As I wait for the next book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series to hit bookshelves, I find myself missing the intrigue and plots of the medieval-esque court. Part of the allure of fantasy novels is the world building. It is hard to stay away from a world so truly different than ours yet oddly reminiscent. As I know many other readers are still holding out and looking for a substitute to pass the time, I present a list of five books I'd recommend to read until the publication of the next installment in A Song of Fire and Ice — The Winds of Winter.
I give readers fair warning: The books in this list are not replicas of #GameOfThrones but should be enjoyable as they all have a wonderful, new world filled with interesting characters. You might even find yourself with a new favorite book.
1. 'Green Rider' — Kristen Britain
The #GreenRider series is written mainly from the viewpoint of the young Karigan G'ladheon. She is thrown into the world of King Zachary's court after a chance encounter on the road home. A dying messenger from the King's Green Riders begs her to deliver a message as a matter of "life and death." Reluctantly, Karigan begins this perilous quest. Pursued by assassins the whole way, Karigan finds herself deeply embroiled in a plot set in motion by dark forces to overthrow King Zachary's rule among other things.
Without giving too much away, Green Rider is the first novel in a (so far) five-book series that is well worth the time. The action is fast and the plot moves along nicely. The fantasy elements are good but are not the main focus of the series — magic, ghosts, and forbidding woods all play a role. I have found myself sometimes thinking that Karigan is a bit too wishy-washy, but the series is still worth the good read.
2. 'Graceling' — Kristin Cashore
Graceling focuses on Katsa, a young woman who is Graced at killing, meaning she has an inherent skill to kill. As the best fighter in all the Seven Kingdoms, Katsa is desired and feared by all for obvious reasons. Since her childhood, Katsa has been a servant to her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns, who uses her viciously to get what he wants. When Katsa meets the young Prince Po, her life begins to change in very unexpected ways.
Plotting, secret revelations, and the struggle for power are all present in Graceling. It is a quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed for what it is. Graceling may not be as heavy and moving as some of the books coming up on this list but it still delivers a pleasurable read from the outset.
3. 'World Without End' — Sean Russell
Sean Russell's World Without End has a refreshing, although not completely unique, concept for fantasy novels. Tristan Flattery, a naturalist, lives in a time when magic has been forgotten and the world has moved on to the age of reason and science. Tristan is summoned to the court of Farrland to aid in the recovery of a plant species that is highly sought after by the aristocrats and members of the court.
The journey truly is the crux of this novel. Political battles and alliances underline a voyage that will forever change Tristan's understanding of the world. Complexity and an almost murder-mystery feel keep the story moving (albeit somewhat slowly at times) while the characters are rich enough to be unpredictable. The exploration of the world created discoveries I truly looked forward to making.
The story finishes in Sea Without a Shore, which has to be read as the story ends quite abruptly in #WorldWithoutEnd. Although it might take some time to get into the book, it is well worth the investment. If you love fantasy and science the duology provides an excellent melding of the two.
4. 'River Of Stars' — Guy Gavriel Kay
Some novels have the power to change your life. I don't think I have read a Guy Gavriel Kay novel without being extremely moved. His novels surround people struggling to keep living a normal life in difficult times. Kay's novels often reveal characters being exposed to aspects of the world — and themselves — that they didn't know existed.
#RiverOfStars is the second of Kay's novels to be inspired by ancient China. The novel follows Ren Daiyan's improbable rise to power, the uncomfortable cleverness of an educated woman (Lin Shan), and the folly of decisions made from fear, to weave a story that will stay with you long after you read the last page.
Kay's writing will leave you feeling bittersweet. After reading a few of his novels I prepare myself to be haunted by his words before I start the next one. Words are important, it is worth hearing them even when it is hard to do so. Without any reserve, I whole heartedly endorse River of Stars. Read it and be moved.
5. 'The Lord Of The Rings' — J.R.R. Tolkien
If you enjoy fantasy then you have probably already read the #LordOfTheRings. Read it again. The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy to be explored. The Lord of the Rings cannot be taken in with one read. Literature must be savored. What you get from reading The Lord of the Rings will change as you grow. You will find more every time you read it. I simply could not create a list of books to read without including Lord of the Rings. Read about my personal experience with Tolkien's work here.
Lord of the Rings follows the quest of Frodo Baggins on his journey to destroy the One Ring. The Ring is all powerful and has the power to give the Dark Lord Sauron complete dominion over men. Elves, Dwarves, and every other fantasy element can be found in Middle-earth, the birthplace of all modern fantasy.
The writing is beautiful, the story is so complex that it takes years to fully understand (you can even learn the languages if you wish), and every time you read Lord of the Rings you will fall in love with the Shire again. There is so much to be found in Lord of the Rings that if you don't know what to read next, it can easily be revisited.
Now that you are armed with a few new reads I hope you'll be able to tide yourself over until the eventual publication of The Winds of Winter. Let me know below if you have read any of these books and what you thought of them or if there are other similar books that I may enjoy reading.
In the mean time, refresh yourself on everything that happened in the last season of Game of Thrones in this 60-second video: