The fifth book in George R.R. Martin's bloody "Song of Ice and Fire," A Dance with Dragons, hit bookstores shortly after the Game of Thrones TV series started in 2011. Surely, you thought, there’s no way the show will catch up to the books. It couldn't take Martin five years to finish the sixth book. But here it is, six years later, and The Winds of Winter is still the literary equivalent of vaporware. Martin even sent out a New Years' message to fans apologizing that the book would not be finished before the sixth season's April première.
Then came news that George Martin had died, and you went into a panic until you realized it was the Beatles producer and not the author. While we're holding out hope that Winds will appear some time this year, there's still A Dream of Spring to conclude the series, and who knows when that will come?
Which is why it's time to line up some contingency reading.
Luckily, there are plenty of complete fantasy series to fill the hole Martin has left on your bookshelf. Here are 10 that Westeros lovers are sure to appreciate, depending on what you love about Martin's world. And because these are already finished, they won't leave you wondering what happened to (spoilers!) for years.
If you like: Family members vying against each other for an empty throne
Read: "Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne" by Brian Staveley
Titles: The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, and The Last Mortal Bond
Staveley concludes his debut trilogy on Tuesday, March 15. The Emperor of Annuria has been assassinated and his heir, the young monk-in-training Kaden, is not prepared to assume the throne. His brother Valyn, a sort of magical commando, has also been targeted by the mysterious assassins, and seeing his brother's unpreparedness, defects and attempts to take the throne himself. Meanwhile, the only one qualified to take her father's position, Adare, is denied the throne as a woman. Throw in some godlike beings that were thought banished, a death cult, prostitute priestesses, and ancient magic, and you have an award winning trilogy.
If you like: Dragons and economics
Read: "The Dagger and Coin Quintet" by Daniel Abraham.
Titles: The Dragon's Path, The King's Blood, The Tyrant's Law, The Widow's House, and The Spider's War
Abraham is a protege of Martin's, having written comic adaptations of several of his novels and co-authored the sci-fi book Hunter's Run with Martin. It shows in this multi-faceted examination of an oft-ignored aspect of worldbuilding - banking and commerce. The series follows Cithrin, an orphan raised in a bank, as she attempts to navigate the growing tide of war using her financial wherewithal. She is joined by a former soldier and the outcast son of a noble family on her quest. The finale of the series, The Spider's War, came out on March 8.
If you like: Lots of sex
Read: "Kushiel’s Legacy" by Jacqueline Carey
Titles: Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, and Kushiel's Mercy
Inspired by Jewish folklore mixed with a healthy dose of Christian mysticism, and set in a re-imagined version of France, Carey's erotic fantasy series is divided into two trilogies. The first follows Phedre, a young outcast marked by the angel of punishment Kushiel, to bring balance to the shattered world through S&M, using her magical power to turn pain into pleasure. The second trilogy, which kicks off with Kushiel's Scion, focuses on Imriel, a prince raised by Phedre as the ideal of Elua's tenet, "Love as thou wilt." Carey has won multiple awards for the acclaimed series since Kushiel's Dart debuted in 2001.
If you like: Fantasy loosely based on European history
Read: "The Powder Mage Trilogy" by Brian McClellan
Titles: Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, and The Autumn Republic.
Inspired by the Napoleonic Wars, this "flintlock fantasy" follows the exploits of Field Marshal Tamas and his son Taniel Two-Shot. The pair are powder mages, able to consume gunpowder and channel it into magical powers. The series begins with Tamas leading a revolutionary coup to overthrow the tyrannical monarchy of Adros, plunging the country into a bloody civil war as Tamas' forces hunt down the surviving members of the Royal Cabal. Meanwhile Taniel and a police inspector are trying to solve a mysterious riddle that hints at the return of ancient deities who are also taking sides in the conflict. The up-and-coming McClellan studied under Brandon Sanderson, and Sanderson's influence is felt throughout this award-winning debut.
