'House of the Dragon' : How King Viserys I Targaryen Dies in the Book 'Fire & Blood'

Unlike Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon is based on a finished book – albeit a very different kind of book than the main series. This means that readers have all kinds of spoilers for the story, including the fates of most of the main characters. If you want to know how things played out for the king in the book, Fire & Blood, read on.

Fair warning: there are spoilers for Fire & Blood and possibly for House of the Dragon ahead! Fire & Blood is a history book about Westeros, written by an in-world scholar based on unreliable, in-world sources. That means we can't trust all the details it gives us, but we can be relatively sure that its depiction of King Viserys Targaryen I is accurate. The king is played by Paddy Considine on TV, and while he has been changed a bit in the adaptation, it seems safe to assume that the broad strokes of his arc will be the same.

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(Photo: Ollie Upton / HBO)

Viserys is described as a timid king in the books, afraid of offending anyone at court or making any enemies. His main goal was always to maintain the peace, unity and prosperity forged by his predecessor King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Sadly, this made him indecisive at some crucial moments. In the books, Martin illustrates this anxiety by describing how the Iron Throne itself frequently cuts Viserys, leaving him with constant wounds, some of which become infected.

Fans have already seen Viserys grapple with the death of his wife, Aemma Arryn, and the crisis of succession. He names Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) his official heir, but other lords continue to pressure him to take another wife and try to have more children. This is ostensibly for the security of the royal line, ensuring that there are more heirs to take Rhaenyra's place if something tragic should happen, but in reality, the lords around Viserys simply want the political advantage that a royal marriage could grant them.

Viserys ends up marrying Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) and having at least four more children with him, including sons. However, Viserys insists that Rhaenyra is still his rightful heir regardless of his younger sons. Some of the lords of Westeros disagree – not just because of misogyny but because they want a ruler who is tied to their house or is easier to manipulate. Viserys never addresses this growing sentiment within his realm.

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(Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO)

In Viserys' waning days, he also refuses to acknowledge the quiet struggle for political power between his wife Alicent and his heir Rhaenyra, leaving them to fight amongst themselves. They both vie for allies in the court, trying to appoint their own loyal friends to various positions. During this struggle, Viserys cuts his hand down to the bone on the Iron Throne, and Rhaenyra insists that her own loyal maester, Maester Gerardys, be the one to treat him instead of the one Alicent prefers.

The wound festers anyway, sadly, but when Viserys finally passes away at King's Landing, Rhaenyra is across the bay at Dragonstone. She is stuck there because she is due to give birth at any moment, and Alicent and her allies take advantage of this moment. They keep the king's death a secret for a full week while his remains begin to rot, amassing their power and rounding up any of Rhaenyra's remaining allies as prisoners. Finally, they announce the king's death and proclaim Alicent's son Aegon II Targaryen the new King of Westeros, ignoring all previous agreements to acknowledge Rhaenyra. This kicks off the civil war known as "the dance of the dragons."

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We can only speculate, but judging by the pacing so far it seems like House of the Dragon Season 1 will likely end with its version of Viserys death. Showrunner Ryan Condal has said that he expects this story to run for about three or four seasons, so that would leave two or three seasons for the war itself to take center stage. Pinpointing the end of the war is not so simple, either, so we may need time after the dust has settled.

However these events play out, it's clear that House of the Dragon is making waves among fans everywhere. Hopefully the fandom will be able to keep spoilers to a minimum as they did before infamous Game of Thrones moments like the Red Wedding. House of the Dragon airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max. Martin's books are available now in print, digital and audiobook formats.