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June 23, 2014

Westeros Withdrawal: How to Satisfy Your Game of Thrones Addiction


It’s been a week and winter is no longer coming. Whether you are a fan of “Game of Thrones” or are sick of hearing everyone talk about it, the fact remains that the ubiquitous cultural phenomenon is going dormant for the next 10 months.

My mother, who also watches the show, calls it “Breasts and Beheadings.” Maybe that’s why you watch it, or maybe you watch it for the gritty medieval setting, or the political intrigue, or the morally ambiguous characters. There are a multitude of reasons why the narrative has captivated millions of people.

And so, if you’re going into withdrawal, here are some narratives that might tide you over and push some of the same buttons for you until winter comes again:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
This one is almost cheating, but I felt obligated to start the list out with it. From the R.R. in Martin’s own name to his choice of sidekick characters (a chubby companion named Samwise turned into a fat friend named Samwell…) the story isn’t exactly subtle in its source material.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Which GOT buttons it will push:
historical intrigue, devious characters, sex, warfare, landscapes of the UK and books that go on for hundreds of pages with no end in sight. As a bonus, this one also has a TV series, coming out later in the summer!

GRACELING and FIRE by Kristen Cashore
Which GOT buttons it will push:
These books, which are loosely connected but can be read as standalones, are GOT if Arya was the sole protagonist and had been old enough to notice Gendry. FIRE, in particular, captures the feeling of a kingdom in upheaval with a rich, tragic back-story. There is a third book, BITTERBLUE, that doesn’t quite possess the magic of the first two, but I should mention that it exists. If you’re going to read only one, read either GRACELINGor FIRE.

The President’s Vampire series by Christopher Farnsworth
Which GOT buttons it will push:
the breakneck action, the whimsy, the occasional camp. This Regular-Joe-rises-to-the-occasion narrative is simultaneously as silly as it sounds and surprisingly better than it sounds. Set in modern day, with the White House as its base, it will appease both the side of you that follows GOT for the political intrigue and the side that just wants to see something crazy happen.

OMENS by Kelley Armstrong
Which GOT buttons it will push:
secrets, the supernatural and scheming.VISIONS, its follow-up, is coming out later this summer. The setting is contemporary, but its got characters with secrets, a devious lawyer who could definitely hold his own in Westeros and the promise of ominous supernatural things lurking on the horizon. Armstrong’s punchy writing is as cinematic as any TV show, and her characters never fail to be psychologically rich and leap off the page.

RED RISING by Pierce Brown
I have to admit something: I am 50 pages into this book and it hasn’t grabbed me yet. I even looked up reviews, wondering if I was missing something --- because this book has gotten rave reviews. It looks like about 10 to 20 percent of readers agree with me. Even those reviews are not along the lines of “this book is bad,” but they echo my sentiments of “Brown is a confident writer but I just can’t connect with his characters and/or world building.” But the other 80 percent of the reading public seems to love this book; there are blurbs on the back comparing it to GOT; and the author himself says in the acknowledgements that the reader will love these books. So, I am tentatively including it because it is quite possible you will like it.

If you like the “Game of Thrones” narrative for any reasons I haven’t covered --- such as face-smashing (I will never be over that), terrible things happening to good people (like face-smashing) or incest, I’m afraid I can’t help you. But I am sure there are books out there that cover those, too.