FANTASY BEYOND GAME OF THRONES
Season six is under way, officially marking the point where the show diverges from the books (as written so far). What are you going to read in between episodes? Good news! There’s a lot more great fantasy out there — and not just Lord of the Rings, either. Here's 12 places to start.
- •Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne BishopA lush, sensual series set in a world where darkness is worshiped and women rule as Queens with their men sworn to “protect and serve.” Recently, however, the system has gone horribly awry, twisted to the detriment of both men and women. Hope for the future rests on an exceptional young woman, Jaenelle Angelline. A dark fantasy that glories in female power, Black Jewels Trilogy’s greatest strength is its vivid characters and the relationships between them.
- •Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna ClarkeSink your teeth into another epic from multiple points of view with this Regency-style novel set during the Napoleonic Wars. The simple summary is that it is about the relationship and rivalry between cautious traditionalist Mr. Norrell and reckless innovator Jonathan Strange as they work to bring magic back to England. Meanwhile, the mysterious Gentleman With the Thistledown Hair has his own plans.
- •Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline CareyJacqueline Carey’s series set in a world where sex is a divine decree (“Love As Thou Wilt”) is like a well-written Fifty Shades of Grey met Game of Thrones. The protagonist, Phedre, is both spy and courtesan, as well trained in politics as she is in the boudoir. Court intrigues and sex intertwine intimately (!) in this series.
- •Perdido Street Station by China MievilleChina Mieville's work tends to belong to the category of “weird fiction” — characterized by blending of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Perdido Street Station, set in the city of New Crobuzon, is such a blend. An eccentric scientist, is commissioned by the garuda Yagharek to build him a new pair of wings to replace his severed ones. In the process, Isaac accidentally unleashes a monster that preys on dreams into the world.
- •Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah MonetteFans who wanted more of the Renly/Loras romance — barely hinted at in the books, and expanded in the show — will welcome Felix Harrowgate, the gay main character of this fantasy/steampunk series. Felix is deeply flawed and frequently does exactly what he shouldn’t, but is a compelling character for precisely that reason, and his relationship with his estranged brother Mildmay is one of the highlights of the series. Monette isn’t afraid to go dark, but it never feels gratuitous.
- •Night Watch Series by Sergei LukyanenkoThis series beginning with Night Watch, is set in a version of the real world home to a group with supernormal abilities known as the Others. They are divided along affiliated lines of Light and Dark, holding a carefully balance to avoid mutually assured destruction. Anton Gorodetsky, an untested mid-level Light magician, discovers a cursed young woman — an Other of tremendous potential unallied with either side — who could shift the balance of power.
- •Farseer Trilogy by Robin HobbThis series is a masterwork on par with George R.R. Martin’s series. The main character, FitzChivalry Farseer, is the bastard son of a prince who dies in mysterious circumstances. Brought to court for his own protection, Fitz finds himself being trained as a royal spy and assassin in an increasingly unstable political environment. Meanwhile, the mysterious threat of the Red Ship Raiders — and the emotionless shells they leave behind — looms on the horizon.
- •Gentlemen Bastard Sequence by Scott LynchSet in a gritty, vividly realized city based on Renaissance Venice, Scott Lynch’s series takes as its anti-hero the professional thief and con-man Locke Lamora and his band, who steal from the rich and keep it for themselves. The series begins with The Lies of Locke Lamora, in which the group is drawn into working for the mysterious Gray King. Oceans 11 mixed with fantasy, this thrilling and fast-paced series brims with wit and leaves you deeply attached to its selfish and imperfect hero.
- •Rai-Kirah Trilogy by Carol BergThis series follows Seyonne, once formerly part of a specially trained group who defend the world from demonic threats , has been a slave for sixteen years. At the beginning of the first book he is sold to the callow young prince Aleksander and soon discovers a demon at the heart of the Derzhi Empire's court.
- •Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. FriedmanLike A Song of Ice and Fire, Friedman’s trilogy deals with complex morality and shades of grey. Set on a planet called Erna, where humans live in balance with a natural force called the Fae that manifests dreams and nightmares. A warrior priest named Damien Vryce finds himself reluctantly allied with Gerald Tarrant, a mysterious being of dark magic, pursuing a mysterious thief into unknown and dangerous lands. In the process, both characters find their understanding and worldview challenged.
- •The Fifth Season by N.K. JemisinThis is one of a few incomplete series on the list — because you needed more books to wait for! — but it’s so good it’s worth it. The first book in a new series by N.K. Jemisin promises another fascinating series with complicated and flawed main characters in a fascinating world. Set on a planet where periodic cataclysms tear civilization apart and certain individuals are born with the ability to manipulate the movements of the earth. And the sequel will be out this summer!
- •The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonA complex, intricate story of empire, betrayal, and revenge, Baru Cormorant witnesses her culture destroyed by her homeland’s economic takeover. Determined to learn the empire’s tactics for her own use, Baru joins the bureaucracy — and is given control into a notoriously rebellious province. This novel is full of twists and turns, political scheming and looming revolution — and the determined, occasionally ruthless young woman at the center.