Note: contains spoilers for the final season of Game of Thrones
HBO’s Game of Thrones has finally come to an end, rounding off with one of the most divisive TV seasons of all time. Still, fans are warned there’s still a long wait before George RR Martin will be done with his original book series.
It already feels like an eternity since Martin released A Dance with Dragons, and with two more novels still to come, some aren’t sure if he’ll ever finish his epic yarn. (His latest claim – today – is that if the next book isn't out by July 29 next year, fans can imprison him.)
1. Sansa Stark
On TV, the Queen in the North finally got her feet under the table at Winterfell, but fans of the books can expect a very different journey before she’s crowned head of the independent state (if indeed that happens at all).
In Martin’s novels, it’s another character entirely, Jeyne Poole, who is married to Ramsay Bolton. (More on her in a second.)
The novels haven’t got there yet, but it doesn’t look like Sansa will have to undergo the harrowing events of the 'Pink Wedding' or endure Littlefinger’s scheming. That being said, she could still ride into action and save the day during the Battle of the Bastards.
2. Jeyne Poole
Speaking of Jeyne...
Heading back to season one, fans had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse at Jeyne Poole. While the character soon faded into the background, her book legacy lived on in some of the show’s most shocking storylines.
After Ned’s beheading, Tywin Lannister pretends she's Arya Stark and gives her to Roose Bolton (who's in on the subterfuge) for his son Ramsay to marry, so that the Boltons can claim some legitimacy as rulers of the North.
Although Jeyne is one of the show’s many question marks, her and Theon’s escape from Ramsay was adapted into Sansa’s arc.
Crossing into the realms of Harry Potter, there’s sure to be a number of Thrones fans who are gutted the show never introduced unicorns. Thankfully, readers are in for a treat. Speaking to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, Martin teased he has an “interesting take” on those mythical beasts coming to The Winds of Winter.
Given that unicorns are rumoured to live on the rocky outcrop of Skagos (near the Shivering Sea), they might factor into Jon Snow’s trip beyond the Wall. Elsewhere, Wyman Manderly learns that Rickon Stark has been taken there by Osha, suggesting unicorns will have something to do with the forgotten Stark’s return.
4. Team Daenerys
Although Team Dany made it through largely intact until season eight, their numbers started to dwindle pretty quickly. Alongside Jorah, Missandei and Varys meeting their maker, the likes of Jon and Tyrion soon turned from her side.
The books have a pretty different line-up of those loyal to the Khaleesi. As well as the ginormous Strong Belwas missing from the series, everyone forgets that Ser Barristan Selmy is very much still alive in the books. It would be a devastating twist for Dany to lose both Barristan and Jorah at the hands of the Night King’s army, but everyone will have to wait and see.
Even if Jon managed to pat Ghost before the final credits rolled, the lack of screen time for the direwolves has been a point of contention for Game of Thrones fans. While the show kept the loyal Stark pets at bay because of budget constraints, Martin is free to do what he wants.
There are already hints that all the Starks possess the power to warg into their four-legged friends but the books are only just starting to scratch the surface of these powers. Considering Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria, leads a hundred-strong pack of wolves that could be pretty handy in the Battle of Winterfell, don’t expect Martin to sideline these fan-favourite pups.
6. Azor Ahai
One of the biggest prophecies and mysteries that remains unsolved in both the books and the show is the identity of Azor Ahai. He's prophesied to be a shining hero who brings peace to the realm, and Martin has really amped up the importance of this legendary figure.
Even though fans thought the character was going to be a major talking point of the finale, Benioff and Weiss skimmed over the whole thing (though there's an argument to be made that Jon became Azor Ahai by slaying Daenerys).
Here’s betting Martin makes a much bigger deal of the 'Prince that was Promised'.
7. Lady Stoneheart
One of fandom’s biggest regrets – and one even Martin himself has argued about – is the absence of Lady Stoneheart from the TV series. In the novels, Catelyn Stark is reanimated by the Brotherhood Without Banners and going on a mission of vengeance to slay every Lannister and Frey she crosses paths with.
