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Reading Recommendations

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I get emails all the time from fans asking me to recommend books for them to read "while I am waiting for your next one."

I can't possibly reply to all my emails, of course. But I do reply to some, when the mood strikes me. And I am always glad to recommend good books. There is so many of them out there that do not get half the attention that they deserve.

For some readers I like to draw attention to the classics of our genre. It never ceases to amaze me to discover that some of my own fans have never heard of all the great fantasists who came before me, without whom A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE could never have been written... without whom, in truth, there might not be a fantasy genre at all. If you have enjoyed my own fantasy novels, you owe it to yourself to read J.R.R. Tolkien (LORD OF THE RINGS), Robert E. Howard (Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane), C.L. Moore (Jirel of Joiry), Jack Vance (THE DYING EARTH, Lyonesse, Cugel the Clever, and so much more), Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser), Richard Adams (WATERSHIP DOWN, SHARDIK, MAIA), Ursula K. Le Guin (Earthsea, the original trilogy), Mervyn Peake (GORMENGHAST), T.H. White (THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING), Rosemary Sutcliffe, Alan Garner, H.P. Lovecraft (more horror than fantasy, admittedly), Clark Ashton Smith, and... well, the list is long. But those writers should keep you busy for quite a while. You won't like all of them, perhaps... some wrote quite a long time ago, and neither their prose nor their attitudes are tailored for modern attention spans and sensibilities... but they were all important, and each, in his or her own way, was a great storyteller who helped make fantasy what it is today.

Maybe you've read all the fantasy classics, however. I have lots of readers for whom that is true as well. Those I like to point at some of my contemporaries. As great as Tolkien, Leiber, Vance, REH, and those others were, THIS is the golden age of epic fantasy. There have never been as many terrific writers working in the genre as there are right now. Actually, there has never been so much epic fantasy published than right now, which means a lot of mediocre and downright terrible books as well, since Sturgeon's Law still applies. But I prefer to talk about the good stuff, and there's a lot of that. Just for starts, check out Daniel Abraham (THE LONG PRICE QUARTET, THE DAGGER AND THE COIN, Scott Lynch (the Locke Lamora series), Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie (especially BEST SERVED COLD and THE HEROES)... they will keep you turning pages for a good long while, I promise...

Fantasies are not the only books I recommend to my readers, however. It has always been my belief that epic fantasy and historical fiction are sisters under the skin, as I have said in many an interview. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE draws as much on the traditions of historical fiction as it does on those of fantasy, and there are many great historical novelists, past and present, whose work helped inspire my own. Sir Walter Scott is hard going for many modern readers, I realize, but there's still great stuff to be found in IVANHOE and his other novels, as there is in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's WHITE COMPANY (he write more than just Sherlock Holmes). Thomas B. Costain (THE BLACK ROSE, THE SILVER CHALICE) is another writer worth checking out, along with Howard Pyle, Frank Yerby, Rosemary Hawley Jarman. Nigel Tranter lived well into his 90s, writing all the while, and turning out an astonishing number of novels about Scottish medieval history (his Bruce and Wallace novels are the best, maybe because they are the only ones where his heroes actually win, but I found the lesser known lords and kings equally fascinating). Thanks to George McDonald Fraser, that cad and bounder Harry Flashman swashed and buckled in every major and minor war of the Victorian era. Sharon Kay Penman, Steven Pressfield, Cecelia Holland, David Anthony Durham, David Ball, and the incomparable Bernard Cornwell are writing and publishing firstrate historical fiction right now, novels that I think any fan of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE would find easy to enjoy.

And then there is Maurice Druon. Which is actually why I called you all here today, boys and girls.

Look, if you love A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and want "something like it" to read while you are waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for me to finish THE WINDS OF WINTER, you really need to check out Maurice Druon and THE ACCURSED KINGS.

