I am just finishing up A Game Of Thrones, the first installment in George R. R. Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.
Next up will be A Clash Of Kings, followed by A Storm Of Swords, then A Feast For Crows. The long-awaited A Dance With Dragons provides the latest installment in the series.
I am late to the party, I know, but having read and heard so much about these stories, I was still unprepared for how thoroughly sucked in I would become. Mr. Martin’s unique style allows the reader a laser-focus on his characters, and he masterfully juggles ten or more principal protagonists while weaving their personal stories into the the larger pattern of his tale. Although Song of Ice and Fire bears the trappings of fantasy, it definitely qualifies as low-magic, humanistic, and gritty. No fireball-hurling wizards, elves, or Hobbits exist in the lands of Westeros where the action takes place. Elements of the supernatural do exist, but they’re used sparingly.
The real drivers of the action are intrigue, clannish conflict, and the very setting of Westeros itself, where winters can last for years at a time, and the wild lands hide dark and looming threats.
Serial fantasy this good has garnered Mr. Martin great fame and many fans, but what are those fans to do once they’ve finished the most current book? Our own Novelist database can provide at least some guidance where Westeros fans might go while waiting for the next novel. A quick trip over to Novelist garnered a number of recommendations for wayward Westeros fans.
Glen Cook’s Black Company offers some of the same gritty fantasy that Martin fans have come to love. David Farland’s Runelords series also makes Novelist’s recommended list.
One series not mentioned by Novelist, but still worthy of consideration by fans of Mr. Martin, is Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni fantasy. This series of books began more than thirty years ago, and features a lot more overt magic and supernatural elements than Mr. Martin’s stuff, but shares his penchant for courtly intrigue, scheming characters, and quasi-Medieval settings.
If you have any more Song of Ice and Fire read-alikes, I’d sure love to hear about them!