George RR Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song Of Fire And Ice, kicked off with A Game Of Thrones in 1996. The novels that followed established Martin as an eminent fantasy writer on the modern literature scene. Forever Geek takes a deep dive into the differences between Martin’s books and HBO’s epic screen adaptation, centered around the first novel in the series, as well as a peek at how House Of The Dragon factors in.

Fantasy fan or not, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t come across Game Of Thrones. Blending elements of the real-life War of the Roses (1455–1487) with a touch of dragons and the icy undead… it’s not hard to see why Game Of Thrones made a successful TV adaptation. HBO ordered the first season in March 2010, around 14 years after the release of the first book. The battle for control of the Seven Kingdoms unfolded over eight seasons, airing between 2011 and 2019.

John Snow and Daenerys walk towards her dragons
Game of Thrones/HBO Entertainment/GameofThrones Official YouTube channel

Game Of Thrones cast: A look at the main players

With a huge ensemble cast, it’s hard to keep track of all the major players in the Game of Thrones franchise as the plot lines become increasingly complex and interwoven. An actor’s screen time throughout the series is, unfortunately, not the only way to measure their importance to the plot. There are characters who briefly appear, yet have a monumental impact on events and shape the way the drama unfolds.

Here are some of the main actors to keep an eye out for while watching Game Of Thrones:

Is the Game Of Thrones series true to George RR Martin’s books?

Book-to-screen adaptations are always going to be under the scrutinous eye of the respective fandoms. The question of how Game Of Thrones would be adapted to a TV series was of particular interest given George RR Martin was still – and is still – writing the books as the show started. Let’s take a look at how faithful David Benioff and DB Weiss were when adapting the series for HBO.

***WARNING*** Spoilers ahead

Game Of Thrones books vs TV show

Some creative choices were made by the showrunners when devising the unfurling drama in Westeros. Tonally, the series is faithful to George RR Martin’s novels. Given that Martin was heavily involved in the early seasons – writing and editing scripts, consulting on casting decisions, visiting set – this comes as no surprise.

But not all of the details and plots from Martin’s books could make it to the screen, given the breadth of his work. There are between six and ten episodes in each season, not enough time to fully chart the drama of Martin’s series.

While predominantly faithful, many of the high fantasy elements in the books don’t make it to the screen. Instead, the adaptation takes on a more serious and political tone, positioning itself as a period piece at times.

Major plot points that feature in the books but not the series include:

The show’s Night King is not in the books: While George RR Martin includes The Night’s King in his novel, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who married a white walker, this is not the Night King that we meet in the series. The terrifying antagonist with powers to resurrect the dead was created for the series does not appear in Martin’s book.

Lady Stoneheart: Catelyn Stark is resurrected by the Brotherhood Without Banners after the Red Wedding as a stony corpse, with a murderous streak.

All the Stark children are Skinchangers: This is a quality only Bran displays in the show. All of the Stark children in Martin’s book have this ability, either actually shapeshifting into their direwolves or dreaming of doing so.

Sansa never marries Ramsay Bolton: In the books, Sansa’s childhood friend, Jeyne, marries Ramsay while pretending to be Arya.

How are the characters different in the TV show?

One of the main differences is the ages of all the characters, particularly the Stark children and Daenerys Targaryen. Rob Stark (Richard Madden) and Jon Snow are 14 years old when A Song Of Fire And Ice begins but aged up two-three years in the show. All of the younger siblings are also older by around two-three years. Daenerys, who we are introduced to as the betrothed of Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), is 17 in the series, but 13 years old in the books. Safe to say this was an easy choice to make Daenerys older in the HBO adaptation.

Missandei, Daenerys’ friend and handmaid is just ten years old when we meet her in the books but is much older in the series. Having her be older was important for developing her romance with Grey Worm.

We also see redemption arcs for characters that do not happen in the books and vice versa in the series. One such example is Jaime Lannister, who undergoes true redemption by distancing himself from Cersei. This holds true throughout the books published thus far, although the conclusion has yet to be determined by George RR Martin. In the HBO series, Jaime returns to Cersei in spite of the redemption arc he undergoes over the course of the show.

George RR Martin isn’t quite done with Game of Thrones yet

Yes, George RR Martin is still in the process of completing his A Song Of Fire And Ice saga, with two confirmed novels on their way. He’s not quite finished telling the story yet, although

Fans are patiently awaiting the next installment, The Winds Of Winter, which has no release date set as of yet. The last book, A Dance With Dragons, released July 2011.

