Books to read if you need more Game of Thrones
Now that Game of Thrones season 7 has wrapped, fans may have to wait until 2019 to see how the Westeros saga finally ends. Luckily, there are plenty of books out there about fantastic lands, bloody history, political intrigue, family backstabbing, and fire-breathing dragons to hold you over in the meantime. Here are some of our top recommendations to get through your impending Game of Thrones hangover.
The Earthsea Cycle, Ursula K. Le Guin
Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons finally got some major airtime on this season of Game of Thrones. If you’re hungry for more, you would do well to check out Ursula K. Le Guin’s signature fantasy series, since her dragons especially are a source of wonder. They are powerful, mysterious, clever, dangerous – and above all, beautiful. Order it here.
The Accursed Kings, Maurice Druon
George R. R. Martin himself referred to this series as “the original Game of Thrones.” Though there are no dragons to be found in this 1955 series, the books share Martin’s love of history in all its blood-soaked intrigue. Order it here.
The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
As the characters of Westeros struggle for survival agains the white walkers, blue-eyed ice demons also haunt this story of Vasilia, a Russian girl living at the edge of the wilderness who must battle familial and political forces even as nightmarish forces approach on the horizon. Order it here.
Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
Magic and class collide in this tale of a world divided into two factions: The superhuman Silver elite and the great Red masses. Mare Barrow finds herself caught between them, and, like Thrones’ best self-made characters, must use all her wits and powers to come out on top of a complex system. Order it here.
The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
The ongoing feud in Westeros between House Stark and House Lannister draws a lot from the real-life War of the Roses. This novel goes right to the source in its rendition of Elizabeth Woodville, who rose from obscurity to eventually become Queen of England and a decisive player in that conflict. Order it here.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin
By the time of season 7, Game of Thrones’ scope has narrowed significantly to focus on a few key characters and locations. That claustrophobic fantasy is similar to Jemisin’s debut novel, in which a familial power struggle takes place over the span of just a few weeks inside one mystical city. Order it here.
The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
This account of the meticulous construction of a massive Gothic cathedral shares the fusion of historical events with human intrigue that fans have come to love from Game of Thrones. Order it here.
Discworld, Terry Pratchett
Pratchett’s fantasy universe is a lot more ridiculous than Martin’s; for one thing, it’s not a vaguely-British analogue but rather a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants who are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle. But while the tone is much different than Game of Thrones, Pratchett’s fantasy stories provide just as much striking insight into human culture and foibles. Order it here. Order The Color of Magic here.
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Like Martin, Brooks was heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. His saga of the fantastic Four Lands is one of the touchstones of modern fantasy. Thanks to its successful adaptation, Shannara has joined Game of Thrones on the TV fantasy landscape as well. Order it here.
The Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
Fans of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons will delight in this series, which centralizes the dragonrider bond and made McCaffrey the first woman to win both a Nebula and Hugo, science fiction’s most prestigious awards. Order Dragonflight here.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Like Martin, Clarke brilliantly mixes high fantasy with British politics and culture. Her cast of characters is a lot smaller than Martin’s sprawling epic, but they are each fully realized in their tragic struggles with magic — in all its beauty and horror. Order it here.
The Half-Drowned King, Linnea Hartsuyker
The Greyjoys are one of the most vicious factions in all of Westeros. Hartsuyker’s novel is set entirely in their kind of world, in which Viking warriors, maidens, and families collide in a bloody struggle for supremacy. Order it here.
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Much of Game of Thrones can be read as a deconstruction of Lord of the Rings – what if those fantasy characters were not fighting for lofty ideals but rather out of petty, vicious, incestual beefs? As Martin’s series has continued, however, it has leaned more into hard fantasy than historical realpolitik, which gives it a lot in common with The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s unfinished magnum opus where he fully indulged his most romantic cosmic fantasies. Order it here.
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
Westeros inhabitants staring down an apocalyptic winter could find a sympathetic ear in Severian, who hails from a future Earth where the sun has dimmed and everything is colder. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow would also surely respect Severian’s relentless journey from journeyman torturer to the ends of the earth. Order the first half, Shadow & Claw, here; and the second half, Sword & Citadel, here.
