So, I’m working on the SpecFic 101 post for Magic Realism (really, I am) but a recent flurry of tweets and blog posts got me thinking about this topic instead – book recommendations for people who like George R. R. Martin. Tsana from Tsana’s Reads and Reviews has helped me out with these, because I tend to recommend the same group of authors over and over, and some variety wouldn’t go amiss. She’s also agreed to guest-post a future SpecFic 101 post, which I’m really excited about!
Recently, Juliet E. McKenna mentioned that, with the fourth season of the television adaption of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, HBO’s Game of Thrones, rapidly approaching, libraries, bookstores and even publishers are trying to get readers to pick up books like Martin’s. The thing is, most of these lists are predominantly featuring male authors. This is a little problematic because it insinuates two things:
- that only men write these types of stories, and
- that only men read those types of stories
There’s also the reverse assumption – that women only write for other women, that women only enjoy certain types of stories, and that anything written by a woman won’t appeal to men. I wrote about some of this recently.
None of those things are true!
You can look anywhere on the internet and find lists of authors to try if you’ve liked Martin’s works, ranging from Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie, to Brent Weeks and Steven Erikson, and Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. All men. And as Foz Meadows points out, the few lists of SFF authors that do mention female authors tend to group them all together – the assumption being that men write different types of stories, but all stories by women are the same by virtue of having been written by a woman.
This is especially concerning when looking at SFF for beginner’s reading lists or SFF must-read lists – it’s insinuated that if one reads the aforementioned male authors, they will have a starting point for understanding the landscape of modern SFF.
And of course, this is silly and incorrect, but if libraries, bookstores and publishers are excluding women from these lists and alienating the women who read SFF, then the issue needs to be addressed.
I think we should combat this way of thinking in any way we can, so here are my book recommendations for those of you who like either the ASoIaF books, or the Game of Thrones TV series, with female authors. They are grouped according to aspects of Martin’s books that readers may have enjoyed, and would like to read more of, but it should be noted that most of these could go under more than one heading.
• Politics •
If you like the grand scale of the series and the books – lots of countries, monarchies, and intricate family histories, then you may find these interesting:
The Shadowleague by Maggie Furey
The world of Myrial is racing toward apocalypse. For aeons, its mysterious Curtain Walls have functioned to separate realm from realm, and race from race, so that each cordoned area remains a sanctuary for its species. But now the miraculous walls that have provided order for so long are disintegrating with disastrous results.
The Troy Game by Sara Douglass
Created by gods. Destroyed by revenge. Reborn in the darkest magic of all. THE TROY GAME. The ancient Aegean sorcery lives on.
The Mirage Makers by Glenda Larke
The Exaltarch rules the Tyranian Empire through force and a network of spies known as the Brotherhood. In Kardiastan, Tyrans has forced out the Magor ruling class and imposed their own leaders. Ligea Gayed, one of the top agents of the Brotherhood, is ordered to find a Kardiastan rebel leader and bring him to justice. A straightforward enough assignment for her, but all Ligea finds is mystery upon mystery. The rebels seem able to come and go at will and any attempt to pursue them across the desert ends in disaster.
• Worldbuilding •
If you like the scale of the world building in Game of Thrones, try these:
Books of Raksura by Martha Wells
Moon has spent his life hiding what he is – a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself … someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community.
The Tide Lords by Jennifer Fallon
He’s insisting he’s a Tide Lord and he’s begging us to try again…to kill him, that is. When a routine hanging goes wrong, the survivor announces he is Cayal the immortal Prince, a Tide Lord. However, the only known record of the immortal beings of Amyrantha is the Tide Lord Tarot…and everyone knows it is only a parlour-game, an amusement.
• Grit and Gore •
If you enjoy the grim-dark nature of the works, with all the dying and fighting and blood and guts everywhere, you may enjoy these:
Children of the Black Sun by Jo Spurrier
Sierra has a despised and forbidden gift — she raises power from the suffering of others. Enslaved by the King’s Torturer, Sierra escapes, barely keeping ahead of Rasten, the man sent to hunt her down. Then she falls in with dangerous company: the fugitive Prince Cammarian and his crippled foster-brother, Isidro. But Rasten is not the only enemy hunting them in the frozen north and as Sierra’s new allies struggle to identify friend from foe, Rasten approaches her with a plan to kill the master they both abhor. Sierra is forced to decide what price she is willing to pay for her freedom and her life …
King Rolen’s Kin by Rowena Cory Daniells
The Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours of new Affinity Seeps, places where the untamed power wells up. By royal decree all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Sent to the Abbey, the King’s youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Elsewhere others are tainted with Affinity and must fight to survive.
• Females with Agency •
Martin’s always given accolades for the way he writes his female characters, which I personally think is silly because everyone should be writing women as people, rather than applauding a man just because he does it, but there’s no denying that Martin’s female characters are all awesome. Here are a few other authors who write interesting and varied women:
The Hythrun Chronicles by Jennifer Fallon
Marla Wolfblade of Hythria is determined to restore her family’s great name, but conspirators surround her: the Sorcerers’ Collective, the Patriots — even members of her own family. She must make sure her son Damin lives to be old enough to restore the Wolfblade name to its former glory. Elezaar the Dwarf is a small man with big secrets — but that doesn’t matter to Marla Wolfblade. Her brother is the High Prince of Hythria, and, in this fiercely patriarchal society, her fate will be decided on his whim. She needs someone politically astute to guide her through the maze of court politics — and Elezaar the Dwarf knows more than he lets on. As Elezaar teaches Marla the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power, Marla starts on the road to becoming a tactician and a wily diplomat — but will that be enough to keep her son alive?
