Game of Thrones is back but fans still await news on a new book by George R R Martin. So if you’re a fan of the TV series or the books, why not have a look at some of our favourite fantasy books below.
First of all has to be the original Game of Thrones series. It starts with A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1, and at the time of writing, there are seven books in this series (two of the stories are in two volumes). This series has been described as setting the benchmark for contemporary epic fantasy, and is definitely worth a read. Although the TV series and the books have parted ways on some of the storylines, this is one way to help while you wait for the new season!
If Game of Thrones is the epitome of modern fantasy, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings would be strong contenders for some of the best classic fantasy. First published in 1937, this is the story of Bilbo Baggins – and other hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, trolls and men. These books will take any reader on a marvellous adventure.
Outlander is the first in the series of the epic novels. Claire Randall is sent back from 1945 to 1743 in the Scottish Highlands – a country torn by war, raiding border clans, rebellion and uprising. Claire is torn between two lives and two men, between fidelity and desire… this is perfect escapism reading. Join the many legions of fans waiting for the next novel to come out!
Coming as a movie in August 2017, starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba, The Gunslinger is the first in the Dark Tower series, by the inimitable Stephen King. In it we meet one of his most enigmatic and powerful heroes; Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. Set in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own, this series is grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike.
Unusually for this genre, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is not a series, but a stand alone novel. Coming in at over 1000 pages (!), this is 1806 – where England is beleaguered by the long war with napoleon. Enter two very different magicians, with some incredible consequences. This is a treat of a novel to be devoured over a few cold nights, and is highly recommended.
In Red Queen, the world is divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. When 17 year old Red girl Mare Barrow finds herself working in the Silver Place, she discovers she possesses a deadly power all of her own. The three books in the series are a whirlwind of betrayal and plot twists.
Philip Pullman is a master storyteller, and his most famous series is His Dark Materials. Northern Lights is the first of these, describing a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. A world where everyone has their own daemon, this is an entrancing blend of metaphysical speculation and simply brilliant storytelling.
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Robin Hobb gives us Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in the Farseer Trilogy. Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. This novel marries magic with history perfectly.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is some of the funniest writing around. Beginning with The Colour of Magic, this series has sold millions of copies and contains over forty books. Discworld exists on the frontier between thought and reality, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. Perfect for younger (and older) readers.
A Discovery of Witches if the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, the story of a young scholar whose discovery of a bewitched manuscript calls to life a fantastical underworld – a horde of daemons, witches and vampires descend. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries, and only she can break the spell. This is equal parts history, magic, romance and suspense.
If it’s the dragons you like best about Game of Thrones, you can’t look past Eragon. When a poor farm boy finds a polished stone in the forest, he stumbles upon a legacy almost as old as the Empire itself. For this is a dragon hatchling, and Eragon must now see if he can become one of the legendary Dragon Riders… Christopher Paolini wrote this book when he was just fifteen years old, and there are three more in the series.
Neil Gaiman has won multiple awards and deservedly so. He’s worked on short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films, and in Norse Mythology takes on long ago myths and breathes life into them. From Odin to Thor and Loki, these stories tell the genesis of the legendary nine worlds, with Gaiman’s typical deft and witty prose