Over on the show, Arya adopted the Stoneheart arc and killed off the Freys during the house’s 'special' feast. Despite only having a tiny role in the books, Stoneheart’s special place in Martin’s own stony heart means she’s guaranteed to have more to do.
8. Victarion Greyjoy
Another MIA favorite on the show is Victarion Greyjoy. The unhinged brother of Euron is remembered for his Kraken axe in the books but instead, Benioff and Weiss amalgamated the two characters into Pilou Asbaek’s bearded brute.
Victarion is currently taking his Iron Fleet to Meereen and is set for a fiery showdown with Daenerys. Game of Thrones left Meereen (and Daario Naharis) behind in season six – and never returned – so it’s unclear how much longer Martin’s plot will stick around the ancient city.
9. Dragonbinder and the Horn of Winter
Sticking with the Greyjoys, the current plan of the seafaring family is to woo the Targaryen tyrant and control her brood of dragons with a mythical weapon known as Dragonbinder. Victarion is currently in possession of the horn and is preparing to bring Dany’s dragons under his sigil.
The handy artefacts don’t end there. The books also mention something known as the 'Horn of Winter'. Possessing the ability to bring down the Wall, it looks like the Night King will use it to topple that icy barricade instead of using the reanimated Viserion. It was thought that Sam found the Horn of Winter back in season two of the TV series but it was just a red herring.
10. Arianne Martell, Darkstar, and Myrcella
Another casualty of season five’s dismal Dorne plot was Arianne Martell. The fan-favourite is something of a feminist icon and had a complicated plan to put Myrcella Martell on the Iron Throne.
Arianne also has the formidable Ser Gerold Dayne by her side. Better known as Darkstar, Dayne is a fearsome fighter who was responsible for slicing off Myrcella Baratheon’s ear in a blundered attempt on her life.
Importantly, Arianne’s continuing role in the books confirms Myrcella will have a different ending to her poisoning at the hand of Ellaria Sand. The Lannister heiress is still probably doomed to a dismal demise but Martin clearly has different plans for her.
11. Ser Garlan the Gallant
Even if House Tyrell is officially six feet under on Game of Thrones, there’s hope that the family of golden roses could live to fight another day. Margaery, Loras, Mace, and Olenna could still all go the way of their screen counterparts, but HBO never included Garlan Tyrell.
The older brother of Margaery and Loras, he was supposed to be present at major events like the Battle of Blackwater, Sansa’s wedding to Tyrion and the Purple Wedding. He’s not exactly a major player, but it he’s important enough to have got a nod from Martin in his recent account of characters missing from the show.
12. Aegon VI
Hoping to streamline the various sprawling storylines, Game of Thrones completely axed the character of Young Griff and his 'father' Old Griff.
In the books, Jon Connington turned up with his son, Young Griff, and claimed that he was secretly Aegon VI Targaryen. (Considering Aegon VI – Rhaegar's infant son – was supposedly bludgeoned to death by The Mountain, things are sure to get a little complicated as the books go on.)
If Young Griff is Aegon VI, it makes him Dany’s other nephew and Jon's half-brother. With the Mother of Dragons going full psycho on her quest to sit on that pointy chair, having another contender to topple her isn’t going to sit very well.
13. The Valonqar
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A prophecy that was tweaked for the show was Maggy the Frog’s grim foreshadowing of what happens to Cersei Lannister. Despite the show fulfilling the promise that someone younger and more beautiful (Daenerys) would take the crown from her, it’s unclear what will happen to Cersei in the books.
Here’s hoping Martin continues to explore the idea of the Valonqar who will "wrap his hands" around the Queen’s "pale white throat and choke the life from" her. Given the frankly lacklustre way Lena Headey’s version of the Lannister lioness bowed out, it’s pretty likely that GRRM has something other than a falling brick planned for Cersei’s eventual book demise.
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