Why You Need to Read: These Books While Waiting for “The Winds of Winter”: Part II

Here we go again. It’s been almost 3 years since I complied the 1st list of book recommendations; and, we’re still waiting for The Winds of Winter, the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire series. Many of us continue to wait, patiently, for this book by reading similar books by authors who write fantasy stories. There have been numerous books released since I compiled my 1st list of recommendations; yet, I know some of the readers enjoyed the latest releases from Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, etc. Within the last decade, several new authors have made a name for themselves through their works, and others have continued to release books for us to enjoy as well.

            This is my 2nd list of book recommendations for those who are waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish and to release the next book in his fantasy series. Please note that I couldn’t include all of the fantasy authors for this list, and there are a few “obvious” authors who are not on this list (i.e. Sanderson, Jordan). I am reading books by Joe Abercrombie and Ben Galley for the first time, so they will be on the next list I compile, hopefully. In addition, if there is an author you don’t see on this list, then please refer to the first one I’ve written and posted. 

  1. The Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang

This trilogy is a retelling of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-45) and is as grimdark as A Song of Ice and Fire. The story follows Rin, who studies to enroll into a prestigious military university to escape an arranged marriage and poverty. As she studies to become a soldier, Rin studies shamanism, which ignites a power linked to her heritage. Then, a war breaks out and Rin—and her classmates—soon realize that war is NOT what you learn in a classroom.

Based on the speculative fiction books I’ve read so far this series is the most identical to A Song of Ice and Fire. This is because the mood and the tone in both series follow both warfare and social mobility. The politics are the subplot which carries the narrative through the series in both the characters and the conflict.

2. The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have heard of this series because Martin has read this series and praised the author for her storytelling and for the narrative. This trilogy is a retelling of one of the tales from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and it is full of political intrigue and backstabbing. The world-building alone will keep you invested in this trilogy.

The trilogy follows 3 protagonists who represent different tribes with overlapping histories. As their heritages are revealed, so are the conflicts amongst those groups of individuals. And then, there are all the “mythical beings” mentioned throughout the series—the ones we heard about in tales such as Aladdin, Sinbad, etc.—play a role as well. In addition, the twists presented throughout the series could rival the ones written by Martin!

3. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The standalone epic fantasy novel has everything A Song of Ice and Fire has in one massive tome: dragons, prophecies, secret societies, political conspiracies, strong female characters, and a historical timeline. While the story follows 3 female protagonists, there are points-of-view chapters from several other characters that will feel familiar to any and all fans of Martin’s series. And, before you ask: yes, there are a TON of references to historical events, many of which you will recall from your school days. 

4. Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence

I would describe this trilogy to fans of Martin as a religious combative school for girls. While the protagonist will remind readers of Arya Stark, I would say these female characters resemble the Free Folk. These characters are strong, intelligent and combative females who are, or are training to become, nuns. 

This trilogy delves into the “idea” and the “expectation” of prophecies—especially the concept of “the chosen one”—how and why they come into existence, when they become relevant, and who they are about. In addition, this series presents a different look into “heritage.” Yes, political and social hierarchy play their roles in the narrative, but both magic and social hierarchy is inherited through blood. So young girls with magical abilities are sought after by these nuns so they can learn about their magic and how it relates to the religion they practice. And yes, there are plenty of battles that present these powers and fighting skills in action.

5. The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff

I describe the protagonist in this trilogy as a female Kratos. For those of you who don’t play video games, you will be reminded of a bloodier and an angrier Arya Stark. From the opening pages, you can expect one of the ultimate tales of betrayal, family, vengeance, love, conspiracy, and murder—lots and lots of murder—from this trilogy. 

This trilogy is one-part dark fantasy and one part folklore. The magic in this series is as twisted as the foundation of the school of assassins the protagonist trains and then works for. And, if that’s not enough for you, then know that the footnotes are guaranteed to make you laugh. One final thing to know about this trilogy: IT’S NOT YA!!!

6. The Books of Ambha by Tasha Suri

Some of you might be reading this author’s latest book, The Jasmine Throne, but how many of you read her debut novel, Empire of Sand, and the sequel, Realm of Ash? This duology delves into colonialism, family relationships, colorism, buried history, magic, and political corruption and gameplay. The duology follows 2 sisters—one per book—who are the illegitimate daughters of the governor in a historical and a magical India. The sisters possess magical abilities which are coveted by both the royal family and their mystics. The elder sister reveals her magic, which leads to the mystics separating her from her family, leaving her younger sister behind. Several years later, the younger sister offers her services to the royal family where she learns about the dark history of the Empire and what happened to her sister. 

