It's been almost a year since "Game of Thrones" viewers last laid eyes on Sansa Stark. That's nothing compared to how long book readers have waited for another glimpse at Eddard and Catelyn Stark's eldest daughter.
Ten years have passed since Sansa last graced the pages of "A Song of Ice and Fire," her most recent chapters appearing in 2005's "A Feast for Crows." Today, Sansa returns, thanks to author George R.R. Martin; he's released an all-new chapter from his upcoming book "The Winds of Winter," and it's all about Sansa.
Released under the name "Alayne," the secret identity Sansa's currently using while posing as Littlefinger's bastard daughter in the Vale, the new chapter features Sansa at her finest. She still dreams about handsome young knights, but has the wisdom now to know that beauty can often mask brutality. ("Joffrey was comely too," she thinks to herself at one point. "A comely monster, that's what he was. Little Lord Tyrion was kinder, twisted though he was.")
She still fancies lemon cakes, and is the proud recipient of a massive lemon cake "in the shape of the Giant's Lance, twelve feet tall" and made using every single lemon in the Vale. Indeed, the chapter features the copious amounts of food porn that Martin is so well known for writing; a grand feast includes trout, salmon, ducks, peacocks in almond milk, suckling pigs, and three huge fire-roasted aurochs, paired with loaves of hot bread and roasted vegetables. If you're on a diet, don't read this chapter; it will break you.
There are references to Sansa's family, from the late Ned, Catelyn and Robb, to the missing-in-action Arya. Even as she operates throughout the Vale as Alayne Stone, Sansa can't quite shake her history as a Stark.
But there's a third last name that Sansa adopts: Baelish. Not only is this excerpt the first book sighting of Sansa in ten years, it's also the first sighting of Littlefinger in a decade, too. He's up to his usual scheming ways, coaching Sansa into seducing Harry the Heir, a youthful man set to inherit the Eyrie from sickly Sweetrobin should anything happen to the little lord — and, of course, Littlefinger would love thing more than for "anything" to happen.
How much does the new chapter inform what we'll see in the upcoming season of "Thrones"? Hard to say. Rumors persist that the show is going to take liberties with the Sansa story; besides, the show is almost completely caught up with her story from the books at this point, anyway. Regardless, it's an exciting look at a long lost character, for any and all Sansa fans — and perhaps a sign that Martin's progress on "The Winds of Winter" is coming along faster than most people realize.