For many readers, Game of Thrones is the first foray into the magical world of epic fantasy novels. It’s also the first introduction to the phrase: “The sequel is coming,” and the corresponding question: WHEN????
The Winds of Winter is, in fact, coming (or so Mr. Martin says), but as it’s likely it will be at least another year, and March at best for the new season of the show, you might be looking for some new reading material.
While you’re anxiously awaiting news about which one of your favorite characters is about to get axed in some gruesome way, and after you’ve checked out this twitter feed, and watched this youtube video . . . and this one, too (spoiler warning!), check out these five other awesome fantasy epics:
By: Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss jumped onto the fantasy scene with this debut. It’s the story of Kvothe, a kingkiller, dragonslayer, magician and legend . . . as told by Kvothe, who is now hiding in a small tavern, bereft of his powers. Turning the genre’s tropes on its head (much like Martin), Rothfuss tells the epic story behind Kvothe’s myth . . . along with some great romance, a magic school and a fantasy world dense and rich enough to host several video games. There’s also a sequel already available, a companion novella coming out October 28, and the author has said the third book in the series will be the last. So, no waiting decades to know your favorite characters’ fates.
By: Jacqueline Carey
Much like Patrick Rothfuss, Jacqueline Carey burst onto the fantasy scene with a debut that became an instant classic. Set in an alternate Europe where men and women are descended from fallen angels, Kushiel’s Dart has one of the most compelling protagonists you’ll meet in fantasy: Phedre, a courtesan blessed (or cursed?) to experience pain and pleasure as one, who discovers an insidious plot to destroy her beloved country. This one will make you cry, cringe and blush. Plus sides? It’s written from Phedre’s perspective, so there aren’t a million characters to keep straight. It’s bleeding romance, high adventure and gorgeous prose. And you can already buy the entire trilogy. No waiting to find out who lives or dies.
By: Robert Jordan
If you’re looking for a series with an immersive world, multiple viewpoints and giant tomes you can spend weeks reading, The Wheel of Time, beginning with Eye of the World, is a safe bet. Robert Jordan’s epic spans fourteen novels. Tragically, the author became ill and was unable to finish them before his passing, but Brandon Sanderson—another author to watch in the genre—completed them from the author’s outlines. The last book, A Memory of Light published in March. So. You can find out everything there is to know! And then get started on Sanderson’s new epic, The Way of Kings. Two in one!
By: Sarah J. Maas
Called a YA Game of Thrones, Sarah J. Mass’s book series could be described as a fantasy summer read. It’s got a whirlwind pace, exciting romance, court intrigue and a protagonist who brings new meaning to the term, “bad@$$.” She’s an assassin with a veiled past who, in the first book, is rescued from prison to compete to be her tyrannical king’s champion. It helps that she’s also torn between two equally sexy fantasy dudes—a prince and a guard, both of whom get viewpoint chapters, as well. This series is ongoing, but if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air after that beheading, Throne of Glass, its two sequels and a series of prequel short stories might serve as a nice breather.
By: J.R.R. Tolkien
Because none of these books would be here without it. Tolkien invented the modern fantasy epic, the immersive world and the thousand-page-but-still-commercial book. If you’re looking to be a proper fantasy nerd, you need to be able to act superior to the poor people who don’t know who Tom Bombadil is, what happened in the scouring of the Shire or that Aragorn is actually eighty seven (but Arwen’s like three thousand, and they’re technically related, so it’s the least weird thing about their relationship). You will also be able to laugh knowingly at this Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings mashup. Smug? As if your friends weren’t before you watched The Red Wedding.
So there you have it. Five fantasy series. Hundreds of characters. Thousands of pages. Get that image of the Viper dying out of your mind. Stop listening to this song. Quit arguing about who Jon Snow’s mother is. You’ve got reading to do!
Bess Cozby writes epic stories in expansive worlds from her tiny apartment in New York City. By day, she’s an Editor at Tor Books, and Web Editor for DIY MFA. Her work is represented by Brooks Sherman of the Bent Agency. Tweet her at @besscozby, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at www.besscozby.com.