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How the Five-Year Gap Would Have Changed ASOIAF


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The five-year gap is a favorite topic among many book fans. I thought it would be fun to consider how it would have affected different characters' plots.

Most Improved

  • Bran: (now 14) The big one. We could drop in on Bran polishing his skills as a greenseer, with very few flashbacks necessary. There is the question of Jojen and Meera, and if they would be willing to abandon their family for all those years, but since it sounds like Howland may also have some abilities of his own, it could be revealed that Jojen found some way to communicate with him.
  • Arya: (now 16) AFFC could start with Arya losing her eyesight as one of her "challenges." It would be fitting for her lessons up until then to be shrouded in mystery, since that matches the ambiance of the Faceless Men in general.
  • Sansa: (now 18) Her story could start with them departing the Eyrie, having fully adopted the Alayne persona and having had several years observing LF and managing the castle. Sweetrobin would be 13 instead of 8, so he would probably need to be tweaked somewhat, and LF's deal with the Lords Declarant would need to be adjusted so that he gets more time in power. Brief flashbacks to the past five years could be interspersed throughout her chapters. Since we never learned Harry or Myranda's ages prior to AFFC, they could remain the same age that they were in canon. (Side-note: by the time we see them in AFFC/ADWD, the Stark siblings are essentially written as if they are the ages they would be had George gone forward with the gap).
  • Rickon: (close to 10) Who the hell knows what his plot is? Regardless, him being older would probably be a good thing.
  • Brienne: A lot of her earlier wandering chapters could be cut, with the important stuff interspersed with the other flashbacks to her childhood. The bigger question would be how and when her path crosses with Pod's.
  • Stoneheart and the Brotherhood: Five years causing havoc in the Riverlands.
  • Sandor: Five years atoning and healing on Quiet Isle. It would also give his leg time to fully heal, since it'll probably need to if he's going to reenter the story at some point (unlike Bran, Sandor doesn't have a Hodor to haul him around).
  • Theon: Although any amount of torture is traumatic, Theon does read like someone who was tortured for years, not months.
  • Daenerys: (now 21) Possibly a controversial one, but Dany's story already begins in ADWD with us catching up on what went on in the time since her last chapter in ASOS. It would also give the dragons more time to grow, and would better explain Dany's weariness by the end of ADWD if she was already doing this for five years.
    • Barristan: Contingent on Daenerys
  • Quentyn: Very little needs to change for Quentyn's story to continue as it did in canon. Like with Myranda and Harry, he could remain close to the same age as in ADWD.
  • The Griffs: Few changes necessary. Why they waited to invade until now could just come down to it taking longer to assemble an army. 
  • Edric Dayne: (now about 17) There's a theory that whatever role Darkstar is going to take on was originally intended for Edric, but that his age got in the way. If that's true, then the gap would solve it.

Least Improved

  • Stannis: This is the most difficult one. What was Stannis doing during these five years and what prevented him from marching on Winterfell sooner? It might require a more creative solution, like a novella set between ASOS and AFFC focused solely on this subplot.
    • Davos: Contingent on Stannis. Although maybe Wex knows how to write by this point?
    • Melisandre: Contingent on Stannis and Jon
  • Jeyne Poole: Ramsay's marriage, and Jeyne crossing paths with Theon again, is too substantial to relegate to flashbacks, and she was sent North at the end of ASOS. There'd have to be some excuse for why the marriage was postponed, or perhaps Jeyne is a back-up; since it isn't revealed who fArya is in ASOS, maybe something happened to her, and Jeyne was sent in as (another) substitute.
  • Cersei: This one would require some big changes. George made the comment that the five-year gap would be a problem for Cersei because she would be killing so many people along the way, but I think this could be quelled somewhat if Kevan had agreed to be Tommen's Hand after Tywin's murder (there would need to be some flashbacks to then), but then decides to step down at the start of AFFC. Tommen would now be 14, old enough to marry Margaery for true. With Tommen now in the grasp of the Tyrells and almost of age, Kevan gone, and Tyrion still missing, this could create a more feasible explanation for why Cersei spirals out of control so quickly.
  • Doran and the Sand Snakes: How does Doran placate the Snakes and the rest of Dorne for Oberyn's death? Are there many small rebellions that have to be put down in the meantime?
  • The Mountain: Speaking of which, would it take five years for Qyburn to reanimate Gregor? Or does he find some way to keep the Mountain hidden?

