Someone recently asked me if I thought that watching season seven of Game of Thrones would spoil the books for me, and I had to laugh. Not only is the show well ahead of the books by now, the two mediums have diverged so much at this point that it's barely the same story. Look, the split was amicable, and I'll still tune in to HBO every Sunday, but I'm too busy with this conspiracy wall of Blackfyre theories to worry about getting spoiled. It's all about the countdown to The Winds of Winter, people. And, since we still don't know exactly when King George will grace us with the sixth novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, the time is ripe for wild speculation: here are a few of the top fan theories about the plot of Winds of Winter.
If you're an ASOIAF reader who has been to the internet, you're probably aware that there are a lot of theories out there. George R.R. Martin is rivaled only by his fans when it comes to ridiculously detailed, convoluted plotting. These fan theories range from the widely accepted (and confirmed on the TV show) idea that Jon is a secret Targaryen, to the slightly more "out there" idea that Roose Bolton is a White Walker in disguise. Here are a few (relatively) plausible theories for the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire, because all we know so far is that it's going to be full of plot twists:
1Jon will be a Ghost
Last we saw our buddy Jon Snow, he was being stabbed by his fellow Black Brothers, bleeding out in the snow, murmuring the word "Ghost." Ghost is, of course, Jon's trusty direwolf, and in the prologue of A Dance with Dragons, we saw a wildling warg into his own wolf after his human body was slain. When Melisandre is staring into her fire, she also sees someone changing from man to wolf to man again. Is Jon going to peace out of his stabbed-up corpse and be a wolf for a while? It seems plausible, but we also know that staying in an animal body for too long can start to erode a warg's humanity.
2Shireen will be sacrificed to bring Jon back
On the show, Melisandre burns lil' Shireen to melt some snow, and then brings Jon back in a different ceremony. But in the books, Mel usually needs king's blood to do her magic, and, with Aemon and baby Mance gone, Shireen is the only true royal at the Wall. If Mel does resurrect Jon, she might use Shireen to do it, which would also fulfill the Azor Ahai prophecy of "waking dragons out of stone." Jon is a secret Targaryen, or a "dragon," and lil' Shireen has greyscale, which turns its victims to stone.
3Something bad will happen to little Robert Arryn
GRRM loves to tease us with the brutal murder of innocent children, doesn't he? Martin has said that Winds of Winter will feature a controversial Sansa chapter. A lot of people think this means that resident creep Littlefinger will try to get it on with Sansa, but a more disturbing theory suggests that sickly little Robert will be given to Lyn Corbray, a "dangerous" knight of the Vale who apparently "likes his boys young." If Robert is out of the way, Sansa and Harry the Heir will have a claim to the Vale and the North, which means Littlefinger will have control over two out of seven kingdoms.
4Tyrion will sleep with his own daughter
Why does it seem like everyone wants Tyrion to get freaky with his secret daughter? We have no evidence that Tyrion even has a daughter, but the Sailor's Wife in Braavos fits the age and description of Tyrion's ex, Tysha, and she has a blonde daughter named Lanna (as in Lannister). Young Lanna is a whore, so it's possible playboy Tyrion would sleep with her without knowing who she is. The other theory is that Penny could be his secret daughter: Penny is a dwarf, and lowborn, and much younger, so it's vaguely plausible. Penny is also in love with Tyrion, so he might give in to her advances in the next book. Or maybe he'll be the only Lannister to not commit incest, and everything will be fine.
5Aegon is a Blackfyre (and maybe Varys too??)
