The good news: George R. R. Martin just revealed that a major character is still alive in the Game of Thrones books.
The bad news: it is most definitely not the character we all want it to be.
The author decided to shake up the Game of Thrones faithful late last night by answering a fan question on his Live Journal blog. Sadly, it was not one of the many, many Jon Snow (Kit Harington) questions. (Our long national nightmare continues on that front.)
When asked if Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is alive or dead, Martin gave a definitive answer...and it was absolutely not the one everyone was expecting.
"In my books? Alive, beyond a doubt," Martin wrote.
Say whaaaat?! A refresher, for all non-book readers and book-readers alike: in both the books and the TV show, it is believed that Stannis has been killed after the battle at Winterfell against the Boltons.
On the show, he's executed by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), although you don't actually see his death happen on-screen (and as all TV show enthusiasts know, if you don't see the body, you can't assume death). Brienne finds him bloody and defeated in the woods, surrounded by his dead army, leaning against a tree, and she swings her sword down in his general direction. But does her sword connect with his body, or does it hit the tree, or the ground?
When E! News asked Christie about Stannis' fate at Comic-Con, she told us Brienne finished the job.
"I can't offer you any insight whatsoever [why his death wasn't shown onscreen] because I don't write the show and I don't direct the show…yet!" Christie told E! News with a laugh. "No, but how could you ever doubt Brienne? What did you think I was doing, giving him a haircut?"
At least we now have a definitive answer on Stannis' fate in the books. Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) reveals that Stannis died in the "pink letter" to Jon (because why wouldn't the sick dude gloat about a death in a letter?!), which is what makes Jon decide to take the Night's Watch to Winterfell to attack Ramsay. But since that goes against his Night's Watch vows, that is what prompts his Night's Watch brothers to rebel against him, leading to his supposed death.
And now we learn that Ramsay lied about the whole thing?! That makes Jon's fate even more heartbreaking.
Now, we all know that the HBO series has started differing from the Song of Ice and Fire books drastically in season five, but Stannis ended up in pretty much the same place in both the books and the show. So does Martin's book revelation about Stannis mean that he's also alive on the show? We'll have to wait until next spring to find out. Gah!
But hey, Martin...What about Jon Snow?!