- Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands, instigated a failed rebellion against King Robert a decade ago
- his children:
- Theon Greyjoy, eldest son, raised as ward with the Starks in Winterfell
- Asha Greyjoy, daughter and warrior
- Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, bannerman to the Starks in the North
- his bastard son, Ramsay Snow
- Daenerys Targaryen, Mad King Aerys’ daughter, self-proclaimed queen and Mother of Dragons
- her husband, Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki horse tribe
- her older brother, Viserys Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne
- her advisor, Ser Jorah Mormont, Jeor Mormont’s exiled son
7.3PLOT DESCRIPTION OF A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
A king rules the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the capitol city of King’s Landing. In the North, the Wall separates the realm of civilized men from that of the wildlings beyond. The Wall is manned by an ancient brotherhood, the Night’s Watch, men sworn to protect the realm from northern threats. Outside the king’s control, in the East across the Narrow Sea, are the free cities of Braavos, Pentos and Myr and the slaver cities, Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen. Surrounding these cities tribes of savage horse lords, the Dothraki, continuously roam the grasslands.
Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark of Winterfell and Robert Baratheon of Storm’s End are boyhood friends. During the Rebellion fifteen years prior to the opening chapter of A Game of Thrones, Robert (supported by Ned) rises against the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, and claims the throne. King Aerys is slain by a member of his own Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister of Casterly Rock, while Robert defeats Aerys’ heir, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, upon the battlefield. Since then has been an era of peace, only shortly interrupted ten years ago when Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion was quelled (and his young son Theon Greyjoy came home to Winterfell with Eddard Stark to be raised as a ward, a glorified hostage).
In this universe, seasons can last several years and just as the first book begins, a long summer that has lasted a decade is coming to an end and Winter is Coming.
A Game of Thrones, Book 1:
A threat is gathering north of the Wall, one still unknown to the rest of the realm. Supernatural beings called White Walkers stalk through the icy woods, slaying men of the Night’s Watch and raising them from the dead again as mindless, blue-eyed wights.
It has been fifteen years since Robert Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne and in Winterfell, Ned Stark rules as Warden of the North when he receives news that his childhood mentor, Jon Arryn of the Eyrie who has served as Hand of the King (the king’s most trusted councilor), has died and King Robert is riding for Winterfell. With him travel also his queen, Cersei Lannister; his heir, Prince Joffrey, and the queen’s brothers, Jaime and Tyrion Lannister. Jaime serves as a knight in the Kingsguard, while Tyrion has the physique of a stunted dwarf and has had to rely on his wits rather than his sword arm all his life.
Before their arrival, Ned and his six children find a dead direwolf in the woods – the children adopt the six wolf pups that are still alive, one for each to raise as their own.
Ned accepts the position as Robert’s new Hand, replacing the deceased Jon Arryn, and also accepts the betrothal between his eldest daughter, Sansa, and the crown prince, Joffrey. Deciding that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, only Ned and his four youngest children are planning to travel south with the king’s party – his wife Catelyn and eldest son, Robb, are to stay in Winterfell to manage the north in his absence. Before the king’s party have departed, however, Ned’s son Bran mysteriously falls from a tower window and is left in a coma (in reality, Bran stumbles upon Cersei and Jaime Lannister, twin siblings, in the throes of passion so Jaime pushes him out the window to conceal the truth). When Bran wakes he is not only paralyzed from the waist down but also cannot remember why he fell, but another attempt is made on his life when a man is sent to kill him in his bed with a dagger. In addition, a message in the night from Jon Arryn’s widow, Lysa, claims that Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters, the queen’s family. Ned Stark and his two daughters depart for the capitol with the king, leaving Catelyn and three sons in Winterfell. Due to events long in the past, there is no love lost between Ned and the Lannister family and tensions rise on the journey south. Prince Joffrey’s cruelty results in the unreasonable killing of Sansa’s wolf pup and Arya forces her wolf pup to run away in order to save its life.
