The Coolest Minor Characters in the Game of Thrones Books
(Yes, the first-draft title of this post was the more proper ‘The Coolest Minor Characters in A Song of Ice and Fire,’ but I got clicks to feed.)
The final season of Game of Thrones has crashed through the Wall, bearing down with death-blue eyes. Concurrently, I just finished A Feast for Crows, the fourth of the original books by your friend and mine, George ‘Railroad’ Martin, so nicknamed for his blazing speed of publication. I empathize with him. I’m also a slow writer. If I were writing thousand-page novels that intricately worldbuilt, they’d take me a Rickon Stark lifetime apiece too. I boggle to think how many notebooks were consigned to the jaws of plotting and background. Imagine what a trove the leftovers and dead ends in there must be.
I’ve enjoyed watching the show first and reading the books second. There’s so much to this world that having the basic story and characters in my head let me better absorb all the detail, smaller plot points, and rich description in these carefully-written volumes.
There are differences, of course, many small but some substantial. The side stories of the Iron Islanders and the Dornish, where Brienne travels and with whom, how the siege of Riverrun plays out. And one I won’t even hint at because I have a feeling the show may come around to it after all. Anyway, if you love the film version of this world and want a deeper dive, the books are different enough that you’ll find fun new things and exciting different paths.
That brings me to my main focus! One thing Georgie Choochoo does alarmingly well is make the smallest, most briefly-seen characters, in hints and glimpses, just as interesting as any of the main cast. Below are four minor characters, to my memory only appearing in the books, that I love and would read whole books based around.
The Eyrie of the films is a castle perched on an odd, semi-hollow rock formation. It’s a fascinating design, but I prefer the Eyrie of the books, which is carved high up the side of an actual mountain. Reaching it involves traversing miles of narrow, crumbling, ice-crusted trail on muleback. The surefooted mulemaster of the trail is Mya Stone. She’s one of Gendry the blacksmith’s many mutually-unaware half siblings, a bastard daughter of Robert Baratheon. She’s adopted the mountains as her father, and says as much. Lords, ladies and knights entrust their lives to her and she shrugs and gets on with her work. She has a laconic sharpness and a subtle, easy humor that any number of adventures could be built around.
The younger brother of Balon and Euron Greyjoy, Victarion is… well, lemme put it this way. He leads a boarding action, cuts his way to the ship’s captain, and squares off with him. The fight goes back and forth briefly, and then Victarion catches the man’s sword swing in his armored hand and throws the sword overboard, followed by the man. Victarion is a grim, violent raider. Thanks to Martin’s close-third person narration, we see below his gritty exterior into his roiling psyche. He is badly messed up inside, constantly flashing back to the scarring incidents of his past. He doesn’t love slaying like Euron does, he kills because it’s the only thing holding the door on the monsters in his mind.
Daughter of Prince Doran, heir to Sunspear, future ruler of Dorne. The book version of Dornish plots and tricks involving Princess Myrcella is much more interesting than the film version, and Arianne is the chief conspirator. Lacking the martial training of her Sand Snake cousins, Arianne relies on her cunning, her charm, and her budding strategic mind. She’s a balance point between the thoughtful timidity of Doran and the reckless courage of Oberyn and Ellaria. Arianne is made to star in a collection of palace intrigue tales.
Ser Gerold Dayne, the Darkstar
Come on. The Darkstar? Come on. If I ask you to name the coolest noble house in Westeros, you may say something like Stark or Greyjoy. If you’re a big nerd like me, you may go for obscurity points with Redwyne or Umber or Reed. All cool, none coolest. I think the Sorting Throne would land me in House Mormont, and I’m happy with that, but only because I accept that I’m not cool enough for House Dayne of Starfall. A Dornish house seated where the mountains meet the sea, founded thousands of years ago after the first Dayne followed the tail of a meteor as it crashed to earth. You want tales of a legendary sword without hearing the phrase ‘Valyrian steel’ thirty more goddamn times? Done. Dayne’s prized blade Dawn was forged from meteor iron, and its bearer each generation is named Sword of the Morning. Gerold’s uncle Arthur held that title, and his flashback fight against young Ned Stark is not merely the best, but one of the only good, sword fights in the show.
Darkstar himself is a member of Arianne’s conspiracy. The menace at the edge of the firelight, honing his sword and lending an occasional quiet comment, eyes half hidden by long, black-streaked white hair. Gerold Dayne is enigmatic of purpose and acerbic, with something vicious hiding behind his calmness.
That’s just four of the finely-tooled small characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. I want stories of them. I’d love a contrivance where the four of them team up and go adventuring together. After a breather and a few other novels, I’ll pick up A Dance With Dragons. In the meanwhile there’s season 8 to watch. Have fun in this dream world, and don’t forget to dream worlds of your own.