A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, the fifth installment in the fantasy series of novels, Song of Ice and Fire, which made HBO's Game of Thrones (named after the first book in the series) a runaway hit this year, landed in bookstores today to a captive audience and an almost assured bestseller status.

The books follow three powerful families in the fictional medieval land of Westeros — the Starks of Winterfell, the Lannisters and the Targaryens — in their ongoing quest to control the Iron Throne. Throw in some dragons, a few fantasy elements like "summers [that] span decades and winters [that] can last a lifetime," and a cast that includes Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean (pictured) and 300's Lena Heady, and you have a success on your hands.

Game of Thrones has the third highest ratings of an HBO series, after True Blood, which comes in at number one, and Boardwalk Empire. "It's been a huge success," says HBO Entertainment president Sue Naegle. "Dynastic families at war, the thirst for power, greed, the human condition — these are very relatable themes."

Another thing that marks the show as unique is its relative bravery in following through on plot lines and staying true to the books. When Bean's character, Ned Stark, died at the end of the first season, viewers were shocked, much to the chagrin of people who had already read the book and therefore knew what was coming. Martin may be an author of fantasy, but he's willing to kill off a character and he likes to stay true to certain themes on human nature. "I've always been attracted to gray characters," he says. "I don't see Orcs and I don't see angels. The hero is the villain on the other side."

Both the Song of Ice and Fire series and the new Game of Thrones show have been highly critically acclaimed. Martin plans to write two more books before completing the series, and HBO commissioned a second season of the show two days after the glowing reception of its April premiere.