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he beginning of April may be just a couple of weeks intospring, but fans of HBO's hit"Game of Thrones" may be thinkingthat winter is coming."Winter is coming" are thewords often spoken by the Starks,one of the noble families vying forpower in the titular game.Premiering on Sunday, April 1, thesecond season of the extremelypopular fantasy epic, based onauthor George R. R. Martin'sbestselling "A Song of Ice and Fire"book series, promises to delivermore of the breathtaking action,forbidden relationships andunexpected plot twists that madethe premiere season a runawaysuccess.The television show takes itsname from the title of the first bookin the series. The story followsseveral noble families as they jockeyfor position and power in a high-stakes game where, as Queen CerseiBaratheon cleverly observed in thefirst season, "You either live, or youdie." And that wasn't just hyperboleon her part. This game of thrones isa deadly one, and viewers wereshocked by the death of a majorcharacter only part way through thefirst season, making it obvious inone shocking moment that in thisfairy tale, the good guys do notalways win.Season 2, which was announcedafter only two episodes of the firstseason had aired, expands thealready epic scope of the firstseason. Civil war has erupted in thefictional realm of Westerosfollowing the death of King RobertBaratheon, and five claimants to theIron Throne have taken up arms.Several new actors are joining thecast as the scope of the storyexpands, including Stephen Dillane,who plays the late king's self-righteous and ruthless brotherStannis, and Carice van Houten, whoplays a mysterious sorceress whoholds him in her thrall.HBO is certainly no stranger tosweeping historical sagas. "Rome,"which aired from 2005 to 2007 onthe network, featured periodweapons, armor and battles. Butwhereas that show used the Romanempire as its source material,"Game of Thrones" is a differentbeast all together, weaving fantasyelements into its medieval plot lines,a tactic that is often risky withtelevision audiences. With "Game ofThrones," though, it seems to havepaid off: the series was nominatedfor 13 Emmys and snagged twowins, including a Best SupportingActor in a Drama Series trophy forPeter Dinklage."Hopefully, it will give that genrea little bit more respect," saidDinklage backstage at the awardsshow after snagging the win. Theactor plays Tyrion Lannister, theyoungest son of one of the mostpowerful lords in the realm, whouses sarcasm and wit as hisweapons in a society that looksdown on him and his dwarfism.The actor, who's also had appear-ances on the hit shows "30 Rock"and "Nip/Tuck," certainly wasn'tlacking in source material for hisrole as Tyrion. "A Song of Ice andFire," which to date has sold morethan 15 million copies worldwide,now spans five novels and threeprequel novellas, with a further twonovels planned in this epic fantasysaga. The story, which involves ahuge number of intricate plot linesall swirling around the brewing civilwar in the kingdom, is known for itsbrutal, unflattering look at life in anage when political power andinfluence lies in the hands of thefew. It has also proven to be onethat shatters media barriers.Although it may seem strange inhindsight with this runaway success,the announcement that HBO wouldbe bringing "Game of Thrones" tothe screen was met with angst bysome of Martin's most loyal readers.The fifth and most recent book, "ADance With Dragons," took a notori-ously long six years to write, andmany fans were worried that thefinal volumes would take evenlonger to write if the author dividedhis time with another major project.Their worries appear to havebeen lifted. Martin finished thenovel and it was released on July12, 2011, only a few months afterthe cable series began. The bookwent on to debut at the top spot onthe "New York Times" best-sellerlist, and it soon shot to the top ofthe "Publishers Weekly" and "USAToday" best-seller lists as well.Martin is now working on the sixthbook, tentatively titled "The Windsof Winter," while also spending timein his roles as co-executive producerand writer for the show.In addition to the televisionshow, the series has also beenadapted into a card game, a boardgame and a tabletop role-playinggame. A video game, titled "Gameof Thrones: Genesis," was releasedlate last year, and two other videogames are currently beingdeveloped. On top of all this areofficially licensed calendars,miniatures and even full-scalereplica swords. A cookbook, inspiredby the medieval fare eaten by thecharacters, was announced in July2011 and is expected later this year.HBO has also introduced its ownline of licensed merchandise. Theonline HBO store is filled withgoodies for fans of the show,including T-shirts, beer steins, andheraldry meant to be mountedproudly on the die-hard fan's wall.The first season was also releasedon DVD and Blu-ray on March 6.
Spring is coming
'Game' on: Stark clan returns to fight for the throne in HBO series
Maisie Williams stars in "Game of Thrones"
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