What to read while waiting for A Game of Thrones

It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since the Lord of the Rings hit theaters, and the world was instantly smitten with High Fantasy–visions of hobbits dancing through our heads! If you loved Tolkien’s Middle Earth and always craved something more after devouring the books, then HBO’s new adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is a must see and read. 

For months now I have had patrons coming in asking for a copy of A Game of Thrones, which makes my little librarian heart flutter. However, with any book that is made into a movie or series, the holds list shoots through the roof, leaving my dear patrons in a lurch with nothing but time before they get their copy. And like a shining knight in the mists of Avalon, I come through to save the day! 

Part of the appeal of High Fantasy is the complex world-building and fully realized cultures the authors create. Below is an annotated list of High Fantasy epics that should appeal to fans of A Game of Thrones, Tolkien’s Middle Earth or anyone with an itch for worlds that never were.  

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
Only Robert A. Heinlein has won more Hugo Awards for Best Novel than Lois McMaster Bujold, a singularly lauded author whose work has been compared to Jane Austen’s. Now channeling her remarkable storytelling genius in an exciting new direction, she creates a riveting tale rich in atmosphere, magic, character, and consequence that twists and turns in unanticipated ways.

Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow… 

Nine Princes in Amber Series by Roger Zelazny
Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber have earned their place as all-time classics of imaginative literature. Now here are all ten novels, together in one magnificent omnibus volume. Witness the titanic battle for supremacy waged on Earth, in the Courts of Chaos, and on a magical world of mystery, adventure, and romance.

Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
From master fantasy writer Terry Brooks comes the first book in the famed Shannara trilogy. Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revealed that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara – Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him.

Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley 
Darkover, planet of wonder, world of mystery, has been a favorite of science fiction readers for many years. For it is a truly alien sphere–a world of strange intelligences, of brooding skies beneath a ruddy sun, and of powers unknown to Earth. A unique mixture of fantasy with science fiction undertones, the Darkover Series is one of the longest running and diverse fantasy epics of all time. All the books in the series can be read as stand-alones, though some characters reappear, but it is the world of Darkover that is the true star of these novels.

The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist
To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan called Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry. Yet Pug’s strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to begin again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos.

The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
Being a fisherman like his father isn’t a bad life, but it’s not the one that Asher wants. Despite his humble roots, Asher has grand dreams. And they call him to Dorana, home of princes, beggars?and the warrior mages who have protected the kingdom for generations. Little does Asher know, however, that his arrival in the city is being closely watched by members of the Circle, people dedicated to preserving an ancient magic. Asher might have come to the city to make his fortune, but he will find his destiny.

Other suggestions?  Leave ’em in the comments!

6 thoughts on “What to read while waiting for A Game of Thrones”

  1. What a great list! I, too, love Martin’s series, but often need help finding other epic fantasy like it, for myself and others. I’ll be using this a lot. Thanks, Jared!

  2. Jared this is terrific! Am plowing thru Martin’s series now, having come to it late, and was wondering what I’d do during the likely long wait after.

  3. Robin Hobb has several series. The Assassin Trilogy features a bastard with two psy/magic powers one of which is aristocratic in lineage and the other which is related to animals and forbidden. Our hero’s adventures continue in the Tawny Man Trilogy (starts with the Golden Fool). She also has a Mad Ships (sentient trader ships) Trilogy in the same world as well as a Rain Wilds pair of books about imperfect dragons. These series overlap slightly. Beware of The Wheel of Time! It has 14 books in it and sags in the middle. I, however, was hooked long ago. It was a library worker that pointed me to Darkover, which is great if you are into psy powers.

  4. Good choices, except for Wheel of Time. Jordan died before he finished this epic moneymaker and it drags on foreverrrrr. I gave up on #6. Patrick Rothfuss is new GRRM, and the second one after Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, is even better than the first. And — it’s a trilogy, so hey, it might even get finished. Great writing. The Kushiel stuff, by Jacqueline Carey is great, too, but not for the faint of heart in so many ways…

  5. Thanks for the suggestion, Kay!
    I’m on hold for Rothfuss right now because I’ve heard nothing but great things. I think while I wait for the holds list to come down I’m going check out Jacqueline Carey because I’m not familiar with her and I definitely like the dark stuff… 🙂

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