A Song of Ice and Fire has been solidified as a defining work of fiction over the past 25 years. Martin’s fantasy saga ascended into the zeitgeist through an ongoing series of best-selling novels and HBO’s adaptation of unprecedented success. And its pop culture prevalence persists thanks in part to HBO’s excellent follow-up series, House of the Dragon.
House of the Dragon just wrapped its first season, leaving viewers with a Vhagar-sized hole in their Sunday evenings. With House of the Dragon: Season 2 likely more than a year away, now is a great time to dive into the source material and visit Westeros through the lens of its architect. For those who’ve yet to read Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels (and its companion books), we’ve put together this guide on how to read the Game of Thrones books in order.
How Many Game of Thrones Books Are There?
George R. R. Martin has published five novels in his A Song of Ice and Fire saga. He’s working on two future volumes in the series: The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
Martin has published several ASoIaF companion works as well, including three Dunk & Egg novellas (collected in 2015’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms), three Targaryan-focused novellas (collected and expanded upon in 2018’s Fire & Blood), and a world compendium titled The World of Ice & Fire. More on all of these below.
How to Read the Game of Thrones Books in Chronological Order
With series newcomers in mind, these brief plot synopses contain only mild spoilers such as broad plot points and character introductions.
1. Fire & Blood
Fire & Blood, the source material for HBO’s House of the Dragon, is a history of the Targaryen’s 300-year reign in Westeros. Unlike the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Fire & Blood isn’t told from the perspective of characters involved in the plot, rather it’s framed as a recounting of the Targaryen dynasty by a character named Gyldayn, an archmaester of the Citadel who lived toward the end of the Targaryen reign into Robert Baratheon’s.
While this sets Gyldayn’s act of writing around the start of A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF), the actual events recounted in the archmaester’s history begin 300 years before A Game of Thrones and span roughly 150 years — the second 150 years of the Targaryen reign are expected to be covered in Fire & Blood Volume 2.
Every Dragon in Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon
Fire & Blood spans the lifetimes of six Targaryen rulers, beginning with Aegon I Targaryen and his conquest of Westeros. Within these 150 years, The Dying of the Dragons (aka The Dance of the Dragons) occurs, which is the tale told in HBO’s House of the Dragon.
Fire & Blood includes and expands upon three ASoIaF novellas previously published by Martin: The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens (2013), The Rogue Prince (2014), and The Sons of the Dragon (2017).
The recently published The Rise of the Dragon, meanwhile, is a condensed and illustrated version of Fire & Blood
2. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a collection of three novellas starring a hedge knight named Ser Duncan the Tall (Dunk) and his squire Aegon V Targaryen (Egg). Their adventures are set roughly 90 years before the events of A Game of Thrones.
It’s not essential reading, as it’s not part of (or even set during) the mainline novels, though the novellas are great for anyone looking for further adventures and/or new perspectives in the Seven Kingdoms.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles three novellas: The Hedge Knight (1998), The Sworn Sword (2003), and The Mystery Knight (2010).
3. A Game of Thrones
The book that started it all in 1996, A Game of Thrones is the first ASoIaF novel. It’s the reader’s introduction to the world of Westeros, its surrounding regions, its prominent families, and many of the colorful characters that comprise the series’ heroes and villains.
A Game of Thrones is set during the reign of Robert I Baratheon, following Robert’s Rebellion and the end of the Targaryen dynasty. It sets into motion the War of the Five Kings, during which five men stake their claim to the Iron Throne. Political scheming, backstabbing, familial strife, and bloodshed follow — themes common throughout the entirety of ASoIaF.
Every IGN Game of Thrones Review
The story is told through points of view that alternate from chapter to chapter. Excluding the prologue, the point-of-view characters in A Game of Thrones are Eddard Stark, Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen, whose story unfolds across the Narrow Sea in the eastern continent of Essos.
Martin’s novella Blood of the Dragon is largely repurposed material from the Daenerys chapters in A Game of Thrones, hence its exclusion from this list.
4. A Clash of Kings
A Clash of Kings continues the War of the Five Kings. The pronounced kings rally their banners, the Lannisters attempt to solidify their power in King’s Landing, Jon Snow marches north of the Wall with the Night’s Watch, and Dany navigates a foreign land.
Excluding the prologue, the point-of-view characters in A Clash of Kings are Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Theon Greyjoy, and Davos Seaworth.
5. A Storm of Swords
The third ASoIaF novel, A Storm of Swords, essentially brings the War of the Five Kings to an end, save for some lingering claimants and conflicts.
As the war dies down in the Seven Kingdoms, the Stark children navigate crises near and far while Jon Snow ventures with wildlings beyond the Wall. In the East, Dany learns to lead.
Excluding the prologue and epilogue, the point-of-view characters in A Storm of Swords are Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Davos Seaworth, Jaime Lannister, and Samwell Tarly.
Martin’s novella Path of the Dragon is largely repurposed material from the Daenerys chapters in A Storm of Swords, hence its exclusion from this list.
6. A Feast for Crows
Picking up after the events of the previous novel, A Feast for Crows runs concurrently with the fifth novel, A Dance with Dragons. Several of the series’ most beloved characters — Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen — are saved for the following book, which focuses on the characters at the Wall and across the Narrow Sea. In their absence, Feast focuses on new and returning characters politicking in King’s Landing, the Iron Islands, and Dorne as winter arrives in Westeros.
“It dawned on [Martin] that the book had become too big to publish in a single volume,” the author published in an afternote for A Feast for Crows. As such, the story was split into two books (Feast and Dance) with each book telling “all the story for half the characters, rather than half the story for all the characters.”
Excluding the prologue, the point-of-view characters in A Feast for Crows are Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Jaime Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Aeron Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Arianne Martell, Asha Greyjoy, Areo Hotah, and Arys Oakheart.
Martin’s novella Arms of the Kraken is largely repurposed material from the Iron Islands chapters in A Feast for Crows, hence its exclusion from this list.
7. A Dance with Dragons
A Dance with Dragons brings back the beloved point-of-view characters missing from Feast and picks up after the events of the third book, A Storm of Swords. As Martin notes in his prelude to A Dance with Dragons, Feast and Dance “are parallel… divided geographically, rather than chronologically.” However, it does eventually move beyond the events of Feast, making it the novel set furthest in the ASoIaF chronology.
In a Dance with Dragons, a new Lord Commander runs the Night Watch, Dany navigates the burdens of power, the Greyjoys move east, a Martell flies too close to the sun, Brienne reunites with an old friend, Arya continues her training, Tyrion’s on the lam, and a new claimant to the Iron Throne appears.
Excluding the prologue and epilogue, the point-of-view characters in A Dance with Dragons are Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Bran Stark, Arya Stark, Theon Greyjoy, Quentyn Martell, Davos Seaworth, Barriston Selmy, Asha Greyjoy, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Jon Connington, Victarion Greyjoy, Areo Hotah, and Melisandre.
A Dance with Dragons was published in 2011. Readers have been waiting 11 years for its follow-up, The Winds of Winter (more on this below).
Bonus: The World of Ice & Fire
The World of Ice & Fire is a companion compendium to the ASoIaF novels. It’s a great coffee table book, full of illustrations and a deep history of Martin’s world dating back to the arrival of the First Men in Westeros during the Dawn Age (some 12,000 years before A Game of Thrones).
The history extends through the Targaryen reign and Robert’s Rebellion. It includes family trees for the Targaryens, Starks, and Lannisters, as well as information on the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the Free Cities of Essos, and lands beyond.
How to Read the Game of Thrones Books By Release Date
- A Game of Thrones* (1996)
- A Clash of Kings* (1999)
- A Storm of Swords* (2000)
- A Feast for Crows* (2005)
- A Dance with Dragons* (2011)
- The World of Ice & Fire (2014)
- A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (2015)
- Fire & Blood (2018)
*A Song of Ice and Fire novels
Upcoming Game of Thrones Books
The Winds of Winter
Martin has two novels left to publish in his planned seven-book A Song of Ice and Fire saga. The sixth (and next) book is The Winds of Winter. The sixth novel will pick up after the events of A Dance with Dragons.
Martin has already published several blogs about and preview chapters from Winds, revealing there will be point-of-view chapters from Tyrion, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Theon, Barriston Selmy, and others.
The author said with The Winds of Winter, ASoIaF will move “further and further away from the television series.” Most recently, Martin said he’s 75% done with Winds, which he predicts will be over 1,500 pages.
A Dream of Spring
The final ASoIaF book is to be titled A Dream of Spring, should Martin complete and publish it.
Fire & Blood Volume 2
In addition to writing the mainline saga, Martin has confirmed he is working on the second volume of Fire & Blood. The Targaryen history is planned as a two-part series, with this second volume presumably covering the second 150 years of the family’s 300-year reign.
Future Dunk & Egg Novellas
Martin has also expressed his desire to write additional Dunk & Egg novellas. He said these wouldn’t be published until he completes work on Winds of Winter, though “it has always been [his] intent to write a whole series of novellas about Dunk and Egg, chronicling their entire lives.”
The fourth Dunk & Egg novella (unfinished as of 2014) is set in Winterfell, according to Martin, and involves “a group of formidable Stark wives, widows, mothers, and grandmothers that I dubbed ‘the She-Wolves.’” He added, “The final title, when I finish the story, will be something different. There’s also another Dunk & Egg novella that I’ve got roughed out in my head, with the working title ‘The Village Hero’. That one takes place in the Riverlands. There’s no telling when I will have time to finish either of these, or which one I will write first. I don’t expect I will know more until I’ve delivered The Winds of Winter.”
Martin has “notes and fairly specific ideas” for other Dunk & Egg adventures in addition to the tentatively titled She-Wolves and Village Hero. Martin even provided potential titles for these stories in a comment on his blog: The Sellsword, The Champion, The Kingsguard, The Lord Commander, “and several more in between.”
An HBO series following the duo’s adventures is in the works, with Season 1 being an adaptation of the first novella, The Hedge Knight. Development on the series is being led by Steve Conrad (Prime Video’s Patriot).
Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.