Mefites led me to Game of Thrones but now I need more to read!
December 17, 2013 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Several years ago I found the Game of Throne books after several people suggested it on here. I have a pretty decent amount of Christmas vacation this year and I would like to read more, well-written, fantasy. This is where you come in - what would you have me read?

For someone who likes fantasy I guess I haven't read too much of it. The only other fantasy I have read (and enjoyed) was the Lord of the Rings series and in my younger days I liked Weiss and Hickman books.
I guess specifically I am looking for medieval flavored fantasy.

posted by WinterSolstice to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
If you like that GoT sort of grim and gory epic fantasy, try Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy.
posted by Etrigan at 6:05 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Blade Itself and its two sequels is well-done, and similarly gritty.

The Name of the Wind is the first of an ongoing series that's hot right now, and similarly richly textured.

(On preview, The Blade Itself is the first in the series that Etrigan suggests)
posted by tyllwin at 6:07 AM on December 17, 2013

You might enjoy The Mists of Avalon.
posted by Runes at 6:27 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. It pulls together a lot of threads - it's set in a far future (no really) "dying earth"-style world with sorta-medieval elements (swords, guilds, no telephones, picturesque attire, exotic monsters) but it has a really complex plot and uses language in interesting ways. (I'm not super into Wolfe's politics or how he writes gender, but bracket that for now.) If you haven't encountered anything like it before, you might find it takes a little patience to get into - I read it for the first time when I was eighteen or so and found my first read-through very confusing (but stayed for the picturesque language) and then it become one of my very favorite series.

It's a little bit at a tangent to Game of Thrones and so on, but it's a very rich, complex and memorable read with sword fights and scary monsters and various deeds of derring-do plus some really good place writing.

Once you're on the fancy-pants fantasy kick, you might enjoy M John Harrison's Viriconium novels. They are also a dying-earth-with-medieval-elements series and they're very heavy on the grim and the dark. The Pastel City is the most straightforward "fantasy" novel of the three, and a good starting point.

There's a whole huge list of classic "high fantasy" like The Worm Ouroboros and the actual Dying Earth books by Jack Vance that you might want to check out - I haven't read any of it.

Also, I always recommend (somewhat counterintuitively) Peter Beagle's novel The Folk of the Air. Yes, it's set in late seventies Berkeley (it was written in the late seventies) among SCA types (and of course....we discover that magic is real) but it's a really terrific fantasy novel that you might enjoy, for these reasons: the characters are all interested in the medieval, so there's various scenes with people hawking or learning to use swords or talking about the Middle Ages and so on; it has a very magical kind of feel; and there's what I think is one of the best magical battles I've ever read late in the book. It also centers women characters and characters of color. (There's a couple of ways that the book falls down in this regard - or at least does not meet modern standards - but it's really unique in that it's a book by a white dude writing about SCA in the seventies where there are actual "medieval poc" characters and the characters of color are (one main and several secondard-but-present-a-lot) characters who are complex and memorable.
posted by Frowner at 6:30 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure I recommend the following every time this kind of question comes up, but:

Guy Gavriel Kay's "historical" fantasies. They're clearly based on actual time periods and places here on Earth, but with some differences. Sailing to Sarantium is set in the equivalent of the 6th (IIRC) century Byzantine Empire; The Lions of Al-Rassan is 10th/11th century Spain under Muslim rule...and so on. His writing is excellent -- he did some work on some of Tolkien's stuff after Tolkien's death -- and his plots go beyond "epic noble hero vs Big Bad Evil Guy".

Scot Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is an excellent read, set in what felt to me like Renaissance Venice. Plus, witty banter and charming rogues!

Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion is set in what seems to be kind of medieval Spain, and is another great read. Her prose isn't as poetic and evocative as Kay's, but she does write very human characters with depth and feeling.

Looks like it's out of print, but ASH: A Secret History is set in medieval Europe. It's been years since I read it, but I recall it being a pretty good read.

Seconding Mists of Avalon.

I'll go have a look at my book shelves, see what else jumps out at me...
posted by Janta at 6:31 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Excellent recommendations so far, to which I would add Steven Erickson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series, starting with Gates of the Moon. If you liked the grim, occasionally gory, intricate plotlines of Game of Thrones and the cast of thousands of mostly well-developed and interesting characters, I think you'll enjoy this series as well. There are ten (large!) books in the series proper, so it'll keep you occupied for quite a while - and best of all, it's complete!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:46 AM on December 17, 2013

I buy fiction (including epic fantasy doorstops) for my library and the standout book, for me, over the past few months has been Blood Song by Anthony Ryan.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:51 AM on December 17, 2013

Ooh, another one that hits a lot of the same "epic" notes as GoT for me is Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy. These books always feel somehow "quieter" and more deliberate than GoT to me, but they are intricate and peopled with some wonderfully strange characters. They make for a great read on a snowy day.

(and dammit, just realized I misstated the title of the first Malazan book in my first post - it's Gardens of the Moon, not Gates of the Moon. Argh)
posted by DingoMutt at 6:54 AM on December 17, 2013

You might like The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, a fantasy series from the 70s, and one of my favorites (as is Game of Thrones). It has the gritty backstabbing court intrigue and amoral/self-interested characters, and it also has magic and inter-dimensional hijinks and is just a lot of fun. Much of it also takes place in a quasi-Medieval setting, though this won't be clear at first. I highly recommend it. (It does have a few of the typical 1970s scf-fi/fantasy issues with women, which is my only problem with it.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:10 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Epicly Epic.