In A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion comes across a kid called Young Griff, who claims to be Prince Aegon, Rhaegar's infant son who was supposedly killed. Aegon is being helped by Illyrio Mopatis, the dude who gave Dany her dragon eggs, and Varys the Spider. Young Aegon has already taken a castle in Westeros and intends to take the throne, but there's a good chance he's not really Aegon Targaryen, but a Blackfyre, and/or the son of Illyrio himself. Illyrio had a beautiful young wife from Lys who had the white-gold hair and purple eyes of a Targaryen or a Blackfyre. We know that the Blackfyres are extinct in the male line, but not the female line. And we know that Illyrio has old children's clothes in his house, despite his apparent lack of children. Varys is also from Lys, and good buds with Illyrio. Besides, why would Varys want to put Rhaegar's son on the throne when he deliberately tried to undermine Raegar and pit him and his father against each other? Varys is a master of disguise, so who knows what secrets he's been hiding all these years.
6Howland Reed will finally show up
You OK, Howland? You've let your kids, Jojen and Meera, go running off beyond the Wall to help Bran turn into a psychic tree. And yet you yourself have not yet shown up to help your buddy Ned's children in any way, shape, or form. Fans think that Howland might finally show his little crannogman face in Winds of Winter, which might be a huge game changer, since he's the only living person who knows the truth about Jon Snow's real parents.
*Officially* both Sandor and Gregor Clegane are dead. But true fans know that Sandor "The Hound" Clegane is likely kicking it as a grave-digging monk on the Quiet Isle. And Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane has been Frankensteined into a big ol' zombie named Robert Strong. Strong will be Cersei's champion in her trial by combat, but who will the Faith pick as their fighter? Perhaps a terrifying monk who hates his own brother?? It's possible that we might get to see brother vs. brother in a huge, bloody, vengeful Clegane showdown.
8Dragons at the Citadel?
Something is going down at the Citadel. A Faceless Man is chilling out there, and a disguised Sand Snake, and our friend Sam Tarly. One theory suggests that Euron Greyjoy gave the Faceless Men a dragon egg in exchange for the murder of his brother, Balon. Euron had a dragon egg at some point, and a hit job on a king has got to be expensive. So maybe that Faceless Man is there to find out how to hatch his dragon egg, using a book from the Citadel's Hogwarts-style restricted section? A Faceless Man with a dragon sounds like a pretty formidable foe (does this mean evil assassin Arya gets to ride a dragon??).
9Cersei will lose the rest of her children (and maybe blow everything up??)
Cersei already 'sploded a bunch of people on the TV show. But in the books, lil' Tommen is still king, Myrcella is still in Dorne (minus one ear), and Cersei has not yet gone full mad queen. But we know that Cersei is prophesied to lose all three of her kids. And that her "little" brother will kill her. Cersei is a couple of minutes older than Jaime. Will Jaime have to defeat Brienne and Lady Stoneheart only to turn around and kill his own sister/girlfriend, just like he killed the Mad King?
10Sansa will wed a dragon
Poor Sansa. People keep trying to marry her off to jerks (and also Tyrion, who's only sometimes a jerk). She's been betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon and Willas Tyrell, married to Tyrion Lannister, and now she's betrothed again to Harry Hardyng. This is suspiciously close to the champions of Lady Ashford in The Hedge Knight: a Baratheon, a Tyrell, a Lannister, a Hardying, and a Targaryen, in that order. Because of this, some fans think that Sansa will finally be married to Aegon Targaryen. Or maybe Jon Snow/Targaryen, who's actually her cousin and not her brother. Personally, I don't see why she can't just marry Daenerys, and they can brush each other's hair and complain about how terrible Westerosi men are.
11We'll finally figure out why the hell the seasons are all screwy
If you haven't noticed, there's something a little...off...about the seasons in Westeros. Winter and Summer can last up to a decade, and the change in seasons happens at random. Um. Why? This might be more of a theory for A Dream of Spring, the fabled seventh novel in A Song of Ice and Fire. But George R.R. Martin has promised that there is some kind of (probably magical) reason for the seasons being weird, and that it will be revealed at some point towards the end of the series. There are a lot of theories about the seasons, from a wobbly planetary axis to an ancient clash between White Walkers and dragons, but we'll just have to wait and find out.