25 Epic Fantasies for Fans of Game of Thrones

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Game of Thrones is coming to an end. In a sense. The TV series is entering its final season, promising a resolution to its own version of George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire. Given that we’ve still got no definitive word on when the next book in the series will arrive (though we’ve got our fingers crossed that it, like winter itself, is still coming), we’ll soon be bereft of the bloody tales of the queens, kings, dragons, and bastards of Westeros.

As we ramp toward the end of the show and continue our watch for the next book, there are many more fantasy worlds to explore. Below, we’ve assembled a list of books and series that might help to fill the void. Each of these epic fantasy sagas is a unique creation—none are facsimiles of Game of Thrones, but each includes elements that will appeal to fans of GRRM’s gritty fantasy world.

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
The bloody power struggles that defined seven seasons of Game of Thrones are overshadowed, in these final episodes, by the larger, no-longer-existential threat coming from the north: a horde of zombies, heralded by the changing of seasons. Frankly, the Stillness, the setting of N.K. Jemisin’s three-time Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth trilogy, makes Westeros look like a Sandals resort. Catastrophic quirks of ecology mean the continent experiences an extinction-level event every few centuries or so; the only way humanity has survived is through institutional knowledge; life in the Stillness is defined by preparing for the next “Fifth Season.” Unfortunately, preperation by the powerful also looks a like like exploitation of the weak. Over the course of the series that begins with The Fifth Season, the downtrodden “orogenes,” who are able to move stone with their minds and have long been feared, controlled, and murdered for it, seek justice at the end of the world—maybe the last time it will ever end.

Status: Completed trilogy

Chronicles of the Black Company, by Glen Cook
Like the venerable Golden Company in GoT, Cook’s dark fantasy series stars the Black Company; both are groups of peerless fighters whose members each represent the best of the best among mercenary bands of their respective worlds. While GRRM’s mercs mostly stay in the background, following orders on behalf of whoever holds the purse strings, this long-running series brings the hardbitten sellswords to the forefront of the action. In a story that ultimately spans centuries, Glen Cook explores the storied history of the company—and, after a pause of more than a decade, he returned with a new installment in 2018.

Status: Ongoing series

The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
The world of Westeros is one of often shocking violence (insert dramatic character death here), as is that of Abercrombie’s Circle of the World, setting of the First Law series. This first book introduces an array of morally murky characters and places them amidst murderous conspiracies during a wide-ranging conflict in a medieval quasi-European setting that none of them is particularly well-equipped to handle. Chief protagonist Logen Ninefingers, an infamous barbarian who operates according to his own sort of moral code, would be a worthy contender for the Iron Throne.

Status: Completed trilogy (with standalones and a planned followup series in the same world.)

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan
The Eye of the World begins The Wheel of Time, one of the truly great modern fantasy series, and one that certainly more than gives GRRM a run for his money in terms of epic scope (and page count). Knowing that the Dark One is hunting for one of three young men in the village of Emond’s Field, the Aes Sedai Moraine leads them away in the hope that one will be the long-foretold Dragon Reborn. Though Jordan’s series runs more toward Tolkien then the revisionary nihilism of Martin/GoT, both stories range widely in both geography and character, and there are twisted parallels between Martin’s morally ambiguous priestess Melisandre and the The Wheel of Time’s Moraine, a representative of a cult in which female power is essential.

Status: Completed 15-book series

Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind
Adopted son Richard Cypher grew up as a gentle guide through the woods of Westland, leading traveller safely through the forest and coming to know each plant and blade of grass. As Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series begins, the woodsman comes to learn that his real father is a man named Darken Rahl and that his legacy rests in D’Hara, a kingdom of wizards. When Daenerys and company visit the Qartheen warlocks at House of the Undying, they see what remains (and what may be again) of Westeros’ own kingdom of magic.

Status: Ongoing series (currently 22 books!)

Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson
There’s tremendous discontent in the great Malazan Empire: endless warfare has sapped the will of its people, exhausted the imperial legions, and lead to infighting. In spite of all that, the rule of the Empress Laseen remains absolute as the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series begins. That’s about the last time anything—including the reader—will be on sure footing throughout this enormously complex 10-book epic, which features so many winding plots and myriad players (both mortal and god), devotees often say you won’t really understand it until your second time through. In Laseen, Erikson creates a ruler to rival Cersei Lannister herself: fierce, born to rule, but utterly ruthless in keeping control.

Status: Completed series (with ongoing spin-offs)

The Night Angel Trilogy, by Brent Weeks
Azoth, unlike Arya Stark, was raised on the streets, scrounging to survive—but the two have much else in common. Weeks’ trilogy (now collected together in a single volume) follows the assassin anti-hero who knows an opportunity when he sees one. Under Durzo Blint, he seeks to become the perfect “wetboy”—an assassin navigating the dangerous politics of his world as well as its magic. The name he chooses: Kylar Stern means “one who kills and who is killed,” mirroring Arya’s role with the Faceless Men as a bringer of death, but also its servant.

