Differences between Game of Thrones books and TV show. Which is better?

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game of thrones books vs show

We compare and discuss Game of Thrones books vs show and decide which is better. Find out more about the major differences between A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy books and HBO's adaptation for TV. 

Game of Thrones books vs show

A Song of Ice and Fire books

George R. R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Fire is widely recognized as one of the most ambitious and encapsulating epic fantasy sagas of all time. It is a story of ambition, greed, lust and treachery.

The American novelist and screenwriter George R.R. Martin, inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, started working on the book series in 1991, and initially envisaged A Song of Ice and Fire as a trilogy. The story, set in the fictional world of Westeros, narrates the power struggles between different noble houses to control the Iron Throne and the destiny of the Seven Kingdoms. The name of the book series makes references to the cold North beyond the Great Wall where the mysterious White Walkers are threatening humanity, and to the dragons which come back to Westeros as the ultimate power tool. The intricacies of the plot, which unravels throughout many different locations and from the eyes of multiple characters, made Martin change his initial plans and lengthen the saga to seven books:

  1. A Game of Thrones: 73 chapters (1996)
  2. A Clash of Kings: 70 chapters (1999)
  3. A Storm of Swords: 2 chapters (2000)
  4. A Feast for Crows: 46 chapters (2005)
  5. A Dance with Dragons: 73 chapters (2011)
  6. The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
  7. A Dream of Spring (forthcoming)

The magnitude and complexity of the the book series is such that the first 5 books expand over 4273 pages and include references to over two thousand different characters. But are the Game of Thrones books worth reading? It is a great investment in time, but the answer to the question is a resounding YES.

Game of Thrones books are a trully unique literary experience and met with an overwhelming positive response from the public and critics alike. The series has won three Locus Awards and one Nebula Award, as well as several nominations to these and other prestigious fantasy and science fiction literature awards. They have sold over 60 million copies and have been translated to more than 30 languages. Several novellas, comic books, video games and board games of the series have been released following the success of the books.

Game of Thrones TV Series

As the popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire grew, HBO understood the potential to turn it into a TV series. The contacts between Martin and the producer of the creator of the Game of Thrones show, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, started in 2006 and the project was kicked-off in 2007. The first season was released in 2011, and as the book series, it was received with praise and large audiences.

Game of Thrones has won many different awards including 38 Emmy Awards (110 nominations). Season 6 of Game of Thrones has averaged over 25 million viewers per episode. The series, although considered a very good adaptation of the books, does not exactly match the books, reorganizing and omiting some parts of the story and emphasizing and revealing new ones. These the dates when the seasons were aired and their connection to the books:

  1. Season 1: June 2011. It covers the book A Game of Thrones
  2. Season 2: June 2012. It covers A Clash of Kings and the beginning of A Storm of Swords
  3. Season 3: June 2013. It continues with the events narrated in A Storm of Swords
  4. Season 4: June 2014. It covers the rest of A Storm of Swords and introduces some parts of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons
  5. Season 5: June 2015. It also shows content from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons and anticipates some elements from The Winds of Winter
  6. Season 6: June 2016. It covers some of the latest parts of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons books and reveals new storylines and events from The Winds of Winter
  7. Season 7: August 2017. It includes elements from The Winds of Winter and the first part of A Dream of Spring
  8. Season 8: TBA

When will season 8 of Game of Thrones be released? Unfortunately it seems that the last season of the show will not be released in 2018 but in 2019. This is one of the biggest TV productions ever; the last few seasons budget has been over $100 million. However, the key of the success is not the special effects or impressive scenery and custom design. What makes Game of Thrones one of the best shows in television history is the quality of acting and the personality of its characters. These are only a few of the most important players in this epic tale:

  • Arya Stark (Maisie Williams): the noble child turned into a ruthless assassin.
  • Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage): the cynical and extremely witty dwarf.
  • Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey): the evil Queen who would do anything to retain power and protect her children.
  • Jon Snow (Kit Harington): the bastard son who becomes a leader of the Night Watch.
  • Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau): the incestuous knight capable of the worst things but with a particular sense of honor and duty.
  • Ned Stark (Sea Bean): the righteous lord of the northern territories.
  • Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke): the obstinate and brave mother of dragons who is decided to take back the Iron Throne.