Outcast Chronicles by Rowena Cory Daniells
King Charald is cursed with a half-blood mystic son. Sorne is raised to be a weapon against the mystics. Desperate to win his father’s respect, Sorne steals power to trigger visions. Unaware King Charald plans their downfall, the mystics are consumed by rivalry. Although physically stronger, the males’ gifts are weaker than the females. Imoshen, the only female mystic to be raised by males, wants to end the feud. But the males resent her power and, even within her own sisterhood Imoshen’s enemies believe she is addicted to the male gifts.
The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan
This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work—until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders . . . and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.
• Dragons •
Don’t deny it. You watch the TV series for the dragons, and picked up the books thinking they would have dragons all over them, and alas, the first one just had dragon eggs. How disappoint. Never fear! Pick up these great dragon-ish books:
To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright. But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches.
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.
The Rain Wilde Chronicles by Robin Hobb
Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage–or die–so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
• Smexy Times •
What else did you expect from a HBO show! Someone’s always getting nekkid or doing the dirty in the show (and in the books!), and if you’d like to read SFF with a strong romantic sub-plot, here are a few you might like:
Guild Hunter by Nalini Singh
Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she is the best- but she does not know if even she is good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, Elena knows failure is not an option—even if the task is impossible. Because this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad.
Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter
All her life, Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past. To end the nightmare, she has come to Budapest seeking help from men rumored to have supernatural abilities, not knowing she’ll be swept into the arms of Maddox, their most dangerous member — a man trapped in a hell of his own. Neither can resist the instant hunger than calms their torments… and ignites an irresistible passion. But every heated touch and burning kiss will edge them closer to destruction — and a soul-shattering test of love… Though they carry an eternal curse, the Lords of the Underworld are irresistibly seductive — and unimaginably powerful…
• Magic •
The magic in the series is fairly understated – by which I mean there aren’t cabals of witches or wizards running around saving everybody. Martin has incorporated all sorts of amazing magical things into his series without it ever breaking the realistic feel of the world, which I love! If you’d like more magic (and let’s face it, who doesn’t!) try these books:
The Traitor Spy trilogy by Trudi Canavan
Sonea, a Black Magician of Kyralia, is horrified when her son, Lorkin, volunteers to assist the new Guild Ambassador to Sachaka. When word comes that Lorkin has gone missing, Sonea is desperate to find him, but if she leaves the city she will be exiled forever. And besides, an old friend is in need of her help. Most of her friend’s family has been murdered – the latest in a long line of assassinations to plague the leading Thieves of the city. There has always been rivalry, but now the Thieves are waging a deadly underworld war, and it appears they have been doing so with magical assistance.
The Veiled Worlds by Jo Anderton
In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite. She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”. Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.
The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth (also has dragons!)
In the Celtic land of Eileanan, witches and magic have been outlawed, and those caught for practicing witchcraft are put to death! It is a land ruled by an evil Queen, where sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, and children vanish in the night. But in a valley deep in the mountains, young Isabeau grows to womanhood under the guidance of an elderly witch, and must set out on a quest, carrying the last hopes of the persecuted witches.
• Anti-heroes •
You love Danearys Targarean. It doesn’t matter to you that she’s going to be responsible for lots of death and a great big war when she arrives in Westros. She’s the underdog, and you love her. You should read about these anti-heroes:
The Fallen Moon series by K.J. Taylor
Being chosen as a griffin’s companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can never escape the prejudice that comes with his Northerner slave origins. For chained within the Arena where rogue griffins battle to entertain the crowds, there lies another soul crying out to be freed-a kindred spirit that will allow Arren to fulfill his destiny and release the darkness in his heart.
The Second Sons Trilogy by Jennifer Fallon
A volcanic eruption rocks the seas separating the Kingdom of Dhevyn and the mainland Kingdom of Senet, and a mysterious sailor is shipwrecked on the island of Elcast. Badly wounded, his arrival stirs up old hatreds and unravels old secrets. His presence is enough to even bring Antonov, the powerful Lion of Senet, to the island and fear to the Keep of the Duke of Elcast. A strong friendship develops between Dirk, second son of the Duke, and Kirshov Latanya, second son of the Lion of Senet. But will they, and their friendship, survive the chain of events set in motion by the ambitions of the ruthless High Priestess of the Shadowdancers and the domineering Lion of Senet?
The Time Master Trilogy by Louise Cooper
The seven gods of Order had ruled unchallenged for centuries, served by the adepts of the Circle in their bleak northern castle on the Star Peninsula. But for Tarod-the most enigmatic and formidable sorcerer in Circle’s ranks-a darker affinity had begun to call. Threatening his beliefs, even his sanity, it rose unbidden from beyond time; an ancient and deadly adversary that could plunge the world into madness and chaos-and whose power might rival that of the gods themselves. And though Tarod’s mind and heart were pledged to Order, his soul was another matter …
• Court Drama •
If you like the court politics and drama of Martin’s books, you might like to read about The Wars of the Roses, which he was inspired by!
The Cousins’ War by Philippa Gregory
Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
Women write amazing fantasy and there’s no reason they should consistently be left off lists that claim to name the best of the genre. Hopefully this list has expanded your TBR pile and helped you find other great works of epic fantasy!