game of thrones

George R.R. Martin, author of the epic A Song of Ice and Fire books that Game of Thrones is based on, clearly styled himself on J.R.R. Tolkien – the clue’s in the name. He also has a great fascination for English political history, folklore and the supernatural. Could it be these elements that fuel the success of the TV series that has taken the UK by storm? In an era of vampires versus werewolves, it’s certainly refreshing to come across a fantasy series that centres on warring (human) families, tense politics, and characters that are both flawed and multi-faceted. Ultimately, it’s a battle of wits, strength and loyalty between the noble houses of the dragon, lion, dire wolf and stag – with the ‘Iron Throne’ as the prize.

Whilst the series of books – now numbering five, with two more on the way – have a cult following, when HBO and Sky Atlantic picked up the saga it introduced a whole new audience to a realm that is usually ‘geek’ dominion. Admittedly, the high production values, attractive cast and sexed-up nature of the show offers mass appeal, yet there is much more to Game of Thrones that has people hooked. “We all went into this very terrified of the fan base,” admits Alan Taylor, a director of the show. “The challenge with any of this fantasy work is achieving the epic and also making it connect emotionally.”

With season one out on DVD and Blu-ray on 6 March and season two airing in the UK on 2 April, what can fans, old and new alike, expect next? “We expanded the worlds that you see in the first season,” continues Taylor, “the stories are diverging and each one starts taking on more stature.” Last season’s tag line was ‘Winter is Coming’; this season it’s ‘War is Coming,’ which should give you some indication of tone. “Season two is more about the lead up to war,” explains David Benioff, co-creator and co-producer, “and what happens when there’s a power vacuum that needs to be filled and more than one person thinks that they’re the one to fill it.”

With some shocking lead character deaths already under its belt, Game of Thrones fills the ranks of season 2 with a host of new faces and some great female roles. These ladies include a new royal love interest (played by Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter), a sorceress, a 6’3” knight and a flame-haired wilding. With more action happening in the north, beyond The Wall – shot mainly in Iceland – we delve deeper into Wilding territory, of which Ygritte is a part. “She’s level headed and very, very strong, she has a lot of fun teasing Jon Snow – she gets entertained by him,” says Rose Leslie, who comes to the role fresh from Downton Abbey.

As well as new cast members, familiar faces get a lot more screen time. “I really enjoyed getting to meet the cast who play my family – the girl who plays my sister is amazing; a really cool girl,” beams Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy. “When I got the part I knew it was one of the main roles, but then I realised it was one of the background roles in the first series – and so I was itching to get into it in the second series!” And judging by the critical reception and viewing figures, he won’t be alone in itching to get into season 2, and perhaps a few of R.R. Martin’s books, this coming year.