2017 is shaping up to be a year of political strife that could give King Aerys II a run for his money. But there is one tiny glimmer of literary hope on the horizon: George R.R. Martin says that The Winds of Winter might finally debut this year. I know, A Song of Ice and Fire fans — we've been burned before. But, assuming GRRM isn't playing with our emotions, here are a few things we can expect from the next GoT book.
Of course, the Song of Ice and Fire books exist in a weird nether realm right now, because the HBO show has been chugging along well past the end of book five, A Dance with Dragons. Season six of the TV show included a lot of plot points that will probably appear in book six, The Winds of Winter. And season seven will likely make it to the small screen long before we get our hands on the fabled final book of the series, A Dream of Spring.
But will The Winds of Winter follow the show's outline to a tee? Will we get to see our favorite bastard, Jon Snow, ever again? Will Daenerys sail for Westeros? Will Cersei blow everyone up? Most importantly, will Hodor die?
Well, here's what we can expect to find in book six (spoilers ahead):
1Jon Snow returns
Come on. The only thing GRRM loves more than killing characters is bringing them back to life. There's no way that Jon is gone for good—although we don't know yet how he'll come back. Did he survive his stab wounds at the end of A Dance with Dragons? Will Melisandre bring him back to life using her Red Priestess magic? Will he warg into his Dire Wolf, Ghost, before dying and be stuck as a wolf for the whole book? Whatever happens, there's no way that Jon will die for good until he learns his true parentage and makes out with Daenerys in a fire-meets-ice love fest (even though she is probably his aunt).
2The Battle for Winterfell
GRRM has pre-released several Winds of Winter chapters, including a Theon chapter where we see Stannis planning for an-all out battle against Ramsay Snow/Bolton to take back the North. Stannis has hinted that he's going to lure the Bolton army out onto a lake and let them fall through the cracked ice (and he'll also probably sacrifice his daughter to the Red God for good measure).
3Davos hangs out with Osha and Rickon on Skagos
Everyone's favorite Onion Knight is headed up to Skagos to retrieve everyone's least favorite Stark, baby Rickon (it's nothing personal Rickon, you just haven't been in the books very much). Hopefully this means we'll get to see Osha again, as well as the terrifying Skagosi and a slightly older, slightly less (or more?) wild Rickon and Shaggydog.
4More Greyjoy drama
Oh those Greyjoys and their very tedious drama. Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy and Euron Greyjoy will probably have it out on the Iron Islands, since Aeron has threatened to raise up the common folk against Euron's claim to the Seastone Chair.
5Dany teams up with the Dothraki again
Dany has come a long way from the frightened little girl who was sold to a Dothraki Horselord. Where we left her in A Dance with Dragons, her dragon Drogon has dropped her off in the Dothraki Sea, where she runs into Khal Jhaqo's khalasar (basically, her hateful Dothraki in-laws). I think it's a safe bet that Dany's going to try and take some dragon-based revenge on her late husband's bloodriders, and win the loyalty of the rest of the khalasar with her ruthlessness and ability to withstand high temperatures.
6The Battle for Meereen
Sir Barristan Selmy, Tyrion Lannister, and probably Victarion Greyjoy are all in for a big ol' siege on Meereen. I think we can assume that our guys win the day (even if we lose some major characters in the process), which means that Dany will have the Dothraki, the Unsullied, her sellsword companies, her free men, her three dragons, the Ironborn, and her soon-to-be BFF Tyrion locked and loaded by the time she's ready to invade Westeros.
7More suffering for Bran, Arya, and Sansa Stark
Sansa might not be married to Ramsay in the books, but it seems like she's going to suffer something creepy and horrifying at the hands of Littlefinger, or possibly the shady musician Marillion, who GRRM has promised will return. I'm also guessing that Bran will watch at least one of his friends get eaten by zombies, and Arya will be punished by the Faceless Men for breaking the rules. Let's hope the series ends with the Stark kids all signing up for therapy.
8‘Young Griff’ teams up with Dorne
"Young Griff" claims to be the long lost baby Aegon, son of Prince Rhaegar and Elia Martell of Dorne. Where we left him, he's established a foothold in the Stormlands, and plans to claim the Iron Throne. If he's truly Aegon, that makes him a cousin to Arianne Martell and the Sand Snakes, and we all know that the Dornish are obsessed with revenging Elia and her kids. I smell another ill-fated Dornish plot.
9Brienne vs Jaime
You just know that badass zombie mom Lady Stoneheart is going to force Brienne and Jaime into single combat against each other. Lady "Catelyn" Stoneheart has been waiting since book one to get revenge on Jaime for pushing Bran out of the window. Loyal Brienne is caught between her oath to Lady Stoneheart and her oath to Jaime. And Jaime has one hand (his left) and one friend (Brienne). This is going to be a very emotionally fraught trial-by-combat.
10Cersei goes full-on Mad Queen
We all know that Cersei loves her wildfire, and that she's pretty much cool with Qyburn turning all her enemies into Frankenstein-style monsters. And yes, Cersei is going down eventually, to be replaced by a younger, hotter queen, as per the prophecy. But first, I'm betting she's going to try and destroy both the Faith and the Tyrells with fire or zombies, and probably end up watching her own children die in the process.
11Something happens with that Horn of Winter
OK, look, maybe it's just because there's a horn on the cover of the book... but something has to happen with the Horn of Winter while it's still winter, right? We know that Melisandre destroyed the fake horn, but Sam Tarly still has that old, cracked warhorn that Ghost and Jon found beyond the wall. I'm betting that Sam, Gilly, and Mance's baby end up back at the wall eventually with that horn and use some freaky winter magic to fight the Others.
12Everybody starts roadtripping back to Westeros
There's no way that Arya, Dany, and Tyrion have left Westeros for good. I don't even think Bran is going to stay beyond the wall and live in a tree forever. Even if it takes most of The Winds of Winter for us to get there, I think we can expect all of our favorite characters to be ready to roll out by the end of the book, all set for a massive battle for the Seven Kingdoms in book seven.