Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 43: In Search of a King
The Crow’s Message Raven had expec...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 43: In Search of a King
The Crow’s Message Raven had expec...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 42: Wolf Encounter
Wolf Encounter Zeph was beginning to think ...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 41: Ambush
Ambush The acceptance of the challenge came...
Game of Thrones has taken over the world, and has lead to a renascence in fantasy in pop culture generally in the last six years. It’s sort of amazing, as it is one of the first American television shows to outpace the source material from which it is based, if it isn’t the first. This is common, however, in anime, where when it gets past wherever the manga leaves off, either because the series was canceled before the story ended or because the anime just released quicker, doesn’t matter. Generally the anime will just make up the story from there on out, and go off it’s own direction, which is where Game of Thrones stands out for fantasy television and book fans alike. It has outpaced its source, and with the help of author George R.R. Martin, will be continuing with a general idea what will be happening in the final books, probably years before they are published.
For years now, fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series has lorded their advance knowledge of the heart wrenching moments over uninitiated television only fans. Ned Stark, the red wedding, the list is long, but the tables have turned, and while book lovers fill the comments of any of Martin’s Facebook posts with demands for The Winds of Winter, television vans will get, at least, a version of some of those stories in the show.
Game of Thrones returns for it’s seventh season on Sunday, July 16th, and no one knows when The Winds of Winterwill drop (though Martin has said that it will be this year, but he also said he thought that last year as well), but until then, here are ten books that share themes, subgenres, and the general je ne sais quoi that made A Game of Thrones and all of A Song of Ice and Fire remain a hit with readers and huge television networks for over a decade.
What can one say about The Wheel of Time that hasn’t been said? It is the one of the hallmarks of high fantasy, a guide to how to build a huge and colorful setting, how to manage a huge cast of characters, and tell a tale in rich detail. Door stoppers all, Jordan, and later Brandon Sanderson (who is on this list for his own original work later) after his death in 2007, has spent over two decades delivering amazing fantasy.
In this, a group of friends and partners, under threat of an evil force, go on a quest to save and defend a place of great power after numerous other trials. If you loved the multiple storylines of Game of Thrones and are looking for an actually completed series while you wait for Martin to complete his, or for the next season to start, The Wheel of Time’s fourteen book is not one to miss.
This ten book series of door stopper epic fantasy was born out of the author’s tabletop roleplaying game, and is one of my personally favorite titles. This opening salvo alone has over ninety entries in its dramatis personae alone. Many of these character follow us to later books, though the second and third, Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice respectively, take place at roughly the same time, and the fifth, Midnight Tides takes place an untold number of years prior to the first book on in a wholly different part of the world. Feels almost ASoIaF levels of complexity right?
That’s all before you get the politics of an empire in decline spanning three continents dealing with war from without and within and the machinations and threats of evil gods. If you enjoy big sword and sorcery battles, world building on a truly global scale, mind boggling numbers of characters, and multiple storylines all running concurrently, this series is for you.
Let me start with saying that, forty books by multiple authors in, this series that forms a lot of the backbone of the tabletop minifigure wargame Warhammer 40,000’s canon is still going strong, with more books on the way. But this is where the story starts, ten millenniums before where the game’s setting is, in a world that mirrors the dark and gritty fantasy world of Game of Thrones.
The Imperium of Man seeks to make humankind the dominant force in the galaxy and bring together the disparate human worlds together under the emperor. Meanwhile, forces from within and interdimensional eldritch beings from without plot to twist or destroy this plan, setting the stage for a massive and bloody civil war that has captivated fans of dark science fantasy and tabletop gaming a like.
Yes, Fables is a comic book. Comic books, as fantasy fans all know, is a completely valid and cool way to tell a story, and besides, it’s was completed in 2015 after being in publication for thirteen years, so you can read it straight though like any other series.
Fables does something I personally love, taking well known public domain characters and telling new stories with them, especially when those stories are darker and filled with more intrigue than their originals. Willingham in this Vertigo comic takes such characters as the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Cinderella, and Goldilocks to tell stories that are completely for a more adult audience, featuring violence, redemption, and a great war against an ever present threat.
