BOOK REVIEW – Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1-4

By Marty Mulrooney

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1-4 is a beautiful boxset published by Orion Books that collects the official companion books Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman (published in 2012) and Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4 by C.A. Taylor (published in 2014). Each book features hundreds of set photos, production and costume designs, storyboards, insider stories and interviews with the cast and crew, providing a unique behind-the-scenes experience for fans of the ground-breaking show.

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman

Published in 2012, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones is written by Executive Story Editor for the hit television show Bryan Cogman (he has also written two episodes). Fascinating from the outset, it begins with a foreword from author of the books George R. R. Martin, who admits he was initially sceptical that the novels could ever be successfully adapted, such was their complexity and scope… until he met two ‘madmen’ named David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

Their foreword is even more engaging, with seven questions posed to shed some light on how they tackled the seemingly insurmountable task of bringing the epic source material to the small screen intact. From here, we join them on their journey from initial pitch to award-winning show, with five generous chapters dedicated to The Wall, Winterfell, King’s Landing, Westeros and Essos respectively.

It’s a wonderful approach to take – rather than reading like an episode-by-episode guide, we’re instead treated to a tour of the world, an analysis of the characters and a prolonged peek at the creation process behind the curtain. It’s evident that Bryan Cogman has been on set and knows what he’s talking about – most pages feature snippets of insight from the cast and crew and it’s all highly interesting, engaging and high-spirited. There is of course the expected praise from one actor for another, but the text never gushes and the insight offered is truly unparalleled.

The quality is evident from the moment you touch the luxurious padded cover, to when you open the book and see the beautiful interior design that is every bit as gorgeous as the photographs and concept art it surrounds. The highlight has to be the behind-the-scenes insight into the ‘The Crowning of Viserys’ –  a gruesome death has never been so beautiful.

10 OUT OF 10

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones by C.A. Taylor

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4 by C.A. Taylor

Published in 2014, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4 is written by C.A. Taylor, who has worked behind the scenes in the television industry for over a decade and has written for the ‘Making of Game of Thrones production diary blog since 2010.

With the show by now well-established, this second companion book hits the ground running – the sections regarding the title theme and title sequence are particularly enlightening and enjoyable to read. Surprisingly, once the book begins proper it ignores the format of the original book and is split clean in two halves, one half dealing with Season 3 and the other with Season 4.

Despite this change, C.A. Taylor has done an admirable job of continuing the expertly written text and content of the previous book. Who doesn’t want to see how giants are made, or direwolves for that matter? Seeing the tallest man in the UK towering in his half-finished foam body suit at seven-foot eleven inches is a sight to behold, as is an indoor version of ‘The Wall’ that took twelve weeks to build. Then there’s the dragons…

Sadly, the more linear nature of this second book does make any omissions much more noticeable and altogether saddening, such as the battle between Red Viper and The Mountain only getting a passing mention – perhaps they were still filming as the book was being put together? (To be fair, seasons 3 and 4 increased in story complexity and cast members substantially compared with the earlier seasons, so they were never going to fit everything in.) Regardless, this is yet another wonderful companion book that maintains the high standard set by its predecessor – even if it is slightly less comprehensive. In short, if you love Game of Thrones you won’t want to miss out on either of these superb companion books!

9 OUT OF 10

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