THE CHANGE: Jeez, what didn’t change about this rich and decadent city in the far east? "Rich, decadent, far east" – that’s about it. In the book, Xaro Xhoan Daxos is lily-white and gay rather than black and straight. The Spice King didn’t exist at all. The Thirteen were just one of several factions jockeying for power rather than the city’s overall shot-callers. Dany and company rode into the city well-rested and secure rather than begging for their lives. Her bloodrider Rakharo and handmaiden Irri are still alive. And her dragons are very, very much un-kidnapped.
THE VERDICT: No one’s ever said "You know what the best part of A Clash of Kings is? The structure of Qarthene society!" Martin’s conception of Qarth is fascinating, but streamlining it, punching it up, making Xaro a handsome immigrant who bonds himself to Daenerys in blood, and giving Nicholas Blane’s Spice King a chance to dandy his way up and down the screen all make for entertaining TV. However, the jury’s still way the hell out on the dragon-napping business. You wanna give Dany’s sparse storyline more oomph, be my guest, but her dragons are such an integral part of her that taking them away this early in the game makes her feel like a chump. Still, a warlock-vs.-dragon throwdown (you have to figure this is where things are headed) could be a pip. We’ll just have to wait and see if the storyline crashes and burns or soars.