The big question that emerges is: Books or TV series, which is better? Of course the books include more plots and characters and allow readers to discover what is in the minds of many of the protagonists of the saga. However, the books are extremely long and many people find more rewarding the shorter and more visual experience of the TV drama. The new twists to some of the characters and plotlines have also been received positively by many followers of Game of Thrones.

However, some changes to the story or sacrifices for technical or budgetary reasons have not pleased everyone. For instance, the underwhelming battle in King's Landing or the surprisingly small size of the armies of Khal Drogo in the TV series demonstrated the limitations of the show. On the other hand, the addition of music and stunning special effects and customs have contributed to make some scenes even more intense and unforgettable than in the books.

What do you think? Join our debate below and vote in our poll. But before that we want to outline the main differences in plot

Watch these videos with an Interview to George R. R. Martin and the official trailer of Season 7 of Game of Thrones

<SPOILERS ALERT>

The following part of the debate contains some spoilers, so if you have not watched the series or read the books and are planning to do so you may skip the text below and move directly to the voting section.

Major differences between Game of Thrones books and show

These are some of the most important differences between the HBO TV series and the series of books A Song of Ice and Fire:

  • Ramsay's wife: In the TV series Ramsay Bolton marries Sansa Stark, while in the books he marries Jeyne Poole, a friend of Sansa who he mistakenly believes to be Arya Stark, Sansa's younger sister.
  • Dorne's plot: most of the events that happen in Dorne in the books never appear in the TV shows, which are replaced by a completely different and superficial sub-plot in the series.
  • Lady Stoneheart: in the books Catelyn Stark is resurrected thanks to magic and becomes the leader of a band of outlaws. On the show, Catelyn does not return from the dead (at least so far).
  • Robb's wife: on the show, Robb marries a woman from Volantis called Talisa Maegyr who is expecting a child when they are both assassinated at the Red Wedding. In the books Robb Stark marries Jeyne Westerling who is neither pregnant nor killed.
  • Iron Islands: the plot on the Iron Islands is also very different in the books and television episodes. The sister of Theon Greyjoy is called Yara on the show and Asha in the books. But most importantly the events narrated diverge greatly between books and show.
  • Brienne's journeys: the trip Brienne undertakes searching for the Stark daughters is considerably different.
  • Direwolves and Stark children: in the books all the Stark kids have a special connection with their direwolves (they all dream at some point that they are direwolves). Morevover the role of the direwolves on the shows seems to be less important than in the books.
  • Ser Barristan: the former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy, dies prematurely in the TV show, while in the books he plays a much more central role as adviser of Danaerys.
  • Jojen Reed and Coldhands: in the TV series Jojen Reed dies and Coldhands appears considerably later in the plot.
  • Mance Rayder: on the show Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, dies and his wife and baby do not appear. In the books, Melisandre used her magic to keep him alive disguised as Rattleshirt.
  • Tyrion's journey to Meereen: in the books Tyrion does not escape from King's Landing with Varys and he encounters many other characters in the trip. This part of the plot is shortened and modified on the show.
  • Aegon Targaryen: in the books Tyrion encounters Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen who was thought to be dead and who is planning to take back Westeros. In the series Aegon Targaryen does not appear.
  • Bronn: in the TV show Bronn has a more prominent role and participates in more sub-plots.
  • Mace Tyrell: in the series the Lord of Highgarden is portrayed as a simpleton. In the books he is more ambitious and cunning.
  • Loras Tyrell: in the books Ser Loras Tyrell is one of the greatest warriors in Westeros and dies trying to capture Dragonstone from Stannis. On the show Ser Loras is imprisoned due to his homosexuality, which is never explicit in the books.
  • Missandei: in the books Missandei is only 10, in the series she is older, has a romance with Grey Worm and has a more important role than in the books.
  • Edric Storm: Robert Baratheon had a bastard son in the books, Edric Storm. On the show that sub-plot is absent.
  • Shireen Baratheon: the daughter of Stannis Baratheon, Shireen, is alive in the books but killed in the TV series as part of a sacrifice to the R'hollor, the Lord of Light.

If you like the books and the show, check out our debate on the endings of Game of Thrones.

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