Summer is the perfect time to immerse yourself in a richly imagined world of fantasy fiction. Two series with huge fan bases are A Song of Ice and Fire, recommended by Rachel Maderik, technical services librarian, and Wheel of Time, recommended by Danielle Backstrom, reference librarian.
Game of Thrones
George R. R. Martin
Game of Thrones is often considered a fantasy novel for non-fantasy readers. It’s the first book in a five-book series by George R.R. Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire (although two more books are planned). This series has recently grown in popularity since it debuted as an HBO series earlier this year (which earned a whopping 13 Emmy nominations in its first season), and it has drawn the attention of readers who typically avoid the fantasy genre. One reason Game of Thrones may appeal to "non-fantasy" readers is that while it takes place in the fictional world of Westeros, traditional fantasy elements don’t play a large role in the story: it has few non-human characters (like elves), very little magic or supernatural elements, and no straightforward struggle of good vs. evil. It almost reads more like historical fiction than true fantasy.
In fact, the author once stated that the story was inspired by England’s 15th century War of the Roses, and you can easily imagine this story taking place in medieval Europe rather than a fictional world. The story initially has some obvious similarities to the War of the Roses: the death of a king leads to various factions claiming the right to the throne, with the two primary warring houses being Lannister (instead of Lancaster, both represented by the color red) and Stark (instead of York, represented by white). However, it soon takes off on its own and becomes a very original story with page-turning excitement and fascinating, likable characters. Some "fan favorites" include Tyrion, a noble-born dwarf who has to depend on his cunning and wit to gain power, instead of relying on physical strength; and Arya, Lord Stark’s feisty 9-year old daughter who would rather swordfight and tumble with the dogs than learn how to be a lady like her older sister.
When I first read this series, it would keep me up past my regular bedtime, and I usually had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep (there are very few books I can say that about). All in all, Westeros feels like a very familiar world, which makes it extremely easy to get sucked into this story of political intrigue, complex characters, and cliffhangers that make you impatient to get your hands on the next book in the series.
The Eye of the World
This is the first book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. So far there are thirteen books in the series and the fourteenth (A Memory of Light) will be out either late this year or early next year. Sadly, Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. Brandon Sanderson was selected to finish the last three books based on what Jordan had envisioned for the rest of the series (he’s done a wonderful job so far).
When I first started reading this book, it immediately reminded me of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I think readers who enjoyed those novels and other fantasy novels would truly love this series as well. The Eye of the World is about three young men from a small town who find themselves hunted by the forces of the Dark One—mostly consisting of Trollocs, Myrddraal, and darkfriends (at least in the first book). The three young men acquire various travelling companions along the way including an Aes Sedai and her warder (the two who alerted them to the fact that the Dark One wanted them and also helped them escape). Aes Sedai are feared by most people because they use saidar—or the One Power—to control their environment. With the One Power they can heal people (but not bring people back from death), fight against forces of the Dark One by controlling earth, air, water, fire, and spirit to hurt or kill them (most people believe that they can use this power against them or they believe that Aes Sedai are darkfriends); and do various other things.
The idea behind the wheel of time is that things go around in cycles (it is a wheel after all) so people are also reborn, and there is a prophecy that the Dragon will be reborn and fight for humankind in their greatest hour of need. The Dragon Reborn is someone most people are scared of and do not want to see during their lifetime. The Dragon Reborn can also use the One Power, and men who control the One Power eventually go crazy (because their half of the One Power is tainted and slowly corrupts them) and are therefore greatly feared. The original Dragon went mad and killed everyone he loved before killing himself. One of the three young men is the Dragon Reborn, and he is revealed at the end of the book. Along the way they meet various characters and as the series goes on characters will reappear from time to time. Robert Jordan is really the best at explaining the world in the wheel of time series so I encourage you to check it out and read it. Once I started reading the first book I was instantly hooked and I’ve anxiously awaited each of the new books and cannot wait for the last book to come out.
The books in both these series are available in print, in downloadable eBook and downloadable audio formats. For these and more fantasy treats, visit www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541.