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Reading Recommendations

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.


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.


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Mar. 10th, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
While we're at it, some books I recommend, some fantasy, others more historical:

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Emporer series by Conn Iggulden (forget title of the first)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Jordan Ricks
Mar. 10th, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
All great recommendations, thank you. I've never heard of Maurice Druon, but am now going to give The Iron King a try. I searched for the book on Amazon, and apparently the first book is available in the US as a paperback or on kindle on March 26th. It is available now on Audible. I'm going with the audio version!

Edited at 2013-03-10 05:56 pm (UTC)
Mar. 10th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
Je dit ce sont epinards et allez en enfer.
Will definitely try Monsieur Druon. Only, he appears to have been a bit of a misogynist; denying women entry to the literary elite Academie Francais for decades, as they would lower the tone with their knitting. On behalf of Madame Defarge, the Lady of Shalott, Mrs Weasley, Penelope, Sansa, Miss Marple and knitters everywhere, (myself included)'Vive les tricoteuses!'
Mar. 10th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
Let's say there is only the original TV series though, the second one is.... No comment XD The first one though is a CLASSIC amongst classics in France!

I never thought I'd see you rec Les Rois Maudits though ;) The world is tinier than what I thought - hey, but by being French, I'll miss your introduction then. This is the sad part, I guess D:
Simone Tremblay
Mar. 10th, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
Nice. I'm a French speaker so I don't even have to wait for these translations, but I still have yet to read Les Rois Maudits. I've always been intrigued by that series though, but for some reason just kept putting it off. I have no excuses beyond just having a huge reading backlog, but that post just made me push it back up quite a bit. :)
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Druon books
Read the series many years ago (in French). Engrossing story telling, well-written and worth every praise Mr.Martin gives it.
Mina N.
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
As a native french-speaker who *absolutely* adores the Accursed Kings series, I can only agree with this recommendation! These books are brilliant and kept me hooked from page one.

About the seventh volume though, I never really enjoyed it as much as the previous 6, so I would be really interested in reading your thoughts about it when you finally get a chance to read it.

Until then (and until Winds of Winter...) I will go check out the english historical fiction you recommended - I really share your opinion about epic fantasy and historical fiction, by the way.

Thank you for everything, keep it up M. Martin!
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:50 pm (UTC)
In retrospect, I should not be that much surprised, but that's still a good surprise indeed. As I'm French, it was a bit easier to me to be in contact with the Accursed Kings, which I've read all seven books a few years ago, far before deciding to have a try at those intriguing books known as "A Song of Ice and Fire". Or more accurately, "The Iron Throne" as the French translator has chosen to call them. After all, if I was to find them in about each and every single book store, usually sole ambassadors of the fantasy genre with Tolkien and Robbin Hobb, it could only be awesome.

Anyway, I'd like to point out that this seventh book of the Accursed Kings feels and is a bit disjointed from the first six. It was published 17 years after the sixth one and a few years after the first, awesomely theatrical, TV series. More importantly, though, the style is a bit different and the story told is definitely set for quite a while after the events told in the first six books. In a sense, its only relation with the other books is its illustrious writer and the similar historical setting, but it could very well have been a full-fledged independent story as well. It's an interesting read on par with the Accursed Kings, but I'd dare say you won't miss anything at all by skipping it if you can't wait for Harper Collins to publish them and prefer to find used ones. That also means you can probably read it independently from the six others too. That's also certainly why the two series both stopped at the end of the sixth book.
After all, they are all based on the same story, or rather History, if you happen to know French history in the beginning of the fourteenth century, there shouldn't be much surprises on this front.

As for the TV series, I don't like the second one. It was too centred on the beginning, before the books start telling its story to give a better role to Gerard Depardieu who played the short-lived Templar leader. The ending episodes therefore feel rushed and the strange settings by Druillet, while awesome in their own right, detracts from the historical tone set in the books.
In this sense, the first series is certainly better, but also feels like it's theatre filmed for the TV, from the way the actors play their roles to the numerous painted sets. If only HBO or its French equivalent were to produce a series with all the financial support that Game of Thrones had ;-).

Oh and I just came with the thought that in A Song of Ice and Fire, we don't see anyone dying from "natural causes" such as sickness, bad food, fool water, which happens at as sometimes alarming rate in the Accursed Kings.
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:54 pm (UTC)
Catelyn's father Hoster Tully dies of natural causes.

And in the Dunk & Egg stories, you have the Great Spring Sickness.
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:00 pm (UTC)
I was actually just joking about how I just got hooked on Scott Lynch's first book and how I'm resisting reading the second book because he is also taking a long time to finish the third book and that if I get hooked on Patrick Rothfuss that I will have three series where I'm spending years waiting for sequels.

But there's also Evangeline Walton. I was not impressed at first but she definitely won me over.
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:03 pm (UTC)
Can't believe you didn't mention Robert Jordan man.
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Wheels
I get the feeling that Robert Jordan is like Ayn Rand. Everyone has heard about him. The people that love him REALLY LOVE him and everyone else will eventually check him out just to see what the hype is about.
Re: Wheels - werthead - Mar. 11th, 2013 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wheels - t40rs731n - Mar. 12th, 2013 02:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wheels - werthead - Mar. 14th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Claire Lutz
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:08 pm (UTC)
As a french reader of Druon, i can only agree with you, readers of a song of ice and fire would probably love the accursed kings, as the reverse is true^^. i personnally convinced some of my friends who dislikes fantasy (a minor genre here in France)to read your books by comparating them to Druon's saga, and none of them had complained after ;-p I am very happy to know it will be printed again in US with an introduction by you, even if i won't be able to read this introduction ( i won't by a book translated from french, books are too expensive ). Nonetheless, i thank you for all the readers out there who will discover this great writer because of you.

Keep the great job going, it 's really worth the wait !
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
Whao ! As a French fan of your work, I thank you for this post, George (even if being French did not prevent me to read "A Dance With Dragons" in English) !
Speaking of "The Iron King", was you inspired by this title to call the throne of the Seven Kingdoms "the Iron Throne"? Did Aegon Targaryen come in France in an unknown past ?
In our country, every book store is full of books called "Le Trône de Fer" (instead of "Une Chanson de Glace et de Feu" which would have been a more appropriate translation for "A Song Of Ice And Fire").
I never though about that before, but maybe this translation is not a coincidence after all...
In any case, you are really admired in France, George. When "The Winds of Winter" is released, come visit us ! People won't wait the French translation to see you, I promise !
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Hello. Maurice Druon had read as a child, and his books I was very impressed. Now I read your books, and they just conquered my mind! I'm very glad that there is a writer in our time, and expect to continue.

Mar. 10th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
Winds of Winter
Hey George,

First of all thank you for your novels, I've just finished ADWD and had my mind blown. Any idea when the 6th book will be ready? I hope it's coming along well!

Mar. 10th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
Joseph Campbell?
I've always been curious if you have ever read the work of Joseph Campbell, as for me ASOIAF is laced with mythological motifs. Was just curious if these came about through the natural flow of writing or if they were deliberately intended :)
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