Game of Thrones returns July 16 …
We may be moving into early summer, but winter is still coming July 16th when the new season of Game of Thrones airs. If, like us, you feel that almost two months is too long a wait to return Westeros, we’ve got our top ten reads to tide you over while you prepare for Game of Thrones.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Last season Cersei may have risen triumphant from the ashes of King’s Landing, setting herself up as the series’ next major villain (as if she weren’t already). Love her or hate her, it’s hard to deny that something about bad queens feels right. If that sounds like your guilty-reading pleasure (or not-so-guilty—we get it) allow us to point you in the direction of Three Dark Crowns. On the island of Fennbirn, three sister queens are each considered equal heirs to the throne, but royal blood alone isn’t enough to inherit. They must fight to the death for it, and on the night of their sixteenth birthday, the battle begins.
Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Of course, one of the things we love most about Game of Thrones, and its source material, A Song of Ice and Fire, is the sheer variety of strong and compelling women they contain. As far as admirable heroines go, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is your girl. She’s so impressive that feminist icon Emma Watson purchased film rights for the novel after reading it so she can bring this stubborn young queen to life on the silver screen. The Tearling trilogy is about the new queen of a small nation coming into her own as she learns to lead and protect her people from the machinations of the Red Queen, a powerful dark sorceress and the tyrant ruler of neighbouring Mortmesne.
In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant
Did you know, Savvy Readers, that George R. R. Martin draws lots of his inspiration for the Song of Ice and Fire from history? And did you know that the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters is inspired by the War of the Roses? There are lots of devious and complex royal families in history whose stories might be even better than fiction! One of our favourites is the Borgia family, who reached the height of their power in Renaissance Italy. In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant captures the Borgia’s at a turning point in 1502, just as the family patriarch, Rodrigo Borgia, ascends the papal throne. Throw in his devious daughter, Lucrezia, his ruthless son Cesare and the ever-alluring Machiavelli and you’ve got a family who could give the lords and ladies of Westeros a run for their money.
Against a Darkening Sky by Lauren B. Davis
For the history buff who loves the Seven Kingdoms and George R.R. Martin’s world building, Against a Darkening Sky offers a beautifully in-depth look at life in the early middle ages through the eyes of Wilona, a plague survivor and budding seeress who is apprenticed to a healer in the village of Ad Gefrin. The novel offers an insider’s look at the mounting tensions between superstition and faith in seventh century England, as the King converts to Christianity and the new religion comes into conflict with the old. Framed by Wilona’s own moral dilemma as she’s torn between her faith and a desire to belong, readers are shown a visceral portrait of the instability and ever-present threat of violence that loom over a developing kingdom.
Game of Scones by Jammy Lannister
If you want a break from all the political and family in-fighting – or maybe you’re just throwing a party for the premiere – Game of Scones by Jammy Lannister is perfect for you. This tongue-in-cheek, *very* ~punny~ cookbook showcases recipes inspired by key moments in the first five seasons of Game of Thrones. After all, don’t we deserve to eat like kings?
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
In Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, we find a struggle reminiscent of one at the heart of Game of Thrones: a fight for the North. Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Their hope lies in eight survivors who have been waiting for the right moment to steal back winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom. We all love rooting for the underdog, so who better than Meira, a girl who has grown up as a refugee and would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. What Meira doesn’t anticipate is that taking that first irreversible step will thrust her into a world of dark magic and dangerous politics that she could never have prepared herself for.
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
So, we’ve covered plenty of titles involving dangerous politics, but what about magic? That’s usually part of a great fantasy series too. Luckily, The Queen of Blood has you covered: it offers a world of dangerous magical spirits that want to rid the land of humans. Only the queen stands between these malevolent forces and the end of humanity. Daleina, a potential heir to the throne, is under no illusions that she will be queen, but she does want to right the wrongs done to her land. She joins forces with a disgraced champion to find the source of the spirits’ unrest, a journey that will test their strength and courage as they fight to save their land.
Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
We’ve got one more unlikely heroine to round out the list. Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa, the younger of two princesses, with no remarkable deeds to her name, can’t fathom that it’s her. But when she finds herself secretly married to a king whose kingdom is in turmoil, Elisa is suddenly in very real danger. If the prophecy is fulfilled, she could be everything those closest to her need her to be. If she can find the reserves of strength she needs in herself. And if she survives.
The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell
Fear not, we wouldn’t let you go without a recommendation for a series every bit as epic as The Song of Ice and Fire. One of the most recognizable things about the series – aside from the long wait between releases! – is its length. If you’re in it for the long haul, Bernard Cornwall’s The Last Kingdom series will be your new favourite obsession. Currently ten books strong, the series is historical fiction at its finest, telling the story of England during the reign of Alfred the Great. The main character, Uhtred, is inspired by Cornwell’s own family history. So if you love the historical element of Game of Thrones that really feels like an unfolding saga, The Last Kingdom books, starting with The Last Kingdom, will be well worth your time.
Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien et al
Our last pick is a bit of an honourable mention – it’s not out yet, but it’s coming soon and we know you’ll love it! We simply couldn’t put together a list of books to read in anticipation of Game of Thrones without including something from the father of fantasy himself, J.R.R. Tolkien. In this novel, the love and adventures of Beren and Luthien are brought together for the first time as a continuous, standalone story, painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts. Beren and Luthien will be available on June 1st, so if you’re looking for something fresh, you can still read it in plenty of time for the Game of Thrones premiere. Enjoy your visit to Middle Earth, the fantasy world that started it all.
What are your favourite books to read between Game of Thrones seasons, Savvy Readers? Are there any books we should read before the season airs? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting @SavvyReader!