Game of Thrones vs. A Song of Ice and Fire: Comparing the Books to the Show so Far


Some time ago, I  finished George RR Martin’s third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series A Storm of Swords, and am currently about half way through the fourth book A Feast for Crows. Now, as I had said in a previous entry, it sucks to read the book while watching the TV series Game of Thrones and I had a lot of pains with last season because I was trying so hard not to watch until I finished A Storm of Swords….. but then all the Red Wedding reactions and memes hit the web–and my facebook newsfeed– so it was impossible not to see a spoiler. It’s okay though…. I’m prepped for season 4 to premiere this Sunday now, (Especially after catching the recently aired trailers on HBO not long ago….you can view them here.) and I cannot wait to see how HBO handles the rest of the events from A Storm of Swords leading into A Feast for Crows. Basically: Super nerd excitement–activate!!!! ^_^

The Red Wedding is a huge turning point in the series and is brilliantly written. As much as people hate the fact that so many characters meet their end in this event, it was still brilliantly done and I personally commend Mr. Martin on his ingenuity. I must say that it would have probably been a lot more shocking if I didn’t hear anything about something big happening prior to reading that part of the book, but it was still an amazing twist. The HBO series actually made the whole thing so much more brutal, and I really liked the way they played it out when I compared the two.

However, this got me thinking about the show in comparison to the books and I found that I am not completely one of those “Oh, the book is always better” fans in every case. In some ways, the show has done some awesome stuff, while in other ways I did prefer the book. So I have decided to list my favorite aspects/changes of the show versus the book, and also list the things I wish had not changed.

Before reading, please be advised: SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!!!!!! I will discuss in detail major events of the storyline in the Song of Ice and Fire book series and the Game of Thrones TV series. If you have not read up at least halfway through A Storm of Swords, and/or haven’t watched up to the end of Season 3, you probably shouldn’t read this if you don’t want it spoiled for you. I refrained myself from going into too much detail about things yet to come on the show for my friends out there who only watch the show.

Okay, Now let’s begin.

Things I like about the show in comparison to the books

1. The Red Wedding.

I’ll dive right in on this one. The Red Wedding was insane and brutal, and the writer side of me loved it. It was just so brutal. I actually preferred the whole setup of the storyline in the show much more than in the book. In the books, Robb got injured on the battlefield and a woman named Jeyne Westerling cares for him and one thing lead to another and it is assumed the two got to know each other… biblically.  Robb, feeling honor bound like his father, marries the girl and thoroughly pisses off the Freys since he had initially agreed to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters in order to get the support he needed from them in the war. This was a huge thing, and the book sort of downplayed it. The way Robb’s sudden marriage is revealed wasn’t something I liked either. We never hear a word about Robb having any eyes for anyone, but then he comes back and tells his mother Catelyn “Oh hey, btw, I got married to this other person…..”

Additionally, the whole thing seems like a Lannister setup. The Westerlings are a minor house connected to the Lannisters, so the fact that the whole thing happened seemed a bit contrived. I really preferred the storyline invented for the show, the way Robb met Talisa and the way we got to watch their infatuation for each other grown and eventually burst into full passion was a great development. With this storyline, it wasn’t shocking when Robb suddenly decided he didn’t want to marry the Frey girl…..why would he? He’s already developed this deep connection with this woman.

It also made it so much more painful when the Red Wedding happened. Robb was on top of the world, his new beautiful wife was pregnant with their child, they were happy and in love, and it seemed as though things could be mended with the Freys and all hope wasn’t lost…….

From a storytelling perspective, I approved. Even though Jeyne Westerling was completely cut out and replaced with a totally different character who does not exist in the books, I enjoyed the development of the storyline more with the change.

2. The music adaptation.

This is something that couldn’t possibly be done in the books, but the music is so well done that I had to mention it in the list of things I love about the show. The instrumentals are amazing, and several of the songs that are sung throughout the show are pulled directly from the book–verbatim. My all time favorite is the eerie and sinister sounding rendition of The Rains of Castamere. From the moment I heard that song for the first time I could not get it out of my brain, and still listen to it often. In so many scenes, the music is pivotal in getting the strongest possible reaction from the audience, and it works so well. I love a show with a great soundtrack, and I honestly think I could listen to the GOT soundtrack all the time.

