the “Snap” will remain dead (?). This plot device is there to implicate lasting repercussions to Thanos’ actions.

            April 2019 will give us the conclusions to the media storylines we want so badly, or do we? All we know about the anticipated features is that there will be a bittersweet ending to both of them. And yes, there have been clues in the previous seasons and movies, it is not clear what will happen. Unfortunately, the books don’t give us any additional hints. With human history to accompany us, viewers and fans should have an idea of how gut-wrenching these viewing experiences will be.

            I know I’ll be watching both media adaptions of these franchises; and yes, I’ll continue to read and to watch anything else related to them. But, am I prepared for the emotional train wreck that is part of these endgames? If the actors and the actresses were emotional, then what does that mean for us? All the same, I need to quench my curiosity because the buildup has been too much. I Need to Know How It All Ends!

My Theory on George R.R. Martin’s Writing “Plan” for A Song of Ice and Fire

What do you believe is going on with George R.R. Martin’s writing process?

Like many other fans and readers of A Song of Ice and Fire series, we have been waiting for a very long time for Winds of Winter. A Dance with Dragons was published in 2011, a few weeks after the first season of Game of Thrones ended. Now, the eighth and final season is being filmed, and there is still no word on the progress of Winds of Winter. The last rumor that many fans believed was that several preview chapters were pulled from the Internet for editing. Now, with the television adaptation diverging beyond the books, the only thing many of us are hoping for is that the books will continue its own narrative, and not reiterate what was changed for television too much.

Now, while I’m sure Reddit and Tower of the Hand have several theories and ideas about when Winds of Winter is going to be announced/published, and whether or not there will be three more books instead of two, this is my theory based on what other authors have said and done in similar scenarios, and G.R.R.M.’s writing style. However, I’m not familiar with all of those theories. I hear some of them when I participate in live chats on YouTube. And, for the record, I have made a similar theory/prediction in the past. I was one of a few who brought up and defended the theory surrounding the potential release date for the novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on 07/07/2007. As some of us may or may not remember, J.K. Rowling herself had to reject that theory.

While it has been over seven years since the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series was published, fans continue to enjoy the TV show, novellas, graphic novel adaptations, and fan chats surrounding the series. However, we remain curious as to when Winds of Winter will be released. I don’t believe there will be an additional book in the series. I believe we will get two very long novels to end it. I don’t believe George R.R. Martin will “pull a Robert Jordan (R.I.P.).” There is a children’s fantasy author and folklorist by the name of Alan Garner who released the final book in the Weirdstone trilogy, Boneland, 49 years after the release of the second novel! I doubt we’ll have to wait that long!

My theory might not be original, and many of you might want to disprove this idea immediately, but hear me out. I believe George R.R. Martin is writing both Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, consecutively. In other words, G.R.R.M. is writing both books as one long narrative. Remember the “split” that was A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons? Maybe, G.R.R.M. is writing nonstop and without considering an “end” of one novel and a “start” of the other novel. This method of writing could prevent a longer wait period between the two novels. Also, George would not be the first author to write a long epic as “one piece.” For example, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a single text. The novel was split because of the paper shortage at the end of World War II.

Why would I come up with a theory such as this? It is because of what George said about the end of his series, the “final showdown” will start in Winds of Winter and carry over into A Dream of Spring. Too much will be occurring for it to be saved for the last book. Not that I’m trying to guess the potential ending in Winds of Winter, but I believe it’s safe to say that the climax happened in A Dance with Dragons, and the falling action will be taking place starting from Winds of Winter until the “resolution” at the end of A Dream of Spring. We, as readers, might get so caught up with the action within Winds of Winter that we won’t even realize that we’ve reached the end of the novel until the end of the novel. We can only wait.

So, what does my theory about G.R.R.M.’s writing process have to do with the last two books in the series? I believe that if George is writing both novels consecutively, then there is a chance that the wait period between Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring will be short(er). That being said, George also said that there would be three more novellas in the Dunk and Egg series. Many of us readers know that there are hints and ties between these two series. I’m not saying that we will get all of these stories within consecutive years, but I doubt that we will have to wait five years or more in between the two novels. Maybe we’ll get an announcement after the final season of Game of Thrones premieres or ends? We can only wait.

