The ‘Game of Thrones’ Books: Everything You Need to Know

game of thrones writer


Now that it’s been confirmed that HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones has been renewed for seasons 5 and 6, it’s important to become familiarized with the book series the show is based on.

The series, A Song of Ice and Fire, was, and is still, being written by George R.R. Martin and began with the first book’s publication in 1996. Book 6, The Winds of Winter, is set to be released by the end of 2014.

WARNING: If you’re watching the show and hate spoilers, do NOT read past the equivalent book. Each season of the show roughly correlates with a book. Every book’s synopsis you read will spoil a season of the show.

Here is a Game of Thrones viewer’s guide to the books:

A Game of Thrones (1996)

Game of thrones book

Correlating HBO Season: 1

A Game of Thrones begins with the King of Westeros, Robert Baratheon, coming up north to Winterfell to ask the lord of Winterfell, his friend, Eddard (Ned) Stark, to become his chief advisor, called the Hand of the King. Ned travels to the capital, King’s Landing, taking his two daughters, Sansa and Arya, with him in hopes that they will enter into society.

Once in the capital, Ned begins investigating the death of his predecessor, Lord Jon Arryn, who he believes was murdered. He soon uncovers a vast conspiracy concerning the king’s children. Ned believes that the King’s children, including the heir to the throne, are actually the offspring of the Queen, Cersei Lannister, and her twin brother, Jamie Lannister, who serves as the head of the King’s bodyguards.

After King Robert dies under mysterious circumstances in a hunting accident, Ned attempts to come forward with his suspicions, to keep an illegitimate heir off the throne. He is called a traitor and ultimately executed. His younger daughter Arya escapes out of the city, and his eldest daughter Sansa is kept in King’s Landing to become the bride of the new king, a cruel and vicious teenager named Joffrey.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, the daughter of the former king who was ousted by Robert Baratheon, still hopes to regain the throne of Westeros. To further her goals, she marries a Dothraki khal, the leader of a large nation of nomadic warriors. Their relationship becomes very loving, in time, and Daenerys discovers she’s pregnant just before her husband dies.

At his funeral, she discovers that she cannot be burned by fire, and three dragons eggs, given to her at her wedding, hatch. Far north of there, Ned Stark’s illegitimate son, Jon Snow, has taken an oath to defend the Wall, a large fortification that protects Westeros from the barbaric and magical foes to the north. He gains favor among the men after he kills a frozen body that came back from the dead and attacked the commander.

Find the book here.

Below you can watch the trailer for the HBO season corresponding with this book:

Find the book here.

A Feast for Crows (2005)

feast for crows book

Correlating HBO Season: 4/5

With the death of Tywin Lannister and Westeros deeply in debt, large political shakeups are needed to keep the nation from chaos. Cersei Lannister appoints her uncle, Kevan Lannister, as the new hand of the king. She also appoints a new strategic small counsel and re-establishes a militant religious order.

Cersei also sends a large army to undertake the dangerous task of retaking Dragonstone, the island where Stannis Baratheon has made his stronghold. Jaime is also dealing with a siege of the Stark-supporting holdout city of Riverrun. Rob Stark’s great uncle, Brynden Tully, is spirited away before the Lannisters can take him. His nephew, Edmure, who married a Frey during the Red Wedding, is taken captive for his uncle’s escape. This is when snow begins to fall at Riverrun, and people now know that winter has begun.

Brienne, Jaimie’s former friend, tasked with finding Sansa Stark and keeping her safe, is now captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, a militant band with allegiance to no family or nation. They are ruled by Lady Stoneheart, the reanimated corpse of Catelyn Stark, whose body washed up on the side of a river after she was killed at the Red Wedding. Brienne is hanged for her inability to keep the daughters safe; she shouts out one unknown word as she hangs.

Samwell Tarly, a member of the Night’s Watch, is dispatched by Jon Snow to do research about the mysterious white walkers that have emerged from the north and continue to travel south. While he is there he begins to hear rumors about Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. Arya Stark, meanwhile, has begun training as a faceless assassin in Braavos. She assumes the identity of the “Cat of the Canals” and loses most, but not all, of her previous identity.

Find the book here.

A Dance With Dragons (2011)

dance of dragons book

Correlating HBO Season: ???

An alliance is formed between the Night’s Watch and their savior, Stannis Baratheon, who means to be the king of the north and usurp the Lannister-backed Boltons. Stannis attacks Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell, but Jon Snow receives a letter saying he has been defeated.

Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion has fled Westeros and goes through a number of diversions, including being kidnapped and sold into slavery, in an attempt to offer his services to Daenerys Tagaryen. Daenerys is having trouble being both a strong and just leader, a fact made more clear by the arrival of a plague in Mareen. The book ends with her being flown away by a dragon and learning to train it, and through this process, herself as well. It ends with Daenerys reconnecting with the Dothraki khalasar.

In A Dance With Dragons the reader also discovers that Brienne of Tarth is still alive and may be trying to lure Jaime Lannister to Lady Stoneheart. Varys, the spider, eventually kills Kevan Lannister, thinking it will clear the way for “Aegon,” a Targaryen believed to have been killed years ago.

Find the book here.

WATCH: Sansa & Arya Stark’s Game of Thrones Audition Videos

Here are the audition videos of Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams who went on to start in HBO's hit Game of Thrones.

Click here to read more

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