'Game' Changers: The 10 Biggest Changes Between 'Game of Thrones' and the Books - Rolling Stone
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‘Game’ Changers: The 10 Biggest Changes Between ‘Game of Thrones’ and the Books

When you play the game of fans, you win or you die. Die-hard devotees of author George R.R. Martin's epic-fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for HBO's smash-hit Game of Thrones, have found themselves divided over the changes the show's second season has made to the source material, even as the show earns its best ratings and reviews to date. Should the show remain the books' loyal bannerman, or strike out on its own? Watch as we run down the 10 biggest changes from the book series' second volume A Clash of Kings to the second season so far and render our verdict King Joffrey-style.

By Sean T. Collins

robb stark

Helen Sloan


Caught in a Robb Romance

THE CHANGE: Fans of actor Richard Madden are legion, and lusty, and lucky. If the show had followed the book's lead, Madden's Robb Stark would have spent almost every episode off screen, fighting battles we never see and falling in love with a girl we never meet (this season, anyway). Instead he's been kept front and center, all the better to meet cute with the mysterious foreign nurse Lady Talisa after one of his victories. She's a far cry from Lady Jeyne Westerling, the pretty teenager from Westeros' west coast (that's Lannister territory) whom Robb falls for in the novels.

THE VERDICT: Good on the show for keeping Robb around, at least. In the books, George R.R. Martin keeps all the kings distant from the center of the action, preferring to show us how their decisions play out among their subjects – it's both a literary technique and a political message, but it wouldn't work on the show since the entire Stark side of the war would basically disappear. The Talisa/Jeyne switcheroo is tougher to get a handle on. Actress Oona Chaplin's got a real spark with the charismatic Madden, and whom he falls in love with doesn't matter as much falling in love at all. But as mega-fansite Westeros.org has pointed out, her "first they argue, then they flirt, and pretty soon you see them at the diner eating breakfast together in the clothes they wore last night" introduction to Robb has been one of the show's most predictable plotlines. Far from a dealbreaker, though, and potentially juicy when the romance heats up.


Paul Schiraldi


Party On, Qarth

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.

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