An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is the first in a sweeping fantasy series set in a ruthless world inspired by ancient Rome. Run by an Emperor who demands full loyalty and compliance, the Martial Empire is a place of destruction, death, and danger. Laia lives with her grandparents and her brother in the Empire, and as a slave, she makes sure to always do what she’s told. But when her brother is arrested for treason, Laia must act quickly to get help and save his life. But, as she soon finds out, help comes with a cost. Laia’s journey will take her to unexpected places and to a rebellious soldier who, with Laia leading the way, will change the fate of the Empire forever.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
This epic genre-bending novel by the one and only Marlon James demonstrates the sheer power of strong world-building. Drawing from African history and mythology, James crafted a one-of-a-kind story that centers around a mercenary named Tracker and his travel companions who put their skills together to search for a boy who mysteriously disappeared three years ago. Tracker and his newfound crew are far from ordinary—each member possesses special skills beyond that of normal humans. Tracker has heightened senses, Leopard is a shape-shifting man-animal, and the rest of the lot have their own unusual secrets. As they make their way through ancient cities, they are followed by a plethora of creatures intent on destroying them, and Tracker can’t help but wonder, who really is this boy they’re looking for?
Who Fears Death
Who Fears Death is set in a post-apocalyptic Africa where the light-skinned Nuru oppress the dark-skinned Okeke. After an Okeke woman survives a violent rape by a Nuru officer, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl with skin the color of sand—an Ewu, or a half-breed rejected by her community. She names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” As Onyesonwu grows, she learns that she possesses a remarkable magic and that someone powerful would like to see her dead. This is the story of Onyesonwu’s journey to understanding her culture and herself. This captivating read has been optioned as a TV series for HBO, with none other than George R. R. Martin as executive producer.
Once you start the Red Rising series, you won’t want to stop until you’ve finished. Red Rising takes place in a future where society is organized by color. Darrow, the protagonist of this story, is a Red, or a member of the lowest caste. Like all other Reds, Darrow’s been tasked with making Mars livable for future generations. He soon finds out that they’ve all been fed a great lie—humanity reached the surface of Mars generations ago. Darrow and the Reds are nothing more than slaves to the ruling class. Determined to seek justice, Darrow sets out to take down members of the highest caste, even if it means risking his life or becoming one of them to do so.
The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
George R. R. Martin said that the Kingkiller Chronicle series was one of the best epic fantasy series he’s read: “He’s bloody good, this Rothfuss guy.” If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up this book, then maybe this will: the entire novel takes place over the course of a single day and is told from the view of Kvothe, a fighter, magician, and musician who is rumored to have killed a king and caused the present war. This is Kvothe’s story about loss, survival, identity, and finding deeper meaning in life.
Gates of Stone
Set in an Asian-inspired world filled with blood and magic, Gates of Stone introduces readers to three powerful protagonists—an emperor’s daughter, a young prince, and a sorcerer—who are all on separate journeys to fulfill their desires and seek justice for what’s happened to them. When their paths collide, the fate of humanity is in shambles. With a Princess who makes Cersei Lannister look soft and detailed battles across sea and land, this epic fantasy is well-worth a read for any Game of Thrones fan.
The Young Elites
After the blood fever swept the nation, most perished. The children who survived were left with strange scars that branded them as outcasts. Adelina was one of these survivors—a group that eventually came to be known as the Young Elites. She and her fellow survivors are believed to have mysterious gifts which make them feared amongst most in their communities. As Adelina discovers just how powerful she is, she learns that her life is in danger and that even those closest to her are wary of her right to exist in this world. Adelina has a blackness in her heart and an unstoppable desire to destroy, but does that make her an enemy?
Prince of Thorns
When he was nine, Prince Honorous watched the murder of his mother and his brother. This event marked a change in his life—Prince Honorous trained to become a deadly weapon and dubbed himself the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. He’s ready to reclaim his throne and take back the life that was so brutally stolen from him. What he doesn’t know? His enemies are more powerful than he ever imagined. Prince of Thorns is a dark and compelling revenge fantasy that will exhilarate you and haunt you at the same time.
A Clash of Kings: The Graphic Novel: Volume One
George R. R. Martin
Who wouldn’t love a graphic novel adaptation of Game of Thrones? The first volume of a four-part series, this full-color graphic novel is an adaptation of the second book in George R.R. Martin’s landmark Song of Ice and Fire series. This novel takes place when Lord Eddard Stark and King Robert Baratheon are dead and Joffrey has taken over as King of Westeros. As the Houses try to reclaim the Iron Throne from the Lannisters, blood will be shed and turmoil is sure to follow.
Fire & Blood
George R. R. Martin
Taking place 300 years before A Game of Thrones, Fire & Blood is exactly what every GOT super fan needs in their life. If you’ve found yourself wondering what Westeros was like when dragons ruled the skies and the Targaryens were at the height of their power, this book is for you. It covers the rise and fall of House Targaryen, from the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, to the civil war that tore it all apart. A must-have guide to the history of the Seven Kingdoms, Fire & Blood is a rich and darkly imagined fantasy by the mastermind himself.
I’m convinced that everyone falls into two buckets: those who love the TV show Game of Thrones and those who haven’t seen it yet. I might get some hate for that, but I’ll stick to it. Why? Well, to put it simply, I think there’s something for everyone in George R. R. Martin’s groundbreaking series. There’s swashbuckling adventure, a lot of (albeit sometimes uncomfortable) romance, epic battle scenes, tender family moments, magic and fantastical beasts, and of course, Jon Snow.
My point is, if you haven’t watched the show yet or read the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books, you probably should. I highly doubt you’ll regret it. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be hooked on it.
If you’re already a huge fan and you’re just itching for the last season to air, you’re not alone. Most of us are already eagerly rewatching or rereading in anticipation for what’s to come—the hardest decision I’ll have to make in April is what viewing party I’m going to for the season premiere.
If you’ve already run out of GOT fuel and are finding yourself feeling lost and sad, we have some good news for you. The magical world-building books listed below will help you to pass the time as you wait (rather impatiently, if you’re like me) for the final season of Game of Thrones on HBO.
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Featured image: Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011) © HBO