In Defense of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood Release

Recently, George R.R. Martin announced his upcoming text in his Westeros world, and it’s NOT Winds of Winter. Instead, fans will buy (you know you will) and will read Fire & Blood, a “history of the Targaryens as kings (and queens) in Westeros—from Aegon I, the Conqueror, to the regency (not rule) of Aegon III, the Dragonbane.” This insight into the Targaryens will be an entertaining and an interesting read. And, this is only the first volume in this series!

And yet, several fans are annoyed, again, that this upcoming release is NOT Winds of Winter. I have mentioned my beliefs surrounding the publication and the release of Winds of Winter (read that post), and I don’t mind waiting a bit longer for a good story. I believe we’re missing the silver lining of the announcement. George R.R. Martin said in his blog “…there are dragons too. LOTS of dragons.” His “imaginary history” will give us a look into the dragons and their behaviors and their characteristics, and how the dragon lords tamed them. You know what has NOT been mentioned in any of George R.R. Martin’s other stories from Westeros, other dragons. Both A Song of Ice and Fire and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms take place after the death of the last dragon. Readers will get some insight into how the dragons were tamed by the Targaryens. In addition, according to Tor.com, we could get some questions answered about the dragons. Personally, I’ve been wondering where Daenerys’ dragon eggs came from. I have some theories, but that’s for another time.

I want Winds of Winter as much as you do, but, similar to Harry Potter and Mistborn, I am willing to wait longer for a good story over a rushed one. Also, since this upcoming text takes place within Westeros history, we could learn more of what could happen in Winds of Winter. The first half of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms has given us a look into how the Targaryens ruled the Seven—yes, all 7—Kingdoms, the Blackfyres are mentioned, and Bloodraven demonstrates how good of a Hand he was for the Targaryens. All of these names are mentioned throughout A Song of Ice and Fire series. We still don’t know a lot about dragons, so there should be some useful information about them, hopefully.

Fire & Blood is 640 pages with “more than 75 black and white illustrations” (http://georgerrmartin.com/notablog/2018/04/25/fire-blood-on-the-way/). That’s a lot of content surrounding the Targaryens, and their dragons. We could learn more about the Targaryen Valyrian swords: Blackfyre and Dark Sister, or whether or not this is the “book” Jaqen H’ghar is looking for in the Citadel. This book will be a plethora of information for the last two books of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Unfortunately, we won’t get Volume II until after A Dream of Spring is released. And, yes, I know that could be years from now, but George R.R. Martin cannot give us spoilers about Aegon IV, the Unworthy, and the Blackfyres before we find out what happens to the Others! So, while I (continue) to wait for Winds of Winter, I will be reading, analyzing, and theorizing about the Targaryens, and their dragons along with the rest of you!

What do you think about this upcoming “imaginary history”?

Poll & Theory: What is Jon Snow’s Actual Name?

PLEASE NOTE: The following contains spoilers for both HBO’s Game of Thrones series and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you have neither read, nor watched, then you have been warned.

I want to thank Rawrist, AltShiftX, Radio Westeros, The World of Ice & Fire, apoiaf, Winter-Is-Coming.net, GOT_Academy, and Thrones Amino for the information and the their insight into everything Westeros. And, thanks to all my followers and fans for continuing to read my blogs regardless of my work schedule. Thank you for all your support.

POLL: What is Jon Snow’s Actual Name?

Fans of both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire now know that Jon Snow is not the son of Eddard Stark, but of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. That being said—we know the use of Jon Snow for “John Doe”—what was Jon Snow’s name supposed to be? You know Rhaegar and Lyanna discussed it. Yet, because Rhaegar was naming his children after his conquering ancestors, we can all agree that if Jon was born a girl, her name would have been Visenya. Obviously, Jon is male, so is his name Viserys, like his uncle and other ancestors? Or, was another name considered?

For the record, I do believe that Lyanna and Rhaegar were married (Ned Stark’s thoughts about Rhaegar NOT having any bastards is a huge hint). The surname Targaryen will be used throughout this theory.

Viserys

WHY- Rhaegar was naming his children after Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya. He already has a son named Aegon and a daughter names Rhaenys. And, Viserys is the masculine variant of Viserys. This is makes a lot of sense.

