On A Clash of Kings


I consider myself a fast reader. I used to inhale the Harry Potter books on release day like they were crack cocaine, and pretty much any title that holds my interest I can polish off within two days at the most.

But it’s going to take me a good long while to get through George RR Martin’s mountainous tomes.

Yes, they’re long, 800 or 900 pages I believe for these first two books, but it’s more than that. They’re dense, but more importantly they’re dense and good. That means you want to read slowly and carefully so you don’t miss a beat in the plot, and learn as much about the universe as possible.

For these first few books, much of my discussion of them will likely have to do with how they compared to the show. Later, once I read ahead, it will be more about the twists and turns of the plot as we’ve already covered that for the first two season with my weekly episode reviews.

A Clash of Kings makes up about 95% of season two, with a few choice scenes saved for the beginning of Storm of Swords I’m guessing, as they’re too important to leave out entirely. It’s the war of the four (five, six?) kings after the tumultuous events of book one. And I should probably mention season two spoiler start now, along with a few from season three possibly.


Just as hateable on paper.

The first book and the first season were similar almost to the letter most of the time. Yes, extra scenes were cut that added depth to things, but there didn’t seem to be all that many plot changes, even minor ones. I’d heard that book two is where things start to get a little wonky and deviate from the book, but I was expecting a wider gulf than I found. Yes, certainly there is more that is different here, but I was thinking we might see Walking Dead level divergence, where characters live for eons past where they’re supposed to, die early or don’t exist at all.

Rather, it’s nothing that extreme, but there is a lot that was altered for the show, likely due to time and/or money constraints. Some may have even been orchestrated by Martin himself as he realized perhaps he was being  a bit too cumbersome in the novels.

I still love his writing in this second outing. His attention to detail is slavish and it feels like each sentence has a lot of thought put into it. Martin can get lost sometimes, however, with the size of his universe. He loves going on forever about dozens of different lords and their knights and ladies and it gets exceedingly hard to keep track of the ones we don’t know. Names will sound familiar, but it’s easy to have your head start spinning. And during times when he should be focusing on the action, he can get lost in name dropping too. The battle of Blackwater Bay was a great moment in the book and show, but he spends no less than six paragraphs naming practically every single boat in the battle.

The one plotline that really I didn’t like from the show that’s somehow even worse in the book is Daenery’s trip to Qarth. Her adventures with Drogo and Viserys in A Game of Thrones might have actually been the best story in that whole book, but here? She’s aimless. She barely even appears in the book and when she does she’s wandering around begging for gold to buy ships and warriors. Her dragons aren’t stolen, but she does have a mind-trippy journey through the tower of the Undying. I did feel like she got a rather important message from the Undying in the book that wasn’t in the show, a long speech about three betrayals and a few other sets of three that seem rather important to the future of her character. I was also surprised to see Barriston Selmy show up in disguise (beard disguise!) before the book ended. Here however, he’s treated as a mystery figure neither she nor Jorah can identify, and has a fat, scarred warrior with him we haven’t seen on the show. I understand why they couldn’t make him mysterious on the show because we all would have instantly recognized Selmy, or at least a few devotees would have then told the rest of us.


Sadly, the “one breast bare rule” wasn’t adhered to on the show.

In the book, Xaro Xan Dax-whatever his damn name is doesn’t betray her, he simply can’t help her and gets mad when she won’t marry him so he shuffles off. No vault death for him. I hope Dany has a more engaging plotline in Storm of Swords, and something tells me that’s going to be the case.

Jon Snow’s story was nearly identical to the show, with a few exceptions. Near the end he spent a lot more time with Quoran Halfhand, and his plan to infiltrate the Wildings while keeping his Watch vows intact is explained more clearly.  I was surprised when Jon had a warg wolf dream, an ability I thought only Bran possessed. I don’t believe that’s happened on the show, and it would be odd if they both were wargs, wouldn’t it? I also have theories on Jon Snow’s parentage, but I’m going to withhold those for fear of someone telling me I’m right or wrong.

Speaking of Bran, one of the more tiresome stretches of the book are when he’s ruling Winterfell by his lonesome, which is when we hear a lot of talk about Lady Hornwood and bastards attempting to seize power and things I don’t quite understand. It’s unfortunately, because I think all that played into what eventually happened to Winterfell, something that is much, much more unclear on the show. Whether that’s on purpose or not, I’m not sure.

In the book, Theon is surrounded by Northmen led by Ser Rodrik (whose head he does not personally chop off this time), but he’s “saved” when the bastard of the Dreadfort attacks Rodrik with his Flayed Men. Theon isn’t saved however, he’s knocked out and Winterfell is burned, and as we know from season three, he wakes up a prisoner of the Flayed Men.

The Flayed Men are probably the biggest aspect of Clash of Kings that was missing from season two, but now appears to be coming to fruition in season three. They’re responsible for sacking Winterfell, but in the book their leader, Roose Bolton, also takes over Harrenhal from the Lannisters, aided by Arya.  Arya actually becomes Bolton’s cupbearer, not Tywin Lannister’s, which is a much less interesting development if you ask me.


