As if the author didn't have enough pressure on him already to release the next book, George R.R. Martin recently revealed Lady Stoneheart will feature heavily in The Winds of Winter. This is particularly exciting because the character unfortunately had to be cut from Game of Thrones, not because she wasn't amazing, but because there's only so much you can cram into hour-long episodes of a TV show from a seemingly endless book series. But of all the losses along the way, Martin said that Lady Stoneheart's exclusion from HBO series was the hardest to swallow. In a recent interview with Esquire China, he told the outlet that adding the undead matriarch back into the Game of Thrones storyline "is the change I most wish I could make."
And it's not hard to see why. When Martin killed off Catelyn Stark in the books, the character was resurrected — sort of — by Beric Dondarrion. She's alive, but she's so distant from her former self that she's become almost a villain in the plot, an antihero just like the one Arya Stark is becoming on the show. In the author's own words in the same Esquire China interview, "In the book, characters can be resurrected. After Catelyn is resurrected as Lady Stoneheart, she becomes a vengeful, heartless killer." The Stark matriarch may have been stripped of all of her warmer qualities when her throat was slit, but her form continues to travel Westeros as Lady Stoneheart, blindly seeking revenge for the betrayal that claimed her life and that of her son, Robb.
It's a rich storyline, especially when compared with the GoT version: when Catelyn Stark is murdered at the Red Wedding, she stays dead. It means that fans of the TV show never got to meet the rich, layered character that is Lady Stoneheart, even though Martin told TIME in July 2017 that he fought hard for the character in conversations with series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The author said,
“At some points, when David and Dan and I had discussions about what way we should go in, I would always favor sticking with the books, while they would favor making changes. I think one of the biggest ones would probably be when they made the decision not to bring Catelyn Stark back as Lady Stoneheart. That was probably the first major diversion of the show from the books and, you know, I argued against that, and David and Dan made that decision.”
As he implied, there have been multiple other diversions since; more even than fans can possibly know about, since the show overtook the books. And while it could still technically be possible to add Lady Stoneheart, it does unfortunately seem like that ship has sailed.
Production on the eighth and final season of the HBO drama is currently underway, and by the sounds of it, Benioff and Weiss already have more than enough on their plates. (According to an Instagram post by a GoT assistant director that was made private, one battle scene alone took 55 days to film.) So it's highly unlikely that Lady Stoneheart will be making an appearance, no matter how beloved the character is, or how passionate Martin is about her inclusion.
But don't despair, because as the 69-year-old author explained in his Esquire China interview, Lady Stoneheart's story is far from over. "In the sixth book, I still continue to write her," he promised. "She is an important character in the set of books." So while the series' ship has unfortunately sailed, The Winds of Winter continues to glimmer enticingly on the horizon. Fans have been clamoring for it ever since A Dance with Dragons was released in 2011, and that clamor will likely only get louder with these new details about Lady Stoneheart.
She's one of the most complicated characters that Martin has churned out, right up there with Cersei Lannister herself, so the fact that fans have been promised more of her in The Winds of Winter just ups the ante. As reported by Mashable, the author's last estimate was that the book would be out sometime in 2017, but it has yet to be given a release date. And that sound you just heard? Everyone's foot starting to tap a little faster in anticipation.