By Jake Sexton
In tragic news this month, the beloved and behated, bloody, sexy, controversial phenomenon known as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is coming to an end. As I type this, we still have one more episode to go, so I do not know if its conclusion was brilliant or a trainwreck. After the finale, millions of people will be left reeling, missing the characters and intrigue they’ve grown to love. But I’m here to help with some book recommendations that can help fill that Mother of Dragons-shaped hole in your hearts.
First of all, you can of course read George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the book series upon which the TV show was based. There are five books in the series so far, with two more to go. Granted, Martin is widely known for taking an awfully long time to finish each book. Martin has also written another book set in this same fantasy world, but taking place generations before the current storyline, “Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones.” “Fire & Blood” focuses on the rise of the dragon-riding Targaryen family.
Marlon James’ “Dark Star Trilogy” is a new series, which has been frequently called “the next ‘Game of Thrones,’” starting with the book “Black Leopard, Red Wolf.” In much the same way that “Thrones” is inspired by medieval Europe, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” is inspired by Iron Age Africa, with aspects of the culture, mythology and social structure blended with magic and fantastical creatures. Like “Thrones,” the story is very adult, with graphic violence (both physical and sexual) and characters so immoral that it can be difficult to know who to root for. This paints a vivid picture of a brutal world, but obviously will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
As far as fantasy epics go, Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series is easy to recommend. The story begins when three friends from a rural village who are told that they have a grand destiny, and leave home for the first time under the leadership of a young sorceress. The tale balloons in scope, as the books shift between the point of view of dozens of different characters. There are furious battles between good and evil, court intrigue, romance, culture clashes, magic, madness, and interactions/strife between a dozen factions (both heroic and sinister) seeking to fulfill their unique agendas. The series is 14 books long, with some of the volumes nearing 1,000 pages in length. It will keep you occupied for a very long time.
As the “Thrones” characters of Westeros face down an oncoming arctic cataclysm (“winter is coming”), the characters of N.K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy face tectonic cataclysm, in which unpredictable earthquakes and volcanoes create terrible natural disasters, societal disruption and death. Some people in this world have magical powers to control the earth, and they are conscripted to help stave off these catastrophes. Against this backdrop, we focus on the story of a woman searching for her kidnapped daughter and what life is like for the oppressed magical guardians. All three books in the trilogy have won the Hugo Award (literary awards for science fiction and fantasy) for Best Novel of the Year, which is an amazing feat.
Now that winter has come (and gone), it’s time to gear up for your library’s Summer Reading Program. Read books for prizes, and enjoy programs for all ages. Ask library staff for details.
— Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or visit online at sdcl.org.