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Song of Ice and Fire is set primarily in the fictional


Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a large, South
American-sized continent with an ancient history
stretching back some twelve thousand years. A
detailed history reveals how seven kingdoms came to
dominate this continent, and then how these seven nations
were united as one by Aegon the Conqueror, of House
Targaryen. Some 283 years after Aegon's conquest, the
Targaryens are overthrown in a civil war and King Robert
Baratheon, backed primarily by his friend Lord Eddard Stark
and foster father Lord Jon Arryn, takes the Iron Throne. The
novels, which begin fifteen years later, follow the fall-out from
this event across three major storylines, set not only in
Westeros but on the eastern continent as well.

he first storyline, set in the Seven Kingdoms


themselves, chronicles a many-sided struggle for the
Iron Throne that develops after King Robert's death.
The throne is claimed by his son Joffrey, supported by
his mother's powerful family, House Lannister. However, Lord
Eddard Stark, King Robert's Hand, finds out Robert's children
are illegitimate, and that the throne should therefore fall to
the second of the three Baratheon brothers, Stannis. The
charismatic and popular youngest brother, Renly, also places
a claim, openly disregarding the order of precedence, with the
support of the powerful House Tyrell. While the claimants
battle for the Iron Throne, Robb Stark, Lord Eddard Stark's
heir, is proclaimed King in the North as the northmen and
their allies in the Riverlands seek to return to self-rule.
Likewise, Balon Greyjoy also (re-)claims the ancient throne of
his own region, the Iron Islands, with an eye toward
independence. This so-called War of the Five Kings is the
principal storyline of the first four novels; indeed, the fourth
novel primarily concerns Westeros's recovery from it in the
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A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
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face of the coming winter and the political machinations of


those seeking to gain in its aftermath. In the wake of the war,
four of the five self-proclaimed kings have been killed, leaving
Stannis as the sole survivor. The Iron Throne is currently held
by Tommen Baratheon, allegedly Robert's son, but illegitimate
too. His former regent, Cersei Lannister has been deposed and
imprisoned in King's Landing by the Faith. Stannis and his
army, having gained little support from the Great Houses of
Westeros, are presently at the Wall, far to the north where
Stannis seeks to protect the realm from the threat of invasion,
and simultaneously win the favor of the northern strongholds.

he second storyline is set on the extreme northern


border of Westeros. Here, many thousands of years
ago, a huge wall of ice and gravel was constructed by
both magic and labor to defend Westeros from the
threat of The Others, a race of now-mythical creatures living in
the uttermost north. This Wall, 300-mile-long, 700-foot-tall, is
defended and maintained by the Sworn Brotherhood of the
Night's Watch, whose duty is to guard the kingdom against
the Others. By the time of the novels, the Others have not
been seen in over 8,000 years, and the Night's Watch has
devolved into essentially a penal colony: it is badly understrength, manned primarily by criminals and refugees, with
only a few knights or men of honor to stiffen them, and
spends most of its time dealing with the human "wildlings" or
"free folk" who live beyond the Wall. This storyline is told
primarily through the eyes of Jon Snow, bastard son of Lord
Eddard Stark, as he rises through the ranks of the Watch,
learns the true nature of the threat from the north, and
prepares to defend the realm, even though the people of
Westeros are too busy warring to send support. By the end of
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the third volume, this storyline is somewhat entangled with


the civil war to the south.

he third storyline is set on the huge eastern continent


of Essos, across the narrow sea, and follows the
adventures of Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of
House Targaryen in exile and another claimant to the
Iron Throne. Daenerys's adventures showcase her growing
ability as she rises from a pauper sold into a dynastic
marriage to a barbarian warlord to a powerful and canny ruler
in her own right. Her rise is aided by the birth of three
dragons, creatures thought long extinct, from fossilized eggs
given to her as wedding gifts. Because her family standard is
the dragon, these creatures are of symbolic value before they
have grown big enough to be of tactical use. Though her story
is separated from the others by many thousands of miles, her
stated goal is to reclaim the Iron Throne.

he eponymous song of ice and fire is mentioned only


once in the series, in a vision Daenerys sees in A
Clash of Kings: "He is the prince that was promised,
and his is the song of ice and fire", spoken by a
Targaryen (probably Daenerys's dead older brother Rhaegar
Targaryen) about his infant son named Aegon. It is implied
that there is a connection between the song, the promise, and
Daenerys herself. This is established more clearly in A Feast
for Crows, when Aemon Targaryen identifies Daenerys as the
heir that was promised. The phrase "ice and fire" is also
mentioned in the Reeds' oath of loyalty to Bran in A Clash of
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Kings. However, the song and the promise are never


mentioned again, and the song itself remains a mystery.

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