While "Game of Thrones" is about as close to a perfect adaptation as it gets, there are some aspects of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros that remain in the books. Changes between George R.R. Martin's source material and the television series are, like winter, destined to come. Your mileage may vary on whether these differences are a good thing, but the differences exist, like them or not.
As was the case in season one, season two of "Thrones" features entirely new scenes to the "Song of Ice and Fire" saga, while other fan-favorite characters from "A Clash of Kings" — the novel that the show's second season is based upon — have been notably modified or, in some extreme cases, completely cut from the proceedings. Here's a quick rundown of some of the changes you can expect between the books and the show this coming season, but be warned: There are spoilers ahead. No way around them!
More Robb Stark
Despite his status as one of the clashing kings in Westeros, Robb Stark remains largely off the page in the second novel of Martin's series. Not so on "Game of Thrones." Richard Madden, the actor who brings Robb to life, is very much present this season, with his off-page exploits given new live-action life on HBO. It's a divisive choice; so much of Robb's impact hinges on only hearing about him and not actually seeing his legendary acts firsthand. On the other hand, you can't expect Madden to sit out virtually an entire season and remain on retainer for future years. Besides, getting the chance to see what Robb is up to while he's away from the book's narrative is part of the fun of an adaptation, right?
More Jaime Lannister
Likewise, the Kingslayer is a figure largely absent from "A Clash of Kings," thanks to his captivity at the hands of the Starks. But just as Madden can't be put on ice, neither can Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; he must remain on fire! But where Robb's off-page actions are the focus of his new onscreen story, Jaime's additional screen time might actually come from a future book. Fans of the novels know that portions of Jaime's last appearance in "Clash" were already used in the "Game of Thrones" season-one finale, and there are whispers that the character will actually dabble in "Storm of Swords" territory before the show's second year draws to a close.
We Want Our Reeds, We Want Our Reek
On the flip side, some of the characters heavily present in "Clash" are potentially sitting out of season two entirely. Recent rumors indicate that certain key roles — including Meera and Jojen Reed, critical to Bran's story in the books, and nasty sidekick Reek, who has a very interesting place in Theon's world — have not been cast for the upcoming season. Even if the rumors prove true, show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have said previously that certain aspects of the books might get shifted around from season to season — hence bits of Jaime's book-three story moving into season two, or the Reeds moving from book two into season three. As long as there's a future for these characters, we'll take them whenever we can.
What's in a Name?
Asha Greyjoy is dead. Long live Yara! Theon's older sister is not one of the aforementioned casualties of adapting book two for television, but her name is. It's been reported that the character, played by Gemma Whelan, lost her original name due to its similarity to Osha, the wildling girl played by "Harry Potter" veteran Natalia Tena. It's a minor difference in the grand scheme of things, but still the kind of change that could rub "Ice and Fire" purists the wrong way. For me, as long as Yara stays true to the essence of Asha — witty, gritty and incredibly badass — I won't sweat the change too much.
All right, let's close with a personal gripe/nerd-out, shall we? Here we go: "Clash" begins with a prologue from the perspective of Maester Cressen, a servant of would-be king Stannis Baratheon's at his home on Dragonstone. It's an excellent introduction to Stannis and his surrounding cast, and it also sets the stakes extremely high for Baratheon's future actions. The Cressen prologue is easily one of my favorite chapters in the entire "Ice and Fire" series, but it's not quite as prominent in the upcoming "Thrones" season premiere. Of course, some things are lost in translation by necessity, and where the introduction to Dragonstone falls a bit short for me, the show more than makes up for it with plenty of fantastic scenes in King's Landing and elsewhere. I'm just hoping that, going forward, the Dragonstone story line remains a prominent, powerful one.
Tell us what you think about the potential changes in the comments section, or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!