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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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ext_1697791
Mar. 13th, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
Frans G. Bengtsson - The Long Ships
If anyone's interested in the vikings apart from the original sagas etc, lemme quote Wikipedia page for Bengtsson's The Long Ships:

"The Long Ships or Red Orm (original Swedish: Röde Orm) is an adventure novel by the Swedish writer Frans G. Bengtsson. The narrative is set in the late 10th century and follows the adventures of Orm ("serpent"), called "Red" for his hair and his temper, a native of Scania. The book portrays the political situation of Europe in the later Viking Age, Andalusia under Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, Denmark under Harold Bluetooth, followed by the struggle between Eric the Victorious and Sweyn Forkbeard, Ireland under Brian Boru, England under Ethelred the Unready, and the Battle of Maldon, all before the backdrop of the gradual Christianisation of Scandinavia, contrasting the pragmatic Norse pagan outlook with the exclusiveness of Islam and Christianity. The novel is divided into two parts, published in 1941 and 1945, with two books each."
grrm
Mar. 14th, 2013 03:25 am (UTC)
Re: Frans G. Bengtsson - The Long Ships
I haven't read the books, but I have dim memories of the movie, which I seem to recall was pretty wretched.
Re: Frans G. Bengtsson - The Long Ships - ext_1697791 - Mar. 14th, 2013 07:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Frans G. Bengtsson - The Long Ships - ext_1704904 - Mar. 18th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Philip Foster
Mar. 14th, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
Kay, Parker, Dunnett
I'd like to add Guy Gavriel Kay for his blending of history and fantasy, and K.J. Parker (just so damn good). I'd also mention Dorothy Dunnett (The Lymond Chronicles) , a historical writer whose work is often allied to the fantasy genre.
werthead
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Kay, Parker, Dunnett
KJ Parker is great. Really excellent author. But her books are so dark they do make ASoIaF read like David Eddings in comparison :) The only plot twist that ever shocked me more than the RW was at the end of Parker's second novel. Very underrated.
domuhde
Mar. 14th, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
Like ASOIAF, but in S-F
Nobody mentionned Chnug Kuo, by David Wingrove. It's a long story, and Science-Fiction, but I have never read something that is as much like Song of Ice & Fire. In fact, I read Chung Kuo first, and then found it's brother (ASOIAF) in fantasy. Everybody can die at any time. It's harsh, violent, but beautiful, and never stupid. (Sadly, I can't say the same for Wheel of Time (which I just finished) and the Walking Dead tv show (which is just bad)). It's the story of China, which is now all of earth. Simply fantastic! Every fan of G. Martin will LOVE it!

Dominique Uhde
randir01
Mar. 15th, 2013 07:51 am (UTC)
Druon's books were very popular in the USSR. I started reading them a few weeks ago and my first thought was "Wow, it's some kind of "A Game of Thrones" of my parents' time. Our generations have much more in common then it seems". But I didn't know you called these books "original Game of Thrones". :)
(Deleted comment)
christolitoris
Mar. 15th, 2013 01:56 pm (UTC)
Maurice Druon's french version.
Thanks a lot for the info! I just purchase all of the seven books from Les Rois Maudits on eBay for 12$!
catofthecanals3
Mar. 15th, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC)
At the moment I'm finishing Khoury's Last Templar and just ordered book one of Abercrombie's First Law series, I'm very curious about it...
madnick1
Mar. 15th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
More rommendations
If you like high fantasy, Guy Gavriel Key should be on you list to check out. He hasn't written anything bad (although Ysabel is not my favorite), but I'd suggest "Sailing to Sarantium" and its sequel "The Lord of Emperors" or "Last Light of the Sun" for new readers. For Tolkein fans, he was knee deep in getting "The Silmarrion" ready for publication.

Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Saga is not much like ASoFaI, but is very well constructed fantasy.
XWAFan
Mar. 22nd, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
Re: More rommendations
I have to agree with you that Feist's is not much like song other than it is grandiose in scope, and each character seems well developed, though he seems less likely to kill off some of the characters, he either lets them fade or explains of some death.