WHY NOT- Given the fact that Rhaegar was knowledgeable about the history of his family’s dynasty and that he and his father, King Aerys II—the Mad King, did not have a good relationship, both men having sons named Viserys would have led into another Targaryen civil war. Only this time, it would be two Viserys warring in place of two Aegons.

Brandon

WHY- Lyanna is a Stark and Brandon is a family name.

WHY NOT- Lyanna (probably) is married to Rhaegar so her children would be Targaryens. It would not make sense to given a Northern name to a Targaryen prince.

Aemon

WHY- Maester Aemon (Targaryen) was Rhaeger’s role model and the two wrote to each other frequently. Maester Aemon was familiar with “the Prince that was Promised” prophecy. Also, he serves in the Night’s Watch, which is highly acclaimed by both the North and the Targaryen dynasty. Naming Jon after a Targaryen who served in the Night’s Watch would make sense.

– Aemon, the Dragonknight, Targaryen was the younger brother of King Aegon IV, the Unworthy, the worst Targaryen king. The Dargonknight is one of the most celebrated members of the Kingsguard. While Aegon indulged himself and dishonored his sister-wife, Naerys, Aemon performed deeds reflecting his vows as a knight and a Kingsguard. The Dragonknight was also a very puissant warrior. If Rhaegar were to have a son who would go on to save the world, then Aemon would be a great choice for a name.

WHY NOT- Rhaegar believed his son, Aegon, was “the Prince that was Promised.” Yet, having his second son as a strong warrior would be efficacious.

Jaehaerys

WHY- After Aegon (I and V), Jaehaerys is (one of) the most respected Targaryen kings. Jaehaerys I, called “the Conciliator” ruled for 55 years, brought “the Golden Age” to Westeros, and earned the respect of Dorne. All of this was accomplished with what his predecessor, Maegor I, (and uncle) left behind. Both he and his sister-wife, Good Queen Alysanne ruled together and made some progressive changes within the realm. This includes outlawing “the Right of First Night,” or the rights of a lord to sleep with a common maiden before her new husband, and funding the reconstruction of the Night’s Watch. Naming Jon after a Targaryen who assisted the Night’s Watch, and whose mother is the daughter of the Warden of the North—and a Stark—would be practical.

– Jaehaerys II was Rhaegar’s grandfather who ruled during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the 5th Blackfyre Rebellion. Even though Jaehaerys II had poor health, he was astute enough to make his mark by reconciling with all of the great houses after the death of his father, King Aegon V—the Unlikely—and, the last Blackfyre War.

WHY NOT- If Rhaegar believed a great war was in the future, then would he choose to name his son after a savant diplomat over a potent warrior?

Jon Snow has many potential names. We can only assume that if Jon decides to his given name, then he will live up to it. At the same time, George R.R. Martin might surprise all of his fans by giving Jon an important, but forgotten Targaryen name like Daeron (who had high ambitions to piece the realm together). Only G.R.R.M. and Bighead and Littlehead know the Targaryen name.

Poll Results for “Who Dies in ‘Winds of Winter’ and is Already Dead on ‘Game of Thrones’?”

PLEASE NOTE: The following contains spoilers for both HBO’s Game of Thrones series and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you have neither read, nor watched, then you have been warned.

This is a response to the poll: “Who Dies in Winds of Winter and is already dead on Game of Thrones?

I want to thank everyone who participated in this poll, including: apoiaf, Winter-Is-Coming.net, RedTeamReview, AltShiftX, Rawrist, GOT_Academy, and Thrones Amino for helping to promote this poll. Also, thanks to everyone else who participated.

There were 42 participants in this poll. And, like I mentioned in the poll, I will give my predictions surrounding the Top 5 leaders of this poll. In addition, I will mention the “Other” vote and offer my theory about that character as well.

  1. Barristan Selmy (Season 5) with 18 votes

I believe it is safe to say that there was some foreshadowing with Sir Barristan Selmy’s death when he was telling Daenerys Targaryen about Rhaegar. And, Sir Barristan died on the show the way he wanted, “as a knight.” Yet, it was still sad, and different because us readers know that Sir Barristan will be leading the defensive attack on Meereen in Winds of Winter. So, the question is, will he die during one of the battles in the next book?