I never met Druon, alas (he died only a few years ago, and I regret that I never had the chance to shake his hand), but from all reports he was an extraordinary man. He was French, highly distinguished, a resistance fighter against the Nazis, a historian, a member of the French Academy... well, you can read about his life on Wikipedia, and it makes quite a story in itself. He wrote short stories, contemporary novels, a history of Paris... and an amazing seven-volume series about King Philip IV of France, his sons and daughters, the curse of the Templars, the fall of the Capetian dynasty, the roots of the Hundred Years War. The books were a huge success in France. So huge than they have twice formed the basis for television shows (neither version is available dubbed or subtitled in English, to my annoyance), series that one sometimes hears referred to as "the French I, CLAUDIUS." The English translations... well, the seventh volume has never been translated into English at all, and the first six are long out of print, available only in dusty hardcovers and tattered paperbacks from rare book dealers found on ABE.

But that's about to change, thanks to my own British publisher, HarperCollins, who are bringing THE ACCURSED KINGS back into print at long last in a series of handsome new hardbacks. The first volume, THE IRON KING, has just been published... with a brand new introduction by some guy named George R.R. Martin.

Iron-King

At the moment, alas, there's no plan for American editions, but readers in the US (and around the world) can order the Druon novels from their favorite online bookseller through the wonders of the internet.

The best news... at least for me... is the HarperCollins not only intends to release new English editions of the first six novels of THE ACCURSED KINGS, but also... finally!!!... translate the seventh and concluding volume. (Talk about waiting a long time for a book).

Anyway... whether you want something else to occupy your time while waiting for THE WINDS OF WINTER, or you're just looking for a good read... you won't go wrong with Maurice Druon, France's best historical novelist since Dumas Pere.

Comments

( 136 comments )
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sweetgonzotooth
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:35 am (UTC)
now that's a hot tip. much obliged, ser. :)
mrmilky
Mar. 10th, 2013 11:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice...
I'm starting today with Druon's.
(no subject) - Michael Gordon - Mar. 12th, 2013 01:33 am (UTC) - Expand
kiwi_fan1989
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:10 am (UTC)
Might check that, not bad price on the book depository. Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont's shared world is what has been keeping me busy. highly recommended. Erikson's 10 book series (Malazan book of the fallen) is FINISHED, which is nice and Esslemont (Novels of the Malazan Empire) has one left to be released. 16 books in the main arc, now they are working on prologues. Enough to keep me busy while I wait for Winds of Winter :)
_apr_
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC)
THE ACCURSED KINGS is awesome. Especially first 6 novels. The seventh book lacks old good heroes and has only one POV.
I always suspected, you have read Druon and ASOIAF was inspired by TAC.
I saw French TV-series (2005), IMHO it was not good.


Edited at 2013-03-10 03:52 pm (UTC)
dooropener
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:46 am (UTC)
it's really nice to see that you recommend some of my favorite writers :)
ryans311
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:57 am (UTC)
I'd strongly recommend The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. (WoT, ASoIF, and LOTR round out my personal favorite top 3) If there is to be a discussion of modern fantasy here the Wheel of Time MUST be among the best of it yes?

Robert Jordan's world, completed by Brandon Sanderson, is wonderful and satisfying. The first novel is The Eye of The World - give it a shot!
Anna Ismagulova
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
Reading the beginning of the post I thought you would not mention any books not in English originally. But you told of Druon.:-) The big difference between him and Dumas Pere – Druon was careful with historical facts... He did his best to be exact. As to Dumas - ...:-)
By the way, Philip IV had just one daughter, not “daughters”.:-)
mhpr262
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendation, I am going to check those books out. I like David Ball a lot too, "Sword and Scimitar" and "Empires of Sand" are brilliant books. However, the best historical fiction novel I have ever read is "Die Brücke von Alcantara" (The Bridge of Alcantara) by German author Frank Baer. It is a real shame that the book has never received the attention it deserves, AFAIK it hasn't been translated into any other language either. At least your German speaking readers might want to give that book a try.
angel_arashi
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:46 am (UTC)
Actually, the television shows about the end of the Capetian dynasty not being available in English is no great loss. The story is indeed captivating, but both adaptations made a great mess out of it. Really, you should have no regrets.
mariefoxprice
Mar. 10th, 2013 11:30 am (UTC)
Great list!
Great list, Mr Martin. I've read a few of your listed authors and enjoyed them and there's a couple I tried to read years ago and should probably check them out. I just wrote them down so I can look for them in charity shops and on Kindle sales and so forth :-) Last week I actually bought a couple of Lovecraft books on my new Kindle as I recalled him being mention as one of the greats but I decided to indulge myself by rereading AGOT first!