After The Winds Of Winter, Martin will round out his saga with A Dream of Spring, which hopefully draws the series to a conclusion after what will nearly be 30 years in the works.

The Television Academy Of Arts And Sciences' Presents An Evening With "Games Of Thrones"
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Is House Of The Dragon set before Game Of Thrones?

House Of The Dragon is a prequel to Game Of Thrones, taking audiences back to a time when the Targaryens and dragons ruled over the Seven Kingdoms.

When we are introduced to the characters in the first book and series, we learn of the previous Mad King who was overthrown and replaced with Robert Baratheon. But the Targaryens, Daenerys and her brother Viserys, are intent on claiming back their throne. This is what the power struggle hinges on.

House Of The Dragon introduces us to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Daenerys’ sixth great-grandmother, as she undergoes her own struggle for the throne.

Where to stream all Game Of Thrones seasons and House Of The Dragon

If you’re looking to dive into George RR Martin’s fantasy world for the first time, you can stream all episodes of Game Of Thrones and House Of The Dragon on Max (formally known as HBO Max) or with the Max add-on via Hulu.

Both of the services are available in the US.

Max is available for the following prices: With ads: $9.99 per month ($99.99 per year), Ad-free: $15.99 per month ($149.99 annually).

A Hulu/Max subscription: A base Hulu plan costs $7.99 per month. To add Max as an add-on, you will be charged an additional $15.99 per month, meaning the total costs just under $25 per month. This gains you access to Hulu’s entire library as well as HBO and Max originals.

For UK fans, both series are available on NowTV and Sky: Entertainment Pass: £9.99 per month – gives access to 300 TV series boxsets.

The final season of Game of Thrones had an average US audience of 11.99 million people; however, it’s highly likely that more people illegally streamed the series than who legally watched via HBO.

Cersi smiles looking over Kings Landing bay
Game of Thrones/HBO Entertainment/GameofThrones Official YouTube channel

Where was Game of Thrones filmed?

Game of Thrones was filmed across Europe with major production schedules taking place in Northern Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Scotland, Spain, Morocco, and Malta.

Northern Ireland was the main production location for Game of Thrones, utilizing Castle Ward for Winterfell and a Belfast film studio for the vast majority of its internal scenes, whilst other scenes saw the cast travel to Downhill Beach, Murlough Bay, and Fair Head.

King’s Landing was amongst the most varied locations to film for; the exterior being filmed in Croatia’s Old Town Dubrovnik and Trsteno, interior scenes in the Belfast film studio, Malta’s Mdina and Spain’s Italica also formed some of the more unique shots such as the Dragonpit.

Locations for North of the Wall were filmed primarily in beautiful Iceland, with production centering around Svínafellsjökull glacier, Vatnajokull glacier and Lake Myvatn.

Spain was also home for Dragonstone and Essos, although the latter also filmed scenes in Morocco’s Ait Benhaddou and Croatia’s Sibenek.

Bloodmoon prequel series was sadly a non-starter

In 2018, HBO revealed that the platform had commissioned a pilot episode for a prequel series called Bloodmoon, which would be set around 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones.

According to the early reports, the series was going to explore the creation of the Houses of Westeros, the first appearance of the White Walkers, and the Andal invasion from Essos.

Rumored to star in the show was Naomi Watts, Sheila Atim, Jamie Campbell Bower, Alex Sharp, and Miranda Richardson and in September 2019, it was reported that the pilot was in post-production.

However, just one month later in October 2019, HBO confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the show had been axed:

“After careful consideration, we have decided not to move forward to series with the untitled Game of Thrones prequel. We thank Jane Goldman, S.J. Clarkson, and the talented cast and crew for all of their hard work and dedication.”

John Snow and Daenerys ride their horses through the troops
Game of Thrones/HBO Entertainment/GameofThrones Official YouTube channel

Animated spin-off series takes fans away from Westeros

The good news is that the animated Game of Thrones spin-off title has been given the greenlight; in fact, there are two animated shows in the works for the iconic franchise!

Targeted as adult animated series, one of these shows will be set in Yi Ti, a nation in Essos loosely based on Imperial China under the working title ‘The Golden Empire’.

Details on the plot, voice cast and targeted release date for both shows remain TBA, but there is plenty more exciting Game of Thrones content to look forward to over the next few years.

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