On the one hand, it would make sense for the remaining members of Mad King Aerys’ Kingsguard to die by the end of the series. Many of us all ready expect Jamie Lannister to die by the end of the series, and hopefully, the remaining “Soiled” Kingsguard accepted after Robert’s Rebellion will be eradicated, also. On the other hand, maybe Barristan Selmy will survive the wars in Essos and in Westeros and help reestablish the Kingsguard to the way it was during the Targaryen reign.

 

      2. Jojen Reed (Season 4) with 14 votes

With the way Jojen died in the season 4 finale, and with the “Jojen Paste” theory being accepted by most readers, it’s safe to say that Jojen probably died a swift death on the show. Bran Stark has been having visions and has not seen Jojen since his training with the Three-Eyed Raven. However, while it is known by readers, and Jojen, that Jojen will die in the nearer future (by the end of the series), Jojen probably won’t die until after his father, Howland Reed, Jojen and Meera’s father, makes his appearance in the books (wherever he is in Westeros).

This does not mean that Howland will meet up with Jojen and Meera Beyond the Wall before Jojen’s death. Yet, Jojen will die around the time Howland Reed appears. And, Jojen’s death will not be as quick as it was on the show. Poor, poor Jojen.

 

      3. Mance Rayder (Season 5) with 6 votes

Mance Rayder was sentenced to death by Stannis Baratheon, and was being burned alive by Melisandre, until Jon Snow shot an arrow through his heart as mercy. And, that was only in the first episode of season 5. His name is mentioned constantly through the rest of that season, but Mance is dead.

In the books, Melisandre casted a glamor on Mance and it was Rattleshirt who was burned by Stannis, not Melisandre. After learning this, Jon Snow blackmails Mance by using his infant son (who is actually switched with Gilly’s baby boy to protect him) in order to have him and some Free Folk rescue “Arya” from the Boltons at Winterfell. Mance, Theon Greyjoy, and the 6 spear wives manage to rescue “Arya,” who is actually Jeyne Poole, but Bolton’s men are pursuing them.

Mance Rayder’s fate is currently unknown because Jon Snow receives a “(pink) letter” signed by Ramsay Snow/Bolton stating that he has captured Mance and will kill him if his bride is not returned to him. We do know that Mance and his party were not able to escape Winterfell with Theon and “Arya,” and for all we know they are still at Winterfell and trapped there.

As for Mance’s death, if he is not already dead, then there is a strong chance that he will be slain at the Battle of Winterfell in Winds of Winter. He is close enough to where the Boltons, the Wildlings, Stannis Baratheon’s army, and the Northmen are, so he will be present at the battle. Who kills Mance Rayder is still a mystery, but he will died at Winterfell.

 

       4. Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Season 2) with 1 vote

This member of the Thirteen met his end by being locked in a vault that has one key at the end of season 2. However, Xaro Xhoan Daxos is still alive and meets Daenerys in Meereen. He no longer wants a dragon because, “I saw their work at Astapor,” (ADwD, chap. 16, Daenerys III). Yet, he is willing to counsel Daenerys to prevent a war in Essos. When Daenerys refuses Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ gift of the 13 ships to send her and her army to Westeros, he, representing Qarth, declares war on Daenerys.

It is theorized that when Daenerys emerges from Vaes Dothrak, she will be a “true Targaryen Conqueror” and spread “Fire and Blood” to all of her enemies before going to Westeros. Daenerys will not hesitate to have her dragons burn Qarth to the ground and feed Xaro Xhoan Daxos to them. Hopefully, the dragons swallow him whole.

 

     5. Prat Pree (Season 2) with 1 vote

This warlock survived the burning of the House of the Undying by Drogon, Daenerys’s dragon, and now wants revenge against Daenerys. It is implied that Prat Pree and 3 other warlocks from Qarth left to find Daenerys, but were captured by Euron Greyjoy instead. Euron brought the warlocks to the Iron Islands for the Kingsmoot.

However, it is unclear if any of the warlocks are traveling with Victarion, Euron’s brother. Yet, there are hints that Prat Pree is with Victarion on the voyage to Meereen. There are 2 questions: one, does Prat Pree want to get closer to Daenerys in order to get more power from her dragons? Two, will Prat Pree die by the “hand” of Victarion when he does try to kill Daenerys?

