If there is one thing the show version of Game of Thrones has bungled horribly, it”s Dorne. Other than the Red Viper – may he rest in peace – everything about the southernmost kingdom in Westeros has been a stilted, tedious slog. From the rushed story arc that had Jaime and Bronn sneaking into the castle under cover of broad daylight to the complete personality reversal of Ellaria Sand from peace-maker in the books to warmonger in the show, to the barely explained or expanded Sand Snakes, it”s been hard to give a hoot about Dorne.
Then along comes George R.R. Martin to remind everyone the easiest way to fix the Dornish problem is to introduce the most interesting character in the entire country: Arianne Martell.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR WINDS OF WINTER AND GAME OF THRONES BEYOND THIS POINT.
This morning Martin delivered a one-two punch in the form an update on his “Not A Blog” about the progress of Winds of Winter and a brand-new chapter from said book. The sample chapter is from the POV of Arianne and catches us up a bit with the cloak-and-dagger scheming going on between the Dornish throne and Lord Connington. I”ll be honest, after watching the show for so many years, it was disorienting to reconcile how diverged it has become from the source material.
You can read the entire excerpt here, but a few highlights.
• Martin introduces a whole new ecosystem in the non-tropical rainforests that separate Dorne and Storm”s Landing. The high concentration of trees even includes a few wild weirwoods, a rarity in the south.
• We get a little glimpse of some architecture created by the Children of the Forest. Architecture that is suspiciously similar to the Hall of Faces. The Children of the Forest made their faces from stone and not flesh, but never underestimate Martin”s ability to weave different cultures together through shared ancient ties.
• Arianne worries about her brother Quentyn, not yet knowing he”s done a horrifically stupid thing. Only Peter Dinklage is the dragon whisperer.
But more than anything, the excerpt reminds readers how dense Martin”s world is. As complex as the relationship on Game of Thrones can be, they”ll never hold a candle to the amount of moving parts in the novels. Jon Connington and Aegon Targaryen have been neatly excised from the series, leaving many book readers to believe he”s a red herring. But even red herrings cast stones that create wide ripples in Westeros. Dorne is a quagmire of “What even are you doing, writers?” on the show, but Martin deftly reminds us that very-much-alive Doran and Arianne are formidable players of the game.
One of the more popular fan theories is that Dany and her army will land in Dorne to begin their invasion. In the books because she has an accord with Prince Doran and in the show because it”s the most unstable region now that the Sand Snakes have gone all murdery. Regardless, the show would benefit from introducing Arianne Martell, heir to Sunspear. Given their personalities (and Arianne”s frustration with her father”s cautiousness), the Sand Snakes could have just assumed Arianne would be grateful for the promotion. Having the heir come in and clean house would be a satisfying turn of events, and right the Dornish plot. Even without Aegon in the picture, Daenerys is still Arianne”s family through marriage. They were very nearly sisters-in-law. It wouldn”t be a stretch for Arianne to support the only remaining legitimate female claim to the Iron Throne as Dorne is the only country in Westeros that allows girls to inherit.
But if Game of Thrones can”t get it together about Dorne, we”ll always have Martin. In his most recent blog post, he promises, “You want to know what the Sand Snakes, Prince Doran, Areo Hotah, Ellaria Sand, Darkstar, and the rest will be up to in WINDS OF WINTER? Quite a lot, actually. The sample will give you a taste. For the rest, you will need to wait.”
And wait we will.