Welcome to a new series on AlleyHope – a monthly comparison between books and their on-screen adaptations. As the title suggests, this is inspired by Axis of Awesome’s song/rant so I thought it most appropriate to start this with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, commonly known through the HBO adaptation, Game of Thrones. A disclaimer here – I am not at all of the belief that “the book is always better”. Let’s face it, it’s not always. Yes, it’s the original, but that doesn’t always mean it’s best.
SPOILERS AHEAD (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
I read the ASOIAF series in between seasons 4 and 5 of GOT so was up to date until A Feast for Crows and the two A Dance with Dragons books. I was already quite invested in the characters and their storylines but there are a number of differences – good and bad. Obviously, the books go into a lot more detail, but for me, the huge benefit is understanding the characters motivations a bit better. Each chapter is from a selected characters POV (in the third person), meaning you get an insight into their minds. For example, I feel that I have more understanding of Cersei’s character – disappointments throughout her life and her struggle against a patriarchal society – from the books than from the show. Lena Headey does an incredible job of portraying this in Cersei, particularly in season 5, but you do get more of a sense of Cersei’s backstory in the book. Similar with Bran and Summer – their relationship is incredible and the medium lends itself far better to describing Bran’s experience of warging into his direwolf.
However, I do prefer some of the plot changes that the show has made. New characters are introduced far more readily into the books and it’s difficult to identify with a lot of them (let alone remember them all). The show has made some huge changes but producers promise that it’ll end up in the same place as the books when it concludes. The most major changes seem to have happened in season 5. For me, the smartest change has been to Sansa’s storyline. Rather than being set up to marry some random, she’s back in Winterfell with one of the worst villains ever and in the middle of the Theon redemption storyline and she knows that Bran and Rickon may be alive. Brilliant. In the book, it’s her friend Jeyne from book/season 1 pretending to be Arya – so don’t care if something bad happens to her. Sorry ’bout it.
So which is better? Impossible to say I’m afraid. It’s the first fantasy series I’ve read and watched and actually like – I think it’s the huge drama and scandal element that hooks me in – but it has made me more open to the genre in the future. I think that all fans of the series will love the books, and fans of the books should get something from the show. Go into either with an open mind regardless.