Status: Completed trilogy

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab
Kell, one of the last of the magic-wielding Antari, can travel between worlds: specifically, between three different Londons. Red London is full of magic, White is torn between magic and mundanity, and Regency-era Grey London is almost bereft of magic. There was once a fourth London, but it has been consumed by darkness—it is Black London. But the darkness appears to be spreading. Schwab’s wide-ranging world of magic welcomes people of color and an array of queer characters.

Status: Completed trilogy

The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons
Game of Thrones is at its best when it’s playing off the consequences of tortured bloodlines and family relationships that aren’t quite what they seem. Genly Baratheon, the illegitimate son of King Robert, discovers, for instance, that being related to royalty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In the debut novel to Lyons’ five-book A Chorus of Dragons series, a slum-dweller named Kihrin is claimed as a long-lost member of the royal family. But, instead of a fairytale, it becomes a nightmare, as he’s believed to be the son of a treasonous prince. The books are planned for release at nine-month intervals, which means there’s a very good chance you’ll get to read them all before the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire arrives in print.

Status: Ongoing series (With a sequel coming in October.)

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
The fantasy debut from an award-winning literary author, Black Leopard, Red Wolf transplants some of the grittiness and earthiness of GoT to a vivid and luxuriantly depicted pre-colonial Africa of folklore, history, and legend. Tracker and his mercenary band of misfits and outcasts is tasked with hunting a missing boy–it sounds simple, but everyone has a different reason for finding the boy, or for making sure that he’s never found. In GoT, characters are frequently on the hunt for lost children (particularly if they’re Starks) to use as wedges or political pawns, and it’s no different here. There are also parallels with Essos, home to the Dothraki and a region of Martin’s world that’s more prone to contrasts of glorious cities and turbulent, unsettled wilderness.

Status: Ongoing series

The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie
There’s dark magic in Westeros, with the red priestess Melisandre representing the god somewhat deceptively referred to as the Lord of Light. Leckie’s novel introduces the kingdom of Iraden and the god known as Raven, who sits in his tower and guards Iraden in exchange for blood sacrifice. Like R’hllor, Raven offers gifts to the faithful… but at a price.

Status: Standalone

Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Kay’s fantasy novels dive deeply into real-life history—here, it’s the Mediterranean of the Renaissance that sets the scene for his story. Much like GRRM, who used the English Wars of the Roses as the inspiration for elements of his saga, Kay also reshapes real events into fantasy while also structuring the story in a way that will be familiar to ASoIaF readers: this is the story of a variety of diverse individuals (warriors, spies, artists, merchants, etc.) caught up, to varying degrees, in the larger events of their time.

Status: Standalone (though set in the world of The Lions of al-Rassan and other works)

The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu
The strain is showing as the long rule of Emperor Mapidéré is coming to a close. The first to unite the island kingdoms under one rule, he’s on his deathbed and rebellion is in the air. Two unlikely friends—drunkard Kuni Garu and noble Mata Zyndu—ultimately stand to play decisive roles in what’s to come. The dark political skullduggery is reminiscent of GoT, but Liu creates a unique world with wuxia-inspired action and settings and a decidedly Eastern narrative style.

Status: Ongoing series

A Crown for Cold Silver, by Alex Marshall
Among GRRM’s most beloved and compelling creations is Brienne of Tarth, one of the few genuinely noble characters in the story as well as an incredibly powerful female presence in a world in which physical power is presumed to be the sole domain of men. Marshall does one better here, in at least one regard: his chief protagonist, Cobalt Zosia, was a legendary general, but she’s now long-retired. Forced back into service, she’s no longer just a forceful leader but also an old woman. The wrinkles that run alongside her scars make her an impressive and welcome presence in fantasy, and her wry humor is a welcome companion on a bloody journey of vengeance.

Status: Completed trilogy

The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett
The power of the magical wards that protect humanity is waning, and the powerful corelings are on the hunt. Each night for centuries, these demons—of wood, wind, sand, flame, and rock—have risen from the ground with a powerful hatred of humanity. Once humans were their equals in power, but now their fight is entirely defensive. Just as the people of Westeros shelter behind a crumbling wall protected by a dwindling Night’s Watch as the deadly White Walkers only grew in power, those unfortunate enough to live in the world of Brett’s recently completed five-book series are abut to discover that even their meager hold on safety is coming to an end.

Status: Completed five-book series

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
The dragon known only as the Nameless One—and the army of dragons that attended him—was defeated long ago, during the age of legend. The West has come to believe that only the continuation of the ruling Berethnet family keeps the dragons at bay, while the people of the East worship the water-dragons that they believe keep them safe. Much of this epic story turns on the conflicting views of two women: potential dragonrider Tané, and Ead, tasked with protecting the Berethnet queen. The narrative is steered by several powerful women who, like Daenerys Targaryen, each has a powerful connection to dragons—even if Shannon’s take on fire-breathing dragons casts them in a more evil light.