7. The Nine Realms by Sarah Kozloff

Anyone who is a fan of Tamora Pierce should pick up this series—think of following a strong female protagonist from childhood through early adulthood. This comparison is valid because instead of one thick tome, the author insisted on a binge-reading experience, providing readers with 4 novels: A Queen in Hiding, The Queen of Raiders, A Broken Queen, The Cerulean Queen. The story follows a princess who must live in exile after her mother—the Queen—uncovers a plot for her Council to seize power through the princess. The princess grows up amongst commoners, evades capture from her enemies, and makes allies along the way so that she can reclaim her family’s throne. 

This series will be enjoyed by those who’ve read the Dunk and Egg series (still incomplete). The protagonists travel and reside in the Nine Realms where each realm has its own culture and conflict. All of the plots, the characters and the conflicts revolve around individual realms, politicians, magic, gods, warfare, history and science. And yes, you must read one book after the other in order to grasp the entire experience. 

8. A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons

If you’re a fan of intricate world-building with matching histories that rival both Tolkien and Martin (yes, I said it), then, this series is for you! This series delves into prophecies, family trees (think of the Lannisters) and magical artifacts as the narration jumps back-and-forth between the past and the present with several characters to tell the story as it progresses. Did I mention the dragons? 

The series follows several characters from different regions of the world whose “circumstances” brings them together in order to save the world as per the prophecies. However, those “prophecies” are questioned by all of the characters—“who came up with them,” “are they relevant right now,” etc.—but, they understand that there is a force that will bring about the end-of-the-world, and they are the ones “chosen” to save it. Note: this is a 5-book series. 

9. The Black Iron Legacy by Gareth Hanrahan

This series started as a 4-book series and was announced recently that it will be a 5-book series. This series is part dark fantasy and part grimdark (NOT THE SAME SUBGENRE) in which the characters within the series who are morally gray must survive a harsh society (that reflect ours) and have a dark portrayal of magic. If the series needs more reason to be read, then know that there will be at least 1 character you will want to learn more about throughout your reading. 

Each book in the series focuses on a cast of characters who end up playing a pivotal role with events in their society, but not in the “traditional fantasy” narrative. Each of the characters have a backstory which in turn influences the reasons for the actions they take (sound familiar?). In addition, the gods—from various cultures throughout the world—are at war with each other for dominance; and, they need “vessels” to assist them with their plans. 

10. The Tide Child Trilogy by R.J. Barker

This series is about pirates, but not the ones from the movies or in real life. Fans of the nautical, and House Greyjoy, will appreciate this unique narrative of sea life and sea dragons. And no, this series is NOT like The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader.” These pirates are on these ships serving because they all committed crimes and were convicted of them.

As you may have guessed, this series isn’t about piracy, but about a crew who is on a mission to protect their home (even though they are no longer welcomed there) and to search for the source of their ships. This series offers an interesting look into life on the seas, which match the harsh lifestyles of the land dwellers. Not to mention, there are plenty of battle sequences that place you right in the middle of it all. This is one of the best nautical fantasy books yet!

11. Chronicles of the Bitch Queen by K.S. Villoso

You are the daughter of the Empire’s most notorious war lord, who on the eve before the coronation with your husband—the would-be king—he abandons you and your young son, which makes you “the Queen” while leaving you to deal with a new kingdom, numerous enemies, and parenthood by yourself. A few years later, your husband asks to meet in order to reconcile, in another country. After an attack by unknown enemies, you find yourself alone in a foreign land with no one to trust and with no way to return home. 

This series presents several political conspiracies which go back to before the protagonist was born. And, the narrative presents realistic scenarios with realistic dilemmas on what the protagonist must do if she wants to survive and to return home. Did I mention the queen is also a kickass warrior? 

12. The Burning by Evan Winter

Both fantasy and folklore mention the origins of dragons as from both Europe and East Asia. That being said, have you ever wondered whether or not dragons could have existed elsewhere (in our world)? Who said dragons couldn’t have come from Africa? If they did, then why haven’t we heard of them until now? 

The 1st book in this quartet—The Rage of Dragons—begins with a battle between 2 tribes—one of them has women who have the power to summon dragons. Then, the story heads in the direction of a military fantasy with a protagonist driven by vengeance (especially against the social hierarchy), which sees the pace of the narrative zoom until you realize that the series is about 2 warring nations and an in tribal struggle amongst social classes and magic users. This series will leave you with a new appreciation for battle sequences.  