The main series is 150 issues long, spanning twenty-two trade paperbacks, and has ten spin off comics and other related media, such as prose stories and the Telltale Games title The Wolf Among Us.
If you have even put a toe in the waters of dark or military epic fantasy, you have at least heard of The Black Company. It’s just one of those series that are a tent pole of the genre and rivals A Song of Ice and Fire for it’s complexities and scale.
Following the eponymous mercenary company in the service of a tyrannical empress fighting against rebels trying to set themselves free from her yoke, you can’t help but think of a little blonde Baratheon and his problem with upstart kings, except we are supposed to be rooting for the imperial jack boot in this grim tale.
Simmerly to Martin, Cook in this series is hailed for realistic, down to earth characters that act much like the common person would, were that common person was a mercenary being paid by a sorceress queen with a cadre of mind controlled wizards anyway.
If you’ve tuned into the History channel on any given day, you know that there is still, a generation later, huge amounts of interest in the events of World War II. Into the Darkness is another sign of that. The names have been changed, as well as the characteristics of the nation’s people, and there’s dragons and behemoths instead of planes and tanks, magic instead of technology, but it’s a fantasy retelling of the war. Even the major battles in the series match up with WW II ones.
Game of Thrones is infamous for it’s giant battles, filled with hundreds of extras and the sheer amount of choreography that had to take place to film it all, as well for the political machinations between nation states all around the world, and Into the Darkness brings you that sort of feeling as well, real stakes, be it wildfire or the idea that the other side is sacrificing POWs to fuel their magical weapons.
Following a young girl’s life through a city as she becomes part of a plot to overthrow a mad god-emperor and learn to wield her powerful metal based magic, you can’t help but think about the misadventures of young Arya Stark.
Though most of Vin’s misfortune happens in the time before the novel begins, follower her go from lowly thief to a leader of a rebellion is thrilling for all of the people who deeply enjoy watching Arya go from impetuous little girl to a strong willed and powerful young woman.
What happens when a Roman legion vanishes from Earth and reappears on another world where there are elemental spirits that help you do magical tasks? You get the Codex Alera from the well known to the urban fantasy scene Jim Butcher. Parallels abound between this and Game of Thrones abound. Wall between you and barbarian people in the frozen north? Check. War again a completely alien force? Check. Politics and magic that mirrors real world things? Check.
Game of Thrones has a lot going for it if reading about medieval European style battles is something that catches your fancy. If it does for you, or if you like a coming of age story about a young man with unique powers trying to save his nation from threats within and without, Furies of Calderon is for you.
What if there were two nations separated by a sea so rough and tumble that ships don’t exist that can safely cross it? What if, for two years every dozen year, the sea level falls to reveal a bridge that connects the two lands? What would that bridge be used for? Commerce? Culture? Conquest?
The Moontide Quartet is commonly compared to A Song of Ice and Fire for obvious reasons. The world building alone is monumental in scale, and how it mirrors real world cultures without being offensive. There is also how it doesn’t shed away from lurid descriptions of sex at all, but all in all, Mage’s Blood and all of The Moontide Quartet brings you all of the feels that Game of Thrones does so well.
Most of the list, thus far, has focused on the big battles and the politics of nations, and titles that would be great for people who enjoy that sort of thing. The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a book about that. Instead, it is great for readers who enjoy the interpersonal politics of Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing, the play between Varys and Littlefinger, of Tyrion trying to talk his way into and out of trouble.
Locke is a leader of a group of thieves in this fantasy version of Venice, and in this opening salvo, he interacts with government official, terrifying mages, and another criminal trying to conquer the underworld. Schemes inside of schemes abound in this novel, and if you like the battles of wits that Game of Thrones delivers, sometimes better than their prose sources, this is something you should check out.
The seventh season of Game of Throne starts on Sunday, July 16th. Did I miss one of your favorite reads that gave you those Westerosi feels? Think one of my books exemplify what it like to play the Game of Thrones? Let me know that, or your list and why, in the comments below.
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.
David Castro is co-editor and co-founder of Babbling of the Irrational, a submission based literary blog. Writer, Nerd, other single word descriptions. Flushing, New York