Game of Thrones
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) returns in the new season of Game of Thrones. (HBO)

This Easter we will be getting not only chocolate, but dragon eggs, as the new series of Game of Thrones returns to Sky Atlantic. The fantasy saga based on the behemothic novels of George RR Martin has become a global phenomenon, with last season's finale watched by over four million people in the US, and a survey by news site TorrentFreak proclaiming it as the most pirated programme of 2012.

The engrossing tale of the various houses battling for the Iron Throne of Westeros, the gargantuan cast of characters who are all contending to survive and succeed, as well as the beautiful locations from Northern Ireland to Croatia to Iceland, are the reasons the show had developed a fanatical following around the world.

Adapting the first half of the third book, A Storm of Swords, the third season will see the scale of the show increase even further as Martin's medieval universe expands. Speaking at HBO's launch of the new season, writers David Benioff and DB Weiss explained that working the colossal third book in to a 10-episode season was a massive undertaking.

"Season three is probably the biggest in terms of the number of new characters, number of new stories overall," Benioff acknowledged.

With so much new material being brought in, it's worthwhile remembering how last season ended and what's in store for the multitude of characters this year across Westeros and Essos.

King's Landing

The Lannister's with monstrous boy king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) managed to hang on to the Iron Throne after repelling a naval assault from Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). This was in no small part due to Tyrion's ingenuity in using wildfire to obliterate Stannis's fleet, but instead it is his father Tywin (Charles Dance) who has claimed the glory and arrived to take up the post of Hand of the King.

Left with a vicious scar from the battle, he fears his sister Cersei (Lena Headey) plotted to have him killed. His other enemy Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is praised for fostering an alliance between house Lannister and Tyrell, but can he be trusted?

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is still held captive in King's Landing, but is no longer betrothed to Joffrey. Whilst Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is now the unfortunate future queen to the blonde-haired brute, Sansa is still far from safe whilst her brother Robb (Richard Madden) wages war against the Lannisters.

The Riverlands

The King in the North is currently caught in a war on two fronts, battling the Lannisters in the south whilst trying to reclaim Winterfell from the Greyjoy invaders. Marrying Lady Talisa (Oona Chaplin) against his mother's wishes, he will have to contend with the fact he had already agreed to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters.

Meanwhile Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) continues to transport prisoner of war Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) back to King's Landing as part of a proposed trade for Catelyn Stark's daughters. Whilst Sansa might be still cooped up in the capital, Arya (Maisie Williams) is on her way to try and find her mother in Riverrun after escaping Tywin's clutches at Harrenhal.

The North, the Wall and Beyond

As Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) tries to reunite with her daughters, she does not know that the sons she fears dead are still alive and well. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson), rather than killed by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) as believed, managed to escape Winterfell and are now heading north towards the wall.

Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) now resides far beyond the ice fortress, having to kill leader Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) in order to be accepted by the wildlings. He will now be taken to meet Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), the so claimed 'king beyond the wall'.

The Night's Watch will not only have to contend with the wildlings, but with the terrifying army of white walkers and undead wights now marching south.

Across the Narrow Sea

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) managed to reclaim her dragons from the house of the undying and lock away the man who betrayed her, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie). She will now sail for Slaver's Bay in the hope of recruiting a slave army to help her reclaim the Iron Throne for house Targaryen.

The new season of Game of Thrones premieres at 9:00pm, Monday 1April on Sky Atlantic HD


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