Empire of Ash is a proposed prequel TV series to Game of Thrones, covering the events leading up to the Doom of Valyria, 400 years before the War of the Five Kings in Westeros. It is being developed by showrunner Max Borenstein.
- "This story centers on the decline and fall of Valyria, a colonial empire which ruled half of the known world at its height. It reveals the social, economic, and political crises which tore apart the empire from within. A major focus of this prequel is on diversity, as it deals with issues of immigration, naturalization, and cultural identity - all within a multi-ethnic democratic state. The central conflict that kicks off the series is, "what does it mean to be 'Valyrian', and who gets to share in that power and prestige?"
Empire of Ash is one of four different prequel pitches that HBO is considering as of early 2019. So far, no official statement has even been made about the existence of the pitch, and it is only known from a major leak to the administrative staff Game of Thrones Wiki itself in July 2018.
HBO has not, as of yet, ordered a pilot for Empire of Ash, though it has not outright rejected the pitch either (as it did for the fifth prequel pitch, according to Martin).
Empire of Ash is not a one-shot special or miniseries, but intended to be another flagship TV series for HBO, lasting at least five TV seasons of ten episodes each.
Story and Setting
The story centers on the decline and fall of Valyria, a colonial empire which ruled half of the known world at its height. It reveals the social, economic, and political crises which tore apart the empire from within - culminating in the Doom of Valyria, a massive volcanic super-eruption which destroyed the entire Valyrian Freehold in a single day. George R.R. Martin has said that the Valyrian Freehold is essentially his Fantasy world's equivalent of the Roman Republic, but with dragons and magic.
Other than Valyria itself, the other primary location (in season one at least) will be Valyria's province in Sothoryos, George R.R. Martin's Fantasy version of Africa. Zamettar, the capital city of the province in Sothoryos, is conceptually supposed to be "Roman North Africa", a mix of Carthage and Constantinople, a major port city with a multi-racial society. The cities of Old Valyria and Zamettar are "the two axes around which the story revolves" - the tension between the capital and the province in revolt.
Empire of Ash is also the origin story of House Targaryen, a minor family of dragon-lords in old Valyria who rose to prominence by fleeing to Westeros just before the Doom - leaving them with the world's only living dragons.
Each of the three major factions has a "POV Character" that the story follows, in the format of how the A Song of Ice & Fire novels followed major POV characters such as Daenerys or Tyrion.
Aenar Targaryen and his daughter Daenys Targaryen (known as "Daenys the Dreamer") will appear as well. Aenar was the only dragon-lord who survived the Doom, by relocating his entire family and their dragons to Dragonstone island off the coast of Westeros. Aenar was the seventh-generation ancestor of Aegon the Conqueror, who one century later used their dragons to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and forge the Iron Throne. Farther separated in time, Aenar was also the twentieth-generation direct ancestor of Daenerys Targaryen.
According to the leak report, Jane Goldman's The Long Night prequel and Max Borenstein's Empire of Ash were the two frontrunners among the five prequel pitches announced in 2017 (one of which was shelved by late 2018). They were the only two that by July 2018 had full writing staffs, while the other pitches were one-shot scripts personally written by their prospective showrunners.
The leak states that Empire of Ash was actually the first prequel that was pitched to George R.R. Martin, in 2016. Borenstein had about half a dozen major sit-down meetings with Martin, during which she shared his unpublished notes and unwritten ideas about what Valyria was like, and brainstorming new ideas. Borenstein and his staff then took Martin's broad outline, and extensively researched all of his previous works in the series, expanding on what was already established.
The result of their efforts was compiled into a "Series Bible" which "literally looks like a second volume of The World of Ice & Fire", building off what the World book already established about the continents beyond Westeros itself (pervasively using text citations from the World book itself). The Series Bible is a published paperback book, roughly the same height and depth of the World book, and professionally illustrated, made in a limited print run - as of July 2019 about one hundred copies existed. Religious scholar Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was brought on to the project for world-building the diverse religions of Valyria.
The production team actually made multiple "series bibles": apart from the main "Series Bible" about the storyverse, there is a separate "Script Bible", a full outline for what will become the first TV season of ten episodes. Such script bibles are standard practice in television production: it isn't filled out down to the level of dialogue, but it does contain a scene by scene breakdown for all of the first season from beginning to end. The season one Script Bible is over 200 pages long.
Production on Empire of Ash has been "on hold" since fall 2018, as HBO only made announcements about Goldman's The Long Night prequel.
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