Game of Thrones season 4 to be unsheathed on 6 April

HBO says the fourth series of the fantasy gorefest will start a week later than last year, apparently to avoid clashing with The Walking Dead.

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Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Nick Hide
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Spring is coming. And with it a new season of HBO's wintry celebration of incest and backstabbing that is Game of Thrones. The highbrow US TV maker says the fourth series of the fantasy gorefest will start on 6 April in the US. Sky will be airing the episode in the UK on 7 April at 9pm.

That's a week later than the show debuted last year, in order to avoid competition from fellow nerd-gatherer The Walking Dead, according to a report in Hollywood gossip rag Variety.

The fourth season will be based on roughly the second half of A Storm of Swords, the third novel in George RR Martin's eye-gougingly popular series A Song of Ice and Fire.

The penultimate episode of the third season was an Internet sensation as people who knew what was coming at that wedding filmed their unsuspecting friends and family reactions and posted them online. Many in the UK complained social media had spoiled the ending for them -- something I reckon we're all going to have to get used to.

Two more novels remain to be adapted, with two unreleased books still to come. If the producers keep to the two series per book formula, we're in for nine more seasons of top-notch dragony violence -- as long as Mr Martin ever gets round to publishing The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.

How to watch it without a Sky subscription

You'll be able to watch season four on the nights it's shown on Sky for a fiver a month, thanks to the company's Now TV service adding an entertainment subscription that lets you watch Sky Atlantic and other channels online.

If you want to catch up on the 30 previous episodes of unabashed slaughter and oversized wolves, you can download them on Google Play and stream them from Tesco's Blinkbox. Both will set you back £1.89 for a standard-definition episode, or £2.49 for HD.

The show is widely reported to be the most-pirated show on the Internet, a situation HBO is intensely relaxed about. HBO programming boss Michael Lombardo called the illegal downloads "a compliment of sorts" and said they "didn't negatively impact DVD sales".

Are you looking forward to more dwarves-and-scandals action? Have you got over the ending of season three yet? Send a message by crow to the comments, or try to scale our ice-bound Facebook wall.