Warning: Mega spoilers from last night’s Game of Thrones episode ahead.
We’ve come so far, and we’re so close now. We’ll soon know the winner of the Game of Thrones—if there is a winner, anyway, after the rubble has been cleared away. Regardless, it looks likely the Iron Throne will end as the seat of one of the series’ smart, savvy, sociopolitically complex, and sometimes morally gray women. As we light candles in remembrance of the fallen—we miss you already, Missandei, Lyanna, and Melisandre—let’s turn our attention toward the future. Here’s some suggested reading that may be of assistance to the women still hanging on in this bloodthirsty realm.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao
It may be difficult to remember these days, but there’s more to Cersei than her wine goblets. She’s one of the most complex characters in this whole twisted, garbage kingdom, a woman who inherited the Lannister lust for power and prestige but is also fiercely protective of her family. She’s a courageous, arrogant woman who blustered and calculated her way to the role of Westeros’s evil queen, and she might see a bit of herself in Xifeng, the beautiful young woman fated to be empress in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. But all that glitters isn’t the throne, and the price of power is the dark, corrupting magic that consumes her. Does this sound familiar at all? Might we learn something from this cautionary tale of woe, Cersei?
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An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
Everyone left standing on this show has been taken on a ride, going places and killing people they never dreamed they would. Sansa has gone from haughty, dreamy teenager to the lady of Winterfell—and, it seems, the last wholly sensible leader in the kingdom. It’s safe to say this isn’t the future Sansa once envisioned for herself, yet here she is, a survivor in every way. Westeros is a lot like the brutal Roman-inspired world Tahir created, and Laia, the Scholar slave, shares Sansa’s determination and bruising journey. Laia’s determined to save her brother and, just maybe, rescue her subjugated people. Along the way, she encounters unlikely allies, is burned by those she once trusted, travels far, suffers much, and emerges stronger. Just like the eldest remaining (trueborn) Stark.
Flame in the Mist, by Renée Ahdieh
As the old parable goes, into every generation a slayer is born. That is a girl’s destiny. That is one of a girl’s many faces. Hattori Mariko, the samurai’s daughter at the center of Flame, knows a thing or two about one of Arya’s favorite topics: revenge. After surviving an assassination attempt on her way to an arranged marriage, Mariko doesn’t make a list, but she does make a plan: to infiltrate those responsible, Black Clan. Dressed as a boy, she works her way through the ranks and closer to her vengeance. Of course, things aren’t as black-and-white as she expected, something Arya has wrestled with on her cloak-and-dagger missions, as well. *cough the Hound cough*
The Girl King, by Mimi Yu
Daenerys Stormborn. Mother of Dragons. Breaker of Chains. Khaleesi. Dany has seen herself as destined for the Iron Throne for years, through exile and army-building. But now that we’re at the end of all of this, the question is, can she actually take the Seven Kingdoms? Not only is Cersei standing in her way, but so is Jon Snow, who knows nothing except, well, he’s also a Targaryen. The only good news? At least she doesn’t have a sister, unlike Lu. Always expecting to rule her father’s empire, Lu is dumbfounded when her father picks her male cousin, Set, as his successor and betrothes his daughter to him. Lu flees to raise her own army from the far reaches of the empire, while all the while her quiet sister Min is coming into her own unexpected powers—and ambitions.
Brienne of Tarth
We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal
That’s Ser Brienne to you. The apple of Tormund’s eye, Brienne is also the rock of the Westerosi resistance, relentlessly noble and unwaveringly brave, but not in the ill-timed, unplanned, definitely-going-to-get-you-killed way of the Stark men. She’s the kind of person who stands up for somebody’s integrity in a hall full of everyone they’ve ever wronged. The realm’s newest knight can find a soul sister in Zafira, who masquerades as the Hunter to keep her people from starving. When Zafira crosses paths with Nasir, the prideful assassin and son of a cruel king, it seems to spell disaster, but a greater threat means these two natural enemies may just be fighting on the same side. *stares in Kingslayer*
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness
You can’t shake a stick in Westeros without hitting somebody who has some “great destiny” to fulfill. It’s exhausting, even more so for the “normals” of the realm, who have a nasty habit of getting caught up in all the schemes of the Chosen Ones. You’ve got to imagine that’s how Gilly feels after eight seasons of life inside the wall. Don’t get me wrong, she has displayed her own heroics and played her own part in these wars—not to mention her role as Sam’s support system. But I can’t help but think Ness’s novel about all those who don’t spend their time questing could offer a bit of validation for Gilly.
Pacifica, by Kristen Simmons
It’s going to be a bit of a rebuilding year for House Greyjoy, but thankfully, Yara is as able a captain as the Iron Islands have seen in recent years. She also plays by her own rules, steeped in her family’s squid-forward skepticism. That makes Pacifica a perfect fit for all that leisure time she’ll surely have now. In a grim future America, pirate’s daughter Marin is the voice of reason in a world gone mad. The government has announced the relocation of some five hundred people (all of the lower classes) to a promised Eden where all their needs will be met: the island Pacifica. Marin, though, is rightly wary and will use all her cunning and her skills as a sailor—and the president’s own son—to save those who can’t save themselves.