If you’ve been waiting for George R. R. Martin’s most recent tome, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, to come to paperback, you are unflinching in your patience, much like House Peckledon of the Westerlands. Here you stand as a Mormont on Bear Island, above the rest like a member of House Mallister of Seagard, ever so dutiful as a son or daughter of House Hastwyck of the Reach. But it’s now time to awake! Awake, like House Swyft of Cornfield. And now you rise like House Martell, unbowed, unbent, unbroken.
While I’ve been in bitter wait for THE WINDS OF WINTER to finally come since I devoured A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, you’ve been saving money and will be rewarded by new content far sooner than the rest of us. So kudos to you, as Bantam Books is finally releasing the paperback version of the book this October 29th.
Today, we were greeted by a pleasant surprise when the thick paperback printing of Martin’s fifth book in the massively popular, bestselling fantasy series was heaped upon our doorstep. With it, comes an exciting new sneak preview of THE WINDS OF WINTER, an excerpt of a chapter from the point of view of one Ser Barristan Selmy, Daenerys Targaryen’s most trusted and esteemed white knight.
GRRM has read excerpts from two separate Ser Barristan Selmy chapters to fans before, including this one. In case you missed it, I’m here to summarize some of the many details. George has also released an excerpt from a chapter focusing on Arianne Martell, which you can find here. While I’ve heard that the second chapter George has read details the battle between the Yunkai and the remainder of the Queen’s army, the one included in this paperback edition is the chapter preceding that, on the eve of a foreboding fight.
As far as I can recall, this is the first chapter christened “Ser Berristan,” a key player in the climactic sprawl ahead. He’s certainly been the focal point of chapters before, and it was his POV in ”The Queensguard” and ”The Discarded Knight” in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, which were some of the most important parts.
The chapter unfolds slowly, but with glorious purpose, as Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of Dany’s Queensguard and newly minted hand of the queen, is decked out in the beautiful white armor that his Queen has given him, and riding her horse, the one that her late husband Khal Drogo gave to her. He rides through Mereen, as dead bodies quite literally rain down upon the city, as the Yunkai catapult the human carnage by their trebuchet. He’s flanked by his boys, his green squires, “the closest he’ll ever have to sons,” as he surveys Mereen and its bloodied landmarks, the would-be battlefield beyond its walls, and arrays the chess pieces much like the brilliant GAME OF THRONES intro.
The tension and action rises significantly once he meets with the captains of his mixed army, with Grey Worm and the Unsullied, Goghor the Giant and the pit fighters, the last of the Dothraki and the Stormcrows. He outlines their plan of attack, even if he and they know it may very well be doomed, and then gives a rousing speech to his squires, one that would fit perfectly alongside BRAVEHEART or every classic sports movie ever made. It’s impossible not to be inspired, or excited, or scared $#*!less like the soldiers. Here’s my favorite part:
“Whatever might befall us on the battlefield, remember, it has happened before, and to better men than you. I am an old man, an old knight, and I have seen more battles than most of you have years. Nothing is more terrible upon this earth, nothing more glorious, nothing more absurd. You may retch. You will not be the first. You may drop your sword, your shield, your lance. Others have done the same. Pick it up and go on fighting. You may foul your breeches. I did, in my first battle. No one will care. All battlefields smell of $#*!. You may cry out for your mother, pray to gods you thought you had forgotten, howl obscenities that you never dreamed could pass your lips. All this has happened too…”
Then, when the time comes for battle, the chapter closes with Barristan commanding: ”Sound the attack.”
It’s impossible not to get pumped for THE WINDS OF WINTER and what’s to come, after that. This chapter is chosen very precisely, and it’s certainly a promising piece of writing from Martin, but it only makes the absence of a time frame more painful. Even the publishers don’t know, as the sneak peak is tellingly teased with the phrase, ”We don’t know when for certain, but Winter is coming…” For some, 8+ pages is enough to tide them over, while others will be chomping at the bit like Robert Baratheon, craving more.
We do know that A DANCE WITH DRAGONS arrives in bookstores on October 29th, so for completists, or for those that have been biding their time in the reeds, or like the Reeds, your time has finally come. Order your copy today.