 

     6. Other and Honorable Mention: Stannis Baratheon (Season 5) with 1 vote

I’m going to mention Stannis Baratheon because there were some other people who asked about him, and I read a few posts about him online. The main reason I didn’t include Stannis is because he dies in the season 5 finale on the show. And, the show’s producers and actors had to tell us that Stannis was dead because we did not see him die onscreen.

However, with what is happening to Stannis Baratheon in the books—Theon and Asha Greyjoy are his prisoners, winter has arrived in the North and many of his men are starving and/or dying, and the Battle of Winterfell has not occurred yet—Stannis cannot die so quickly, but he could still die in the next book.

Also, at the Wall, Selyse and Shireen Baratheon are with Melisandre, and Jon Snow was just stabbed by some members of the Night’s Watch. Stannis needs to come to his realization that Melisandre was wrong about him being Azor Ahai, but that does not mean he will not stop fighting for the Iron Throne. Remember, nothing about the Targaryens have been mentioned to the majority of the citizens in Westeros. Only Dorne and the Iron Islands have heard the news. As far as the rest of Westeros is concerned, Stannis still has the better claim to the Iron Throne.

 

 

These are my predictions for Winds of Winter. Thanks again to everyone that participated. Please check my blog in the future for more “theories” about A Song of Ice and Fire, and my other thoughts and ideas about other issues.

Who or What Is Shireen Baratheon supposed to be?

(Please Note: Spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire series are found within this essay.)

Most of us has read, heard, or seen a version of The Iliad. The blind poet, Homer, is credited for compiling the epic tale of the Trojan War. The film, Troy (2004), has Achilles played by Brad Pitt, Sean Bean as Odysseus, and Orlando Bloom as Paris. However, like other media adaptations of literary and oral stories, little details are often left out. If one saw Helen of Troy (2003), then he or she would see more of what was part of the story.

Besides the backstory of how Helen became the pawn of the Trojan War, the audience saw more of what was happening within the kingdom of Sparta. For example, both Helen and her twin sister Clytemnestra marry brothers Menelaus and Agamemnon respectively. Helen and Menelaus have one daughter, Hermione; and Clytemnestra and Agamemnon have four children. One of who is their daughter, Iphigenia.

Iphigenia was the daughter who was sacrificed by her father in order to appease the goddess Artemis for favorable winds in order to sail to Troy. While it is unclear on the exact age of Iphigenia, the truth remains that the sacrifice brought the Greek Army to Troy. At the same time, Clytemnestra vowed vengeance against her husband for what he did to their daughter. The Trojan War lasted for 9 years with the Greeks sieging and destroying Troy. Helen returned to Sparta with her husband, and Agamemnon returned to Mycenae with Cassandra, the prophetess sister of Paris, as his prize. Soon after, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, killed both Agamemnon and Cassandra as retaliation for Iphigenia’s death.

Shireen Baratheon is the daughter and only child of Stannis Baratheon and Selyse Florent. She almost died from grayscale and it left her disfigured. However, she is often described as being a sweet child. Her parents have renounced their religion of the Faith of the Seven and become worshippers of the Lord of Light, a religion from Essos, whose priestess is Melisandre, who is convinced that Stannis is the prophesized hero, Azor Ahai. While Stannis and Melisandre campaign throughout Westeros, Shireen is left at Dragonstone with her mother; her cousin, Edric Storm (a bastard); and her fool, Patchface.

Stannis’ campaign has led him to use dark magic provided by Melisandre. This magic had killed his brother, Renly; Cortnay Penrose, a guardian of Edric Storm and Renly’s castellan; and, Maester Cressen. However, Stannis believes that the magic has assisted him so far with “removing” his adversaries, and was considering sacrificing his brother’s bastard son until Davos Seaworth, his Hand, smuggled him out of Westeros. This was because Melisandre believed that “king’s blood” would “wake the dragons from stone” which would prove and provide Stannis’ status as King of the Seven Kingdoms.

King Robert Baratheon had sixteen bastard children, most of who were killed on the orders of Queen Cersei Lannister—to hide her infidelities and the parentage of her children. In addition to Edric Storm, only Mya Stone, Gendry, and Bella are what remain of the bastards. However, those who are looking for them do not know where they are in Westeros. So, what does this mean for Stannis and his “blood sacrifice” for dragons?

