HBO is crafting another brutal, bloody, and binge-able TV show based on author George R.R. Martin’s writings but where Game of Thrones recounted the events of a host of books within his A Song of Ice and Fire series, House of the Dragon is based on one novel – and it’s likely to be a story even diehard GoT fans are unfamiliar with.
The civil war that erupted amongst members of House Targaryen is known as the Dance of Dragons and its build-up is detailed in Martin’s book Fire & Blood. Unlike the more linear storytelling of his previous series, Fire & Blood is written like a history tome, recounting the rise and fall of a dynasty via various historical accounts – not all of them unbiased – translated by a maester. In other words, it’s a complicated read and one that’s open to plenty of interpretation, which House of the Dragon creators Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik will likely take full advantage of.
Still, if you’re hoping to get a better sense of what this new Martin-inspired fantasy series is about, there are some storylines from the books that will probably make their way to the screen at some point.
The Line of Succession
The main catalyst for the eventual destruction of House Targaryen ends up being a pretty simple problem to solve in the books – if anyone had taken a second to write down some rules for succession, that is. Unfortunately, despite reigning for decades, they didn’t, and when Rhaenys Targaryen, a woman, was next in line to inherit the Iron Throne, it threw the whole dynasty into chaos. Eventually, her uncle Viserys was chosen by a council to become king in her stead, setting up a tradition of something called agnatic primogeniture – which basically means only men can run things in Westeros. And that becomes a big problem when Viserys, the current king, only has one heir — who happens to be a girl. Rhaenyra is intelligent, well-bred, and a dragon rider, but her gender is what causes even her own family members to question whether she has the right to rule once Viserys is gone.
Year of The Red Spring
This was a time period in Viserys’ waning rule that was marked by death and the fracturing of his house. It’s also where some have speculated House of the Dragon will pick up when the show begins. Viserys is a good man, but good men don’t make for great kings and he faces opposition on all sides when he refuses to name a male relation his heir over his daughter, Rhaenyra. Worse, plenty of people in his inner circle meet their untimely end during this year, some thanks to suspicious circumstances. From Velaryon’s allies to his own trusted Hand of the King, the Year of the Red Spring was marked by blood and bitter feuds amongst House Targaryen, ones Viserys just couldn’t keep in check.
The Small Council
We’ll be sad to lose Paddy Considine but that time will come at some point during House of the Dragon as it’s King Viserys’ death that really sets this civil war in motion. Well, his death, and how his wife handles the aftermath of it. In the books, Alicent Hightower is a beautiful woman nearly a decade Rhaenyra’s senior who’s already given the king sons she believes should inherit the Iron Throne. To make that dream a reality, she gathers together some loyal followers in a secret small council meeting immediately after the passing of her husband and the events that take place during it are probably what inspired GoT’s eventual Red Wedding massacre. Without spoiling too much, Alicent makes sure her son’s inheritance can be secured by cutting deals (and throats) with some of her step-daughter’s most loyal allies – a betrayal that should sting even worse on screen because the show has aged up Rhaenyra and given the two women a strong friendship grown since childhood that makes Alicent’s power play even crueler.
The Blacks vs. The Greens
Another memorable moment in the books that signals the beginning of the end of House Targaryen happens during a tournament held sometime around the Year of the Red Spring. With tensions between Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent running high, the two women make an appearance at court sporting very distinct colors. Rhaenyra wears a stunning dress in her house colors of black and red while Alicent robes herself in green, the color of House Hightower. The animosity between the two was so clear at that point that their followers started identifying themselves by the colors of the women’s dresses, hence “Blacks” and “Greens.” It’s basically the medieval version of Marvel’s Team Cap versus Team Iron Man.
The Battle at Harrenhal
Prince Daemon Targaryen becomes a powerful ally to his niece, Princess Rhaenyra, once she makes a play for the Iron Throne, even marrying her to strengthen his claim and boost support for the Blacks abroad. But, the same qualities that made Daemon a poor choice for king are what lead him to a duel to the death with his nephew and would-be usurper, Aemond Targaryen, at Harrenhal. Both were prolific dragon riders and both were hotheads which means, for much of the war, they chased each other around, trying to snag a kill that would ensure their side ultimately won. In the books, Daemon eventually grew tired of hunting his nephew and challenged him to a fight at Harrenhal on dragon’s back. We’ve seen Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen take on the Night King in the air before, but if House of the Dragon can pull off this spectacularly brutal brawl with more experienced dragon riders in charge, it’s likely to go down as one of the more impressive fight scenes to come from the fantasy series.