Lies of Locke Lamora is silly fun and lighter. Not always light, but you read Thrones, so you're fine.
posted by Jacen at 7:33 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Doomfarers of Coramonde
The Starfollowers of Coramonde

Available for the Kindle for $7 each.

The first book features a battle between magical summoners. The bad guy summons a dragon. The good guys summon an M-113 APC out of the Viet Nam War. The commander of the APC, MacDonald, turns out to be the protagonist for the rest of the series.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:59 AM on December 17, 2013

Seconding all of Janta's recommendations, although I'll add that I think Bujold is very evocative, just in a different mode than Kay. But she knows how to punch to the gut. After Curse of Chalion, pick up the second Chalion book, Paladin of Souls. An excellent heroine and a compelling story with a lot of emotional resonance.

Also, for Kay, if you want the most Tolkien-like, read the Fionavar Tapestry (trilogy) first.

For fun, brainless fantasy, David Eddings fits the bill. I haven't reread his stuff in yonks, but it's entertaining cotton candy.
posted by PussKillian at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2013

I'll mention The Iron King, which GRRM cites as a direct influence.
posted by Gin and Comics at 8:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to add a couple:

-The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham
-The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham

A word of caution about the Malazan Books of the Fallen, recommended above - they are not the easiest books to read; Erikson doesn't give the reader a lot of help in terms of figuring out the backstory and everything else. I've know a few people who give up on them early because of that. I would also recommend, if you want to try it, to start with Deadhouse Gates (book 2) instead of Gardens of the Moon. It's set on a different continent, with only one or two characters carried over, and it is a much better read IMHO. If you enjoy it, you can go back to Gardens of the Moon without having missed anything.
posted by nubs at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

C.J. Cherryh writes epic science fiction and epic fantasy books! Click here for a list of her book titles and scroll down to Fantasy if you wish to skip over the sci-fi.
posted by Lynsey at 9:40 AM on December 17, 2013

Some very good suggestions above: Wolfe, Peake, Gentile, Rothfuss are all authors I would suggest too.

Here's a few more:

Richard K Morgan: Steel Remains and Cold Commands. He set out to play with the ideas of what a traditional hero would be and do. Reminiscent in atmosphere to Fritz Leiber's Lhankmar books.

N K Jemisin. The Kingdom's trilogy is exceptional. She does stuff with fantasy, coming from a minority perspective, that is rarely seen, and almost never with her level of skill (Octavia Butler, maybe, but she's more sciffy).

Finally, the mystery that is K.J. Parker. S/he is a fine writer (The Company is one of my favourites), but not a very uplifting one. Almost all of Parker's books deal in someway with hubris and revenge, on an operatic scale.
posted by bonehead at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

As well as ASH, I'd also suggest Gentle's 1610: A Sundial in a Grave. It's less of a mindfuck, more of a strightforward adventure yarn, and might be more acessible.
posted by bonehead at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2013

Connie Willis's Blackout and its sequel
posted by angrycat at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2013

Other people have covered the standard responses upthread. For "well-written" fantasy, I would steer you to:

Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman novels, which are smart, sneaky, and creative: and they have a compelling long-running plot (which is not yet resolved).

Sherwood Smith's Inda and its sequels, which involve horses, battles, pirates, queer characters, politics, magic, and did I mention the pirates? And some heartbreak.

Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksennarion and its sequels. The writing isn't awesome, but it's competent, and I really enjoy the detail Moon includes about the day-to-day life of mercenaries and soldiers in a world of magic.

Joel Shepherd's Sasha novels, about a young woman who becomes a figurehead for a rebellion against her own family. It's got great action sequences and includes an ever-complicating discussion about the uses of power and politics in a multicultural society.

Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura, which are set in the most creative secondary world I've ever seen; have interesting, appealing characters; and have kickass plots with lots of action. Wells deserves more attention than she's getting.

And something a little older would be Barbara Hambly's Darwath Trilogy, which has aged pretty well. Hambly is almost completely reliable (except for the sequels to Dragonsbane, which I'm told to avoid): she writes fluidly, with engaging characters and a real vivid sense of place. The Darwath novels are also hecka creepy.
posted by suelac at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for the awesome responses! If you linked a book I checked it out. Of all the suggestions above First Law, Book of the New Sun, Paladin of Souls, Gormenghast and Deed of Pakenarron are all in the running. It's going to be so hard to choose....
posted by WinterSolstice at 4:12 PM on December 17, 2013

Just read Tad Williams' Shadowmarch series - not as grim as GRRM but a lot of fun!
posted by prex at 6:09 PM on December 17, 2013

CJ Cherryh's The Paladin and the Morgaine Trilogy are both wonderful. Also JV Jones' 'A Cavern of Black Ice' is great, and very much in the GRRM vein.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:29 PM on December 17, 2013

Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series (beginning with The Dragonbone Chair) is the best next stop. See the GRRM quotes in my comment in a similar thread.
posted by Paragon at 4:39 PM on December 18, 2013

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