Nerd Culture

Can't Wait for George R.R. Martin to Finish Winds of Winter? Read These Fantasy Series Instead

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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.

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Michael runs the Sci-Fridays Book Club at the Poisoned Pen, and volunteers at local pop-culture conventions. He can be found at the occasional prog-rock concert.
Contact: Michael Senft