3. “Chaos is a Ladder”

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love.  Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

One of my favorite scenes in Season 3 is this dialogue between Varys and Littlefinger. The actors who play these characters are both amazing and they always seem to vibe so well off of each other in scenes they have together. I especially loved this scene because the audience of the show finally starts to see just how deep Littlefinger’s devotion is to get what he wants. Additionally, the rising dramatic effect of the music behind him as he says the quote I posted above was perfect. In this speech, we really see Littlefinger’s true nature and intentions and I cannot wait to see how HBO develops him in season 4.

4. Cersei and Robert’s Chat

There is this really great scene way back in Season 1 of Game of Thrones where Cersei and Robert are drinking wine and Cersei asks Robert about Lyanna, and their relationship in comparison to the love he held (and still holds) for her. You can watch a snippet of the scene here, if you didn’t see it or do not recall it. Cersei tells Robert she felt something for him once, and asked if she had ever had a chance with him. This did not happen in the book, but the inclusion of this scene really humanizes Cersei’s character. The fact that she has this talk with Robert when she does gives the impression that she was really second guessing having Robert killed. Even though he did awful things to her and they had a shitty marriage, she definitely loved him at a point and wanted to hear that he loved her in return…..unfortunately, Robert did not give her the answer she wanted to hear.

5. Margaery Tyrell & Olenna Tyrell

Love her or hate her, I have to admit that Margaery is a much more prominent character on Game of Thrones than she has been in the book series (as far as up to book 3, at least). I like the little bits the shows’ producers and writers have thrown in to let us get to know this character and get an idea of who she is. I feel in the books (up to this point in the storyline, at least) her character is just sort of there as another chess piece in the game without any goals of her own, but this scene sets up Margaery’s intentions as being something much greater…

Her grandmother is also an interesting character, very well cast. The actress who plays the queen of thorns is almost exactly what I imagined, and I loved every scene she was in. Especially this one.

6. Ned sees Arya in the Crowd Before he Dies

A footnote really, but upon rewatching season 1, I noticed in this scene that Ned has a reaction as if he saw Arya in the crowd when he was being escorted to the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. I noticed he also turns to Yoren and yells Baelor; and I want to believe he was indirectly telling Yoren to go to the statue of Baelor because Arya was there and he needed him to protect her. This is not in the book, and it was an interesting addition to the show in my opinion.


Things I DO NOT like about the show in comparison to the books

1. Daenerys in Quarth.

Season 2 was when the show definitely took a bit of a step away from the books, and the biggest one was Daenerys’s visit to Quarth. Daenerys gets her dragons taken from her???  That never happened. This was one subplot that really angered me. I know it was done primarily to have an excuse to not show the dragons for a while since CGI dragons are expensive, but Daenerys is such a strong character and I feel like HBO engineered this plot specifically to weaken her character because….well, she’s a woman. In the book, Daenerys’s time in Quarth is totally different from what we see in the show. Irri and Doreah are very much alive in the latter parts of the story as well, Doreah never betrayed her to give her dragons to the warlocks.  As for Irri, some really hot scenes come up later on with Irri and Danerys in the books, so I was upset they killed off her character in the show. I wanted the Khalessi to get some girl lovin’….is that so bad?

The worst deviation from the book, IMO, is when Daenerys visits the House of the Undying. I was so looking forward to this scene. In the book, she has this crazy experience where she has visions of the past and possibly foreshadowing of the future, and the undying tell her a prophecy that sets up major aspects of the story for the rest of the series. This prophecy also works as a major motivator in a lot of Daenerys’s actions from this point on. It is a crucial scene….and it was cut and altered almost completely.

If you saw the HBO version, there is just some hokey reunion of Daenerys with Drogo holding Rhaego and she tells him she will love him until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. And the warlock tries to imprison her, but her dragons burn him and set her free….