At court in King’s Landing, Ned Stark investigates Jon Arryn’s murder with the help of Littlefinger, who sits on the king’s council and is Catelyn’s childhood friend. Unbeknownst to Ned, however, the deceitful Littlefinger is the person behind Jon Arryn’s murder and the second attempt on Bran’s life. His aim is to incite war between the Starks and Lannisters for his personal gain. Encouraged by Littlefinger, Catelyn Stark decides to seize Tyrion Lannister on the road and bring him to her sister, Lysa (Jon Arryn’s widow), for the trial of Jon Arryn’s murder and the attempt on Bran’s life. Tyrion survives the ordeal by using his wits and departs. Prior to his release, however, Jaime Lannister attacks Ned Stark in the streets of King’s Landing as revenge for his brother’s capture and Ned is grievously wounded.
Gradually, Ned’s investigation reveals the truth: that King Robert and Queen Cersei’s children are not his by blood; they are the result of her life-long affair with her twin brother, Jaime. Joffrey, therefore, is not the rightful heir to the throne – King Robert’s brother, Stannis, is. Ned confronts Cersei with the truth and informs her that he plans on revealing everything to the king as soon as he returns from his hunt. But Cersei brings about King Robert’s death before Ned has that chance. Ned is betrayed by Littlefinger and thrown in the dungeons of the Red Keep on the grounds of treason and plotting against the rightful king, Joffrey.
Ned is offered a chance to live out the rest of his life in exile on the Wall, if only he will confess to his treason and proclaim Joffrey as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. He agrees to keep his daughters safe, but Joffrey is more vindictive than anyone realized. After Ned’s faux confession, Joffrey demands his execution anyway and Ned Stark is decapitated.
Ned’s eldest son and his wife, Robb and Catelyn, go to war against the Lannisters in retaliation for his death, manage to capture Jaime Lannister on the battlefield and keep him imprisoned at Riverrun. Robb’s bannermen proclaim him King-in-the-North and emancipate themselves from King Joffrey’s unjust rule. Meanwhile, Tywin Lannister (Joffrey’s grandfather) sends his son Tyrion to King’s Landing to rule as Hand of the King on his behalf.
While all this takes place, there are two smaller plotlines developing simultaneously. Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s bastard son, starts a new life at the Wall as a member of the Night’s Watch. He befriends the self-proclaimed coward and fat boy, Samwell Tarly, and proves his worth to his commanders. He is appointed personal steward to Lord Commander Mormont as a means to groom him for command later in life. His wolf pup finds a dismembered hand in the silent woods north of the Wall and leads the men to the corpses of two rangers of the Night’s Watch. That same night, one of these corpses comes alive again and attempts to murder the Lord Commander in his bed, but Jon Snow and his wolf save him. Lord Commander Mormont decides that the Night’s Watch will ride out beyond the Wall with almost the entirety of their strength, three hundred men, to find out the truth of these ‘wights’ that will not die.
The third plotline concerns Daenerys Targaryen and her brother, Viserys. They are the surviving children of Mad King Aerys and have lived in exile across the Narrow Sea all their lives, because King Robert wants them both dead. Viserys dreams of nothing else than reclaiming his birthright, the Iron Throne, so he sells Daenerys to the master of the horse tribes, Khal Drogo, in exchange for an army of savage warriors that can help him conquer the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
At her and Khal Drogo’s wedding, Daenerys is gifted with three dragon eggs, petrified in stone by the ages. Terrified at first of what married life entails, she is taught the art of lovemaking by her handmaiden and gradually gains empowerment as Khal Drogo’s queen. Her sadistic and selfish brother Viserys is killed by her husband after he threatens her life and Daenerys learns that she is pregnant. After a failed assassination attempt ordered by King Robert (who is anxious to quell any risk of rebellion), Khal Drogo vows to travel west in vengeance and conquer the Seven Kingdoms for his beloved queen. But before he has a chance to make good on his word, a sorceress from an abused tribe of peasants manages to trick Daenerys and poison Drogo who dies. Daenerys loses her unborn child. She then proceeds to walk into the fires of Drogo’s funeral pyre with her petrified dragon eggs and emerges from the ashes with three live dragon hatchlings. Dazzled by the magic, the highly woman-oppressive Dothraki people proclaim her the Mother of Dragons and vow to follow her, even though she is a woman.
