Game of Thrones: Differences between the books and show

OK, if you're a fan of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and haven't gotten through A Storm of Swords or the most recent season of the HBO show, then stop reading because spoilers are ahead.

But in an interview with Entertainment Weekly posted this week, Northern Irish actress Michelle Fairley, who played Stark family matriarch Catelyn in the first three seasons of the fantasy drama, confirmed that producers will be omitting a major character from the books in the upcoming TV series.

Thrones fans who finished A Storm of Swords noticed that the end of the fourth TV season came and went without introducing Lady Stoneheart, who is actually the mutilated, zombie-version of Catelyn Stark. The mother of the Stark children was murdered at the Red Wedding along with her son Robb Stark, but was brought back to life through powerful magic. In the books, Lady Stoneheart goes on a vengeful quest, but Fairley said the show producers are taking the story in a different direction by excluding her.

"Yeah, the character's dead," Fairley said. "She's dead."

"You respect the writers' decision. I knew the arc, and that was it. They can't stick to the books 100 per cent. It's impossible--they only have 10 hours per season. They have got to keep it dramatic and exciting, and extraneous stuff along the way gets lost in order to maintain the quality of brilliant show."

Obviously, this decision will alter the TV storyline from the book's narrative in a few significant ways (not that we'll get into it here). But while the program has been praised by Martin's fans for largely staying faithful to the characters and vision of the epic saga, it's been fascinating to see some of the differences between the page and screen versions. Here are five examples:

1. In the infamous Red Wedding scene, viewers of the HBO show were shocked when Robb, Catelyn and the Stark bannermen were slaughtered while being "guests" of Walder Frey. In the scene, Robb's pregnant wife Talisa is brutally stabbed to death. Robb's wife in the books, however, had a different name and a different back story. She also didn't attend the wedding in Martin's version, and her fate is unknown.

2. The sexual relationship between Ser Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon was merely hinted at in the books, while the show featured several intimate scenes between the two young men.

3. Viewers of the last season of the show were shocked when Jaime Lannister forced himself sexually on his twin sister (and longtime lover) Cersei while in the presence of the body of their recently poisoned son Joffrey. In Martin's version, Cersei is hesitant about Jamie's advances initially, but then embraces the macabre tryst. 

4. In one of the show's most epic duels, Brienne of Tarth and the Hound pound the crap out of each other in an attempt to take Arya Stark (who ends up on a ship to Braavos). It was a breathtaking, tension-spiking battle that (apparently) resulted in the end of the Hound, but the run-in never happened in the books. 

5. In the books, after being captured by Gregor Clegane and his men, Arya is taken to Harrenhaal and becomes the cup bearer to Roose Bolton. However, the show producers swapped Bolton for alpha dog Tywin Lannister. It was a fantastic move, as the Arya/Tywin scenes are considered among the best moments for the TV series with their sharp dialogue and expert acting.