How Game of Thrones achieved world domination... 15 years before the TV show even aired

HBO’s hit series has become a household name, but how did the books come into being? ‘I had never read anything quite like it,’ Jane Johnson, the woman responsible for bringing them to the UK, tells David Barnett

Monday 15 April 2019 16:23 BST
A still from the final season, which airs this weekend
A still from the final season, which airs this weekend (HBO)

It might be hard to believe, as the country revs itself up into a frenzy and prepares to go Westeros for the final time, but there was a time when nobody had heard of Game of Thrones. It was only 2011 that the first season of the HBO series premiered in the US, with the UK following close after, but as the show enters its eighth – and last – outing, it feels like it’s been a household name for a lot longer.

Which, of course, it has, especially if your household is one where the bookshelves groan with fantasy novels the size of doorsteps and series that run to multiple volumes.

People who would never dream of ploughing through, say, the 15 books in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan count themselves as rabid Game of Thrones fans, and are intimately familiar with the fictional world of Westeros and its warring houses, its dragons, its dark, icy, inhuman kings. The global audience for the show is phenomenal, and probably far exceeds what author George RR Martin ever conceived of when he began writing the books.

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