Throughout the holiday season, we’re gathering books that make the perfect gifts for everyone on your list—from your mother and the teen in your life to your foodie friend and the coworker who loves Harry Potter. Need more ideas? Check out all of our amazing gift guides!
At this point, George R.R. Martin’s forthcoming The Winds of Winter is a monstrous urban legend, passed on from one generation of A Song of Ice and Fire readers to the next. Winter is coming, they say. It will be great, they say. Everyone will probably die, they say.
But for now, fans of Martin’s sprawling tale of deceit, betrayal, and misery have been biding their time with the (admittedly fantastic) HBO show and Red Wedding support group meetings. Until now. For there is a slew of recent releases sure to satisfy the bloodlust of any ASOIAF fan, or simply a fan of Game of Thrones on the boob tube. Some are written in the same conspiratorial vein, while others were crafted by Martin’s cruel hands themselves. Either way, they’ll get you through those cold nights of Stark-annihilation withdrawal.
The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister, by George R. R. Martin
Say hello to your little friend, and all his best zingers, in this compilation of Tyrion one-liners. There is a moment of deep rejoicing that comes when you turn the page of one of Martin’s books and find that a Tyrion chapter’s up next, for it shall be a chapter overflowing with wisecracks and witticisms from one of the more sympathetic figures in Westeros and beyond. (Being portrayed by Peter Dinklage doesn’t hurt the character’s case.) The halfman would want you to keep your reading eyes sharp while you wait for his next adventure because, as he says, “a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.”
Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Welcome to the Holy Grail of the fantasy genre, dear readers. Edited in part by the “Great Bearded Glacier” himself, Dangerous Women contains the following droolworthy components: a new Outlander story from Diana Gabaldon, a yarn set in Lev Grossman’s Magicians world, a 35,000-word opus by Martin on the actual Dance of Dragons civil war (!!!), and 18 MORE.
The Blood of Gods, by Conn Iggulden
Even if you’ve missed Iggulden’s Julius Caesar–focused Emperor series up to this point—which, shame on you, if so—you can revel in this bloody, treacherous tale of the aftermath of Caesar’s murder. King’s Landing isn’t what you’d call a safe neighborhood, but Rome wasn’t built in a day—it was built upon years and years of unbridled ambition, ruthless quests for revenge, and sweaty pride. And even the most unsympathetic characters here are more likable than Joffrey!
Blood & Beauty: The Borgias, by Sarah Dunant
The Borgias were the real-life Lannisters, or as close as a politically dominant and corrupt family has come. (Cesare Borgia makes it into The Prince, for the Seven’s sake.) Dunant weaves a narrative of complex power struggles and Papal intrigue and infuses textbook villains with three-dimensional personalities, much as Martin does with his brood of complicated characters making unsavory choices. (cough Cersei cough)
River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay
A fraught realm, impending war, competing political factions. Sound familiar? Kay uses China’s Song Dynasty as inspiration for a tale of pride, power, and intrigue that crosses cultures. Part invented, part historical, fully fascinating.
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
The third installment of Lynch’s adventures with his jack-of-all-trades con man Locke Lamora, The Republic of Thieves, hit shelves this year and provides a reminder that there are fully realized high-fantasy worlds outside of Westeros that could use your attention. There are seven planned books in the Gentleman Bastards series, set in the remnants of the the Therin Throne empire, and to this point, Lynch proves to have a similarly keen eye for mythology and fantastical realism as Martin. Start at the beginning and enjoy the ride—run, don’t walk.
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
One of the hallmarks of the ASOIAF series is the interstitial magic. The magical elements are not the plot drivers; they are simply parts of the world. Here, Wecker uses elements of Yiddish and Middle Eastern folklore—the Golem and Jinni, respectively—for a story of romance and the immigrant experience. It’s mythic, reverent, and compulsively readable.
What’s your favorite epic fantasy read?