For anyone else who reads this, my particular vote of approval goes to Bernard Cornwell especially Sharpe and the Warlord Trilogy (King Arthur), as well as to TH White. Yes, I'm an Arthurian enthusiast :) On that note, some people may like to know that Tolkein's unfinished Arthurian poetic work is being published in May!

I would like to recommend a couple of things that aren't on the above list - Naomi Novik's Temeraire series which blends history and fantasy by incorporating dragons into the Napoleonic Wars. Also Sophia McDougall's Romanitas which features the Roman Empire in the 21st century.

sistercrow
Mar. 11th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
Re: Great list!
What is Tolkien's unfinished Arthurian work called?
Re: Great list! - mariefoxprice - Mar. 11th, 2013 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Great list! - ext_1695481 - Mar. 12th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Great list! - wildwit - Mar. 22nd, 2013 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand
David Menashy
Mar. 10th, 2013 11:55 am (UTC)
Richard Adams
Very happy to see your recommendation for Richard Adams' "Shardik" and particularly "Maia" as they are usually ovelooked in the light of "Watership Down". Excellent fantasy novels, a bit ahead of their time I think. Also "The Girl in a Swing" was one of his I enjoyed.
Bernard Cornwell's Arthur series is great too.
I see "The Iron King" is available as an audiobook too, so I'll def. check that out. Thanks for the heads-up.
Finally may I recommend "Wool" by Hugh Howey, post-apocalyptic sci-fi at its finest, it's going to be massive. I met him in London last week and he's (another) huge fan of yours!
Davieboy.
Dan Murphy
Mar. 10th, 2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
Reading
Very Helpful, thanks.
shimmerngspirit
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the book suggestion! I was looking fr a good read :)
flake_sake
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:22 pm (UTC)
Druon is bought right away, I was basically sold at the I, Claudius comparison.
pulvatory
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:27 pm (UTC)
Brigadier Gerard
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also wrote The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard, a fun and very funny collection of short stories/novellas about a cocky brigadier in Napoleon's armies. A review from Goodreads sums-up the books perfectly:

"Etienne Gerard, hero of France, is the kind of man who challenges a dozen men to a dozen duels (in a row, while promising to spend no more than five minutes with each so that the others are not kept waiting), only to show up late to the dueling ground because he was busy infiltrating a fortified Spanish town in order to end a siege--and then, just so he won't miss breakfast, he offers to fight all twelve men at once. And he fully expects to win."

For props, George Macdonald Fraser and Michael Chabon love these stories, too.

==

valle2134
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
Maurice Druon/The Iron King
I just checked out Amazon.com USA for The Iron King. They have a paperback edition of the hardback you mentioned coming out March 26,2013 for $10.19.
As to Fanatsy reading, what about Michael Moorcock?
grrm
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Maurice Druon/The Iron King
Moorcock... yes, indeed. Especially GLORIANA, and the original Elric books and stories. (The later Elrics were less to my taste).
Re: Maurice Druon/The Iron King - valle2134 - Mar. 11th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jean-Christian Drolet
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
Les Rois Maudits - TV serie
The first one is the best.

Low budget, theater like with great actors. Even in French it is hard to find.

I hope for you that you'll be able to have a subtitled version somedays.

So, is Tyrion your Robert D'Artois?

insurrbution
Mar. 10th, 2013 02:05 pm (UTC)
George, I love physical books as much as the next guy but out of curiosity, will there be ebooks of Druons works?
hmadkour
Mar. 10th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
Kings, Warriors, and Revenge
I, for one, have read, or am reading most of the books you recommended.
I would like to recommend some of Dumas père's work who has some of the same themes, since you mentioned him : The Three Musketeers, 20 Years After, The Viscount Of Bragelonne, The Corsican Brothers, The Count Of Monte Cristo...