I believe you see where this is going based on what I started with, but that is because the series author, George R.R. Martin, has admitted that Greek and Roman mythology are huge influences in A Song of Ice and Fire. Additionally, there was some foreshadowing about what might happen to Shireen in A Dance with Dragons. It was when the wildling Val told Jon Snow that Shireen was “unclean” and should be killed due to her grayscale. It was then that Jon Snow observes that Queen Selyse is fond of Shireen, but like her husband, would put their efforts for the crown before their family’s well being if the Melisandre told them to.

The story of Azor Ahai states that when the hero forged his sword for the third time, he drove it into the thing he loved most, his wife, Nissa Nissa, and the sword was named “Lightbringer.” It was then that Azor Ahai was able to defeat the Others, their creatures, and the “Long Night.” Sounds very much like the story of Agamemnon and his daughter, Iphigenia.

Now, Selyse, Shireen, and Melisandre are at Castle Black while Stannis continues his campaign to get support from the Northerners. Between the wildings’ beliefs and Melisandre’s visions, Shireen’s chances for survival are looking grim. Victory for the Baratheons is starting to outweigh rational thinking, and even Melisandre does not understand some of the visions she has been receiving. Melisandre says that “king’s blood” will raise the dragons and give Stannis the power that he needs. All that is left of Stannis’ blood—as far as he knows—is his daughter, Shireen. Does Stannis reflect Agamemnon? Is Shireen supposed to be Iphigenia?

There are two more books and several character plots that are neither complete nor revealed. There is a possibility that Stannis will gain support from the North. There is a possibility that Melisandre is wrong about who the reincarnation of Azor Ahai really is. All the same, no one knows what to expect from a novel written by George R.R. Martin. And yet, I believe that Shireen Baratheon is going to end up becoming a sacrifice for someone whether or not anyone wants to believe otherwise. Remember, the sword is a fake!

The Theories and the Hints Hidden within Ice and Fire (Part I)

(Note: Spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire series are found within this essay.)

            George R.R. Martin is the latest author who has been bombarded constantly with questions and assumptions as to when his next novel—notice I did NOT say publication—will be released. Most have us have experienced the long waiting period when it comes to the next in a series; movies and television shows traditionally top that list. However, with the previous successes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, as well as other literature series, and movies series such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, A Song of Ice and Fire is now one of the hottest items in the publishing and entertainment industries.

            What does this mean? Obviously, fans are driving the author crazy asking about possible release dates and/or sample chapters. And, while he has provided us with some of the latter, he is officially fed up with questions surrounding the former. It has gotten to the point where other authors—such as Neil Gaiman—have had to make public statements defending the extremely busy writer. Between working on a T.V. adaptation and writing novels for his other series, Martin has been able to work on Winds of Winter like we all want him to. Yes, I want it to be released within the next year, but I would prefer if the novel were good rather than rushed.

            Although George R.R. Martin has been working on his latest novel, he has not left his readers with nothing to satisfy their fascination with his fantasy world. He has published several novellas and short stories about Westeros. Most of us have read about Sir Duncan the Tall and recently, about ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ war. Some of us have even gone far as to listen to podcasts whom discuss everything related to these stories, just to receive a better understanding of them (A Podcast of Ice and Fire and Cast of Thrones are excellent ones!). At the same time, Martin is giving us more insight into the history of his world, and possibly giving out hints about some of the characters in the main series.

            There are several theories about the characters within the plot of the series—besides Jon Snow’s mother and the Tyrell Conspiracy—and many of them have yet to be mentioned thoroughly. One popular theory is that Mad King Aerys did bed Joanna Lannister at some point and he might be the father of Tyrion (a few fans believed he might have fathered the twins as opposed to Tyrion) because the Mad King was always infatuated with Tywin’s wife. This is one of many reasons Tywin never liked Tyrion. Is there a chance that Tyrion is a ‘secret Targaryen’? He might not be the only one. There is a theory about the Blackfyres—the bastard line of the Targaryens—who ended up starting the “Golden Company” in Essos (across the Narrow Sea), and which one of the ‘Great Bastards’ might be (is) the “Three-Eyed Raven” who is mentoring Brandon Stark in the ‘Land of Always Winter.’

