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Game of thrones


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  Fantasy: it’s not just for kids anymore. Actually, it never was. While it’s easy to think of fantasy literature as something meant for a young audience, such as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, modern fantasy has something for every reader. Even recent works marketed for children, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, have had tremendous crossover success with adult readers.

  What is the appeal of the genre? Themes such as good vs. evil, seemingly impossible quests, and the possibility of magical elements existing in the ordinary world are as universal as storytelling itself. They take us away from the mundane, revive our sense of wonder, and skillfully balance the familiar and the strange. When our lives seem dull, fantasy breathes life into our secret wish that, just maybe, something exists beyond the ordinary.

  One of the most successful entries in the modern adult fantasy genre has been George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The first installment, A Game of Thrones, was released in 1996, and book five, A Dance with Dragons, came out in 2011.  Martin is currently working on book six, The Winds of Winter, with a seventh volume promised to wind up the many storylines. 

  To his legions of fans, Martin has only one shortcoming: he’s slow. Six years passed between the publications of books four and five. So many people have written to him and asked what they can read while they wait for the next installment in the series that Martin posted some recommendations on his blog.

  For those interested in the classics of the genre, Martin recommends works by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Howard, C.L. Moore, Jack Vance, and Ursula Le Guin. He acknowledges that the writing styles and sensibilities of those giants may seem awkward to the modern reader, but salutes them as the ones who really established adult fantasy fiction and laid the groundwork for modern writers.

  As significant as those writers were, Martin argues that now is the golden age of high fantasy. Contemporary writers he admires include Daniel Abraham, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. He also recommends a number of non-fantasy writers, simply for the quality of their storytelling. Among them are Thomas Costain, Frank Yerby, Howard Pyle, Rosemary Jarman, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he particularly recommends Doyle’s non-Sherlock Holmes works).

  One of Martin’s all-time favorites is The Accursed Kings series by Maurice Druon. The series was a huge success in Druon’s native France, but sadly has been long out of print. However, HarperCollins is about to reissue the first in the series, The Iron King, which is already on order for all Henry County libraries.

  Recently, HBO adapted Song of Ice and Fire as the television series Game of Thrones. Already hugely successful with an instant audience of Martin’s readers and more added with every episode, season three is set to begin on March 31. So if you are waiting…and waiting…and waiting for The Winds of Winter, check out the HBO version and some of the author’s own reading recommendations. To view his complete list, visit his blog at



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