[Following the events of the first book, almost every main character journeys out on their own so the following description will deal with each person in turn, instead of chronologically from book to book]
Jon Snow: Jon travels north of the Wall with the Night’s Watch. Along the way they make camp at the wildling, Craster’s, keep. Craster has been marrying his own daughters for years and sacrifices his baby boys to the White Walkers to appease them, so that they do not bother him. At the old fortress, the Fist of the First Men, Jon’s wolf finds an ancient cache of daggers and arrows made of obsidian (‘dragonglass’) in the snow that Sam takes with him and later he manages to kill a White Walker with one of the daggers.
Jon and another Night’s Watchman, the legendary Qhorin Halfhand, go ranging farther north on their own and capture a wildling woman, Ygritte. Jon is unable to kill her as ordered and sets her free instead, which results in his and Qhorin’s capture by the wildlings soon after. Qhorin knows the wildlings will never let him live, so he convinces Jon to feign switching sides and joining the wildlings – the way to convince them is to kill Qhorin. Jon unwillingly does as he is ordered by his commander and is brought before the King-beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder. He lives with the wildlings, faking his allegiance, and is seduced by Ygritte. He realizes that the wildlings have combined the strength of all their different tribes and races and are now marching south as one to assault the Night’s Watch. They are fleeing from the death-defying White Walkers who are moving down from the lifeless north.
Jon is sent south of the Wall with a small group of wildling rangers to ambush Castle Black, the main fortress of the Night’s Watch, but he manages to escape them and warn Castle Black of the impending attack. Only a handful of men have returned from the Fist of the First Men after they were attacked by White Walkers and blue-eyed wights – Lord Commander Mormont was slain by his own men who deserted and turned south at the onslaught of the walking dead.
In the following battle at Castle Black, Ygritte is slain. As one officer after another is killed, Jon Snow is given command of defending the Wall against the army of a hundred thousand wildlings journeying down from the north. Soon, however, they are saved by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon and his southron army who have journeyed up from Dragonstone to do their duty to the realm. Stannis fashions himself King of Westeros after the death of his brother, Robert, and the apparently incestuous birth of Joffrey. Stannis offers Jon the title of Lord Stark, Warden of the North (that of his father, Eddard) but Jon declines, deciding that the Night’s Watch are his brothers now. Following the battle, those brothers elect Jon as their new Lord Commander.
Jon Snow’s increasingly lenient decisions regarding the wildlings brand him as a wildling-sympathizer among his fellow brothers who consequently betray him and attempt an assassination, the consequences of which are yet unrevealed at this point in the series.
Bran: After Bran Stark is pushed out of a tower window at Winterfell by Jaime Lannister, he lies in a coma for weeks and finally awakens to find himself paralyzed from the waist down. His brother, Robb, and mother, Catelyn, have departed Winterfell to wage war on the Lannisters and Bran is alone with his youngest brother, Rickon, their wolves and servants. As he comes to terms with his new condition, the connection to his wolf pup deepens and he finds that he can enter the wolf’s body and control it through ‘wolf dreams’. Two children, Jojen and Meera Reed, arrive to Winterfell – like Bran, Jojen has magical abilities and believes that Bran has a destiny to fulfill deep in the wastelands of the north.
Winterfell is left vulnerable after Robb Stark’s departure with all his soldiers and becomes an easy target for capture by Theon Greyjoy, who grew up at Winterfell as Lord Stark’s ward – a glorified hostage after his father, Balon Greyjoy’s, failed rebellion against the crown ten years before. Bran and Rickon Stark escape Theon’s capture by hiding in the crypts for days; and in order not to appear weak in front of his men, Theon fakes their deaths by killing two unknown peasant boys of the same age and burning them until they are unrecognizable. Soon after Roose Bolton’s bastard son, Ramsay Snow, arrives at Winterfell, seizes Theon and claims the spoils for himself. Theon spends the next several months, if not years, being tortured and mutilated by Ramsay until he is himself completely unrecognizable and has even forgotten his own name. In the end he escapes Ramsay and is reunited with his sister, Asha Greyjoy.