If you like: Khal Drogo and the Dothraki
Read: "The Eternal Sky Trilogy" by Elizabeth Bear
Titles: Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky
Elizabeth Bear's acclaimed trilogy trades fantasy's traditional Western European-influenced setting for a decidedly Silk Road feel. The novel follows Temur, the exiled heir of the slain Great Khan as he seeks to consolidate power amidst the nomadic tribes and warring empires of the mighty Khaganate. Joined with the outcast daughter of a rival empire who has rejected her family to learn the ways of magic, Temur embarks on a quest to unite the Khaganate against their greatest enemy. All this is set against a unique backdrop, where the polytheistic gods are reflected in the heavens, as their respective influence rises and falls, the sky itself changes. The "Endless Sky Trilogy" is a unique fantasy from the award-winning Bear.
If you like: Joffrey
Read: "The Broken Empire" by Mark Lawrence
Titles: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns
Lawrence's debut was inspired by A Clockwork Orange, so that should tell you a little about his brutal protagonist, Jorg Ancrath. A teenage prince who was abused by his father, Jorg is a scarred and broken sociopath. Running away after witnessing his mother and brother's murder, Jorg has taken to banditry, leading a gang of thugs through a post-apocalyptic world. As the series progresses, Jorg returns confronting his past and reclaim his birthright, facing the mysterious Dead King for control of the Broken Empire.
If you like: Keeping track of loads of POV characters
Read: "Malazan Book of the Fallen" by Steven Erikson
Titles: Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, Midnight Tides, The Bonehunters, Reaper's Gale, Toll the Hounds, Dust of Dreams, and The Crippled God
Among fantasy lovers, this ambitious series is considered one of the finest, thanks to its post-modern storytelling and diverse cast. Originally conceived as a role-playing game setting, the ten novels follow multiple plot-lines through across the vast Malazan Empire. While the books are mostly self-contained, they constantly refer back to events and characters from previous novels, all told from dozens of points-of-view. In addition to the 10 novels in the series, Erikson's friend and RPG cohort, Ian Cameron Kesselmont, wrote six novels set in the Malazan world, but unrelated to the multiple storylines in Erikson's epic.
If you like: Jon Snow and Ghost
Read: "The Farseer Trilogy" by Robin Hobb
Titles: Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest
Fitz is the illegitimate son of Prince Chivalry in Robin Hobb's acclaimed trilogy. Raised in the stables by his father's groom, Burrich, before being whisked away to train as an assassin. He finds himself in conflict with his ironically named uncle Regal, defending his dead father's honor and supporting the aging King Shrewd. While still a child, Fitz displays a talent for the "Wit", a magical bonding with animals, joining his will with a puppy named Nosy. In later books he gives himself completely to the Wit, bonding with a noble wolf, Nighteyes. These two relationships provide an emotional core to this acclaimed series and any animal lover should appreciate them. Fitz and his erstwhile companion, The Fool, return in several follow-up series as well.
If you: are worried that Martin will die before finishing
Read: "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan
Titles: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams, The Gathering Storm (with Brandon Sanderson), Towers of Midnight (with Brandon Sanderson), and A Memory of Light (with Brandon Sanderson)
This is likely academic, because Martin has already said the series will not be completed by anyone else, but Jordan's epic proves that it is possible. Already known for the long turnaround between novels (although not as long as Martin), the series, which began in 1990, ground to a halt with Jordan's death in 2007. Determined to finish the story according to her husband's instructions, Jordan's wife approached the young writer Brandon Sanderson to complete the last book in the series, giving him access to Jordan's copious notes and outlines. That book turned into three books and catapulted Sanderson to fantasy superstardom as it wrapped up in 2013.
If you like: Arya
Read: "Mistborn" by Brandon Sanderson
Titles: Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages
Vin is an orphan, abandoned by her prostitute mother on the streets of Luthadel, a city ruled by the all-powerful Lord Ruler and his ruthless Steel Inquisitors. She is rescued by the rebel Kelsier and recruited to his band of magical thieves. Vin learns that, like Kelsier, she is a Mistborn, a powerful mage with the ability to convert metals into magical powers. Together, they set out to overthrow the Lord Ruler and establish order in Luthadel. The initial trilogy follows Vin and her adventures to restore order to the broken world, but Sanderson has grander plans for the Mistborn world. He has also written three books in a steampunk/western setting, 300 years after the events of the original trilogy, and eventually plans to do a more modern cyberpunk series and a space opera, all set on the same magical world. But this first epic fantasy trilogy is a great introduction to the prolific Sanderson.