Somewhere in the Middle

  • Tyrion: It could be something as simple as Tyrion being hidden away by Varys and Illyrio for five years while he drank himself into oblivion, with ADWD starting with him meeting the Griffs and slowly crawling back to personhood. This would spare us all his meandering early chapters, although some readers may prefer not to skip his dark period. 
  • Jon: (now 22) On the one hand, the gap would help Jon's story overall: he'd be older, and would have had years trying to manage the tensions between the Watch and the wildlings (as it is, the fact that he got assassinated after only being in charge for half a year--and for legitimate grievances, unlike Jeor--indicates pretty strongly that Jon is not a good leader). On the other hand, there's Stannis to contend with.
  • Jaime: Jaime quietly reforming the kingsguard and then being called to put an end to the ongoing fighting in the Riverlands could work quite well, in my opinion, especially if Cersei/Kevan originally entrusted someone else to do it who failed. The bigger question is his relationship with Cersei. Would he tell himself that Tyrion was lying and resume his relationship with her, all while the truth nags at the back of his head, or would the two continue to grow apart? 
  • Arianne: Arianne's age was not confirmed prior to AFFC, so it could stay the same. Myrcella would be older, so either she would have to be married to Trystane (adding another knot to Doran's indecision over whether or not to pursue war with the Lannisters), or there could be some reason why the marriage hasn't happened yet (I have read that dowry disputes did sometimes prolong real-world royal engagements). The bigger question would be why Arianne was still unmarried so many years after Viserys' death, but this could be explained away by revealing that Arianne was married for a few years to a Dornish lord who died young. Maybe Arianne's husband was someone Doran respected, and now that he's gone she's worried Doran will support Quentyn over her. It would also create a reason for why she waited longer to seduce Arys in this case.
  • The Ironborn: I'm putting this "somewhere in the middle" because I recall George saying that he intended for the kingsmoot to be in a pre-gap prologue. I could feasibly see Euron needing time to prepare for whatever he has planned for Oldtown, and perhaps Victarion begrudgingly serves him during this time, but what about Aeron and Asha? Does Asha manage to hold Deepwood Motte for five years? Do the Ironborn attack the Reach, or does Euron find a way to keep them in check until he's ready to hatch his plot?
  • Sam: On the one hand, this gives Sam several years to study at the Citadel, and spares us the travelogue chapters, but it would require several flashbacks explaining the baby swap, Aemon's death, and his love story with Gilly. 
  • Jorah: Maybe he spends five years drowning his troubles like Tyrion, or maybe he joins a mercenary company. His plot would nevertheless require few changes.

 

What are your thoughts?

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I agree with a lot of this.  Bran, Arya, Sansa, and Daenerys greatly benefit from a gap.  They can get older, learn stuff, and the dragons can grow.

The big problem areas are Stannis, and to a lesser extent Jon, in the North; Cersei and Jaime in Kings Landing; and Theon and Jeyne with Ramsay.  Those stories either won't stand still that long (Stannis and Jeyne/Theon) or would require way too much flashbacks/exposition (Jaime/Cersei and Jon).

Brienne and Tyrion can work reasonably well either way.  Ironborn and Dorne are impossible to figure out. 

Bran:  The Far North is full of wights, so GRRM can keep them trapped in the cave as long as he likes, essentially.   Howland could also have expected them to be gone an extended period, as well.

Arya:  The preview chapters is reportedly a version of her first chapter after the gap.  Interestingly, nothing in it requires her to still be with the Faceless Men.  She could have left, be on sabbatical, or extended training.  Judging by her existing story GRRM never intended her to be a FM.  If so, she would be much further along than she is.  A few flashbacks could explain her time with the FM, with further adventures to follow. 

Sansa:  She could basically chill out and observe how Littlefinger goes about his business.   AFFC could start with her picking up political skills and putting them to work.

Dany can pretty much chill as well.  The Harpy can bide their time and revolt at the beginning of AFFC.

Brienne could return home, maybe with Podrick in tow, after a couple of fruitless years, and resume the search at the beginning of AFFC.  Or she could have done periodic sweeps and resume the search. 

Tyrion can hang out in the Free Cities until Griff is ready.

Problem areas

Stannis:  He won't sit still for that long, which is a problem.  No good solution comes to mind.

Jeyne:  I thought about having her wait until more mature.  The problem is that the Boltons claim on Winterfell depends on a marriage, and I can't see waiting five years for consummation, like with Tommen. 

Kings Landing:  Way too much going on and there would be too many flashbacks or exposition passages. 

Jon:  Not as much going on, but still a lot to explain, especially if there is an assassination attempt. 

Ironborn and Dorne: I have no idea how these were supposed to play out.  For all I know, they were created or essentially rewritten because of the demise of the gap.

Overall, I can understand why he did away with the gap.  I still think he could have had more time pass in AFFC/ADWD than he has though.  A couple of years would be probably doable.

Edited by Nevets
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1 hour ago, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

Overall, I'm still against the five-year gap, because I don't like big time gaps in stories in general. I think the best thing would have been making the characters a bit older from the start. 

