So I just finished the third season of Game of Thrones, and I probably don't have the patience to wait for the 4th and 5th and 6th (insert mathematical notation for sum of series) seasons to tell me what happens next.

I would like to start reading the books where the show left off, but I really don't want to go back and re-read the first two books when I already know essentially everything that happens in them.

Could someone give me some indicator of where the show left off? Which chapter, maybe, in the third book?

I would also appreciate, if possible, a basic dress down of the necessary background information from the books that I would need to know in order to start reading without having read the first couple books-- I mean, there are subplots and characters left out in the TV show-- what are the most important ones I would need to know in order to make this transition? I know I'm asking for what might be a fairly elaborate answer here, hoping I can find a major fan who's feeling sympathetic and generous.

  • 2
    This is certainly a real question, it has been asked many times, too, so if anything, it is a duplicate, not a "not a real question".
    – TLP
    Aug 21, 2014 at 12:19
  • Obviously, but the man's keepin' me down. 6000 views, lol. Aug 21, 2014 at 12:41
  • You have 3 votes to reopen now, so maybe things are about to change.
    – TLP
    Aug 21, 2014 at 12:49

3 Answers 3


I too strongly agree with the prior answers. However I've decided (and this might prove to be unpopular) to answer the OP's question to the best of my ability. If the OP or any other viewer wishes to ruin their experience by skipping the first few books, then that's up to them. I will however spoilerify the whole thing to protect the innocent. There are way too many differences to list, and too many minor characters, but I shall endeavor to list the most important ones. If I miss any, tough luck. Physical differences (Daario's blue beard for instance) I will not list.







Last chance to leave before you lose your ASOIAF virginity in the worst way possible. Even with this ham fisted guide, you will lose many of the nuances and subtleties of the books. You will also lose much of the history of Westeros before the events of the story.







Things you need to know if you wish to skip book material leading up to the end of Season 3:

Q. Where do I start reading?

A. There is no clear cut place you can start, but Book 3 "A Storm of
Swords" Chapter 39 "Tyrion" (page number varies by edition) is as good
as any. There will be some overlap with the TV series, but that's


Q. What character changes do I need to know to start reading?

A. Here's a quick guide:

Ros: Does not exist in the books and is an amalgamation of several prostitute characters, chiefly Alayaya.

Yara Greyjoy: Is called Asha Greyjoy in the books.

Aeron Greyjoy: Book only character. Theon's uncle. A once playboy, he later discovers religion and becomes the head priest of the Drowned God faith. He is called Damphair by his followers.

Ser Barristan the Bold: Is disguised as an old squire called Arstan who squires for Strong Belwas. He has not yet revealed his identity to Dany.

Strong Belwas: Book only character. A eunuch gladiatorial warrior who joins Dany along with Ser Barristan.

Loras Tyrell: Is not the only Tyrell son. He is the youngest son after Wylas Tyrell (a lame legged scholar) and Garlan Tyrell (a skilled knight who is better at swordsplay than Loras).

Pyp: TV Pyp is a combination of book Pyp (mischievous prankster ranger) and Dareon (singer who was sent to the Wall because he refused the sexual advances of a lord).

Thoros of Myr: TV Thoros is a combination of book Thoros (a priest of the Red God who lost his way and has now regained his faith) and Tom o'Sevens (a fun loving bard).

Talisa: There is no Talisa in the books. Her counterpart is Jeyne Westerling. See below for more on her story.

Shae: Book Shae is not nearly as well explored. In the books Shae comes off as mischievous (without the mean streak of TV Shae), spoiled, and an obvious gold digger. She never called herself Shae the Funny Whore.

Dagmar Cleftjaw: While he was still an underling of Theon, he never joined him in Winterfell. The role taken by TV Cleftjaw in Winterfell was done by Reek in the books.

Donal Noye: The Night's Watch smith and a mentor of sorts to Jon Snow.

Kevan Lannister: Tywin's brother and right hand man, has a more prominent role in the books.

Edric Storm: A young boy who is King Robert's most well known bastard son since his mother is a noble lady.

Vargo Hoat: Leader of the mercenary company The Brave Companions who currently operate in the Riverlands. He hath a very pronounthed lithp.

Ser Dontos Hollard: Appears briefly in the TV show, but has a much more expanded role in the books. After he is demoted to jester, he starts secretly helping Sansa after she saved his life. He is currently planning Sansa's escape.

Qyburn: He is still a disgraced former Maester, but in the books he is part of The Brave Companions mercenary group.


Q. What story changes do I need to know to start reading?

Here's a quick breakdown by story line:

The Starks at Winterfell:

* The Stark children are much younger. At the beginning of the story Robb and Jon are 14, Sansa is 11, Arya is 9, Bran is 6, Rickon is 3. However GRRM has expressed that if he had to do it all over again he would age up the children.

* There are plenty of rumors going around about the identity of Jon's mother. Chief among them is that the mother is Lady Ashara Dayne, sister of Ser Arthur Dayne a knight of the Kingsguard that Ned defeated in combat with the help of his friend Howland Reed during the rebellion. Ashara committed suicide soon after.

