All your favorite characters had kind of a rough time in A Dance With Dragons, the most recent book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. And judging from a chapter from the next book that's available today, their lives aren't about to get any nicer. Some super-vague spoilers ahead...
Top image: Jason Engle
Today sees a big update to George R.R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire app, which is available on both iTunes and Google Play. The update includes 58 new character profiles and 164 new place descriptions — see some screenshots below for examples of what to expect. But the update also includes a free chapter from the eagerly awaited next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. Here's what that will look like in the app, in a screengrab exclusively provided to io9:
That update goes live sometime today — possibly by the time you read this. In the meantime, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the new Tyrion chapter, which is thrilling and hilarious and horrifying and depressing all at once.
Some vague spoilers follow — not a blow-by-blow description, but there will be nouns.
As the one paragraph released a while ago reveals, this is a chunk of the big battle in Meereen. And basically, all hell is breaking loose, and Tyrion is right there in the middle of it. If you were paying attention during the final stretches of Dance With Dragons, you already know all the players in this crazy melee, but it's still kind of startling how many types of crazy are happening at the same time.
Oh, and I'm pretty sure this is the same chapter that Martin read at a convention a while back, so you might already have read a detailed description of it elsewhere. But that doesn't really matter, because the important stuff in this chapter is impossible to capture in a plot summary.
A screencap from the app, which shows you where the heck Meereen is.
Here are a few things that jumped out at me from this chapter as especially fascinating, without going into any serious details.
1) Tyrion's self-loathing has gotten really bad. Like, really really bad. A lot of the chapter is just reminding you of how screwed up this guy is, and how much he's been through, at this point. He's got a lot of guilt and post-traumatic stress and general nastiness, and you sense that he's probably not the safest guy to be around right now. The amount of time spent setting up Tyrion's dreadful state of mind leaves me wondering if Martin is setting him up to do something really terrible later in the book.
2) This is some of the most intricate battle choreography Martin has written. Martin's intense study of real-life military history has seldom been put to better use than in the battle he's writing about here, in which pretty much everything is happening at once. There are discussions of battle tactics that are funny, in a macabre way, and he manages to convey a lot of the tide of combat without spending pages on blow-by-blow descriptions of who was lopping whose head off.
3) He also captures the "fog of war" thing really well. I was really struck, reading this stuff, by how well Martin does two contradictory things: he gives you the lay of the land so you can understand it, but he also makes the whole business really bewildering and shows how nobody really knows what's quite going on in the middle of this bloody mess. Oh, and in general, there are a lot of images in this chapter that stick in your mind — not all of them bloody and horrific, either.
4) Tyrion is still playing dangerous games, in spite of himself. You have to admire how Martin pivots between Tyrion wallowing in self-pity and Tyrion calculating exactly how to turn everything around him the way he wants it to go. This gives me a bit of hope that the "along for the ride" Tyrion we mostly saw in Dance With Dragons is gone, and proactive Tyrion is back.
All in all, this chapter will plunge you right back into Tyrion's headspace, with all its bitter humor and sour calculation — but then you'll only be more desperate to find out what happens next. Warning: Reading this chapter will not make the wait for the rest of the book any easier to deal with.
And here's one more screencap from the app!