I will say though that I love Feist's novels to death and do kinda wonder what GRRM thinks of them or if he has even taken the time out of his business to sample one or two...
Lyndsay Ryor
Mar. 16th, 2013 04:33 pm (UTC)
Books!
Thanks for getting Scott Lynch in there! His Locke Lamora books have not gotten nearly so much attention as they deserve! Pat Rothfuss, too!

Might I also recommend Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian series and Saxon series?
Ann Mason
Mar. 16th, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
My father has been a Druon fan for the last fifty years. Recently he loaned me his much-loved and much-battered hardcover of "The Strangled Queen." I wholeheartedly echo your endorsement and can't wait to order the others!
Mary Ellen Wofford
Mar. 16th, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
I didn't realize anyone remembered Costain. A long boring summer in Cordelia,GA in 1969 found me pregnant and reading everything I could get my hands on. One of those books was The Black Rose. I liked it so much I checked it out again and again until we moved back home to FL. Thus, in October, a baby girl was born and named Maryam after the peppery heroine of The Black Rose. She hated her name for the longest time because no one seemed able to spell it correctly. Finally, I found a copy of the book, she read it, and has loved her name ever since. Thanks to Thomas Costain. And thank you for reminding me of him again. So much pleasure to be found in his books. You and he have that in common!!

I will be on the lookout for Druon's books cause God knows I have enjoyed Cornwell's books immensely. Thanks for the recommendation!
southworthbarlo
Mar. 16th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
Always worth checking the novels and stories that won or were nominated for the various awards: the Hugo; World Fantasy; Nebula; British Science Fiction; British Fantasy; Locus; Arthur C. Clarke; John W. Campbell to list some of the better known. The Andre Norton and Prometheus awards somewhat less so.

Tastes change of course - especially when you consider that the the Hugo awards were first voted on back in 1953! - but readers would have come across A Game of Thrones :) shortly after it was published.

Not a perfect method but well worth a look.
Justin Repath
Mar. 16th, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
Carwyn/Fahnestock?
Ever read these Carwyn/Fahnestock's stuff? I just started. I dig it.
pasanwijesinghe
Mar. 17th, 2013 01:04 pm (UTC)
Thank You
Starting with The Iron King. Thanks for the recommendations. I'm really really missing the Starks, Lannisters and ... Stannis!!
Marco Von Mller
Mar. 20th, 2013 07:56 am (UTC)
Since you liked HBO's Rome: John Maddox Roberts - SPQR series
Dear George,

Since you like historical fiction and enjoyed HBO's Rome, I was wondering what you think about the SPQR books by John Maddox Roberts.

These are murder mysteries in the late Roman Republic. But they are also books about the politics of the time because the author ties the murders to the larger political picture.

The main character is a fictional member of the Roman upper class but most of the other characters are historical figures:
In the first book, we already meet Pompey, Crassus, Claudius/Clodius, Caesar, Cato, Cicero and many more.

I discovered the books while still in high school and they were a great starting point to get into the history of the downfall of the Roman Republic.

By the way, the first book was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award.
Maria Koronatova Ralph
Mar. 21st, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
re- reading rec..one more for the list
I would humbly add Carlos Ruiz Zafon to the list of authors able to transport their readers to a place of magic, history & beauty. His works are stunning.
wildwit
Mar. 22nd, 2013 12:06 am (UTC)
Hoorah!
A great thanks to you for the momentum you put into The Accursed Kings. I came upon The Iron King in my English teacher's classroom as a sophomore and had no idea it was a companion to any other books, let alone a series of seven?!
There are a great many books hidden away in libraries, but to share a few is a great treasure.
Patiently waiting for Winds of Winter though amidst my other reading. 0:-)
Joby Lynn
Mar. 24th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
Contemporary Fiction
I'm suprised no one has mentioned Glen Cook's "Black Company", "Instrumentalities of the Night", "Dread Empire" and of course "Garret t P.I." books.
fireblazer666
Apr. 1st, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC)
Read the Malazan Series by Steven Erikson while waiting for Book 6 by GRRM
Steven Erikson, along with Ian C. Esslemont, are modern masters of epic high fantasy! I have long been told they are among few fantasy books considered on par with A Song of Ice and Fire.