Winterfell has now been abandoned and it is safe for Bran, Rickon and the two Reeds to leave the crypts and journey north. Rickon, however, is too young and is sent south with one of the servants, a wildling woman called Osha. Bran is carried on the back of the strong but simple-minded stable boy, Hodor. Bran continuously trains his new ability of entering his wolf’s body until he can do it while awake as well. He experiments with entering Hodor too and controlling him. At the Wall, they encounter Samwell Tarly and one of Craster’s daughters, Gilly, who are fleeing south from the White Walkers. Sam leads Bran and his companions through the Wall and promises not to tell Jon Snow that his younger brothers are still alive.
After a long and perilous journey far to the north through wight-infested country, Bran, his wolf, Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed arrive to where Jojen’s dreams told him they should go. They find shelter beneath the roots of a great tree and here encounter the long-forgotten race of Children of the Forest, or greenseers, who have been believed dead for thousands of years. Bran begins training to become a greenseer as well, whose purpose is still unclear.
Catelyn/Robb Stark: Robb Stark, guided by his mother Catelyn, commences a war against the Lannisters after his father’s unjust execution. In the meantime, the deceased King Robert’s two brothers, Stannis and Renly, have each declared their intent of claiming the Iron Throne and are on the verge of battling each other. As a tactical maneuver, Catelyn is sent south to parley with each of them and suggest combining forces against the Lannisters. Stannis is a rigidly dutiful man to an extreme degree, however, and refuses to cooperate with anyone else because his is the strongest claim as the oldest living brother of the previous king. He is accompanied by the red priestess, Melisandre, who hints that those would-be kings without a proper claim will meet their just end. That same night, while Catelyn is present, Renly is assassinated in his tent by a conjured shadow shaped like Stannis, the product of Melisandre’s dark sorcery. Also present is Brienne of Tarth, a member of Renly’s kingsguard. Brienne, a female knight, is blamed for the murder and is forced to flee with Catelyn Stark.
Back at Riverrun, Catelyn receives news of the deaths of her two youngest sons, Bran and Rickon, and in a fit of motherly grief she decides to release Jaime Lannister from imprisonment, hoping to buy her two daughters’ freedom with his. She sends him on his way to King’s Landing in chains, accompanied by Brienne of Tarth who has sworn to return with her daughters, Sansa and Arya. After Catelyn’s action is discovered, she is confined by her son, Robb, the King-in-the-North. Robb returns to Riverrun with a wife, a young highborn girl that he shared a night of indiscretion with and as a result felt honor-bound to wed. However, he was already engaged to one of Lord Walder Frey’s daughters as a means to secure Frey’s military support. Walder Frey is an exceedingly proud and vindictive man who does not abide to have his honor slighted, so he proceeds to use whatever heinous means he can to bring about Robb Stark’s downfall. At the staged wedding between one of his daughters and Robb’s uncle, Edmure Tully, Frey’s men murder both Robb and Catelyn and all their companions at what is henceforth known as the Red Wedding.
Sansa Stark: Following her father’s execution, Sansa Stark is held hostage in King’s Landing for months. She is still betrothed to King Joffrey, but her naïve dreams of her gallant fiancée are soon shattered as he torments her and threatens her with beatings day after day. Soon after her betrothal to Joffrey is broken, she is forced to marry Tyrion Lannister as a part of a political ploy that lends the Lannisters claim to the north. Sansa’s repulsion to Tyrion’s physical appearance blinds her to the compassionate and gentle man he is. On the wedding night he does not force her to consummate the marriage, instead telling her that he will never ask that of her unless she wants him to; her poorly concealed disgust hurts him deeply. Soon Joffrey is to marry Margaery Tyrell instead, Renly Baratheon’s widow. Margaery befriends Sansa who confesses Joffrey’s true nature. Unbeknownst to Sansa, her tale inspires Margaery’s family to have Joffrey killed at their wedding in order to save Margaery from the same terrors that Sansa has had to suffer through.
Joffrey’s murder is blamed on Tyrion Lannister, whose animosity towards his nephew and his sister Cersei is well known to all – not to mention his wife, Sansa’s, animosity towards Joffrey after the way he has treated her. Littlefinger, who unsurprisingly had a hand in Joffrey’s murder, smuggles Sansa out of the capitol and brings her to her aunt Lysa in the Eyrie. Littlefinger weds Lysa and then kills her soon after, and Sansa is manipulated into staying with him and posing as his baseborn daughter. Littlefinger’s agenda gradually becomes clear: by controlling both the little Lord Robert (Lysa’s son and heir to the Eyrie) and Sansa (who most believe is the only Stark child still alive), Littlefinger controls the domains of both the Warden of the North and Warden of the East.
