The smash hit HBO series Game of Thrones had up to 16 million viewers for its most-watched episodes last year. Fans love the combination of grim political scheming and bloodshed mixed with elements of the fantastic like fire-breathing dragons, ice wights, and miraculous resurrections. However, Westeros has come and gone from our television screens until possibly 2019. True fans will already know (and may already have read) that the series was inspired by the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin. The series includes five published volumes and two more still to come. But what’s a GoT fan to do if you’ve already read those and still want more? If you’re pining for another glimpse of dragons or longing for another opportunity to lose yourself in literary political intrigue, here are four book series to check out while you wait.
Daenerys may be the Mother of Dragons on Game of Thrones, but fans of this classic sci-fi and fantasy series have been reading about the bond between dragons and humans since Dragonflight was published in 1968. The series now contains 30 books that stretch over thousands of years and combine elements of hard science fiction (think space travel and genetic engineering) with the kind of fantasy dreams are made of – heroic battles, a low-technology feudal society, and dragon-rider pairs wed through a lifelong, telepathic bond. Purists prefer the books written solely by Anne McCaffrey, the creator of the series and the first woman to win a Hugo Award or a Nebula Award. Her son Todd co-wrote some Pern books with her and wrote some alone after her death in 2011. If you have a YA reader, try starting them out with the Harper Hall Trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums). These novels are a great introduction into the complex world of Pern, which has its own customs, vocabulary, and complex social structure.
If you’re like yeah yeah, the dragons are great, but what I really love is the political intrigue – then Wolf Hall is the series for you. Comprising two acclaimed novels by Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, this series focuses on the dramatic court of King Henry VIII during the 1500s. The first novel features the intrepid and cunning Thomas Cromwell and details his attempts to stay one step ahead of the executioner’s axe as he counsels England’s king through one crisis and the next. Bring Up the Bodies focuses on the tragic tale of Anne Boleyn and her dramatic trial for adultery and treason. Both novels were loved by critics; each book won the Man Booker Prize in the year it was nominated, Wolf Hall in 2009, and Bring Up the Bodies in 2012. As a bonus, these books have also been made into a television show – PBS Masterpiece aired Wolf Hall in 2015. Starring Mark Rylance, Claire Foy, and Damian Lewis, the show won the Peabody Award and a Golden Globe in 2016.
Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels are known for their realism, their obsession with detail, and their incredible length. Steampunk star Neal Stephenson has achieved a similar feat with his epic trilogy The Baroque Cycle. Featuring Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World, these novels detail advancements in society and technology throughout Europe during the 18th century. Although the novels feature real historical figures such as Isaac Newton, Oliver Cromwell, and William of Orange and discuss actual historical events, Stephenson considers them to be works of science fiction because of some... shall we say "unusual" elements. The novels were critically well-received and won several awards including the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Locus Award.
An incomplete heroic fantasy series with a legion of fans – sound familiar? No, it’s not A Song of Ice and Fire – it’s Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle, a planned trilogy that is quickly gaining popularity among readers. There are two published books, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, plus a planned third book that will reportedly be called Doors of Stone. The story focuses on Kvothe, a mysterious musician and adventurer who becomes a powerful wizard. Need more convincing? Rothfuss included a short story set in-universe in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues, a collection of fantasy stories with similarities to Game of Thrones, and The Name of the Wind is set to become a major motion picture as well as television series with none other than Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda on tap as a creative producer.