Maybe, just maybe, we've been so distracted trying to defend Ned Stark's honour that we've all overlooked the most defining feature of these books: the unexpected. Martin thrives off shocking his readers, it's one of the things that sets his books apart. Yes, it'd be an absolutely travesty of justice and a betrayal of fans if Snow was killed just as Westeros seems to need him most, but that's exactly why Martin would do it.
Even for a hardened news man in a hardened newsroom the mass shooting at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is a ferociously shocking moment. We know at least 12 are dead, five are critically wounded and others beside. And those numbers will doubtless change during the day. It happens at a very tender moment for European politics, at a tender moment for the Islamic world. Wracked with violence from northern Nigeria all the way to Pakistan by radical action and bloodletting.
Thirteen years after 9/11, an English speaking voice articulates the beheading of an American hostage. There are hundreds of western Muslims in the ranks of Islamic State (IS). In waging unwise and horrific war themselves in Iraq, western powers have forfeited their capacity overtly to bolster moderate regional forces in Syria and Iraq.
This cannot go on. Humans live in Gaza, remarkably like us. They laugh, they cry, they die. But too many of them die before their time. And that is true for those 29 Israeli military boys who have died, none older than his 20s. Cannot their end be the starting point for something revolutionarily new? Getting inside each others heads, understanding the other, or is it all just too late?
I well remember my first days in my boarding school - the wolf whistles from the prefects' open windows as we passed in and out of our boarding quarters. Prettier boys were openly rated as desirable. It was in my second term, when I was 13 years old, that I first received a note from a 17-year-old in the school rugby team asking would I meet him for a smoke. This was a euphemism for intended sexual contact.