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"Game of Thrones": what to watch for

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Nick Briggs/AP

(Read caption) HBO's 10-part portrayal of "Game of Thrones" involves 162 speaking parts; 1,800 invented vocabulary words; 150 full suits of armor; and four beheadings.

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Fans of George R.R. Martin are long-suffering souls. We know this because they live in thrall to an author who makes them wait years between installments of the series that they crave. And they are hearty souls as well. They must be, because reading all four of the first books of Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series means devouring 3,188 pages.

But will they have the stamina to endure seeing the translation of their beloved series to the small screen? Yes, suggest most of the critics who have seen the 10-part televised version, which starts on HBO this Sunday night. All but the most finicky fans will be pleased by the HBO version, they predict. Perhaps the only pang they will experience will be having to share their love of the "Song of Ice and Fire" story with so many others.

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TV Guide, in fact – which offers a blog called "5 Reasons to Watch Game of Thrones (and Skip the Books!)" – says that the TV series is "obviously a less daunting time-commitment and the show offers certain benefits the books do not."

The Houston Chronicle predicts that "the series shouldn't cause great offense to any but the most unwavering of readers."

Possible challenges: "There are minor condensed portions and some of the narrative has been shuffled from its original sequence. Some ages have been nudged up a few years, and a few physical characteristics have been modified." Newcomers may struggle to keep up at first, the Chronicle suggests, but the last three episodes "simply put, are gripping television."

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