Arya Stark: Following her father’s execution, Arya manages to escape King’s Landing and travels north with a group bound for the Wall and the Night’s Watch. She plans on finding her bastard brother, Jon Snow. However, the war-torn lands soon separate her from her companions and she is captured by Gregor Clegane, bannerman to Tywin Lannister and a sadistic warrior. He brings her and others to Harrenhal where they labor as servants. She befriends the smith’s apprentice, Gendry, who is one of the deceased King Robert’s bastards (although that truth is unknown to anyone living) and saves three of the other captured hostages from a fire, among them the man Jaqen H’ghar. In payment he offers to kill three men for her, so as to even out the balance for the lives she saved – he turns out to be a master assassin. And as he departs Harrenhal, he tells Arya that if she ever needs help she should go to the House of the Many-Faced God in Braavos and tell the people there his name.
After she flees Harrenhal, Arya is captured again and recognized for her true identity by the Brotherhood Without Banners, who are led by the knight, Beric Dondarrion, who has died several times and been brought back to life by the magic of his friend, the red priest Thoros of Myr. She and Gendry stay with the Brotherhood until they capture Sandor Clegane, the Hound – the vicious Gregor Clegane’s younger brother. Sandor wins his freedom in a duel and kidnaps Arya, planning on bringing her to her mother for ransom. However, the same night they arrive at Lord Walder Frey’s keep, Catelyn and Robb Stark are murdered and Sandor Clegane flees with Arya. The Hound decides to bring her to her aunt Lysa at the Eyrie instead, but on the way he is mortally wounded by outlaws and Arya leaves him to die and finds a ship to bring her to Braavos.
She finds the House of the Many-Faced God and commences training to become an assassin like Jaqen H’ghar. She plans on reaping vengeance on those who have been complicit in killing her family and silently recites their names to herself every night before sleep. It is not long before she makes her first kill.
Daenerys: After Khal Drogo’s death, Daenerys leads her khalasar (her tribe of Dothraki) through the Red Wastes desert to the city of Qarth and from there west to Slaver’s Bay. She plans on gathering an army to help her conquer the Seven Kingdoms across the Narrow Sea, but her plans are delayed when she witnesses the injustice of the slave industry. By tricking the slave owners in Astapor and using her wits, she manages to claim their army of thousands of slave soldiers called Unsullied, kill the slave owners, free the slaves from their bondage and inspire them to fight for her of their own free will.
She lays waste to the slaving industry one city at a time, her forces growing with each conquest and her three dragons growing in size as well. Soon her dragons are so large they are barely controllable any longer and when they start to feast on human flesh when hunting, she orders them contained beneath the earth. The largest of the dragons, however, cannot be caught and escapes the city of Meereen where she has settled.
Daenerys’ most trusted advisor, Ser Jorah Mormont, was exiled from Westeros years ago by King Robert after he sold some poachers on his land to slavers instead of sending them to serve for the Night’s Watch. Ser Jorah now seeks to redeem himself with King Robert by serving as his spy close to Daenerys. However, he falls in love with her and decides to serve her faithfully instead. Months later, Daenerys discovers the truth and crushed by the betrayal she sends Jorah away in a new exile, vowing to kill him if he ever returns.
She is soon troubled by the news that new slave industries have formed in the cities she left behind, and the new slavers are marching against her with newly formed armies. In the end she is forced into wedding a Meereenese nobleman called Hizdarh zo Loraq in order to win favor with the Meereenese population who can help her stop the coming siege. Her new husband orders the fighting pits to be reopened after she closed them and she endures his decisions with little grace. On the opening day, the bloodshed and excitement attracts the notice of her largest dragon who descends into the pit of chaos and panic. Men start to attack the dragon and in order to save him, Daenerys instinctively jumps on his back and flies away. All believe her to be dead, but she spends the next many days out in the wild learning to ride her dragon. When she finally decides to return to Meereen, she is found by another Dothraki tribe.