Game of Thrones wrapped up last Monday night, delivering a polarizing finale to HBO’s phenomenally successful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Now that the dust has settled on the show’s final season, it’s fair to say that we have a general idea how The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring – the unpublishing remaining volumes which Martin is still yet to complete – will unfold.
After all, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss worked from an outline provided by the author when crafting Seasons 7 and 8. So key events like the White Walkers’ defeat at Winterfell and Daenerys’ eventual descent into madness are likely to appear broadly unchanged in Martin’s forthcoming tomes. But as the following list illustrates, this doesn’t mean that several other major moments won’t transpire differently in the upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire books!
10 Cersei’s Demise
The fourth A Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Feast for Crows, introduces the valonqar prophecy told to Cersei Lannister when she was a child. To date, this foretelling has proven accurate; Cersei does indeed go on to marry King Robert and give birth to three illegitimate children who – if Seasons 5 and 6 of Game of Thrones are anything to go by – predecease her.
But the prophecy also stipulates the cause of Cersei’s demise will be strangulation, and what’s more, that either Jaime or Tyrion is responsible. As the TV series used an abridged version of the prophecy, Benioff and Weiss were free to alter Cersei’s fate from what Martin looks to have planned.
9 Daenerys’ Ascension To The Iron Throne
The revelation that Jon Snow’s claim to the Iron Throne is at least as legitimate as Daenerys Targaryen’s is a source of underlying tension throughout Game of Thrones Season 8. However, this drama is undercut somewhat by Jon’s open refusal to move against Daenerys, removing the last obstacle between her and conquest of the Seven Kingdoms (at least, for a while).
However, Dany won’t have it so easy in the concluding A Song of Ice and Fire volumes, as there’ll be another Targaryen heir ready to enter the fray! See, book-exclusive character Young Griff purports to be Dany’s long-lost nephew Aegon, ensuring that the fight for Westeros’ least comfortable chair will be decidedly more bitter on the page than in the show.
8 Brienne’s One Night Stand With Jaime
In Game of Thrones Season 8 episode “The Last of the Starks”, the “will-they-or-won’t-they?” dynamic between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth comes to a head when the unlikely pair spend the night together. Although Brienne and Jaime share an equally strong bond in the A Song of Ice and Fire books, they’ve yet to make the jump to friends with benefits – and maybe they never will.
That’s because Lady Stoneheart – aka the resurrected Catelyn Stark, who isn’t a factor in the TV series – demands that Brienne eliminate her crush as a sign of loyalty. We can only guess how this will impact their relationship in The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, but it doesn’t bode well for snuggling!
7 The True Identity Of Azor Ahai
Although the Lord of Light’s religion featured prominently in Game of Thrones, the show never really delved too deeply into the Azor Ahai prophecy associated with that faith. Sure, it’s established early on that red priestess Melisandre’s visions have led her to believe that Stannis Baratheon might be the reincarnation of this legendary hero and that she later suspects Jon Snow fits the bill, instead.
But the concept of Azor Ahai being reborn is largely abandoned in Game of Thrones last two seasons, leaving us none the wiser and making this more a case of a moment that never came. Whilst we anticipate Martin may not spell this one out explicitly, we expect him to seed enough clues through the last two books for readers to figure out which character is Westeros’ reborn savior.
6 Varys’ Downfall
We’ve already mentioned that Young Griff – a character who only appears in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels – has been raised to believe that he is secretly Aegon Targaryen. But something else worth highlighting is that spymaster Varys serves as one of Aegon’s chief advisors – a role he fills for the would-be king’s aunt, Daenerys, in Game of Thrones!
Now, could Varys conceivably wind up jumping ship to Team Dany in either The Winds of Winter or A Dream of Strong, following Aegon’s inevitable defeat? Absolutely. But it’s just as likely that he’ll be torched on the spot for plotting against the Mother of Dragons – which means his method of execution should remain the same as in the show, at any rate…
5 Hodor’s Sacrifice
While most of the entries on this least are at least partly conjecture, this one is official. That’s right: George R.R. Martin has previously gone on the record to confirm that Hodor’s tragic act of heroism – and crucially, the heartbreaking “Hold the door!” plot twist – will shake down differently in The Winds of Winter (or A Dream of Spring).
To be honest, this makes a lot of sense. The editing techniques used by Game of Thrones editor Crispin Green to intercut between Hodor’s final moments in the present and his seizure in the past would be difficult to replicate in writing, so Martin will need to portray this event in his own way.
4 Ser Barristan’s Noble End
Don’t get us wrong: we’re convinced that Barristan Selmy’s days are numbered in the remaining A Song of Ice and Fire novels. We’re also fairly certain that Ser Barristan – one of the greatest swordsmen in Westeros, despite his advanced age – will go out in a blaze of glory in the books, just like his Game of Thrones counterpart.
However, we’re guessing that the details of Barristan’s last stand will be markedly different when the moment arrives in either The Winds of Winter or A Dream Spring. More specifically, we expect the book version of this venerable champion to be overcome by truly worthy opponents, and not untrained rabble like the Sons of the Harpy!
3 Coldhands’ True Identity
Game of Thrones fans only familiar with the TV series will be scratching their heads over this entry’s title, so to quickly recap; in the A Song of Ice and Fire books, Coldhands is the undead warrior who rescues Bran and Meera. In the show, this part is played by a reanimated Benjen Stark – seemingly supporting a long-held fan theory that the two characters are one and the same.
But the thing is, Benjen can’t be Coldhands. For starters, Coldhands is described as perishing “long ago”, while Benjen has only been missing for a few years at most. Then there’s the minor detail of Martin himself supposedly quashing this rumor – so if we ever get an answer regarding Coldhands’ true identity, expect him to be someone other than Benjen!
A Song of Ice and Fire readers are still eagerly awaiting the so-called “Cleganebowl;" the epic duel between brothers Sandor and Gregor Clegane – otherwise known as the Hound and the Mountain, respectively. Game of Thrones has only fuelled this expectation, with the dysfunctional siblings finally going head-to-head in Season 8’s penultimate episode, “The Bells”.
On the one hand, the Hound and the Mountain settling their differences in a titanic free-for-all is the kind of conventional storytelling that Martin largely tries to subvert. On the other, it does seem likely that Cleganebowl will happen, albeit in heavily modified form – for one thing, Sandor won’t be able to target Gregor’s head, as in the books, it’s implied he no longer has one!
1 Sansa’s Marriage To Ramsay
This entry is a bit of a no-brainer, really – as in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Sansa Stark and Ramsay Snow don’t get married! Instead, Snow weds Jeyne Poole – a minor character in the Game of Thrones TV adaptation – who is posing as Sansa’s sister, Arya.
This means that Jeyne is subjected to the many cruel degradations that Sansa falls victim to in the show – which is a relief for Sansa, but a pretty raw deal for poor Jeyne. While it’s possible that Sansa may later find herself forced down the aisle by Ramsay, our money is on the future Queen in the North and the Bastard of Winterfell never actually tying the knot.
Are there any other major moments you expect to play out differently in the upcoming Game of Thrones books? Let us know in the comments!