What should ‘Game of Thrones’ fans be reading between now and July?

Game of Thrones fans have a little over 100 days to wait for season 7, which seems close to a lifetime away. The franchisation of George R.R. Martin’s creation means that the companion books and merchandise are never ending, offering ample opportunity to pass time in Westeros. But for those who can’t get enough of the fantasy world rendered in technicolor, and whose relationship with the source books is stronger and more intertwined than most marriages, how about visiting another world entirely?

Fantasy is a genre as old as time. The first stories every told were of monsters, myths and magic as ancient peoples tried to make sense of a world before science. Popular fantasy is based around magic or sorcery, and nearly always rooted in a medieval setting. Despite the clear disconnect with modernity, epic fantasies have the appeal of plots and characters whose familiar traits transcend time, but whose stories are different enough that the genre holds an escapist attraction, taking readers (or viewers) away from reality.

Besides the obvious fantasy epic fiction of J. R. R. Tolkein in The Lord of the Rings, there are a number of authors whose works have spirited this writer away to familiar and imaginary lands ringing with swords and sorcery. One of the best things about the books that follow is that none have (yet) been recreated for film or television, so you must rely on the magic of your own imagination to paint the pictures in your head.


The First Law – Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

Joe Abercrombie wrote not just the celebrated The First Law trilogy, but also three standalone novels set in the world of The First Law. It was described as “Delightfully twisted and evil” by the Sunday Times (UK) newspaper, and evil it certainly is. Rough, dark and gritty, the story’s characters are bitter and twisted (literally), morally corrupt and not averse to betrayal.

After the clarity of the political depth and specific plot detailing fades, the lasting memory of reading his books is of darkness, spite and unpleasantness. The nature of the plot means that it is difficult to root for any particular character considering few are anything other than nasty. That said, the mystery and intrigue is such that the author grabs you by the scruff of the neck and holds on tight for 600 pages (per book).

Book One: The Blade Itself:

“Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught up in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian, leaving nothing behind but some bad songs, a few dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a jar. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendships. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government… if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.”

King Raven series – Stephen R. Lawhead

King Raven

Whether the King Raven trilogy could technically be shelved in the fantasy section is perhaps in question, however, the combination of historical fiction, mythical sorcery and political intrigue definitely qualify it for this list.

Popular fantasy is always rooted in some level of reality and that’s what makes it so immersive for the reader. These characters and the things they go through are relatable, and if they are set in a familiar land and time, readers gain more from the fiction thanks to their knowledge of history and geography.

Stephen R. Lawhead’s writing is ordinarily embedded in real historical events or cultural myth and legend. The Pendragon Cycle was inspired by Arthurian legend and the Celtic Crusades follow the religious campaign into the Holy Land. The King Raven trilogy, opening with Hood, is a new take on the Robin Hood legend. Lawhead has transplanted the eponymous Hood from Sherwood Forest in middle England to medieval North Wales where the language is as rugged as the land.

Book One: Hood:

“The Norman Conquest of England is complete – but for one young man the battle has just begun.

When Bran’s father is murdered by Norman soldiers, he flees to London, seeking justice. The journey is long and hard – and the suffering of those he meets along the way fuels his anger.

With his demands dismissed, Bran has no choice but to return home, where a worse fate awaits him. His lands have been confiscated and his people enslaved by a brutal and corrupt regime.

Should Bran flee or protect his people by surrendering to his father’s murderers? The answer, perhaps, is known only to the Raven King – a creature of myth and magic born of the forest’s darkest shadows.”

The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)

Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time is epic in every sense of the word. Spanning fourteen volumes it is a saga complete with magic, violence and family. In a similar way to J. R. R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth, the world Jordan created is so developed that you begin to believe it exists somewhere under the same sky as our own. Some might argue that it is less epic than it is sprawling (14 books with around 800 pages each), so if you see it through to the end, you’re doing great. You are, in fact, doing better even than the author who sadly passed away in 2007 before finishing his masterwork. The last three books were co-authored by Brandon Sanderson, an accomplished fantasy and sci-fi writer in his own right.

Few who have read the books would be surprised to hear that the rights have done the rounds of several film and TV studios over the years, and even had itself a bit of legal rough and tumble along the way. Besides the comic book adaptations from 2005, the latest news on the adaptation front is that it is rumored to be undergoing pre-pre-production with Amazon, who presumably hope The Wheel of Time might fill the void Game of Thrones will leave next fall.

Book One: The Eye of the World:

“The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again.

But one truth remains, and what mortal men forget, the Aes Sedai do not . . .

What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the shadow.”

Belgariad – David Eddings


The Belgariad is a glorious coming of age story of a journey from rags to riches. The farm boy Garion joins Belgarath the sorcerer and a fellowship of contrasting characters as they seek to fulfil a prophecy and take down the source of all evil. There are the usual themes of sorcery, political intrigue, relatable characters and human relationships, but also no shortage of humor. Where the First Law books by Joe Abercrombie are shrouded in darkness and moral contempt, David Eddings’ books are colored vibrantly with a full spectrum of characters, cultures and emotions.

The Belgariad successfully fulfils the formula of fantasy epic, and does it more religiously than George R. R. Martin in the Game of Thrones, whose main characters die willy-nilly. But the formula is by no means dull. Based in a land divided into many kingdoms, the political complexity of the Belgariad is clearly reminiscent of Middle Earth and written in such a skilful way that every land and race is easily differentiated from the others. There is a rich reality and vibrancy to the Belgariad that sets it apart from its peers.

Book One: Pawn of Prophecy:

“Long ago, the evil God Torak fought a war to obtain an object of immense power – the Orb of Aldur. But Torak was defeated and the Orb reclaimed by Belgarath the sorcerer.

Garion, a young farm lad, loves the story when he first hears it from the old storyteller. But it has nothing to do with him. Or does it? For the stories also tell of a prophecy that must be fulfilled – a destiny handed down through the generations.

And Torak is stirring again . . .”

All the sagas listed here are worthy of the attention of the full breadth of the Game of Thrones fandom. The experience of reading of these people and places is certainly far more detailed and arguably a lot more involved than watching the same unfold on screen. Furthermore, one of the above may well be seen rendered in film before too long, so why not study up while you can? Game of Thrones is a show which could go on indefinitely, but after a year or more of speculation, the show runners finally announced at SXSW that the eighth and final season will air next year with just six episodes. The end of the Great War in Westeros will leave a gaping hole in pop culture, which producers all over the world will hope to fill. Could it be The Wheel of Time?

How are you passing the time between now and July 16th? Let us know in the comments below.

Emma Nicholson
Emma Nicholson
A UK based film nut who got lost on the way home from a Product Design degree in Wales and leapt into postgrad study of the media industries in London. Obsessed with road cycling, Sherlock Holmes (the books too), neo-noir, historical epics and bored of formulaic spectacle. Still waiting for a Hogwarts letter...