What is the Next "Game of Thrones"?

Published September 5th, 2017 - 09:44 GMT
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark. Remember him? (HBO)
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark. Remember him? (HBO)

Game of Thrones will be over soon. Season 7 has ended; the show itself will end in a year. That’s bye-bye to the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens…bye to fire, blood, and the Iron Throne.

But it’s not goodbye to high-end fantasy adaptations.

Here is a list of books currently making their way to big (and small) screens. These are bona fide great reads being put-out by the best of ‘em and being adapted by the best of ‘em, too. If you’re looking to curl-up with a great book next weekend to satisfy that itch Game of Thrones has left behind, we’ve got you covered.

This list is for three kinds of people:

  • Those of you who started Game of Thrones and went back to the books
  • Those of you who like to be ahead of the curve—to get in early on something before it gets really big
  • Those of you who just love a good read and want a good recommendation before the TV series and/or movie affects how you read the book

With that, let’s get started!

Who Fears Death, based on the novel by Nnedi Okorafor

What on (Middle) Earth is that?

Who Fears Death is a melding of science-fiction and fantasy in post-apocalyptic Sudan. The book, inspired by the War in Darfur, is about Onyesonwu (Igbo for “Who Fears Death”), an Ewu: the offspring of sexual assault by a light-skinned man against a dark-skinned woman. Onyesonwu wants to avenge her mother against her father, who just so happens to be a powerful sorcerer.

Above: Decidedly, not family-friendly fare—but so good. (DAW Hardcover)

Give me some background.

Nnedi Okorafor is an American-Nigerian writer who quickly made a name for herself penning “alternative” speculative fiction—alternative in the sense it wasn’t European-based, speculative fiction in the sense it was fantasy, science-fiction, or both. I first caught wind of her with Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005; the wind picked-up a knot with 2011’s Akata Witch; and she became a gale with 2015’s Binti, which won the Hugo, a highly prestigious science-fiction fantasy award, in the face of opposition from a political group that hated the “diversification” of the awards. Who Fears Death could finally see her as a tower-toppling hurricane.

Why should I care about the show?

Apart from Okorafor’s considerable talent, it’s HBO that’s going to be bringing Who Fears Death to TV, with George RR Martin working as executive producer. You know: the guy who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the first book of which was entitled (you name it) A Game of Thrones.

More importantly, Okorafor writes about Igbo culture’s problems and triumphs in ways that should appeal to most minority cultures, including Arabs. “[My culture] is alive and it is fluid. It is not made of stone nor is it absolute,” she writes. “Some traditions/practices will be discarded and some will be added, but the culture still remains what it is. It is like a shape-shifting octopus that can lose a tentacle but still remain a shape-shifting octopus (yes, that image is meant to be complicated). Just because I believe that aspects of my culture are problematic does not mean I am “betraying” my people by pointing out those problems.”

And hey, if you need Martin’s stamp of approval, you have it: “I met Nnedi a few years ago, and I'm a great admirer of her work. She's an exciting new talent in our field, with a unique voice. Even in this Golden Age of television drama, there's nothing like WHO FEARS DEATH on the small screen at present, and if I can play a part, however small, in helping to bring this project to fruition, I'll be thrilled.”

Can’t wait.

The Kingkiller Chronicle, based on the works of Patrick Rothfuss

What on (Middle) Earth is that?

The Kingkiller Chronicle is the story of Kvothe, an extraordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances which lead him, and his pride, to disaster. Kvothe narrates his story to a biographer, with the narrative slipping from the present, into the past, and back into the present, slowly unveiling the story of how Kvothe, a trouper, becomes the most infamous man of his generation.

Above: His name is Kvothe. You may have heard of him. (Gollancz)

Give me some background.

If you poke around lists of top fantasy novels, you’ll likely find Rothfuss’s work somewhere in the top five.

Rothfuss began The Kingkiller Chronicle in 1994, writing it to the end before beginning an intensive revision process to bring the books up to snuff. The Kingkiller Chronicle is a trilogy: The Name of the Wind published in 2007 to wide critical acclaim, bringing praise from speculative fiction authors like Ursula le Guin and Robin Hobb, as well as starred reviews from high-end publications. Its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, was published four years later, after a period of intense revisions of its own. George RR Martin thought it was the single best book of 2011—something so good he wished he’d actually written it. And while the final volume, The Doors of Stone, has yet to materialise—Rothfuss has revealed that the pressure to get the book right has forced him to attend therapy twice a week—a careful re-reading of the first two books reveals beautiful, intricate connections and subtleties that promise Doors of Stone will be a real treat.

