Tired of waiting for The Winds of Winter? Need your daily dose of complex characters, politics and fantasy? Here are some books to replace that Iron Throne-shaped hole in your life, as chosen by myself, Roshni, and Danny, on the latest The Geek Show podcast.
5. Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
Though set in a world very different from the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Mistborn series are surprising favourites of many George R R Martin fans. The series is set in a dystopian, Victorian-Britain-esque world in which the nefarious Lord Ruler controls the kingdom, ensuring the lower classes are oppressed and the nobility are in his pocket.
A renowned trouble-maker and his young apprentice must bring the Lord Ruler down, using wit, deception, and the power of Allomancy. Allomancy, a magical power created by Sanderson, is the ability to draw power from metals. Characters with this ability “burn” a variety of metals, giving them abilities including flight, emotional manipulation, and increased perception.
The Mistborn books are written in a very different way to the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and in fact, to most fantasy books. Sanderson opts for more simplified and colloquial language, and chooses to progress the plot quickly, immediately testing characters and throwing them into the thick of the action. This makes for easy-reading, and will appeal to readers who like a little more pace to their novels.
4. The League – Sherrilyn Kenyon
In this world, corrupt assassination politics control everything, leaving men and women with a choice between living in fear or fighting back against the corrupt governments and League Assassins. But choosing sides is tricky when not everything is black and white.
Game of Thrones is known for mixing fantasy, romance and politics, and in this way, The League shares some similarities. But in a lot of ways, this series is very different. Known for having a sarcastic and humorous edge, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The League might be a welcome change to the heavy and serious tone of A Song of Ice and Fire.
This series might not spring to many peoples’ minds when looking for A Song of Ice and Fire alternatives, but if you’re looking for something very different to George R. R. Martin’s series, but with the same level of political intrigue and distrust, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books come highly recommended.
3. The Broken Empire – Mark Lawrence
This series may be one of the few to match the darkness and violence of A Song of Ice and Fire.
In The Broken Empire series, the world is in chaos: blood, treachery and violence are rife, certainly providing a satisfying alternative to some of the shocking scenes inflicted upon readers by George R R Martin.
The Broken Empire features a unique magic system, necromancy, and an outcast prince who now leads a group of loathable outlaws. The main character is no hero – at least, not by traditional standards – and we can see the mark his twisted childhood has left on him. For a darker, morally blurred fantasy, The Broken Empire series might be for you.
2. The Kingkiller Chronicle – Patrick Rothfuss
The Kingkiller Chronicle series benefit from a novel magic system, a terrifying and secretive evil, and a vast mythology. They tell the story of Kvothe, an adventurer and famous musician, who retells his life story in retrospect, from where he now lives as a simple innkeeper.
Along his journey, Kvothe encounters a range of intriguing characters, and spends time learning magic, using an inventive magic system which draws on characters’ own energy, meaning that the overuse of powers can result in problems such as shock and hypothermia.
The books are a lengthy challenge (though this should be nothing new to George R R Martin fans), with the first two books providing a hefty weight to take on holiday.
The Kingkiller Chronicle series is highly regarded in fantasy circles. Unfortunately, the third instalment is still pending, so if you’re the type to quickly blaze through an epic fantasy, you might soon find yourself back in the same position of waiting for the next instalment.
1. The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb
Now, this series is my number one choice for Game of Thrones fans. Robin Hobb is one of my all-time favourite authors. The Farseer trilogy is one of four series penned by Hobb and set in the Realm of the Elderlings. And once you’re in the Realm of the Elderlings, I can guarantee you won’t be leaving easily. Hobb’s writing style and skill at creating vibrant and multidimensional characters shines through every one of her books, making it difficult (read: impossible) for a reader to quit the universe at the end of the first trilogy: as soon as you’ve put the final book in The Farseer Trilogy down, you’ll be moving straight onto The Liveship Traders (my personal favourite book series).
Hobb’s work has even been praised by George R R Martin as “diamonds in a sea of zircons”.
The Farseer Trilogy follows Fitz Farseer, illegitimate son of Prince Chivalry, as he grows up at Buckeep Castle and must navigate the politics of a court that aren’t too pleased by his existence, whilst training to become the King’s assassin. His time at Buckeep is made all the more dangerous when he discovers he possesses and old and frowned-upon power. If you liked the battle for power in A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ll love the politics and intrigue in this trilogy.
If it’s the range of strong and courageous women, and the varying viewpoints in A Song of Ice and Fire that you like the most, then another of Hobb’s series, The Liveship Traders, might be the one for you. Though they come after The Farseer Trilogy chronologically, you don’t necessarily need to read them in this order, as there is very little overlap between the two – though you may miss small and satisfying nods to events and characters in The Farseer Trilogy if you read The Liveship Traders first.
My one warning is that Robin Hobb is very punishing to her characters, and in a way, this is one of the great things about the series. Heroes don’t emerge from quests unscathed, and with peace of mind. The damage of being a hero is real, and everyone has their scars. Though she may not kill her characters as often as George R R Martin, she certainly does drag them through hell and back before she’s finished with them.
Between the five series of chunky novels, you’ll be kept going well into the publication date of George’s The Winds of Winter.
Featured image: Alexandre Duret-Lutz