The Starks in King's Landing:

* A recurring flashback that Ned has is the famous Tower of Joy scene. Back during the final days of the rebellion, Ned Stark and six companions arrive at the Tower of Joy where Lyanna Stark is being held. They are met by three Kingsguard knights. Details after that are blurry. We know that all three Kingsguard were killed, but not before grievously wounding Ned and killing all his companions except for Howland Reed. Lyanna dies as well in a "bed of red" extracting a mysterious "promise" from Ned before dying.

The War with Robb Stark:

* Tyrion didn't sleep through the Battle of the Greenfork, and he played an active combat role.

* Tywin never takes command of Harrenhall, and thus he never met Arya. Harrenhall is commanded by Gregor Clegane, then afterwards by his underling Ser Amory Lorch who is aided by the mercenary company The Brave Companions.

* Arya uses her final kill to free the Stark affiliated prisoners. That action along with The Brave Companions betraying the Lannisters, and the timely arrival of Roose Bolton changes the ownership of the castle to Roose Bolton. Jaqen then leaves. Arya continues to hide her identity and serves as Bolton's page. When Bolton decides to leave and join the war effort, he leaves The Brave Companions in charge, and abandons Arya. It is then that Arya stages her escape with Gendry and Hotpie, and kills the guards herself.

* In the books there is no Locke. His role is mostly taken up by Vargo Hoat who at the time was serving Roose Bolton.

* Robb attacks and defeats House Westerling, a vassal of House Lannister. Robb is heavily wounded and is treated by Jeyne Westerling. When he receives the (false) news of the death of Bran and Rickon he is devastated and seeks comfort with Jeyene. To restore her honor (and because he fell in love with her) Robb marries Jeyne, and House Westerling swears fealty to Robb Stark. Jeyne never got pregnant with Robb's child (as far as we know), and she (and her family) were not in the Twins when the Red Wedding occurred. She is still alive with her family.

The War with Renly Baratheon:

* House Florent (King Stannis's in-laws) side with Renly, and only change sides to Stannis when Renly is killed by the Shadow Baby.

The War with Stannis Baratheon:

* Ser Davos doesn't start as the Hand of the King. He gets that promotion after he survives the battle of the Black Water.

* The seat of House Baratheon, Storm's End, continues to stay loyal to Renly even after his death. And refuses to release either the castle or Edric Storm to Stannis. Melisandre releases a second Shadow Baby to kill the castellan. Storm's End then falls to Stannis, and Edric is captured. It is he (not Gendry) that Mel plans to sacrifice.

Lannisters and Company in King's Landing:

* While Lord Varys does tell the story of the sorcerer who cut him to Tyrion, he never captures him.

* Sansa is not promised to Loras Tyrell, but to his eldest brother Wylas Tyrell.

* Cersie is not engaged to Loras Tyrell either, but her father does plan to marry her off to Oberyn Martell.

* Tyrion's face wounds are much more severe, and he loses a large part of his nose.

* Bronn, for the most part, abandons Tyrion after he gets a knighthood for his role in the Battle of Blackwater. Tyrion's mountain clansmen are also evicted from King's Landing after the battle.

* Sansa is much less friendly to Tyrion. During their wedding she refused to kneel so that Tyrion could put his cloak on her.

The Greyjoys:

* When Theon captures Winterfell he releases a prisoner named Reek, who slowly becomes his right hand man (taking up the role of TV Cleftjaw).

* Ser Rodrik Cassel is not captured by Theon. He raises a small army to retake Winterfell. As he lay siege to Winterfell, Reek promises Theon that he could bring help if he would release him. Theon does. Just as Ser Rodrik is about to attack, a force of Bolton men arrive to join him. But the leader of the Bolton war party betrays Rodrik and kills him and the rest of his men. The leader turns out to be Reek who reveals himself to be Ramsay Snow. Ramsay had taken the identiy of his servant Reek to avoid capture for his many crimes. Ramsay then betrays Theon, and kills his men. Winterfell is then torched, and it's occupants killed.

Bran and the Reeds:

* Jojen and Meera Reed arrive in Winterfell much earlier. They are sent by their father Howland Reed to serve Winterfell.

* Bran and Rickon part way much earlier. They are split up as soon as they emerge from the sack of Winterfell.

* The Reeds tell a story to Bran called the Knight of the Laughing Tree that hints (among other things) that Ned Stark shared a mutual attraction with Lady Asahra Dayne (a long time before he married Catelyn).

Arya and the Brotherhood Without Banners:

* Melisandere never visited the Brotherhood, and as such never met Arya and Gendry was never given up to her.

* Gendry "friend zoning" Arya never happens. In fact, we never get explicit confirmation that there's any attraction between the two.

* Among the Brotherhood is a former Stark guard who has converted to the Red God whom Arya briefly bonds with.

* Also among the brotherhood is Lord Dondarrion's squire Edric Dayne (also called Ned). Edric claims that Jon Snow's mother is a maid name Wylla who was also his milk nurse.