13. The Poison War by Sam Hawke

This series is part political fantasy and part mystery. The 1st book in this series—City of Lies—follows a brother and a sister as they try to figure out who murdered the lord they serve and their uncle, who was his closest friend and his poisoner. That’s right, the plot of this novel delves into various poisons. So, fans of Dorne and the Red Viper will find this narrative very intriguing. 

This series delves into the world’s politics, civil war and lost magic. At the same time, the siblings must step into the roles they’ve trained for their entire lives. All the while, who poisoned their uncle and their lord, and why? 

14. The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings by Nick Martell

The newest book on this list focuses on a group of siblings who are struggling to survive after their family was stripped of their status after their father murdered the crown prince, supposedly. The protagonist—who is the younger brother—is determined to prove his father’s innocence. How is he going to do it? By re-entering the royal court and gaining the attention of the royal family, or what’s left of it.

The world in A Song of Ice and Fire has “unusual seasons” and this trilogy has a fractured moon. Fans of the former will enjoy the latter due to the political system, the political backstabbing (and there are A LOT of them), and the political corruption (A LOT of that, too). And, all of that doesn’t compare to the series’ magic system and the twist at the end of the 1st book. 

15. Die by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles, Rian Hughes & Chrissy Williams

I would describe this graphic novel series as a cross between Jumanji and Dungeons and Dragons. The premise of this series follows 6 high schoolers who meet up to play D&D only to disappear for 3 years; then, 5 of them return to our world. 20 years later, the players reunite when a package arrives for them, which returns them back into the “game.” 

So far, this is an on-going series, which narrates the darker side of a fantasy world. The images illustrate the world the main characters are trapped in. However, the story is about these traumatized individuals, their dual personalities, and their desires. Kieron Gillen has written numerous graphic novels, and this series is character driven that is similar to A Song of Ice and Fire. If you’re a fan of this graphic novelist and you haven’t started reading this series, then you’re missing out on an excellent one! 

            As you can see, there is a reason why it took me a while to compile a 2nd list of recommendations. And no, I was not able to add more books and/or series to this list without it being too long. That being said, I am reading my way through other books I hope to recommend in a future post. Hopefully, by then it will be when we’re waiting for A Dream of Spring to be released. Not to mention, many of these “in-progress” series should be completed by that time as well. 

            If it does come to another list, then I hope to have one compiled of books and series by indie authors; and, I believe you have an idea of which ones I might include on that list. And yes, they’ll be another list because there are so many more books to read and to enjoy as we continue to wait for Martin to finish writing his series, patiently.

            Which books and/or series do you recommend reading while waiting for the next book in this series? 

The Theories and the Hints Hidden within Ice and Fire (Part I)

(Note: Spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire series are found within this essay.)

            George R.R. Martin is the latest author who has been bombarded constantly with questions and assumptions as to when his next novel—notice I did NOT say publication—will be released. Most have us have experienced the long waiting period when it comes to the next in a series; movies and television shows traditionally top that list. However, with the previous successes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, as well as other literature series, and movies series such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, A Song of Ice and Fire is now one of the hottest items in the publishing and entertainment industries.

            What does this mean? Obviously, fans are driving the author crazy asking about possible release dates and/or sample chapters. And, while he has provided us with some of the latter, he is officially fed up with questions surrounding the former. It has gotten to the point where other authors—such as Neil Gaiman—have had to make public statements defending the extremely busy writer. Between working on a T.V. adaptation and writing novels for his other series, Martin has been able to work on Winds of Winter like we all want him to. Yes, I want it to be released within the next year, but I would prefer if the novel were good rather than rushed.

            Although George R.R. Martin has been working on his latest novel, he has not left his readers with nothing to satisfy their fascination with his fantasy world. He has published several novellas and short stories about Westeros. Most of us have read about Sir Duncan the Tall and recently, about ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ war. Some of us have even gone far as to listen to podcasts whom discuss everything related to these stories, just to receive a better understanding of them (A Podcast of Ice and Fire and Cast of Thrones are excellent ones!). At the same time, Martin is giving us more insight into the history of his world, and possibly giving out hints about some of the characters in the main series.

            There are several theories about the characters within the plot of the series—besides Jon Snow’s mother and the Tyrell Conspiracy—and many of them have yet to be mentioned thoroughly. One popular theory is that Mad King Aerys did bed Joanna Lannister at some point and he might be the father of Tyrion (a few fans believed he might have fathered the twins as opposed to Tyrion) because the Mad King was always infatuated with Tywin’s wife. This is one of many reasons Tywin never liked Tyrion. Is there a chance that Tyrion is a ‘secret Targaryen’? He might not be the only one. There is a theory about the Blackfyres—the bastard line of the Targaryens—who ended up starting the “Golden Company” in Essos (across the Narrow Sea), and which one of the ‘Great Bastards’ might be (is) the “Three-Eyed Raven” who is mentoring Brandon Stark in the ‘Land of Always Winter.’

