You’re about to see a lot of swords and sorcery on your TV screens. August and September bring the premieres of two highly anticipated fantasy epics that have been years in the making and are fighting for eyeballs and water-cooler conversation: HBO’s Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon , and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power . These series represent an astronomical amount of money and time spent, in the hope of creating another pop-culture sensation like the original Thrones , which aired its final episode in 2019. Don’t know your Númenor from your Essos, or your Velaryons from your Harfoots? Don’t worry, we will answer the biggest questions you have about TV’s summer of fantasy. Why are House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power coming out at the same time? It’s all a matter of good old-fashioned business rivalry. Amazon has been working on adapting The Rings of Power for five years, and finally announced this year that the series would premiere on September 2. Why he did it: Anthony Templet in Netflix’s I Just Killed My Dad HBO has similarly spent years trying to find the successor to its mega-hit Game of Thrones , looking for another signature show from author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world. The network developed a number of projects and announced in 2019 that House of the Dragon was the one that would be moving forward. Earlier this year, HBO announced the August 21 premiere date, beating The Rings of Power to the market by just under two weeks. What is HBO’s House of the Dragon actually about? Set a few hundred years before Game of Thrones , House of the Dragon is about the Targaryen dynasty – the ancestors of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen from the original series. Based on Martin’s encyclopaedia-like Fire & Blood book, House of the Dragon tells the story of one specific struggle for power during the Targaryens’ reign. When the king has only a daughter, should that daughter or the king’s brother inherit the throne? The producers have already let slip that the first season will include a significant time jump, so some characters will be played by both younger and older actors this year. There will also be 17 dragons poking their scaly heads in at various points, as the Targaryen family famously had the fire-breathing beasts at their command. What about Amazon’s The Rings of Power? The Amazon series is based on a small amount of material written by J.R.R. Tolkien that describes Middle-earth’s “Second Age”. The “Third Age” is the time period of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films and books, and the “First Age” is covered extensively in the author’s epic tome The Silmarillion . This period in Middle-earth, some 4,000 years before The Hobbit , includes the forging of the rings of power – from which the series gets its name, and which, as film fans remember, was explained in voice-over at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring . The series will also include stories about the Atlantis-like kingdom of Númenor, tales of elves and dwarves (including characters from the films, because elves live thousands of years) and the hobbit-like Harfoots (there are no actual hobbits in the show, though). Sauron, the main villain of the films, who forged the One Ring of Power, also has a prominent role to play (although it’s unclear how or when he might show up in the series). Are any of the original actors going to be in the new series? No. While The Rings of Power has some characters from the films, including Galadriel (originally played by Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (originally played by Hugo Weaving), Amazon has cast new, younger actors (Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo) in the roles. House of the Dragon doesn’t have any character overlap, and thus no repeat actors. But one of the creators and producers, Miguel Sapochnik, worked extensively on the original series. Which series will win the battle for fantasy show supremacy? It’s unclear! Game of Thrones was not an instant hit when it debuted on HBO in 2011, but became the network’s biggest hit and a pop-culture sensation. The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films have made billions at the worldwide box office. But it’s been three years since Game of Thrones dominated the zeitgeist and eight since the final (and poorly received) Hobbit film was released. The appetite for continuations of either of these worlds is hard to measure in 2022. While ratings will reveal how many fans tune into House of the Dragon (which HBO expects to be far fewer than the peak of Game of Thrones ), streaming services like Amazon do not share their internal numbers. Whether The Rings of Power draws enough eyeballs to justify its unprecedented cost (Amazon had to shell out a reported US$250 million just to obtain the rights) will be hard to tell from the outside.