A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of epic fantasy novels by the American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin. He began the first volume of the series, A Game of Thrones, in 1991, and it was published in 1996. Martin, who initially envisioned the series as a trilogy, has published five out of a planned seven volumes. The fifth and most recent volume of the series, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011 and took Martin six years to write. He is currently writing the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter. A seventh novel A Dream of Spring is planned.
A Song of Ice and Fire takes place on the fictional continents Westeros and Essos. The point of view of each chapter in the story is a limited perspective of a range of characters growing from nine in the first novel, to 31 characters by the fifth novel. Three main stories interweave: a dynastic war among several families for control of Westeros, the rising threat of the supernatural Others in northernmost Westeros, and the ambition of Daenerys Targaryen, the deposed king's exiled daughter, to assume the Iron Throne.
Martin's inspirations included the Wars of the Roses and the French historical novels The Accursed Kings by Maurice Druon. A Song of Ice and Fire received praise for its diverse portrayal of women and religion, as well as its realism. An assortment of disparate and subjective points of view confronts the reader, and the success or survival of point-of-view characters is never assured. Within the often morally ambiguous world of A Song of Ice and Fire, questions concerning loyalty, pride, human sexuality, piety, and the morality of violence frequently arise.
The books have sold 90 million copies worldwide as of April 2019, after having been translated into 47 languages as of January 2017. The fourth and fifth volumes reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller lists upon their releases. Among the many derived works are several prequel novellas, a TV series, a comic book adaptation, and several card, board, and video games.
A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world in which seasons last for years and end unpredictably. Nearly three centuries before the events of the first novel, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros were united under the Targaryen dynasty by Aegon I and his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, establishing military supremacy through their control of dragons. The Targaryen dynasty ruled for three hundred years, although civil war and infighting among the Targaryens was frequent. Due to being held and bred in captivity, their dragons became ever smaller until they finally went extinct. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, 15 peaceful years have passed since the rebellion led by Lord Robert Baratheon that deposed and killed the last Targaryen king, Aerys II "the Mad King", and proclaimed Robert king of the Seven Kingdoms, with a nine-year-long summer coming to an end.
The principal story chronicles the power struggle for the Iron Throne among the great Houses of Westeros following the death of King Robert in A Game of Thrones. Robert's heir apparent, the 13-year-old Joffrey, is immediately proclaimed king through the machinations of his mother, Queen Cersei Lannister. When Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, Robert's closest friend and chief advisor, discovers that Joffrey and his siblings are the product of incest between Cersei and her twin brother Ser Jaime "The Kingslayer" Lannister, Eddard attempts to unseat Joffrey, but is betrayed and executed for treason. In response, Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both lay separate claims to the throne. During this period of instability, two of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros attempt to become independent from the Iron Throne: Eddard's eldest son Robb is proclaimed King in the North, while Lord Balon Greyjoy desires to recover the sovereignty of his region, the Iron Islands. The so-called "War of the Five Kings" is in full progress by the middle of the second book, A Clash of Kings.
(each death in the books)
The second part of the story takes place in the far north of Westeros, where an 8,000-year-old wall of ice, simply called "the Wall", defends the Seven Kingdoms from supernatural creatures known as the Others. The Wall's sentinels, the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch, also protect the realm from the incursions of the "wildlings" or "Free Folk", who are several human tribes living on the north side of the Wall. The Night's Watch story is told primarily through the point of view of Jon Snow, Lord Eddard Stark's bastard son. Jon follows the footsteps of his uncle Benjen Stark and joins the Watch at a young age, rising quickly through the ranks. He eventually becomes Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. In the third volume, A Storm of Swords, the Night's Watch storyline becomes increasingly entangled with the War of the Five Kings.
The third storyline follows Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of Aerys II, the last Targaryen king. On the continent of Essos, east of Westeros across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is married off by her elder brother Viserys Targaryen to a powerful warlord, but slowly becomes an independent and intelligent ruler in her own right. Her rise to power is aided by the historic birth of three dragons, hatched from eggs given to her as wedding gifts. The three dragons soon become not only a symbol of her bloodline and her claim to the throne, but also devastating weapons of war, which help her in the conquest of Slaver's Bay.
Books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series are first published in hardcover and are later re-released as paperback editions. In the UK, Harper Voyager publishes special slipcased editions. The series has also been translated into more than 30 languages. All page totals given below are for the US first editions.