When your sigil is a guy getting tortured, you know you have issues.

I don’t understand these Flayed Men, and why we’ve never really heard of them before now. They were Robb Stark’s bannermen, I thought, but now they’re attacking his men and razing Winterfell. But they’re obviously not allied with the other rebels in the region, as they had no love for Theon Greyjoy. In short, what the f*** is up with these guys? I suppose I’ll have to wait and see, but in both the show and the book, they’ve been introduced rather strangely.

I found it interesting that even though he took on a larger role in the second book, Robb Stark is still not one of Martin’s point-of-view chapter leaders. Rather, it’s always Caitlyn who is around Robb, and we see things from her eyes. Also, in Clash of Kings, Robb  doesn’t yet meet his bride to be, which seems to have been moved up for the show.

The problem with Martin’s style of POV storytelling among only a few characters is that sometimes thing happen offscreen that would have been nice to see. For example, when Joffrey and his royal escort are attacked in King’s Landing, we see the event from Tyrion’s eyes. That’s well and good, but we missed a rather key scene that showed The Hound coming to Sansa’s rescue. We only hear about it later. This happens more than once, and we lack live scenes between anyone who isn’t one of Martin’s 8 or 9 designated POVs.

Anyway, moving on to King’s Landing and the war there, Stannis has Melisandre kill not only his brother, but the holder of Storm’s End as well with her shadow magic. Storm’s End is barely mentioned on the show, nor is Robert’s bastard who lives there, but I’m guessing that will come into play later.

I quite liked the imagery during the final battle which had Renly Baratheon in his green armor slaying people left and right as he got his revenge from the grave on Stannis. I assumed that it was going to be Ser Loras wearing his armor, which would have been badass, but then I believe it was dismissed as a townsfolk urban legend. Still no direct confirmation of a relationship between Renly and Loras, but it is heavily implied.


“My heart will go onnn and onnnnnnnnnnn.”

Speaking of the bedroom, it’s now clear that Ros just doesn’t exist in the books, and I believe is the only character made up entirely for the show. Another whore whose name I can’t remember fills certain roles that she took on like pretending to be Shae for Tyrion, but it isn’t her. A bit strange.

The book ends before season two ends in some ways, and skips ahead in others. We see no approaching White Walker army. Robb is not secretly married or close to it. Catelyn has not freed Jamie Lannister which seems to be wayyy behind the show.

But for skipping ahead? Bran is with Jojan and Meera Reed for half the book. And at the very end, the drunk Ser Doxos Dontos (who barely exists on the show) gives Sansa some sort of jeweled hair net from Asshai  that he promises will help her get her revenge on Joffrey.  That hasn’t happened on the show yet, and it won’t be Dontos to give it to her if it does. Who will, Littlefinger?

A Clash of Kings is a solid book, though much like I preferred the first season of the show to the second, the same is true for the literature as well. There seems to be a bit too much wasted time between Dany idling in Qarth and Catelyn, Bran and Arya sitting around not doing much for 80% of the book until the end. And for as much as George RR Martin is supposed to be killing major characters left and right, the only big casualty was Renly, but I know, I know, more is coming. Also winter is coming, in case you hadn’t heard.

I’m nervous to start Storm of Swords as I’m sort of sad to finally pass up the show in terms of what I know. But then I suppose I can be a cool kid and have different sorts of conversations with different kinds of fans and still enjoy myself nonetheless. And it will be an interesting switch to now read the book and see the show after. I’m of the opinion that usually whichever you consume first seems better to you, and as much as I like the books, I think the show trimmed the fat a little better so far. But once I read ahead? Perhaps it will be the other way around.

Feel free to discuss, but remember, no spoilers! That’s half the point of me reading these in the first place, so be nice.




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  1. The drunk knight’s name is “Dontos”, not “Doxos”. And the stong scarred fat guy with Selmy, Strong Belwas, has been removed from the show to streamline that plot.

    For as much as people complain about how different the show is to the books, it really is not. Compared to other adaptations it is remarkably faithful.

  2. As noted by XenoIrish, the series is remarkably faithful to the source material. The changes that do occur feel natural, and really seem to drive the plot forward in the TV medium (your observations about Selmy’s reveal for instance).

    Some of your lingering questions will be answered in book 3 (i’m about halfway through book 4 right now, BTW). I find that the changes made for the show actually enhance my enjoyment of the series simply because it’s keeping things fresh, and I’m always interested to see how things play out “the same but different”.

    The only change made between the books and the series was Sam encountering the White Walker army at the conclusion of season 2. It simply doesn’t appear in the books (at least as depicted) and really confused me going into book 3.

    BTW, Book 3 is my favorite so far… 😉


  3. Another minor change is that Loras wears Renly’s armor during the show’s Battle of Blackwater Bay, while in the book it is worn by one of Loras’s older brothers, Garlan the Gallant.