Status: Standalone

The Poppy War, by R. F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang sets the acclaimed first novel in her trilogy in a world that’s reminiscent of the China’s economically and militarily advanced Song Dynasty, with a conflict that’s largely based on the Second Sino-Japanese War of the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as on the earlier Opium Wars. It’s very much in the tradition of fantasy that lifts elements from history and illuminates them in new, fantastical light—just a bit further East than most. The series also matches Martin for sheer brutality; in telling the story of a poor orphan named Rin, who earns a slot at an elite military academy, discovers a talent for shamanism just as war is in the offing, and is forced to make a terrible choice to end the conflict, Kuang pulls zero punches.

Status: Ongoing trilogy

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
Though the tone is very different, Clarke’s novel of alternate Napoleonic War-era England mirrors GoT in one significant regard: the return of magic brings with it prizes for some, and chaos for others. GRRM’s warlocks of Qarth acknowledge that the rise of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons has ushered in a return of more potent magic to Westeros, just as the fiddly, reclusive Mr. Norrell becomes a celebrity by revealing powers long thought extinguished—before being challenged by his own apprentice for control of the future of England’s magic.

Status: Standalone

The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
As Westeros has been shaped by incredible and dramatic shifts in climate, so too has Sanderson’s Roshar: the rocky supercontinent is regularly subject to storms of incredible ferocity. As a result, civilization has shaped itself around these storms. In this world, wars are won and lost over control of ancient swords and suits of armor with the power to transform individuals into nearly invincible warriors. Fans of Martin’s expansive worldbuilding will find much to admire here—each volume of the planned 10-book Stormlight Archive includes the sort of sidebars and illustrated appendices that Martin fans went without until the release of The World of Ice & Fire

Status: Ongoing series

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
The death of King Robert Baratheon is the inciting event for much of the pain and upheaval that defines Game of Thrones. Though his series is titled the Kingkiller Chronicle, and thus certanly must deal with the death of a ruler, Patrick Rothfuss’s wildly popular epic is far more personal in scope. Here, told in a single incredible day, is the self-told story of Kvothe: magician, fighter, and musician who is rumored to be responsible for great feats, and terrible ones, and who has his own story of survival to tell. The books match Martin’s in another way—the wait between installments has been excruciating—but the journey is well worth starting, if only because you’ll undoubtedly want to read them more than once before the concluding volume is released.

Status: Ongoing series

Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb
After faking his own death, former assassin Fitz Farseer has lived ten peaceful years before a crisis threatens the life of his daughter, evokes the haunting disappearance of a childhood friend, and calls him to use his magical skills. Fitz inherited those powers as the bastard son of a royal house and, if there’s anything we GoT fans love, it’s bastards and assassins. Like Martin, Hobb is an expert at diving into the minds of her protagnists and forcing you to really question the moral weight of their decisions.

Status: Completed trilogy, part of a larger overall series of linked trilogies

Magician: Apprentice, by Raymond E. Feist
In Feist’s Riftwar universe, magic creates rifts that connect planets in different solar systems. The first novel introduces orphan Pug, apprenticed to master magician Kulgan just in time for an invasion of alien creatures through a rift that draws in the budding magician. It’s just the start of a long-running overarching series that blends a touch of sci-fi into its fantasy, and it on the power of a young orphan to upset the plans and schemes of the great and powerful in a very GoT fashion.

Status: Completed trilogy, part of a larger cycle of more than 20 books

The Rage of Dragons, by Evan Winter
Among the Omehi people, you’re one of three things: one of the incredibly rare woman with the power to call down dragons; one of the men who can transform himself into a killing machine, or fodder in an endless and unwindable war. Powerless Tau plans to get injured and sit out the war, but chooses to change his fate when tragedy strikes. As in GoT—and with raged to the Targaryens who can (sometimes) command them—dragons are waiting on the sidelines to change the game entirely.

Status: Ongoing series

King’s Dragon, by Kate Elliott
King Henry ostensibly controls Wendar, but his sister Sabella has contested his reign for years and has drawn significant support to her banner in ways both fair and politically clever—reminiscent of the battles for the throne of Westeros that have shaped the entire GoT saga—and, as in GRRM’s series, an inhuman race from the north is massing and preparing to take advantage of the ensuing civil war. Elliott’s epic Crown of Stars series, which began publishing right around the same time but has been finished for more than a decade, follows young people drawn into the conflict, which only grows more complex as it builds.

Status: Completed seven-book series

A Conspiracy of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland
One of the chief villains of A Song of Ice and Fire has rarely been known to pick up a sword; Petyr Balish prefers to sow discord with words. If you prefer his sharp-tongued political strategems, you’ll probably fall for Chant, the sly protagonist of Alexandra Rowland’s debut novel. As the book opens, Chant sits behind bars, arrested on charges of witchcraft. Doomed to be executed, he uses the only weapon that remains to him—a tongue sharpened by decades of storytelling—to sow discord among the varying factions in the kingdom’s ongoing power struggle. If his words can turn the right people against one another, he just make walk out of prison, instead of being carried out a corpse. If you always wished Game of Thrones was funnier but no less cutting, it’s the book for you. A sequel arrives this fall.

Status: Ongoing series

What books will you turn to once Game of Thrones is over?

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