Fantasy series have a very passionate fanbase, so when many friends told me that Game of Thrones was an amazing show I believed them, but until recently I didn’t get a chance to check it out for myself. As it turns out my timing was impeccable because the highly anticipated second season starts on Sunday.

For those who have not seen or heard anything about the series I will just say that it is based on George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy Song of Ice and Fire book series. The television show is quite faithful to the source material and those who are sticklers for such adaptation will be pleased.

I should mention that this is an HBO show so it follows what I like to call the HBO pie. Imagine, if you will, a pie chart with 3 categories: swearing, violence, and nudity. Every HBO show has these 3 elements in varying degrees. Sopranos was high on swearing, a  little nudity here and there, and consistent violence. True Blood has a very nice equal third mix going on, and Game of Thrones, much like Rome, has its pie chart showing mostly violence and nudity. This show is not designed for children. There are a lot of throat wounds (the corn syrup and red food colouring budget must be enormous) and the sex scenes are quite graphic, even in today’s age of free internet pornography.

That isn’t to say that the show isn’t good; it is, but if someone was thinking that this was a television show more along the lines of a chaste Tolkien Middle Earth they would be mistaken.

Sean Bean leads a magnificent cast. The acting is superb and every character is complex, fascinating, and, except for a paltry few, completely reprehensible. The fantasy land is full of jerks. Wonderful, lovable jerks. But jerks nonetheless. Peter Dinkledge steals every scene he is in as the conniving Tyrion and rightly deserved his Emmy award.

One downside of the genre is the overwhelming number of characters with fantasy type names. I was happy to see a family tree included with the box set as the characters are at times difficult to follow. I would assume that were I a fan of the books I would have had an easier time but I, like many viewers, were approaching the cast for the first time.

I don’t think that I am speaking out of turn when I say that the show’s opening is one of the strongest elements. It is a fascinating moving map that illustrates the complexities and machinations of the factions throughout the season. One of the bonus features explains how it was created and it is one of the more compelling extras in the set.

The weakest aspect of the series is the music. Strange for a sweeping fantasy epic, but it just isn’t very good. It does what it is supposed to but the music for the video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was far superior and is set in the same genre. It is the one aspect of the series that isn’t above average and it stuck in my mind as weakening the overall feel of the season. I hope that it improves with season 2.

There is a nice mix of extras in the box set but some of the mini-documentaries reuse the same footage. This is simply lazy and really inexcusable in an age where bonus features are one of the carrots the industry is trying to use to fight piracy.

The series was thoroughly entertaining. I watched the entire season in one sitting and was not bored for a second. Sweeping story arcs, brilliant acting, amazing costuming all drive this fantastical epic onward. Any fan of the genre will love this series. And any fan who watched Lord of the Rings and wished there were a bit more nudity will be able to fulfill their niche desire. HBO delivers a solid box set and those of you who enjoy the book, genre, or comic series will enjoy having it on your shelf.