I prefer the book so much more to the show here, the book sets up major plotlines in this scene and foreshadows several major events to come (the Red Wedding is among these, while some of the others are yet to be fully revealed) and the way the show simplified this scene by cutting all the meaning of this event out really hurt the series. I believe that as the story unfolds more, HBO will regret taking the simple route. As the books progress a theme of prophecies dictating people’s actions really becomes central to several character’s motivations.

This should not have been changed. It just should not have happened this way. I’m still disappointed.

2. Catelyn’s monologue about Jon Snow.

If you have read the books at all, you know how much Catelyn Stark despises Jon Snow. In her eyes, Jon Snow is the embodiment of betrayal. Catelyn has never cared about Jon, and has always been either cruel or indifferent to him. The monologue that HBO invented for her talking about how she felt so terrible that should couldn’t bring herself to love a child that wasn’t her own…..It was complete and utter manufactured bullshit. I suppose that the scene was added in to make the audience feel for Catelyn prior to the Red Wedding……but it is so against her character that it just infuriated me all together. Boo, HBO. I do not approve.

3. Barristan Selmy’s revelation to Daenerys, Strong Belwas is MIA, Jorah and Dany, and Daario

These are all small things, so I combined them into one entry. In the show, Ser Barristan meets up with Dany and saves her from an assassination attempt. After this, Jorah Mormont tells Dany who he is. There is no secret as to who Barristan is…..NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BOOK. Barristan saves Dany in the book as well, but he goes under the nickname “white beard” until he eventually confesses his true identity to Daenerys’ shock. Daenerys questions trusting him, and the whole event happens at the same time as another massive betrayal……I won’t say who or what happens, for the sake of those who do not read the series, but it’s MAJOR. Additionally, Barristan was accompanied by a large man known as Strong Belwas, who begins to serve Dany after that fateful encounter. In the show, this character currently does not exist….some theorize he may appear later on, but unless he shows up in season 4, it seems doubtful to me.

Jorah and Dany’s relationship also appears a bit different in the show. I am not sure whether to like it or hate it. On the show, he CLEARLY loves her and is afraid to make a move; sexual tension is everywhere, especially once Daario shows up and he is constantly hitting on Dany. In the books, Jorah actually makes a move and kisses Dany, which leads to confusing feelings for our mother of dragons. I think it’s cute that he sort of worships her from afar and is afraid to confess his feelings in the show, but I also liked the scene where he kissed her in the books, so I’m not sure which Jorah I prefer.

Speaking of Daario…..I feel like his character was poorly cast, which is ironic because so many of these actors fit the roles so well or made them better. I am not the only fan who has mentioned this. Several fans of A Song of Ice and Fire posted on the interwebs after the debut of Daario, all voicing their disapproval of the presentation of the character in the show. Nevermind that he looks NOTHING like how the character is described; he doesn’t even have any of the personality quirks that Daario in the books had, such as the Tyroshi style flamboyant dress. A BIG let down for all of the fans who read the books.

4. Battles On a Not-Quite Epic Scale

George RR Martin’s books feature a number of battles on a huge scale….though HBO’s budget is growing, it is still not quite large enough to handle some of the battle scenes depicted in the books. This is why Tyrion’s first big battle was really just him marching out on to the battlefield, getting knocked out, and asking Bronn if they won upon regaining consciousness. The battle on the Black Water is also different from the books, mostly for pacing, and also for the sake of effects…..though I have to admit that the scene with the wildfire was still pretty sweet….Recent rumors have suggested the series may end with a major motion picture in order to allow for the epic battle scenes fans will crave and deserve after making it to the end of the series.


And now a bonus:

What I am Looking Forward to Seeing in Season 4:

1. The Royal Wedding

2. Littlefinger

3. Daenerys’s Growing Struggle to Maintain the Cities She Liberated

4. Tyrion. Also Jaime. These Lannisters are my favorite Lannisters.

5. Oberyn Martell

6. The Wildlings vs. The Night’s Watch

7. That really amazing thing that happens at the end of A Storm of Swords (which I will not divulge for those who don’t read the books)….


Big stuff is coming……For those who don’t read the books, I won’t say it. But, beware if you casually go looking……






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