By Richard C.
Oh how the mighty are fallen… What greater theme in Fantasy than the dramatic succession and intrigue of rulers and rogues in turbulent kingdoms? Kingdoms covered by darkness wrong and terrifying, terrains dangerous and foreign to poor little earthling readers like ourselves? Well, you came to the right place:
1) The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller (2014)
Book 1 of the Tarnished Crown series is for all you Niccolò Machiavellis out there. Roric had the ruthless cunning needed for usurping the throne of Clemen, plus the backing, but the skills for taking power often prove insufficient for its keeping. Once-allied aristocrats now pose threats from within, and in the neighboring duchy of Harcia, presumptive heirs and claimants once thought dead plan war and annexation from without.
2) Half A King by Joe Abercrombie (2014)
Young Yarvi was small, weak, lame in one arm, and had been rather content with his life in a monastery. He hadn’t ask to be king, but when betrayed after coronation and left to die at sea, a new hunger for revenge kindles his ambitions. Underestimated and unassuming, Yarvi is sharply cunning much like Tyrion from the SoIaF. A great follow up book with similar character development will be I, Claudius by Robert Graves.
3) Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (1999)
Like the rest of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, book 1 is page after haunting page of war, scheming, and betrayal. The city of Darujhistan awaits the Imperial army of Mazalan, but while kings and queens invade and conquer, the use of secret police and assassins can quickly backfire. Scope and character depth are comparable to the SoIaF, but the role of menacing, jealous gods makes this a darker, almost Homeric read.
4) Myrren’s Gift by Fiona McIntosh(1991)
Finally the warlord he’d waited so long to be, Wyl Thirsk is quickly out of favor with his jealous king, Celimus of Mogravia. But when the Caligula-like ruler sends Wyl into battle, a strange and unexpected gift allows Wyl to take on the body of his killer. A succession of deaths and new bodies makes Wyl’s adventure quite unusual – and people say George R. R. Martin is cruel to his characters! Robin Hobb I think says it best: “Don’t start Myrren’s Gift in the evening if you have to get up early the next morning.”
5) Shadowmarch by Tad Williams (2004)
Just inside the Shadowline, the castle of Southmarch is other-worldly par excellance – and rather Gothically so. With only a tenuous grasp, the children of an abducted king rule from black towers and misty spires, but madness and death upon the battle field leave the crown to one remaining sibling. Will she have what it takes, despite the plotting of a jealous cousin and a secret hidden deep beneath the castle, one predating human rule of Southmarch?