A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) is an epic fantasy series by American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin set in a fictional world called Westeros. Martin began writing the series in 1991 and the first volume was eventually published in 1996. The novels have gone on to inspire the creation of board and role-playing games, including our Neverwinter Nights 2 persistent world, and even a pending television adaptation by HBO.
The books are known for a genre-defying willingness to unflinchingly depict patriarchal and feudal societies, extremely detailed and complex characters, sudden and often violent plot twists, and elaborate political intrigue. In a genre where magic usually takes center stage, this series has a reputation for its limited and subtle use of magic, employing it as an ambiguous and often sinister background force.
To date, the series consists of four published volumes with three more projected to come:
- A Game of Thrones (1996)
- A Clash of Kings (1999)
- A Storm of Swords (2000)
- A Feast for Crows (2005)
- A Dance with Dragons (2011)
- The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
- A Dream of Spring (forthcoming)
Martin has also published two short stories (novellas) in the same setting, known as the "Tales of Dunk and Egg" after the main protagonists, with a third scheduled to be released in 2010. These stories are set about 90 years before the events in A Game of Thrones and have no direct connection with the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The Hedge Knight (appeared in Legends, ed. Robert Silverberg, 1998), also adapted as a graphic novel
- The Sworn Sword (appeared in Legends II, ed. Robert Silverberg, 2003), also adapted as a graphic novel
- The Mystery Knight (eta 2010)
There are also three novellas based on chapter sets from the books:
- Blood of the Dragon. Taken from Daenerys chapters in A Game of Thrones. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1997.
- Path of the Dragon. Taken from Daenerys chapters in A Storm of Swords.
- Arms of the Kraken. Taken from the Iron Islands chapters in A Feast for Crows.
Plot and Setting
A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a fictitious world reminiscent of Europe in the Middle Ages. There are three principal storylines in the series, divided by geography and participants, recounted from the perspectives of more than twenty characters.
The first storyline, set in the Seven Kingdoms, chronicles a many-sided struggle for the Iron Throne that develops after King Robert's death. The second storyline is set on the extreme northern border of Westeros and follows the adventures of Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark, as he rises through the ranks of the Night's Watch, learns the true nature of the threat from the north, and prepares to defend the realm from it, despite the fact that the people of Westeros are too busy warring with one another to support his struggle. The third storyline is set on the vast, unnamed eastern continent and follows the journeys of Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen and another claimant to the Iron Throne.
Historical and Literary Sources
Numerous parallels have been drawn between the events and characters in A Song of Ice and Fire and events and people involved in the Wars of the Roses. Two of the principal families in A Song of Ice and Fire, the Starks and the Lannisters, are seen as representing the historical House of York and House of Lancaster, respectively.
A comparison of Martin's map of Northern Westeros and a map of Great Britain will also show a geographical resemblance. Martin's "Wall" geographically corresponding with Hadrian's Wall and Dorne with Cornwall. Westeros is, however, much larger than Britain, stretching for nearly three thousand miles from the Wall to the Summer Sea.
Martin is an avid student of medieval Europe, and has said that the Wars of the Roses, along with many other events in Europe during that time, have influenced the series. However, he insists that "there's really no one-for-one character-for-character correspondence. I like to use history to flavor my fantasy, to add texture and verisimilitude, but simply rewriting history with the names changed has no appeal for me. I prefer to re-imagine it all, and take it in new and unexpected directions."
Martin has also said the Albigensian Crusades are an influence for his A Song of Ice and Fire.
A Song of Ice and Fire series has been adapted into an HBO show title A Game of Thrones. While staying largely true to the original story, some deviations have been introduced, as is fairly typical with adaptations of literary work.
Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
The A Song of Ice and Fire setting is Copyright © 1996-2006 George R.R. Martin.