The Night's Watch:

* Sam is never abandoned by Gren and Dolorous Edd, and he never witnesses the invading forces of the White Walkers the way it happens in the TV show. He is, however, in camp at the Fist of the First Men when the White Walkers and their Wights attack.

* It is during the aftermath of that battle that Sam encounters and kills a White Walker with the obsidian blade. This is witnessed by many of his brothers and they start calling him Sam the Slayer.

* While Mormont is dying, he requests that Sam contact his son Jorah and ask him to join the Black.

* Orell dies when Jon ambushes Ygritte's group. His mind is trapped inside his eagle that attacks Jon much earlier than in the TV show.

* Ghost accompanies Jon when he is with the Wildlings.

* Tormund Giantsbane doesn't accompany Jon on his climb over the Wall. Instead the raiding party is lead by Styr the Magnar of Thenn.

Daenerys in Essos:

* At the beginning of the story, Dany is 13.

* Dany's first love making with Drogo is consensual and much more tender.

* Doreah doesn't betray Dany, but instead dies of heat exhaustion after Dany is abandoned by the bulk of her Khalassar.

* Dany's other handmaidens Irri and Jhiqui are still alive and gossiping.

* Dany's bloodriders are also still alive and continue to guard the Khaleesi.

* In Qarth, Xaro doesn't betray Dany to the Warlocks (though he doesn't help her either). Dany goes to the Warlock on her own (they never kidnapped her dragons). After she destroys the House of the Undying, the Qartheen decide to expel her from the city. It is then that Arstan (the disguised Ser Barristan) and Strong Belwas arrive with a gift of ships for Magister Illyrio. The ships are supposed to take her back to Tyrosh, but she redirects them to Slaver's Bay.

* Yunkai is never sacked in the books. They surrender their slaves as soon as they realize that the mercenary companies they hired had gone over to Dany.

  • 4
    Holy @$%@ dude, not in my wildest dreams did I expect an answer that good. I'm so sorry you're not going to get the 22 votes that the other guy did, despite that you answered the question perfectly and he didn't at all. Jun 19, 2013 at 23:17
  • 4
    The other guys deserves the 22 votes since his answer is the best one. Let's just say I'm feeling charitable today with way too much free time. Jun 19, 2013 at 23:22
  • 3
    @Aerovistae - Well I really do hope you (and others) never ever look at the text behind the spoiler tags. The books really are wonderful, and should be experienced from the start. Jun 19, 2013 at 23:44
  • 1
    +1 But you left out Qyburn and his relation to the Brave Companions. He is a minor character but of equal importance to Vargo Hoat, in my opinion.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 20, 2013 at 1:35
  • 1
    Also, while The Mountain That Rides is a minor character as well, he is way more prominent in the books, a truly horrible brute. Every scene with him (or at least mentioning him in some way) is scary in the books; in the TV show he has exactly TWO scary scenes (and each by a different actor). His brother, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, is also slightly downplayed in the TV show vs his role in the books.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 20, 2013 at 1:38

The best advice is to read all the books. Trust me, you don't know half of everything that has happened in the books you missed. You probably don't even know the most common theory online about who Jon Snow's mother is. You don't know that... (Spoiler ASOS/TV-show season 3)

...the person who ordered Jaime's hand cut off was really Vargo Hoat, a sellsword who had been brought to Westeros by Jaime's father Tywin, but had changed sides.

There are so many subtle hints and nuances that have been sheared off in the TV-show. You will not be wasting your time reading the books, I myself have re-read them many, many times and enjoyed it greatly. The first two books are also quite fast paced and easy to read, IMO, and with ASOS also the books that are most worth reading, having the highest quality.

The TV-show leaves off around the middle of A Storm of Swords, after the so-called Red Wedding, but I am not sure how feasible it is to pick up the book from there.

When you are hooked on the books, you may then also choose to read the so called Dunk & Egg series, which is basically three short stories based on Westeros, where Dunk and Egg are actually ...

...Aegon V Targaryen and his bodyguard Ser Duncan.

So, the short answer is: Read all the books. You won't regret it. Failing that, you could possibly pick up the trail in the middle of ASOS.

  • agree so much with TLP, you have to read the books for the full story. The bit in the spoiler tags above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to differences between the written works and the TV show. Just off the top of my head, there's also Robb's marriage, the Battle of the Green Fork and Tyrion's part in it, Arya's time at Harrenhall... I could go on, but don't want to spoil it for you. Jun 19, 2013 at 20:35
  • To the anonymous user editing my answer: It is not a spoiler, since you learn from the start that Egg is a Targaryen, and that Dunk is Ser Duncan the Tall. The only way this makes sense to you is if you've read ASOIAF and recognize those names. I will let the spoiler remain, although it is misleading, IMO.
    – TLP
    Aug 20, 2014 at 13:04

I couldn't agree more with TLP's answer, but if you ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY feel the need to do this in such a backwards manner, there is always A Wiki of Ice and Fire. You could read the summaries of the books there, read about the characters and the situations that you have missed, and then start on A Storm of Swords.

But you really, truly should not do this. You should read ALL the books instead.

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