This is why I think George should retcon the ages. He doesn’t even have to worry about doing it himself, he can just hire an assistant to handle it. 

There’s still the problem of training periods for characters like Bran and Sam, and the dragons. But as long as the dragons are big enough to carry someone on their back, it doesn’t really matter if they aren’t fully grown.

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Can't help but think that Pretty Maris would have been Brienne in exile had the gap taken place.  That might have been an interesting tale. It's also why I think that if anyone gets killed in the care of LSH it will be her (as her second act has been given to another). I'm a big fan of Brienne, so if she's a casualty of the 5 year gap that's a strike against it for me.

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Stannis is probably the biggest issue. My best solution off the top of my head would that he didn't have the manpower/resources to launch an attack (maybe some guys deserted over the shitty conditions at the wall in winter) but Cersei fucks up relations with the Iron Bank shortly before the end of the gap (rather than very quickly as she does in AFFC) so they've now decided to back him.

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I usually don't like big timing gaps in books, series , etc. 5 yr older characters are basically new people that you need to get to know all over again. I still think with Westeros's huge size and all the travelling characters have , George could have weeks and months between chapters instead of days . it would have been better that way for Stannis who traveled half the Westeros in a non-desirable weather(we've got a glimpse of it in Asha's last Dance chapter where he was stuck in one place for weeks) . but man! Starks needed that age up! another , merit of 5 yr gap would have been the reduced Ironborn chapters.. I found 4-5 chapters leading to the kingsmoot from Aeron , Asha and Victarion POVs pretty much unnecessary and dull; all that could be in 1 chapter and the three characters' personal thoughts about the kingsmoot could be included in later chapters.

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1 hour ago, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

I think it would be quite difficult to do, since the characters' ages are often mentioned in the books.

That’s why he would need an assistant to go back and adjust all of that for the next printing. It sounds crazy, but seeing as we now live in a world where the Snyder Cut exists, I no longer think it’s impossible.

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2 hours ago, Aejohn the Conqueroo said:

Can't help but think that Pretty Maris would have been Brienne in exile had the gap taken place.  That might have been an interesting tale. It's also why I think that if anyone gets killed in the care of LSH it will be her (as her second act has been given to another). I'm a big fan of Brienne, so if she's a casualty of the 5 year gap that's a strike against it for me.

If Brienne dies, I don’t think it will be in TWOW. George already did a fake-out with her in AFFC, and we didn’t find out she was still alive until six years later when she showed up for a paragraph or two in ADWD. It would be anticlimactic to reveal that she was still alive only to then kill her for real. Same with Davos and Sandor—if any of them die, I imagine it won’t be until ADOS.

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6 minutes ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

If Brienne dies, I don’t think it will be in TWOW. George already did a fake-out with her in AFFC, and we didn’t find out she was still alive until six years later when she showed up for a paragraph or two in ADWD. It would be anticlimactic to reveal that she was still alive only to then kill her for real. Same with Davos and Sandor—if any of them die, I imagine it won’t be until ADOS.

Hmmm, I remember making a similar argument years ago that the Walking Dead wouldn't kill off Glen right after bringing him back from a faked kill off...  This is far better written though, you may have a point.

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3 minutes ago, Aejohn the Conqueroo said:

Hmmm, I remember making a similar argument years ago that the Walking Dead wouldn't kill off Glen right after bringing him back from a faked kill off...  This is far better written though, you may have a point.

Yeah, as frustrating as GRRM can be at times, I reckon he’s a better writer than most of the people working in Hollywood. 

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Could GRRM still implement the 5 year gap? 
I’ve heard him lament the lack of perspective of the story from the bottom of society. A slow swap of viewpoint to, commoners, peasants, and small folk could bridge a new gap. We all know GRRM is a tricky cheater! He could deal from the bottom of the deck.

Just made myself think of a ship and “below deck”…bah! 
I have other books to read Martin! (Shake fist at sky.) Why you gotta have me keep coming back!

Edited by Fool Stands On Giant’s Toe
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I don't think it would have worked. It is inconceivable that nothing important happened in those five years, nor would it be a great way to change a lot of things and then cast some light on that via flashbacks and memories. We do already have Robert's Rebellion and Aerys' reign as a period the characters have to cover in flashbacks and memories - not to mention the Others-related past - we didn't need another five years to be covered in that way.

The gap could have provided great fun still, if George really had decided to fuck with the readers. Five years later Cersei could have been happily married to Mace Tyrell, say, Daenerys and Hizdahr could have had four-year-old daughter (with Daario being the true father, of course), Tyrion could have had another tragic romance that ended badly just before the beginning of the book, giving him another heartache the reader had no clue about, Shireen could have been married to Ramsay, etc.

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