What to Read While You Wait for Season 8 of "Game of Thrones"

Wallpaper-stark-300Once all the shocks and thrills of the final episode of Season 7 have worn off, and the realization hits you that you have a year--or more--to wait until Season 8, consider these marvelously complex books as ways to fill the gap.

And it should go without saying that if you haven't read the books that Game of Thrones is based on (at least through Season 5), then absolutely do so. The TV show cut out several interesting story lines as well as a bunch of nonessential ones, but it's through George R. R. Martin's books that Westeros and its always-battling nobles sprang to life, and it's always worthwhile to drink from the source.

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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson - It’s almost impossible to outdo George R. R. Martin when it comes to political fantasy, but I think Dickinson did it with this serpentine story of a budding rebel who becomes a rising star in the empire that conquered her people. Civil war, psychological warfare, and a protagonist that will keep you guessing as she gets under your skin make this book a winner. It’s a bit of a slog in the beginning, but push past it and you’re golden. Book 2 is expected next year. 

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The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin - Jemisin's just-completed trilogy throws a lot at you: strange magics, split communities, fierce rivalries, and a recurring sense that history too often repeats itself even when we know better. The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award (one of science fiction's highest honors) for best novel, and begin your entrance into Jemisin's world there.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown - All three of Pierce Brown's Red Rising books have made our editors' best of the month list--and not just within science fiction but among all books published that month. A young man who has grown up poor, oppressed, and mining under the surface of Mars, Darrow becomes an undercover agent and is transformed by a rebel faction into one of the Golds, the oppressive ruling class that presses the solar system under its heavy thumb. Brown clearly has thought quite a bit about war and leadership, and Darrow's path toward gaining power among the elites is not straight...or straightforward. And sometimes brutal and horrifying.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - If you can bear waiting for George R. R. Martin's The Winds of Winter and aren't blasting him on social media to "just write the book, already!," Rothfuss is the next author you should pick up. His debut fantasy novel The Name of the Wind knocked everyone's socks off in 2007, and he continued the series with The Wise Man's Fear in 2011. No word yet on when book three will be released, so you will have to practice patience. Die-hard fans of Rothfuss will snatch up the 10th anniversary illustrated edition of The Name of the Wind that releases this fall.

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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett - Bennett's gritty, unpredictable trilogy is among my favorites of the past several years. War has few winners, a lot of unintended consequences, and many, many victims, and Bennett isn't afraid to reveal that the line between good and evil is wide and gray, with most of his characters operating within that murky band. Unlike in most fantasy novels but similar to Martin's, Bennett's characters are adult, tough, and bruised by past wrongs. And Bennett isn't afraid to wield a shocking death to further his story, either.

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The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey - Dragons. More than 20 books about them, set on a world in which tyrannical lords and those rising up against them now have to deal with a common threat that imperils the human race. Full of danger and heroism, these are excellent books for readers who are a bit too young to watch Game of Thrones but have an affinity for dragonriders like Daenerys.

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The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett - George R. R. Martin has cited numerous true-life events in history as inspiration for the twisty plots, double-dealing, and bloody massacres in his books. Historical fiction writer Dunnett weaves a story that spans Scotland, France, and the Middle East during the mid 1550s as Scottish lord (and killer and spy) Francis Crawford of Lymond plots and counterplots through fair means and foul against those who would seize control of Scotland. Five bold, beautiful books make up the Lymond Chronicles, starting with The Game of Kings. (For those who wonder if Dunnett ripped off Martin's book title: No. The Game of Kings was first published in 1961. But, man, do they hold up.)


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Comments (4)

Oh, THANK YOU for mentioning Dorithy Dunnett's superb Lymond series. I had to read that series the hard way--waiting years as each book was published!
And it does hold up wonderfully, doesn't it?

Posted by: Sally Williams | Monday August 28, 2017 at 3:57 PM

There are actually six novels in the Lymond Chronicle, but I agree, a brilliant work of historical adventure. Not easy reading, but always worth the payoff, including the finest sword duel in all of literature.

Posted by: Michael Bell | Friday September 1, 2017 at 12:20 PM

I read and loved both Game of Kings/Lymond, and House of Niccolo; eventually getting to the stand alone King Hereafter. Both series are my favorite all time reads. In fact I am considering doing a reread this winter, and even though tempted to go straight to HofN will read them in the proper order this time, and begin with GofK. :)

Posted by: Kathleen Dixon | Saturday September 2, 2017 at 1:17 AM

I think that The House of Niccolo (eight volumes!) is an even greater achievement than The Game of Kings. She also wrote a string of mysteries (not quite as good as the rest). A fascinating woman who spoke half a dozen languages fluently as well as being a renowned portraitist and sculptor

Posted by: ianstuart | Friday October 20, 2017 at 6:15 AM

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