Also, since I'm trilingual, I would like to know if Druon's work is available in french, if not, then your marketing strategy is working!
innamortata
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
amazon can call it the "GRRM Bump"... whenever you post book recommendations on LJ, suddenly those books increase in sale on Amazon.. :) Thanks for the suggestions!
blodeuedd
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
I devoured Druon's series years ago (in French) and just assumed that of course there must be a readily available English translation, but I guess not. I'm glad to hear that's to be remedied!

As for the seventh book... it's rather different from the first six, for many reasons. Personally, I didn't find it as enjoyable as the other six, though it's definitely worth reading.
sevgiinsani
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendations. Would you write a similar list about science fiction?
coragem_jcb
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
Richard Morgan
Hi George:

Great recommendations, of course, and I very much share your taste, but you never mention Richard Morgan.

You should (you must!) read Black Man (Arthur C Clark winner, 2008), Woken Furies and Market Forces (Clark nominee, 2005).

Like no other genre author, Morgan combines intelligent social/political commentary, superlative writing, a noir edge, amazing characterisation and sex and violence.

He is a cut above most of the authors you mention.

James.
grrm
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Richard Morgan
I have enjoyed some of Morgan's science fiction novels, but have yet to try his fantasies.
saxster
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC)
I almost got my hands on The Iron King via a LibraryThing early reviewers list, but just missed out, unfortunately.

Glad to say I've read and/or own books by 90% of your recommendations. I would toss in a couple of names of my own -- Stephen R. Donaldson and Dan Simmons.

I think I've re-read Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories as many times as I've re-read Tolkien. I could definitely tell you were a fan when I first picked up your books, George.

Edited at 2013-03-10 03:46 pm (UTC)
webbre3
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
New Books
I have started reading a series called 'The Wheel of time'. Its a 15 book series and has been very well recieved. Ofcourse it isnt 'a song of ice and fire', it is brilliant and well worth reading, swords, magic and evil. At the very least, it is distracting me from the wait of 'winds of winter' yet its making me want it more....
aulus_poliutos
Mar. 10th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
Now you need to find some books I haven't read yet. :-) Kidding, my TBR pile resembles the Tower of Pisa anyway and I also like to reread some books, so there's no shortage of reading material to tide me over the Wait for Winter.

Druon is still avaliable in the original French and the German translations (which have recently been reprinted in omnibus editions, though the 7th book, Quand un roi perd la France, has never been translated, either); so it's nice to see English readers will get a chance to know him, too.

David Anthony Durham, whom you listed under historical fiction, has also written an interesting Fantasy trilogy, Acacia.

I may have some more suggestions esp. for those who like historical fiction: Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolò (8 books, starting with Niccolò Rising) and Lymond (6 books, starting with Game of Kings) series. They take a bit getting into, but if you stick out the first 200-300 pages, you'll be rewarded with a Niccolò who can outsmart Littlefinger and a Francis Cawford of Lymond who swashbuckles and charms his way through the better part of Europe.

For those who like intrigues and sex in Rome, Colleen McCullough's Rome series may prove a fun read. The first three books (The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune's Favourites) are great, the following books suffer a bit from her Caesar worship, but that may have been me who doesn't like the man. The sequel about Mark Anthony and Cleopatra felt a bit lacklustre; she wrote that for the fans more than for herself, I think.

For action fun in the wake of Cornwell, check out Robert Low's Viking series (beginning with The Whale Road) or Douglas Jackson's Hero of Rome series. In the Fantasy department, David Gemmell's books can still hold their own, imho, and Guy Gavriel Kay has written some great novels that border the line between hist fic and Fantasy (The Lion of Al-Rassan, A Song for Arbonne, Tigana, to name just some).

And there's a recently discovered gem: Robert Lyondon's Hawk Quest.

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