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Game Of Thrones Season 3 Photos, From Returning Favorites To New Characters

Of all the big name series coming back this spring and summer, and there are more than a few, Game of Thrones has to be one of, if not the most highly anticipated return. Two spectacular seasons of the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" novels have already wowed fans, both newcomers and readers, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are just getting started. And you thought the first two seasons were shocking.

Benioff and Weiss, co-creators of the critically acclaimed TV show, have not been shy about expressing their excitement in getting to tell the third season story (based on half of "A Storm of Swords) and after a few uninspired teaser trailers ('Exhibit A' and 'Exhibit B'), the network finally released a decent look at the upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones with 'An Invitation to the Set' and 23 photos. Yes, 23.

To start things off, let's take a look at everyone's favorite Emmy and Golden Globe winning cast member, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. First thing to note, aside from just how beautifully composed the still image happens to be, is the decent sized scar traversing the 'Little Lion's' face. It may not be up to snuff for the rabid fan base (he lost his entire nose during the Blackwater battle in the novel) but I think it looks great.

Among some of the other photos posted today on the Game of Thrones Facebook page are some of the new cast members. First up is Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr, and although he doesn't fully capture the fat part of the, uh, part, he's got the tall and bald aspects down. Thoros is a Red Priest (worshipping the same God as Melisandre) and a member of the Brotherhood without Banners, the group Ned Stark sent out to hunt down Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane near the end of Season 1. Here's Thoros.

Speaking of the Brotherhood Without Banners, the man who was actually dispatched by Ned to lead the hunt was Beric Dondarrion and he has since been recast with Richard Dormer stepping into the really cool role. Without saying too much, his nickname is the Lightning Lord, I mean, how cool is that? Take a look at Dormer's Dondarrion sporting a recent wound.

Two characters whose absence from the two first seasons caused a bit of a clamour were the Reeds because Jojen and Meera meet up with Bran a bit earlier in story according to the novels. They are important characters for that thread but I can totally understand why they held back on their introduction since there are already a million characters in the universe. This is Thomas Brodie Sangster as Jojen Reed followed by Ellie Kendrick as Meera Reed.

We met Sir Loras Tyrell two years ago, a brave knight and, more memorably, Renly's lover, and last season saw the arrival of even more members of the Tyrell family, most notably his sister Margaery who first acted as Renly's beard before ending up as a rival to Cersei in King's Landing. This year brings even more 'Flowers' to court with Diana Rigg playing the powerful and clever Olenna Tyrell, also known as the Queen of Thorns.

Next up is another character that fans of the novels have been eagerly waiting to see, Brynden 'The Blackfish' Tully. Played by Clive Russell, the Blackfish is Cat Stark's uncle and, although estranged from the rest of his family, is seen as an honorable man and excellent warrior. Those who have read the books will recognize the pivotal scene taking place in the photo and those that haven't, well, Russell still looks pretty badass.

And finally, a name familiar to readers and watchers alike, the last photos gives us our first real clear look at Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder. The King Beyond the Wall was a common topic for discussion during Jon Snow's adventures in the bitter cold of the far north and now that he's with the wildlings, it was only a matter of time before they brought the 'former' member of the Night's Watch to meet their leader. You can meet him now.

The third season of Game of Thrones premieres on Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The series is based on the “Song of Ice and Fire” saga by George R.R. Martin and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.