            Let’s look into the stories of Dunk and Egg (The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, The Mystery Knight). Sir Duncan the Tall (Dunk) meets a young Aegon Targaryen (Egg) and the two of them travel Westeros together as knight and squire. Since Aegon Targaryen looks like a traditional Targaryen—white blond hair and violet eyes—he shaves his head so no one will recognize him. One of his older brothers (Daeron?) does not have this problem because he looks more like the Martells—dark hair and dark eyes—so he can travel throughout the kingdom unrecognized. This leads me to a theory about Varys. His motives for supporting the Targaryens are unknown, he keeps his head shaved, and he tells everyone that he supports ‘the realm’ and not any particular House (I doubt the last one). Is it possible that Varys is descended from the Targaryens, the Blackfyres, or maybe even another House of Valyria (i.e. Velaryon)? It would explain his appearance. We don’t even know the color of his eyes, and I don’t think he has eyebrows (read up on the Mona Lisa for an explanation). Who exactly is Varys?

           This leads into the popular theory surrounding Sir Duncan the Tall. According to the history of Westeros and of the Targaryens, Aegon V and Sir Duncan the Tall died in a fire at Summerhall. However, it is believed that the two decided to leave the ‘royal life’ and return to their simple life of traveling up-and-down the continent like they used to. This would explain Brienne of Tarth and her origins. For instance, a shield matching the description of the one used by Duncan the Tall is located in the armory of House Tarth and Martin has said that there is one living descendant of the famous Kingsguard who would be featured in A Feast for Crows. Just like how dwarfism is found within the Targaryens, high height (not giant like the Cleganes) is found within the descendants of Dunk.

            I have a few theories of my own surrounding Martin’s fantasy series (some of which A Podcast of Ice and Fire mentioned in one of their episodes—thank you!). One, after reading the events of “The Dance of Dragons” from The Princess and the Queen, I am convinced that there are more dragon eggs hidden across Westeros and Essos. This is proven when one of the dragons and its rider leave Westeros for ‘unknown lands,’ and that there may or may not be a dragon’s egg in the House of Black and White, which would explain how Jaqen H’ghar ended up meeting Arya Stark, and who may or may not have killed Balon Greyjoy on orders. In addition, the story was written to give fans an idea as to how the future war will be fought once the dragons (and their dragonriders) make their way to Westeros.

            Two, the Citadel and the Faith were responsible for the death of the dragons during “The Dance of Dragons.” Remember the scene with the mob? There is an unidentified man who preached to and convinced the crowd to kill the dragons while they were in the pit. Plus, a maester tells Samwell Tarly (in A Feast for Crows) that the maesters were responsible for the death of the dragons over one hundred years ago. So, you have the return of dragons in one continent and a group of people who do not want them to return in another continent. Why else would the author mention the extinction of the dragons in one novella and then hint at what might have caused that extinction in one of the novels?

            My third theory is that if this series does reflect the ‘War of the Roses’—as mentioned by George R.R. Martin and defended by yours truly—then, whom is Daenerys Targaryen going to marry in the end? Daenerys is the only known surviving member of the Targaryen dynasty, but she also must marry in order to continue that dynasty. It makes sense for her to marry another Targaryen, but which one? As of right now there are three possible candidates: Jon Snow (if he is proven not to be the son of Ned Stark), Tyrion Lannister (if he is the son of the Mad King), and Stannis Baratheon (he is descended from the Targaryens). Yes, Aegon Targaryen could be the ‘lost son’ of Rhaegar, but then there are theories that he might be a Blackfyre. So, yes there might actually be four candidates for ‘husband/king.’ These four men may or may not have the ‘blood of the dragon’ but we have two more novels (and four more television seasons) before we get the answer to that question. Unless, there are more Valyrian Houses, this is what I am standing by.

            These are both the obvious and the not so obvious theories surrounding what could happen in the later novels and what have been taken from all of the tales released by George R.R. Martin. There are some theories that other readers have all agreed upon, and there are others that might be more of a thought than a theory. Harry Potter fans correctly guessed some of the theories and hints found within the series, so it has been done before. However, please note that the author already confirmed some of these theories as truth. There is more than enough proof within the stories that some theories are more than just a theory. There are still many unanswered questions that await answers, and only George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss know them. I welcome any comments and any rebuttals to what I have mentioned.