9 great fantasy epics every Game of Thrones fan needs to read

9 great fantasy epics every Game of Thrones fan needs to read

George R. R. Martin started writing A Game of Thrones, the first volume in the series, A Song of Ice an Fire, in 1991. When books 6 and 7—The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring—will come out is anybody’s guess.

But how closely the TV show will match the content of those books is less of a guess, given that they’ve already shown an ability to veer in their own direction.

For fans of the books, endlessly waiting for Martin to get on with it, here’s a few suggestions for some other epic books to help pass the time.

  1. Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: What is it about fantasy and the initials R. R.?

Anyhow, if you haven’t already read the classic trilogy that can be considered to have started the whole thing, now is the time.

The good news is that there is a beginning, a middle, and, yes, an end.

  1. Wheel of Time
Also famous, and a lot longer, is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

There’s 14 books plus a prequel. Jordan deliberately intended for the beginning of his story to evoke the Shire of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but the series goes on into way more complicated ground, and way more pages.

Jordan died before concluding the series; Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn books, finished the series.

Sanderson is now at work on a ten-book series called The Stormlight Archive

  1. The Dresden Files
Jim Butcher is the author of the bestselling series The Dresden Files, about a grownup wizard solving paranormal crimes in Chicago.

Less well-known, and well worth reading, is his four-book Codex Alera series. In a world where everyone can control the elements, hero Tavi is unusual in having no such power.

Butcher’s take on fantasy is as much fun as his Dresden books.

The book, Skin Game, is the 15th in the series.

  1. Earthsea
Originally written as a young adult series, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, comprising six books, is nevertheless a satisfying read for adults as well.

As a matter of fact, parents a little wary of the hijinks in Thrones might want to direct their young readers here as a safe substitute.

The books are set in a world of far-flung islands, providing yet another change of pace from the expected. 

  1. Leviathan
Speaking of young adult series, Scott Westerfield’s steampunk series, Leviathan, is perfect for any age.

Its heroes are a young girl masquerading as a male cadet, and an Austro-Hungarian noble teen boy, just as World War I (or this book’s version of it) is breaking out.

It’s the Darwinists versus the Clankers, and a lot of fun and adventure for all.

  1. Commonwealth
When it comes to big BIG books spread out over a long period of time and abundantly filled with incident, it would be hard to beat Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth series.

Starting with Pandora’s Star, which is clearly science fiction, and covering a millennia or two, eventually the story encompasses a classic fantasy tale, told from within the novels’ mysterious “void.”

As a matter of fact, if you stick with it, The Abyss Beyond Dreams, the 6th book, will strike you as having a decidedly Wild West side (apart from the spaceships).

  1. Magicians
Another series of fantasy material might be familiar to you from a television version is Lev Grossman’s Magicians series.

Yes, there is the whole young wizards at college part, a deliberately adult spin on Hogwarts, but somewhere along the way there is also Fillory, this time a deliberately adult spin on C. S. Lewis’s Narnia.

The TV show is fine, but the books are special.

  1. The Narnia Trilogy
Speaking of Narnia, there is also C. S. Lewis’s classic Ransom trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

They’re a decidedly old-fashioned blend of fantasy and science fiction, but then again, they were written roughly during the period of the Second World War and were pretty cutting edge for their day.

Lewis’s allegories have a lot to say about the times back then—with meaning also applicable to our present-day now—as his hero, Elwin Ransom, explores our neighboring planets.

  1. The Chronicles of Amber
Finally, if you still have time on your hands and you’re looking for ten novels breaking into two cycles of five, plus a handful of short stories (the best way to track all of these down is through Wikipedia), then you’re ready for Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber.

It all begins when our hero awakes from a coma, suffering from amnesia.

He soon learns that he is part of a magical family that can wander through something called 'shadows.' And the game is afoot.

Sign of the Unicorn, is the third book in the Chronicles of Amber series. 

This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.