If you have not read the Malazan Series. You simply must. It will hold you over while Martin finishes the next book.

Why should you read Steven Erikson's Malazan series? It's complex. It's actually written quite well (this coming from me, an Honors English Major). The world is so thoroughly constructed that as you read, you get a true sense of convincing or believable writing.

I'm actually rather surprised Martin never mentioned this series. But I guess he can't know about everything out there, now can he?
Circe Bolten
Apr. 2nd, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
Dear George,

I started reading your books, when series 2 of GOT had finished. You and your books are amazing! It was great to see the first episode of Series 3 last night. Like so many others, I feel so fortunate to be able to watch the series and enjoy your books!

Here are a few great authors and stories that have captured my imagination over the years, which are not mentioned here. I would be very interested to know if you or anyone else here has read any of them.

´The Physician´ by Noah Gordon, book one of a trilogy, which absorbs you totally into the character of Rob Cole, who is orphaned, has a strange gift, and travels on the road with a barber-surgeon in the eleventh century, which eventually leads him to Persia. (Would make a great series in my opinion).

´The Pillars of the Earth´ of the Earth by Ken Follett. I did not think creating a cathedral could be so interesting!! (Recommended by Mother from her all time favourite list).

And last but by no means least,´Quest For The Faradawn´ by Richard Ford (British).If you loved LOTR, Watership Down and Wind in the Willows, then this is the book for you! I can not praise it highly enough, I doubt anyone would regret reading it. It will call you to read and enjoy it again and again. (Would make a stunning film)!

If you have not read any of the above, I highly recommend all of them to nourish your heart and soul, Cheers and all the very best to you!

Circe (pronounced like Cersei) :)



Edited at 2013-04-02 04:11 pm (UTC)
grrm
Apr. 2nd, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't read the Richard Ford, but I agree on PILLARS OF THE EARTH, and even more so on THE PHYSICIAN. I have liked all of Noah Gordon's books, actually, but that one is his best.
Patricia Morton
Apr. 7th, 2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think you should consider writing a comparable series for teenagers. I have read all four books and discussed them with my 13 year old grandson. He would like to read them; he has enjoyed the Riordan, Stroud, and Paoline series and so have I. We each read the books in our homes states then have a "bookclub" on the phone. He loves history and would understand most of the references in your books,though we were interested to find direwolves lived only in the Americas. (we googled). However, with every villiger being pillaged at least three times in each book and nearly every woman being raped so constantly that it must be a "ho-hum" experience for them by now, he is not going to read these books at 13. Think about it.

I will read the 5th and following books. It is not lost on me that I have read four books and most of the main characters are still only around 14.
Guilherme Bauer
Apr. 7th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
After read ASOIAF it's been so hard to read another kind of book without compare. I start wondering "Where's Cersei? Where's Tyrion?" hahaha I gonna check this recommendations that you did. ;) ps: The iron King must be intersting. But i think here in brazil we can't find, yet. :/
Nikki D. Caravella
Apr. 8th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
thanks
Just wanted to say there's something about a story you never want to end!
Skinner Calvin
Apr. 9th, 2013 03:35 am (UTC)
Gossip Ravens
I'm sure somewhere in The Seven Kingdoms, there's a gossip columnist that has nothing better to do, than send ravens out spreading gossip and tall tales such as Kate & Rob Stark dying. I would love nothing more than to see Kate & Rob Stark ALIVE. Please create a character that does such things so that your writers can branch out and stop those who write in the forums how the show is going to pan out. I hate SPOILERS! Nonetheless Mr. Martin, I love the novels and the show. Be well.

-John Skinner
ext_1749124
Apr. 10th, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
Maurice Druon
I have the book series of "Les Rois Maudits". I also have the VHS series. Should I contact HarperCollins to get permission to have the VHS tapes transferred to DVD? Just thought I'd ask you since you seem to know.
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