Stannis is Better in the Books
Disclaimer: I do not support the actions of Show Stannis Baratheon or the sacrificing of children to win battles.
That said this article is a bit of a critique on the way Stannis Baratheon’s character has been changed from the books to the show. There is also a small bit of fan theory as to where Stannis’s story is going in the books. So without further ado and a SPOILER WARNING (for Season 5, Episode 9) let me get down to brass tax.
Book Stannis is better than Renly
In the show Renly Baratheon is made out to be a very likable character. In the books, while he is charismatic, he is arrogant and foolish. He does not make any true alliance with Robb Stark. He says Robb must swear fealty to him but can call himself the King in the North if he likes. When Stannis and Renly meet to discuss terms it is Stannis who offers to name Renly as his heir. While Renly only jokingly jabs at Stannis to lighten up. When Stannis kills Renly it is justified by the fact that Renly had no claim to the Iron Throne ahead of him and he had usurped his rightful banner men.
Book Stannis isn’t a Fanatic
In the show Stannis Baratheon is shown sacrificing those who will not convert to his religion. One of the biggest examples of this is his brother-in-law Alester Florent. The show has Stannis state that he burned Florent because he wouldn’t throw down his idols. This is a pretty huge departure from the books to make Stannis look more evil than he is written. In the books he burns Florent because he tries to wed Shireen to a Lannister in order to make peace with them behind Stannis’s back. Stannis burns a traitor to his cause in the books not a person of differing religious views. The only fanatical devotion he has is to the law, as has been illustrated with Davos’s finger story. This is made more apparent by the fact that on Dragonstone there are two primary groups that serve Stannis. Queen’s Men are totally devoted to the Lord of Light, like their Queen. King’s Men are filled with soldiers like Davos, fighting out of loyalty and belief in their King.
Book Stannis is devoted to fighting White Walkers
After defeating the Wildlings, Stannis, not Jon Snow is the first to propose letting the Wildlings live south of the wall. In the books he even decides where they should settle. Afterwards he has his own men man some of the abandoned castles on the wall to better prepare for the fight against the undead army. He also has Dragonstone mined for Dragon Glass. When Stannis moves to attack Winterfell he leaves Shireen at the Wall. That’s where she still resides in the books at the moment. Her fate may turn out the same as in the show but if it does it seems highly unlikely that Stannis will be involved. He very recently named her his heir and had his men swear to fight to make her Queen if he should die in the battle for Winterfell. So if he kills her, he essentially ends the line of Baratheon, unless one of Robert Baratheon’s bastards is elevated. This could happen as Eldric Storm and Gendry would both have a claim to Storm’s End.
Book Stannis is probably being played
The Lady Melisandre has convinced Stannis that he is the 2nd coming of Azor Ahai, a legendary hero who vanquished the forces of darkness with a flaming sword called Lightbringer. This plot has been totally cut from the show. In the books there are numerous moments when characters remark on the fact that Stannis’s magic sword, Lightbringer, gives off light but not heat. This presumably means it is not genuine, as the true Lightbringer did give off heat. Furthermore the Lady Melisandre mentions that the Prince of Dragonstone will save Westeros from the White Walkers. Stannis was simply given the castle by his brother and he was not technically a Prince. The only person that could truly be is Daenerys. She was born on Dragonstone during a great storm while Stannis was trying to take the island. If anyone is Azor Ahai it fits that it would be her. So either the Lady Melisandre knows this and is misleading Stannis to his doom or her interpretation of the prophecy is wrong. It is mentioned in the books that Azor Ahai temprered his blade with his wife’s blood, as he needed to sacrifice someone he loved to power the sword. It seems possible that this could be Shireen’s fate in the books.
Overall I don’t feel that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff did Stannis’s character justice in the show but that may be because they knew that he would end up being a primary villain as time went on and as a result made him more villainous throughout. Overall in the show, Stannis probably just became the worst person in Westeros as the Bolton’s have at least stuck to not killing each other…yet.