To quote a common utterance in Game of Thrones, “winter is coming”, and from the looks of things, it won’t disappoint. Though many of you, like me, loves to sit on a warm beach, dip your toes in the sand or go swim in one of our many lovely lakes in Manitoba, I will also be glued to my TV screen on Sunday evenings ready to find out what happens to my favourite characters on HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 7. Based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, HBO’s Game of Thrones (GOT) has taken the world by storm. It has raised the bar for production value, being the most expensive series on television, and boasting epic twists and surprises that even the fans of the novels didn’t see coming. Though avid readers are waiting for Martin to finish the next book in the series, those who are also fans of the show have been fortunate to catch a glimpse past Martin’s published novels and see what may be in store through the TV series. As the next season airs, here are some read-alikes to whet your appetite of all things GOT and fantasy.
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
If you are a fan of the series, but haven’t read the books, or are wanting to start both the books and the TV series, sink your teeth into the tomes that Martin has written. Be prepared to devote time to these novels as each one clocks in at around 1,000 pages, but be sure to have a pen and paper on hand to keep track of whom is related to whom and how they fit into the grand scheme of things (it can get complicated!). Martin does a fantastic job of world-building and has created such wonderful and unique characters we can love and hate or love to hate. Hopefully, once you are done he will have released his next book in the series and we can all find out what happens next.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A classic and game-changer in the fantasy genre, Tolkien’s masterful work contains intricate and vastly thought-out world-building (there are many other books compiled of his writing detailing the mythology and history of Middle-earth), that one would believe this place actually exists (and maybe it does in New Zealand!). This series is one of my personal favourites which I have re-read many times and continuously find something new to love and appreciate. If you’ve already read the series and enjoyed it, try The Silmarillion, it can be daunting but worth it in terms of learning more about the history of Middle-earth, how Sauron came to be and about the first dark lord Morgoth. When you’re finished reading, check out Peter Jackson’s Award Winning adaptation of the books (try and check out the extended edition, worth the almost 4 hour run-time).
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
This coming-of-age novel and first book in the series features a young protagonist who is forced to take the throne after his father and brother are murdered. Set in a Viking-like world, Yarvi is heir to the throne but loses it when his father is killed and must embark on a journey to win it back. This novel is also excellent for the young adult reader.
Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown
Set in a futuristic society where Mars is colonized and all “people” are divided into colours and thus assigned their fate in life. “Red” miner (the lowest colour in the society) Darrow is tasked by the group Sons of Ares to infiltrate the “Golds” (the highest in the society) and cause a rebellion which could change the way of life for all and end the enslavement of the Reds. Though some might argue the series is more science-fiction than fantasy, there is world-building and characters are cultivated and explored, especially as the trilogy moves along, and there is much mythological inspiration. Brown’s series has the protagonist maneuver his way from lowly Red to transforming into a Gold. He must form alliances and betray those he considers friends all to help free his people from the slavery and cruel punishments they receive from those higher up. For those who liked The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, this one is perfect for you too!
Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen
If you are searching for a strong female character, look no further than Kelsea, a young woman who discovers that she is the heir to the Tearling throne though she has been raised away from the city and the palace. She must learn to rule in fairness and firmness, and contend with those around her who would use her to claim the throne for themselves. She must also deal with the powerful Red Queen who requires Tearling people in payment to her every year to maintain the peace, and discover the powers that she herself possesses. For fans of Daenerys Targaryen, read this series and be swept away.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
The first book in this new series where a young girl who witnesses her father’s execution and becomes an assassin is sure to please GOT fans (Arya Stark anyone?). This fast-paced read features a strong female character, political intrigue, humour, violence and wonderful world-building and will leave the reader hungry for the next book to come.
So get out and enjoy summer and the warm weather even if it is just in your backyard or on your balcony, because as we Winnipeggers know, winter is coming (though hopefully not for another few months).