September 28, 2018 - 17:05 AMT
New 'Game of Thrones' book will arrive on Nov. 20

Winter is coming, eventually. Fire and Blood, the new fictional Westeros history book from George R.R. Martin, is coming much sooner. It's set to arrive on Nov. 20, months before the final season of HBO's Game of Thrones, and certainly long before the sixth planned installment in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga on which Thrones is based, The Hollywood Reporters says.

Fans wishing for a return to Westeros sooner rather than later need to look no further than Martin's own website, where the author has published an excerpt from Fire and Blood. It focuses on Alysanne Targaryen, wife and sister to the fourth Targaryen king, Jaehaerys I, and chronicles her first trip to the North more than half a century after Aegon the Conqueror seized control over Westeros and forged the Seven Kingdoms. While there's certainly no mention of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), given that this story takes place centuries before their births, the tale nonetheless boasts some implications for what to expect from the final season of Thrones, due in early 2019.

For one, it's a glimpse into what life might look like when the Mother of Dragons arrives in Winterfell next season. Yes, Daenerys has already traveled to the North once before, sailing far beyond the Wall in season seven's aptly titled "Beyond the Wall." But she has yet to see the seat of House Stark with her own eyes, and has yet to meet anyone in Jon's family. The Fire and Blood excerpt focuses on Alysanne making first contact with several Starks, looking past their frozen facade and seeing the warmth underneath. One can only hope for a similarly thawed dynamic whenever Daenerys meets Jon's sisters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams). Indeed, the excerpt mentions Alysanne organizing a "women's court" in the great Northern city of White Harbor, "a thing hitherto unheard of in the North." Even with only six episodes left before the book closes on Game of Thrones, is it too much to ask for a proper sit down between Dany, Sansa, Arya, and any other number of the strong women of Westeros?

Given the White Walkers beating down upon the realm, there may not be much time for food, drink and other festivities. (In regards to "food and drink," Martin's excerpt contains a few vivid descriptions of meals, which is one of his specialties as an author. An example: "At the welcoming feast an entire aurochs was roasted, and his lordship’s daughter Jessamyn acted as the queen's cupbearer, filling her tankard with a strong northern ale that Her Grace pronounced finer than any wine she had ever tasted." Classic George.) As it regards the White Walkers and their march on Westeros, the excerpt provides some useful information.

Near the end of the chapter (at least as far as Martin's current release), Queen Alysanne pays a visit to the Night's Watch at Castle Black, traveling on her dragon, Silverwing. "The distance was not negligible, even flying," writes Martin. Not that Game of Thrones has always adhered to the distances established in its own universe (no need to relitigate the hastened travel time between Dragonstone and beyond the Wall in the aforementioned "Beyond the Wall," but, well, you know), but at least there's some built-in explanation here as for why it could take the Night King and his army an episode or two before arriving at Winterfell — the next presumed stop on their Westeros-wide destruction tour.

The excerpt also adds a haunting description of what lies beyond the Wall. Writing to her husband, Alysanne mentions that she attempted to fly past the Wall on Silverwing three times, and "every time she veered back south again and refused to go. Never before has she refused to take me where I wished to go. I laughed about it when I came down again, so the black brothers would not realize anything was amiss, but it troubled me then and it troubles me still."

It's not breaking news that trouble lurks beyond the Wall. That's White Walker territory. But it's a nice dose of myth-building that could pave the way for what to expect not necessarily in the final season, but one of the planned successor shows from HBO and Martin. In fact, the way Martin writes Fire and Blood is very telling for the future of Thrones as a franchise. Unlike Ice and Fire, which are deeply character-driven, there's an arms-length quality about the way he pens Fire and Blood; more academic, less emotional. Given the approach, Martin can cover great swaths of story and history within the world of Westeros, as opposed to the occasionally glacial pace of the Ice and Fire series. The result: an astounding array of possibilities for HBO to base successor shows upon. The night may be dark and full of terrors, but by all accounts, the future of the Game of Thrones brand is very bright indeed.