  4. As I’ve said before, the only thing I feel really suffered from the book to TV adaptation, and subsequent changes, was Catelyn’s motivations for letting Jamie go. From what I remember, Cat and Robb are both under the impression that Bran and Rickon are dead. Not mostly dead, but dead. It’s only then that Cat feels she has no other option for her family than to let him go. It also better sets up something that should be coming up in the next few episodes of Season 3, I assume.

    And Paul, if your theories on Jon’s parentage are the same as most, “A Game of Thrones” is the only book that really heavily implies it, so I don’t think you’d really be spoiling anything. The fact that they’ve mentioned almost NOTHING about it in the show so far makes me think it’s true, as I don’t think you could show it and not directly infer what really happened.

  5. You want to see some tiresome stretches about Bran, just wait for his story in the next book…by god it’s dull. Walk a bit, sit around, wolf dream, walk a bit, wolf dream, walk, sit around, wolf dream…………….

  6. George tends to build his books in cycles. One book will be fairly dull, but will be setting up dozens of dominos to topple all at once in the next one. by the time you finish the next book this should be evident.

  7. Daeneris has a much better story in the 2nd season than she has in the second book. Sure, both are a little disappointing, but it does seem like they’re trying to spice her up in the series. I suspect Martin might be behind quite a few of these changes too.

  8. Paul, you’ll be pleased to watch the series after reading the books, specially season 2 and 3, the main plot lines are maintained, but there are MANY new scenes that fill some holes in the book. You mentioned it, when you realized that not all events are depicted in the book when you are limited to 8 – 9 POV. Whenever you watch a non-POV-from-the-book scene on the TV series, you’ll be watching something mostly new that adds depth to characters and story.

  9. For example:

    Loras and Renly’s shaving scene on season 1.
    Maester Pycelle stretching scene on the last episode of season 1.
    Joffrey and Margaery’s crossbow scene on episode 2 season 3.


  10. Love this this show…I’ll read the books once its over…not too concerned with too many spoilers since the story is an adaptation from the book. However, you mentioned the scene where Joffery and his escort was attacked and Sansa gets lost in the skirmish and is about to get attacked….don’t we see the Hound save her by practically splitting a man in two?

    anyway…love the show..love the reviews and love the comments…and now getting some insight on the mythos of the books and the show is another great aspect…thanks for the insight!

  11. Slogging through book 4 now. I’d sure be nice if more than a handful of the characters of the first 3 books were around to appear in it. Its like starting a whole new damn series. Definitely my least favorite of the books by far.

  12. I watched the special features of the show and they explained that they liked the actress who played Ros so much they basically wrote her in to the show. I think she serves an excellent purpose of being someone with no standing in the society, but who is able to witness a lot going on.

  13. The 4th is probably the weakest, and can be difficult to get through at times. But book 5, in my opinion, more than makes up for it. I could barely put it down, and felt disappointed that the next one won’t be around for years.

  14. The split between books four and five which take place simultaneously was both necessary and unfortunate. Splitting the characters between Feast and Dragons took me a bit to understand, but it did prevent a 2000 page book

  15. Don’t think of the book missing some of those scenes. It adds to the mysteries and the fun. I guarantee you, if it was important, Martin will add a detail later about it.

    Was it really better to see the cliche rape scene? Suddenly the Hound is a tough guy with a heart of gold. Boring. The book peels away those layers, you “discover” the Hound, and you will continue to discover him going forward. The perspective from Ned, then Sansa, Tyrion, and soon more. A great character that you’ll love in the book, and I’d consider throw away in the TV show.

    I’m a book reader first, and when it finally clicked that Renly and Loras were gay, it was such a great feeling. I felt like Sherlock Holmes. The books are thick and methodical, not slow. All the better to find these hidden gems.

    Embrace the names, embrace the places, embrace his world. Kudos to you for taking the plunge, don’t ruin it by searching for negatives!

  16. With your confusion of the flayed man that is because you are confusing leaders. You are confusing Rob Starks bannerman, Roose Bolton, with the Bastard of Bolton’s, Ramsay Snow [Bolton], force. He’s not directly linked to Roose Bolton’s force/motives in A Clash of Kings.

  17. I had read through the books but it was only when I put the audio book of GoT on for some background noise while I did some work that I picked up on some parts which i must have missed in the book when i first read through which got me to thinking on some of the theories on Jon’s parents.

    There are plenty of theories out there and I can guess which one you will be looking at. I believe that GRRM has said that it will be relieved in a later volume but til then we can only speculate.

  18. “Martin can get lost sometimes, however, with the size of his universe.”. u should consider avoiding books 4 and 5 if u thought book 2 has much of that.

  19. As for the Boltons:
    If you read the first two books closely (and those two only!), you’ll see that the Boltons is one of the truly major families in the North, that in contrast With many lesser families only grudgingly have accepted the Starks as The pre-eminent Family there.

  20. The series will always be an excellent representation of the books due in total to the fact that George R.R. Martin is one of the series writers and a co-executive producer. He has the say on what gets cut or added. Unlike previous authors failed attempts at control, (a guy named Terry comes to mind) Martin is able to steer the series and help it maintain its authenticity.

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