It has been 11 years since the last novel in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, with some fans worried the author may have given up altogether.
The first five books in the series arrived in quick succession, but fans have waited more than a decade for the next instalment.
The books were the basis for the hugely popular HBO show Game of Thrones. But while the show came to an end in 2019, the book series is yet to be completed.
However, Martin has revealed the next book, The Winds of Winter, is nearly done. About 75 per cent done, to be exact.
The update was given during a live-stream with his publisher Penguin Random House.
“I think I’m about three-quarters of the way done, maybe?” Martin mused.
“But that’s not 100 per cent done, so I have to continue work on it.”
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Long-time fans of Martin will be wise to take the news with a grain of salt.
He has promised time and time again that the books would be on their way shortly, with his writer’s block somewhat of a running joke.
The first five books in the series arrived with relative haste in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2005 and 2011.
But as the story was picked up by HBO and the first episode of Game of Thrones aired in 2011, Martin has been in no rush to put a full stop on the series.
His attention began to drift when he was an executive producer of the show’s earlier seasons, and occasional writer and creative consultant.
Then he began Fire & Blood – about the origins of the Targaryen dynasty – which was recently adapted by HBO for the hugely popular House of the Dragon series.
He was originally optimistic that he would be able to finish the last two books in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, before HBO caught up to him.
But HBO surpassed the source material with the sixth season of Game of Thrones in 2016.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were then forced to work without the fleshed-out narrative for the rest of the show, instead relying on rough plot points provided by Martin.
‘Permission to imprison me’
Three years later, Martin issued a bold pledge in 2019 on his ‘Not a Blog’ website.
“But I tell you this — if I don’t have The Winds of Winter in hand when I arrive in New Zealand for worldcon, you have here my formal written permission to imprison me in a small cabin on White Island, overlooking that lake of sulfuric acid, until I’m done,” he wrote.
But alas, Martin had once again overshot his ambitions.
Martin gave mini-updates in the months following, saying he had finished a chapter here and there.
The novel is yet to arrive.
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Not dead yet
The announcement comes just two months after Martin swore off giving updates on his writing progress – because he was done with disappointing fans, and had grown tired of people being mad with him.
““I’m making progress, but I’ve given up on any hope of predicting the end,” he told Vanity Fair in August.
“Every time I do, I don’t make it and everybody gets mad at me, and there’s no sense. It’ll be done when it’s done.”
Fans’ impatience is mixed with concerns about Martin’s health.
Martin was 48 when the series’ first book, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996.
Now aged 74, fans have morbidly pondered what would happen if Martin died before the final two books were published.
Would the draft manuscripts be released in his absence, or would fans be left forever wondering what happens to their favourite characters?
Martin addressed fan speculation, saying he found it “grisly”.
“I do find it a little grisly, people speculating online about what’s going to happen to the rest of the books when I die,” he said.
“I don’t like to speculate about that. I don’t feel close to dying.”
Worth the wait
Although Martin regrets the books aren’t yet ready, they sound like they’ll be worth the wait.
The longest A Song of Ice and Fire book to date is A Dance of Dragons, with 73 chapters and 1056 pages.
The Winds of Winter will be bigger, Martin says.
“It’s a big, big book, I’ve said that before. It’s a challenging book. It’s probably gonna be a larger book than any of the previous volumes in the series.,” he said.
“Dance with Dragons and Storm of Swords are the two largest books in the series. They were both about 1500 manuscript pages. I think this one is going to be longer than that by the time I’m finished with it.”
As they wait for Martin to deliver, HBO has plenty for GOT fans.
HBO has ordered a second season of House of the Dragon, based on Martin’s Fire & Blood.
The show has been a huge success, with the season one finale drawing 9.1 million viewers live in the US – the most for a finale since the end of Game of Thrones in 2019.
Thanks to the show’s incredible popularity, Martin recently announced that HBO has ordered a spin-off prequel about Lord Corlys, head of House Velaryon, played in HOTD by Steve Toussaint.
Plus, Kit Harington will soon reprise his role as Jon Snow, with a sequel series about the fan-favourite character also in development.
The series will reportedly detail Snow’s adventures north of the Wall, after he was exiled from Westeros.
Outside of HBO, there’s also a Game of Thrones play in the works, which will tell the story of Robert Baratheon’s rebellion and how the king came to sit on the Iron Throne.
The announcements don’t stop there. Martin has also released a new illustrated book about the history of the Targaryen dynasty, titled The Rise of the Dragon.
The book tells the story of Aegon the Conqueror, Maegor the Cruel and Jaehaerys the Conciliator and the Dance of Dragons, with 180 illustrations in total.