            Let’s look into the stories of Dunk and Egg (The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, The Mystery Knight). Sir Duncan the Tall (Dunk) meets a young Aegon Targaryen (Egg) and the two of them travel Westeros together as knight and squire. Since Aegon Targaryen looks like a traditional Targaryen—white blond hair and violet eyes—he shaves his head so no one will recognize him. One of his older brothers (Daeron?) does not have this problem because he looks more like the Martells—dark hair and dark eyes—so he can travel throughout the kingdom unrecognized. This leads me to a theory about Varys. His motives for supporting the Targaryens are unknown, he keeps his head shaved, and he tells everyone that he supports ‘the realm’ and not any particular House (I doubt the last one). Is it possible that Varys is descended from the Targaryens, the Blackfyres, or maybe even another House of Valyria (i.e. Velaryon)? It would explain his appearance. We don’t even know the color of his eyes, and I don’t think he has eyebrows (read up on the Mona Lisa for an explanation). Who exactly is Varys?

           This leads into the popular theory surrounding Sir Duncan the Tall. According to the history of Westeros and of the Targaryens, Aegon V and Sir Duncan the Tall died in a fire at Summerhall. However, it is believed that the two decided to leave the ‘royal life’ and return to their simple life of traveling up-and-down the continent like they used to. This would explain Brienne of Tarth and her origins. For instance, a shield matching the description of the one used by Duncan the Tall is located in the armory of House Tarth and Martin has said that there is one living descendant of the famous Kingsguard who would be featured in A Feast for Crows. Just like how dwarfism is found within the Targaryens, high height (not giant like the Cleganes) is found within the descendants of Dunk.

            I have a few theories of my own surrounding Martin’s fantasy series (some of which A Podcast of Ice and Fire mentioned in one of their episodes—thank you!). One, after reading the events of “The Dance of Dragons” from The Princess and the Queen, I am convinced that there are more dragon eggs hidden across Westeros and Essos. This is proven when one of the dragons and its rider leave Westeros for ‘unknown lands,’ and that there may or may not be a dragon’s egg in the House of Black and White, which would explain how Jaqen H’ghar ended up meeting Arya Stark, and who may or may not have killed Balon Greyjoy on orders. In addition, the story was written to give fans an idea as to how the future war will be fought once the dragons (and their dragonriders) make their way to Westeros.

            Two, the Citadel and the Faith were responsible for the death of the dragons during “The Dance of Dragons.” Remember the scene with the mob? There is an unidentified man who preached to and convinced the crowd to kill the dragons while they were in the pit. Plus, a maester tells Samwell Tarly (in A Feast for Crows) that the maesters were responsible for the death of the dragons over one hundred years ago. So, you have the return of dragons in one continent and a group of people who do not want them to return in another continent. Why else would the author mention the extinction of the dragons in one novella and then hint at what might have caused that extinction in one of the novels?

            My third theory is that if this series does reflect the ‘War of the Roses’—as mentioned by George R.R. Martin and defended by yours truly—then, whom is Daenerys Targaryen going to marry in the end? Daenerys is the only known surviving member of the Targaryen dynasty, but she also must marry in order to continue that dynasty. It makes sense for her to marry another Targaryen, but which one? As of right now there are three possible candidates: Jon Snow (if he is proven not to be the son of Ned Stark), Tyrion Lannister (if he is the son of the Mad King), and Stannis Baratheon (he is descended from the Targaryens). Yes, Aegon Targaryen could be the ‘lost son’ of Rhaegar, but then there are theories that he might be a Blackfyre. So, yes there might actually be four candidates for ‘husband/king.’ These four men may or may not have the ‘blood of the dragon’ but we have two more novels (and four more television seasons) before we get the answer to that question. Unless, there are more Valyrian Houses, this is what I am standing by.

            These are both the obvious and the not so obvious theories surrounding what could happen in the later novels and what have been taken from all of the tales released by George R.R. Martin. There are some theories that other readers have all agreed upon, and there are others that might be more of a thought than a theory. Harry Potter fans correctly guessed some of the theories and hints found within the series, so it has been done before. However, please note that the author already confirmed some of these theories as truth. There is more than enough proof within the stories that some theories are more than just a theory. There are still many unanswered questions that await answers, and only George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss know them. I welcome any comments and any rebuttals to what I have mentioned.