It seem that everybody loves “Game of Thrones.” HBO’s high-fantasy show features kickass ladies, dragons, intriguing politics and Peter Dinklage – what’s not to like?
But with only one hour of the show airing a week – and only ten episodes in a season – there’s a lot of time left in the week to indulge in other similar fantasy shows. But with so few excellent fantasy shows on the air, it’s time to go back to the heart of fantasy: books.
And not just any books – some classic fantasy books, time-tested favorites in the same vein as “Game of Thrones”!
1. “WHEEL OF TIME” SERIES
If you’re watching “Game of Thrones” for the dozens of fascinating characters and intertwining plotlines, you might want to try Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series.
“The Eye of the World,” the first book of the series, follows Rand al’Thor and his friends Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al’Vere and Nyavae al’Meara after their home is attacked by soldiers. They flee the village with the help of a magical Aes Sedai named Moiraine and her Warder Al’Lan Mandragoran.
About a dozen other things and characters appear and happen, but the heart of the book is the characters discovering the threat to the pool of magic that touches them all and the Shadow that threatens to destroy the world.
“The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.”
Like the “Game of Thrones” universe, the “Wheel of Time” series is huge, spanning fourteen books and some prequels. But having read them all, I can vouch that it’s worth it. While you may end up skimming some chapters that focus on your less-interesting characters, you’ll end up with moments that you won’t soon forget. (Like when Egwene – oh, spoiler. Nevermind.)
Buy the “Wheel of Time” series on Amazon.
2. “DAUGHTER OF THE EMPIRE” SERIES
In the land of Kelewan, warlords have been locked in a blood feud to enslave the neighboring country. Assassins attack the rightful heirs as spymasters move players around the country, trying to gather up as much information as possible. When Mara’s family dies, she’s called from her vows to God to resume her place as a Ruling lady – but she will need to rally an army of rebel warriors, form alliances and even marry the son of her most vicious ally.
Mara is a classic fantasy queen, strong and powerful without succumbing to tropes or masculine overtures. She’s one of my absolute favorite characters – and her world and plot, which run parallel to Feist’s Magician’s series, are equally fascinating. And hey, there may not be dragons, but there are giant ant-creatures called cho-ja who make an alliance with Mara. That’s pretty cool.
Buy the “Daughter of the Empire” series on Amazon.
3. “DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN” SERIES
In the first novel, “Dragonflight,” Lessa is posing as a drudge at Ruatha Hold until she can take revenge on the man who stole her birthright from her. But before she gets a chance, she meets F’lar, a dragonrider who is searching for somebody to bond with a new queen dragon. If Lessa can successfully bond with the dragon, she can become a dragonrider and a queen-figure to all of Pern – and maybe even figure out how to save Pern from the ever-menacing Thread.
“Dragonflight” was the novel that led McCaffrey to be the first woman to win a Hugo. From a feminist standpoint, it’s certainly not perfect – F’lar shakes Lessa a few too many times, and there are some strange social implications with dragons mating – but the overall world and characters are fascinating. Lessa is a predecessor to Daenerys, a queen with an iron fist who will do whatever she can to save her people, and the dragons are amazing.
Buy the “Dragonriders of Pern” series on Amazon.
And a bonus recommendation: if you’re liking the “Game of Thrones” TV series, why not try the series that inspired the show? George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series is absolutely stunning in its worldbuilding and characters. There’s a lot that happens in the books that you don’t see in the show – different characters and plots – and it’s definitely worth the read.
It also gives a lot of fascinating backstory that you won’t see in the show. (Just what happened when Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon went to war? What is the Targaryen family history like?) The first five books in the seven-book series are out now, and given how huge each volume is, you’ll have plenty to read while watching the show.
Buy the “Song of Fire and Ice” series on Amazon.
What fantasy novels would you recommend to “Game of Thrones” fans? Sound off in the comments below!