Westeros is a bloody and unpredictable place, and death is a constant. In fact, George R.R. Martin has taken to reminding people lately that nobody is safe in Game of Thrones or his books. But how far could he go? Here are the 10 most shocking kills he could make in The Winds of Winter, ranked in order of shock value.
Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't read all of the books. Really. If you don't want to know who's still alive at the end of A Dance With Dragons, turn back now.
10 Bran Stark
We'd be moderately shocked if Bran didn't make it to the latter part of the final book. After all, Martin has spent so long hinting that Bran has a huge epic destiny, and he's gone on such a long and perilous journey. On the other hand... maybe Bran's heroic destiny is to sacrifice himself? Or maybe it's all a trick? Maybe he'll die and come back as something else, or maybe he'll just die die. We wouldn't be all that surprised if there was some huge curveball in Bran's future, to be honest.
9 Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys has been courting death for a long time now, making rash decisions and piling up enemies. So we wouldn't exactly be shocked to see someone finally put her down. On the other hand, she's been one of our major POV characters from the start, and she's had what seemed to be prophetic visions. And everybody's been assuming she has some major role to play in the final battle when she finally makes it to Westeros. Plus her dragons are hella important, and they're hers. (See below.) So if she did die off, it would be a pretty big curveball, and the fate of her dragons would be up in the air. (Of course, there is a horn that controls dragons out there.)
You'll notice Littlefinger isn't even on this list — because as brilliant and schemetastic as he is, he seems like he could go any time. It would not be at all surprising if Sansa kills Littlefinger pretty soon, to prove that she's learned the lessons he taught her. Littlefinger also has too much power and no heir, making him a tempting target. But Varys? It would actually be more surprising if Varys bit the dust, because he hasn't overextended himself, and he's stayed in King's Landing where he's surrounded by his little birds to warn him of any danger. Still, as things get more and more chaotic, one way to drive home the collapse of everything would be to see Varys snuff it. Also, Varys' schemes could get found out.
7. Cersei and Jaime
We've spent so much time with these two, it's natural to assume that the Lannister twins are being saved for some kind of big resolution in the final chapters. They've both become pretty big POV characters, which often (but not always) accords some protection. But maybe there's no third act for either of them? Maybe their fall from grace, and their separation, is their story, and they're cursed to think that they're protagonists when they're only bit players? It would not be hard to imagine both of them dying off in the next book, honestly.
Stannis' death would probably surprise few people, at this point. We've already heard (possibly exaggerated) reports of his death at this point. Same goes for Davos, despite his being a POV character, and Melisandre and Selyse. They've all been tied to a probably doomed claim to the throne for too long, and nobody would be super surprised to see it finally end in tears. It would especially be a blow when it came to Davos, of course. But Shireen? That would be kind of a shock — like Bran, she's part of the younger generation who seem to be set up to inherit this dismal world. And she's both of royal blood and someone who's witnessed a lot of prophecies and portents, which is a combination that usually seems to offer a bit of protection. So we'd be surprised if Shireen went off a cliff. But then again, the TV show seems to be moving ahead of the books in some areas, and it's full of hints that Shireen could get sacrificed soon.
5. Samwell Tarly
He's one of the purest audience surrogates there is: a nerdy kid who loves to read up about this world but can't swing a sword to save his life. He's an underdog who has some unexpected moments of bravery and triumph. He's one of the few basically pure people left. So you kind of have to guess that Martin would keep Tarly around until towards the very end. I would be genuinely shocked if Samwell randomly got murdered any time before the last few chapters of A Dream of Spring. On the other hand... in the books, he's a perilous place, with a dangerous person nearby. And if I wanted to end Winds of Winter with a major blow, it would hard to think of one more major.
4. Tyrion Lannister
There's no single protagonist in A Song of Ice and Fire. But Tyrion is a fan favorite, who's had the most ups and downs over the course of the series, and Martin clearly enjoys writing Tyrion as much as we enjoy reading about him. Tons of fan theories ascribe various crucial roles in the climax of Martin's story to Tyrion — like, maybe he's one of the three people who can ride the three dragons? — and he seems to have an arc that's leading somewhere. So he might well be the single most shocking person to lose. But as Tyrion is fond of saying on television, he's come to a dangerous place. And hey. If Martin really wants to prove that nobody is safe, this is whom he'd take out.
3. All the Starks Except Sansa
We already covered Bran. I'm not sure anybody would notice if Rickon got snuffed. But Arya Stark would be a much bigger surprise — she's been such a huge, massive character, and has traveled and changed more than pretty much anybody. On the other hand, you could see Arya's death as having been foreshadowed pretty heavily. She couldn't let go of her need for revenge on people who ruined her childhood, even when it got in the way of her own survival. So even Arya's death could feel like the culmination of her arc — but what would be truly shocking is if Sansa was the last Stark alive, the only one to witness whatever horrors await in the final chapters and do whatever actually needs to be done.
2. The Dragons
If even one of the dragons got killed, that would be a shock. So many fan theories revolve around which three characters are going to wind up riding them, that being reduced to two dragons would be startling. Then again, Martin did just publish an entire novella whose point seemed to be "Hey, dragons aren't really that hard to kill if you're organized and clever about it."
1. Everyone in Westeros
This is the most shocking death you could possibly have. If Westeros was completely sterilized and not even a few peasants remained alive, and only the characters who were safely in Essos or North of the Wall were spared, that would be a shocking turn of events indeed. It would be sort of a grim irony if North of the Wall turned out to be the only safe place on that entire landmass, however.