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
In the wake of war, a mysterious plague of amnesia has struck Britain, causing an elderly couple to forget about their son even as they search for him in the wreckage. The fusion of British history, fantasy, and anti-war philosophy should be familiar to Thrones fans. Order it here.
Iron Council, China Miéville
As with Westeros, China Mieville’s fictional city of New Crobuzon is an amazing nexus where fantasy, history, and politics collide. All three of his novels set in or around that magnificent steampunk metropolis are worth reading, but Game of Thrones fans will particularly delight in the more political third volume (though fans of House Greyjoy will also enjoy The Scar and its democratic pirate city). Order it here.
The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi
Though it is science fiction rather than fantasy, Scalzi’s newest series also paints a world where power is divided into royal families with unique territories and advantages, whose members stop at nothing to kill, seduce, and outwit their way into an advantage over their rivals, even as massive environmental disaster threatens in the background. Order it here.
The Song of the Lioness Quartet, Tamora Pierce
Like Arya Stark, noblewoman Alanna of Trebond pretends to be a boy in order to receive martial training. She too eventually becomes one of the greatest warriors in her land. Order it here.
The Kingkiller Chronicle, Patrick Rothfuss
The Witcher, Andrzej Sapkowski
Although it’s become most famous as a video game franchise, Sapkowski’s bloody saga of a powerful assassin and the child he is sworn to protect (think of Arya and any of her older mentors in murder) retains its full power in literary form. Order the books here.
Shadowmarch, Tad Williams
After years of ruling the land, the humans of Shadowmarch enter a new era when the “Shadowline” to their north starts moving – and with it, an angry army of fairies determined for vengeance. The tale will obviously sound familiar to all the Westeros inhabitants now in the path of the Night King’s army as it marches through the shattered Wall. Order it here.
The King of Vinland's Saga, Stuart W. Mirsky
As Theon Greyjoy seeks redemption by rescuing his sister Yara, so Viking orphan Sigtrygg Thorgilsson must seek his due in the New World once discovered by his grandfather Leif Eiriksson. Order it here.
Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman
As Game of Thrones has shown over and over, no hero is safe from intrigue and treachery. Penman’s novel applies that insight to King Richard III and the story of his struggle to reclaim the Holy Land in the Third Crusade. Order it here.
The Prince of Nothing series, R. Scott Bakker
Game of Thrones isn’t all tits and dragons; characters with a comprehensive and charismatic philosophy, such as Melisandre and the High Septon, have been able to exert great influence in Westeros. Anasûrimbor Kellhus, too, tries using his personal philosophy (though his is based in rationality) to take control of a dangerous holy war. Order The Darkness That Comes Before here.
The Demon Cycle, Peter V. Brett
Humans are not as strong as they once were, but the forces of night and darkness are stronger than ever. Just as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen work to marshal their limited resources against the threat of the white walkers, so Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer struggle to finally save humanity from the demonic corelings. Order The Warded Man here.
Lion of Ireland, Morgan Llywelyn
This saga of Brian Boru fully explores the history of tenth-century Ireland that provided so much influence for Westeros’ colorful wildlings and northerners. Order it here.
The King Must Die, Mary Renault
Game of Thrones infused the fantasy genre with real human emotions and motivations. Renault does the same to the legend of Theseus, emphasizing the human flaws that defined one of the greatest Greek heroes. Order it here.
The Faithful and the Fallen series, John Gwynne
What is more important: Securing your own political gains, or uniting for the good of humanity against an apocalyptic threat? The question still sunders Westeros, just as it haunts the Banished Lands, where human loyalties conflict even as giants and dragons return for blood. Order Malice here.
The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie
The Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson
Just as Westeros is plagued by unstable summers and winters that last years, so is the land of Roshar beset by raging tempests. Out of that dangerous natural landscape emerges a struggle to reclaim the mythical legacy of the Knights Radiant and their legendary Shardblades, against a backdrop of devastating war and suffocating family legacies. Order The Way of Kings here.