This is a new feature I’m going to try out here on the blog. My goal is to recommend books for fans of a larger book franchise. For example, if you liked The Wheel of Time, you might also really like Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga. Easy enough, right? Except I’m going to try to be less obvious than that. There are gads of tremendous books out there in the ethos that are largely ignored because they aren’t sexy anymore. Either they’re not new enough, or they never quite caught on, or it took too long for book two to show up and everyone forgot about it, or the author is a real asshole, or the publisher is an asshole and didn’t put resources behind it, or the agent is an asshole and won’t give up the eBook rights, or this blogger is an asshole and never reviewed it. Not to belabor the point (too late), but the main character might be an asshole. Long story short, no one likes assholes.
- With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz
- The Deluge by Henryk Sienkiewicz
- Fire in the Steppe by Henryk Sienkiewicz
- The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu
- The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Interestingly, if this post was titled, ‘If you liked Henryk Sienkiewicz’ Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Lays of Anuskaya series would still make the list. The story centers around Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the trade crossroads of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya. The protagonist, Nikandar, Prince of Khalakovo (although not the heir), is set to marry the daughter of a rival Duchy. Of course, he’s not in love with her, instead he showers his affections on Rehada, an indigenous Aramahn whore. Amid this tangled web of love, a conspiracy begins to brew with other Duchies vying for power, and a fringe Aramahn group known as Maharraht who would see the entire system upended.
Very much in the tradition of the multiple points of view epic fantasy, Beaulieu tells a story so wide in scope that it fears to overwhelm his efforts to contain it. The character stories are intimate and personal, but their actions resonate across a canvas that encompasses the entire world and reverberate through history. Or something really important sounding like that. This is a brand new series, so perhaps it’s inclusion here is a bit premature. Nevertheless, Beaulieu appears to be one of the few newer authors out there who’s writing epic fantasy with the of depth and nuance achieved by Martin’s ASoIF.
- The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker
Folding Knife is an epic fantasy – just not traditionally so. It follows a man through thirty years of his life describing his rise and fall from power through war and peace in 400 some odd pages. While the novel itself is far tighter than anything Martin’s included in his epic series, Parker’s prose and characterizations are a near perfect fit. There is a veracity in everything Parker writes, as though anything contained within the book’s cover is possible, a trait exhibited time and again by Martin. Basso could have absolutely been a POV in ASoIF as head of his House. If there’s one author everyone should be reading in the current fantasy climate other than Martin, it’s Parker.
- Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham
This is an epic retelling of the legendary Carthaginian military leader, Hannibal and his assault on the Roman empire. Hannibal is drawn from the scant historical record as a terror on the battlefield, yet one who misses his family and longs to see his son children grow up. Whether portraying the deliberations of a general or the calculations of a common soldier, Durham captures the personal and political nuances of war in the ancient world. And there’s quite a bit of head lopping.
Most would probably suspect that if anything by Durham made this list it would be his Acacia Trilogy. I considered it, but it lacks the hard edge and gut wrenching reality that permeates ASoIF. In Martin’s series consequences are everywhere and they never take a day off. Things aren’t neat and tidy. They’re like a Roman battlefield filled with offal and discarded bits of flesh and bone. Pride of Carthage captures that feeling for me. I’d also heartily recommend his fantasy trilogy, but not necessarily for someone looking to capture the Westeros feel.
- The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham
I was going to do a similar write-up for this one as I did for the others. It’s really not worth it because Jared from Pornokitsch has done the work for me (READ THIS REVIEW). Suffice to say Abraham’s series is a political and emotional masterpiece that does everything ASoIF does without resorting to the battlefield. It makes the series a bit slower and less engaging in the early going, but the pay off is tremendous as he ensnares the reader is a high stakes epic game that reflects the Cold War sensibilities of the 1980′s. There’s no such thing as coincidences and Abraham status as the “unofficial” protege of Martin isn’t one either.