Each new season of Game of Thrones brings with it a number of new locations with which viewers need to become acquainted. Given the sprawling nature of the show, and the book series it’s based upon, keeping track of all the various castles, kingdoms, and patches of land can be daunting. Luckily, the seventh and penultimate season of Game of Thrones has streamlined things considerably. A number of locations have been removed from the story and the action is all contained within the borders of Westeros. Still, that hasn’t stopped the new season from debuting brand new locations that even book readers have yet to visit.
Episode three, ‘The Queen’s Justice,’ finally took us to Casterly Rock and Highgarden for the first time. The new season has also spent considerably more time in Oldtown, given us a new look at Dragonstone, and will soon be moving east along the Wall. As such, now’s as a good a time as any for a primer on all of the key locations currently in play on Game of Thrones and what they mean to the narrative.
We’ve heard talk about Casterly Rock plenty of times on the show before, thanks to it being the seat of the once-mighty House Lannister, but even book readers have never visited the location. Though it’s unknown whether the castle will be seen again after being taken by the Unsullied, its sudden appearance on the series after six seasons makes it worthy of mention.
Though the show reduced its scale quite a bit, the rock on which the castle sits is deemed to be thrice as tall as the Wall and the Hightower in Oldtown. Beneath the monstrous stone fortress are hundreds of gold veins - the original source of House Lannister's wealth. During the ancient days of Westeros, the children of the forest called it home before the first Casterly took control. From there, the proud family was tricked out of the castle thanks to the cunning of Lann the Clever.
The Lannisters descended from the great trickster, eventually bending the knee to Aegon after nearly all of the family were wiped out in the Field of Fire during the Targaryens' conquest. Nowadays, the gold has run dry and the Rock is held by cousins of the main Lannisters. Still, taking it could have been a great blow to the pride of Cersei and Jaime if they hadn’t given it up in their gamble to conquer Highgarden. As it stands, not much would prevent them from taking it back if they were to defeat Daenerys.
Like Casterly Rock, both viewers of the show and readers of the book have never been to Highgarden. And as with the Rock, its future on the show seems minimal. Still, it’s worth examining thanks to the prominence it holds in Westeros.
Despite Casterly Rock housing much of the gold in Westeros, Highgarden is easily the most opulent of the great castles of the Seven Kingdoms. Built by Garth the Gardener in the Age of Heroes, the ancient family lost their home after their defeat at the hands of Aegon at the Field of Fire. Opening the gates for the conqueror were the Tyrells, the stewards of House Gardener. Serving as the Wardens of the South while the Lannisters do the same for the West, the Tyrells command a sizable army, a hefty amount of gold, and much of the food the Seven Kingdoms relies upon. With their downfall at the hands of Cersei and Jaime, however, the Tyrells are all but eradicated and the future of Highgarden and the Reach is uncertain.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Dragonstone was a new location on the show. Despite frequent visits to the island during season 2, when Stannis occupied the castle, the location has been given quite an upgrade since then. Even book readers will be surprised with how lush the lands look as Jon and Tyrion talk along the cliffs.
In the books, Dragonstone is the furthest part of the Valyrian Freehold, held by the Targaryen family. Following the Doom, it remains the home to some of the last remaining dragonriders. Eventually, Aegon uses it as the launching point for his invasion and keeps it as a seat of power for his family for generations.
When Robert takes the throne, he gives it to his brother Stannis, who’s none too happy about the dour place. Described as grim and dark in the books, the Targaryens used fire and sorcery to shape the very stones into grisly designs. Like many things on the show, the flair of the books is downgraded. Still, there’s some impressive stone work throughout and a number of dragons on display. It may not be as dank and dismal as in the books, but it certainly has an impressive feel to it.
The location is also a fitting place for Dany to launch her invasion, just like her ancestor did. And while Dany will likely be heading to King’s Landing to take it, the city and keep actually sprung up from nothingness there hundreds of years ago as the spot where Aegon and his sisters first touched down. Following Robert’s Rebellion, the castle was where Dany was born, amidst a mighty storm. She was quickly whisked across the narrow sea, only now returning to her birthplace and the ancient seat of her family.
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