The series has also included two spin-off novellas (both lovely, neither essential) and a strange, myth-heavy short story from the perspective of a tree. And hey, there’s this hilarious reference to Game of Thrones in one of them, in which two characters are discussing a crazy old farmer named Crazy Martin:

Above: Fun trivia: I had to find my copy and transcribe this before I realised I could just Google the quote. (Bantam Spectra)

Fun trivia: Rothfuss graduated alongside Okorafor, and the two have maintained their friendship over the years.

Why should I care about the show?

It took Rothfuss over a year to finally settle and let Lionsgate adapt his work, and only on the condition it was a TV show, film, and video game adaptation. He has a team of great writers working on the show, and he’s giving them creative guidance and input. As far as we can tell, the films will adapt the books while the show will tell stories set in the world. (It’s a big world.)

But Lin-Manuel Miranda is also on board, serving as executive producer and musician—or, as he puts it, as “President of the Don’t [Mess] it Up Committee.” Miranda is a prestigious talent; he wrote and starred in the Broadway musical In the Heights, winning a Tony Award (or four), but you may better know him as the star and writer of the ridiculously good musical Hamilton, which won the Tony, the Pulitzer Prize, and my heart (I own the book and everything). He also composed the score and songs to Moana and contributed to the story. He’s a huge, huge fan of the books, and wants to see them done justice. (The fourth song off of Hamilton, “The Story of Tonight,” was inspired by a chapter in The Name of the Wind.)

Although we have little else—John Rogers is heading the TV room, the movie is in a second or third draft—there’s a lot of promise here.

The Broken Earth, based off the works of N.K. Jemisin

What on (Middle) Earth is that?

The Stillness is a place humbled by earthquakes, an alternate earth where a “fifth season” extinction periodically wipes humans from the planet. Evidence of past civilizations is strewn as far as the eye can see; mysterious obelisks float above, without any obvious reason. And in this desolate place, three seemingly unrelated characters journey across a slowly-unfolding narrative with a tremendous pay-off.

Above: A real ground-breaker, har har. (Orbit)

Give me some background.

N.K. Jemisin first arrived on my radar with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her little eye-roll (as it were) at fantasy, a genre she loves but is critical of (as any fan would be, really). I never picked-up The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms—too many books, too little time—but I was happy to support the author by buying The Fifth Season on blind faith. And you know what? I adored it. I adored it so much I pre-ordered the second book, The Obelisk Gate, and loved that enough that I have been anxiously waiting for the arrival of book three, The Stone Sky, at my local bookshop out here in the Middle East.

Jemisin has received recognition for her work; despite the attempts of trolls and bigots—members of the “alt-right”—to shut Jemisin off from the Hugo Award, she’s won it twice in a row for her Broken Earth books. And there’s a very good chance she might win it again for The Stone Sky. She’s won the Locus Award for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and has been nominated multiple times for Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

And hey, to continue a running theme: Patrick Rothfuss loves her work. As does Nnedi Okorafor. (As do I. Did I make that clear?)

Why should I care about the show?

Not much is known at this point. It’s being adapted by Leigh Dana Jackson, who worked as a supervising producer on 24: Legacy and a writer on the Sleepy Hollow TV series. Imperative Entertainment, which co-produced Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, is also working on it. But the odds of the show failing to go through, according to Jemisin, are low; talks have been ongoing since at least 2015, anyway.

Get hype, as I’m sure someone still says.

And the extra: The Accursed Kings, from the series by Maurice Druon

Above: The Iron King is the first book in the series. (HarperCollins)

The Accursed Kings is an anomaly on this list: I haven’t read it, it’s not fantasy, and it doesn’t have an upcoming TV adaptation, but it already has been made—twice. The Accursed Kings is also an anomaly for being the only series on the list about political scheming and manipulation, which I realise is the draw in A Song of Ice and Fire for a lot of us.

George RR Martin has pegged the series as the “original Game of Thrones” and praised it highly. The seventh book was published in English for the first time a couple of years ago, and the books have been republished, nabbing them a new audience.

And there you are. Some cracking good reads to get your hipster on before they get big.

Written by Karim Anani

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