With HBO’s “Game of Thrones” bringing its penultimate season to a close, you very likely have a Seven Kingdoms-sized hole in your schedule to fill. With the epic TV series marching toward a finale, the wait for that final season certainly feels interminable. Thankfully, there are more than a few literary options to help stave off “GoT” withdrawal – and, of course, you can always head to the source, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’re looking for something a little more Westeros-adjacent, the books below feature some recent hits in the fantasy genre, some science fiction nods, and a few more outside-the-box suggestions. But, they all feature the sort of murky morality, complex characters, double-dealing, and backstabbing that “GoT” fans love.
“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.”
If the above doesn’t make you curious about the tale of Kvothe, we’re just not sure what will.
James S. A. Corey
Set in a future where humanity has colonized much of the solar system, the first novel in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey centers on a vast conspiracy that threatens the tenuous peace humanity has eked out. Often described favorably as “’Game of Thrones’ in space,” Leviathan Wakes features multiple point-of-view characters and complex storytelling. For GoT fans looking to branch into sci-fi, Leviathan Wakes is just the place to start.
N. K. Jemisin
Book one in the Inheritance trilogy centers on barbarian outcast Yeine Darr, who finds herself summoned to the majestic city of Sky. To her surprise, Yeine is named heiress to the king and is swept into a world of palace intrigue and a generations-old power struggle buoyed by unimaginable weapons – weapons that were once considered gods.
At base, “Game of Thrones” and the A Song of Ice and Fire series is a political thriller; governance in Westeros, however, involves dragons, swords, and poison instead of suits and whips. House of Cards – the first in a trilogy by Michael Dobbs and the basis for both a UK series and the Netflix original of the same name – is one of the best political thrillers in recent memory. Francis Urquhart is a savage and saavy UK politician and in House of Cards there’s no shortage of intrigue, backstabbing, and maybe even a murder or two.
The first volume in the Gentleman Bastards series is an expertly crafted crime caper set against the fantastical island city of Camorr. It centers on a young thief named Locke Lamora and an infamous band of ne’er-do-wells known as the Gentleman Bastards.
If the darker edges of “GoT” are what grab your attention, the genre of grimdark is likely right up your alley. After all, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is, in many ways, a marriage of grimdark and epic fantasy. Prince of Thorns, much like “GoT,” features a young, would-be ruler whose family was slaughtered and now seeks to reclaim the throne he believes is rightfully his.
Ian McDonald’s latest series centers on the five powerful families who control industry on the colonized moon of a failing Earth. Rife with political intrigue, warring dynastic families, and a fragile peace that falls apart leaving the entire enterprise in tatters, Luna is most definitely worth a look for “GoT” fans.
Jason Aaron and Jason Latour
A southern-fried crime noir set in a backwater Alabama town obsessed with football might not be the best analogue to “GoT” at first blush, but if you look a little deeper there’s a lot to like. The story of Earl Tubb’s return to Craw County, Alabama and the chaos that ensues is rife with morally ambiguous characters, shocking violence and shifting alliances. Give it a chance – it won’t disappoint.
Young adult fantasy might not sound like the first choice for fans of “GoT,” but there’s a lot of surprisingly complex YA fantasy set in brutal and unforgiving worlds. An Ember in the Ashes is among the best of a crowded group. Set in a world inspired by ancient Rome, An Ember in the Ashes follows a slave girl named Laia recruited by a band of rebels to spy on the Empire from within its most prestigious, and dangerous, military academy.
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Brian K. Vaughan is a legendary comic book writer known for his dense plotting, shifting narratives, and nuanced characters. Saga stands alongside some of the best stuff he’s produced. Initially centering on two lovers from warring alien cultures, Saga quickly expands into a space-faring, well, saga set against a galactic war with a host of morally murky characters and ever-changing alliances.
It’s no secret that George R. R. Martin drew heavy inspiration from the Wars of Roses – a series of wars fought in the fifteenth century for control of the throne of England. Wars of the Roses: Stormbird is the first in a historical fiction trilogy by Conn Iggulden recounting the brutal conflicts that inspired “GoT.”
Granted, this recommendation is a bit of a stretch, but it never hurts to step outside the box every once in a while. Big Little Lies may be far outside the world of “GoT” in terms of setting – after all, a quaint suburban community is a far cry from the Seven Kingdoms – but it’s still a complex page-turner with a cast of morally ambiguous characters vying for power after a tragic “accident” upends the status quo. In the case of Big Little Lies, however, the fighting is done with acid-dripping wit rather than broadswords; the wounds inflicted can cut just as deep though.