So Game of Thrones ended a few weeks ago. Most new viewers haven't read the books. No worry. To be honest, the novels seriously decline in quality after about book 3. George R.R. Martin has an infuriating way of really toeing the line on his narrative, dragging out characters over multiple novels and thousands of pages, but the carrot of resolution is forever dangled and never caught.
For many of you fantasy series noobs, though, all this really means is a severe drop-off in violence, topless women, sex, rape, infanticide, stonings, hangings, decapitations, incest and intrigue until Season 3 starts back up in the next year.
You could read the Old Testament and get your fill of most of these lesser human traits, or you could try and branch out into other realms within the great world of fantasy novels.
Not all fantasy novels are about dragons -- although admittedly, most of the best ones are.
There is variety in fantasy covering a great many topics, but if you are starting to jones for some knights, battles, ogres, family feuds or magic, pick up one of these great reads and escape into another world.
5. Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
A classic good vs. evil fantasy novel taking place within the same realm King's Dark Tower series takes place, Eyes of the Dragon is a vastly entertaining, fast-paced read. It will also give you an idea whether or not King's style of fantasy writing appeals to you. The Dark Tower series isn't the best fantasy series, but it is certainly a fun read, blending horror, fantasy, sci-fi and Western novel elements.
4. Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
If you have ever wanted to know what the game Dungeons & Dragons was all about, then read these books, as the stories were originally role-played by the authors to be pre-made settings for the game.
Taking place in the world of Krynn, the original Dragonlance novels follow a band of friends, led by Tanis Half-Elven, on an epic quest to locate Dragon Orbs and the fabled Dragonlance, the tool to defeat Takhisis, Queen of Darkness.
There are dwarves, mages, warriors, tales of love and epic battle scenes. There are also plenty of dragons. Basically, you can pick up right where you left off with GoT, minus some incest and rape, maybe.
3. Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
A modern-day epic, the WoT series is not for the fantasy-faint of heart.
Though the author is now deceased, he is sort of the Tupac of the fantasy world, with posthumous books coming out even after his demise.
I will admit that I have not read many of the most recent novels, but the original six novels which Jordan planned are excellent fantasy. Incredibly rich in backstory, a dizzying array of characters and some serious nerd shit in terms of magic and mythology of the realm, the Wheel of Time series will totally float your fantasy boat.
2. The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
If you have only ever seen the film adaptation of William Goldman's fairy-tale/fantasy novel, you are doing yourself a serious disservice. Funny, warm, full of plucky humor and with a quirky, self-effacing narrator, this is a book that has something for everyone.
The film takes a few liberties (no grandpa), but is generally quite true to the novel. Unfortunately, the film leaves out some of the finer points of politics, history and satire which Goldman weaves about Florin, the story's mythical setting.
An easy read and wonderfully charming, this is a great addition to the "fantasy" section of your bookshelf.
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
One series to rule them all, and one series to find them. One series to bring them all together, and in the darkness bind them.
For myself and many millions of others, the term "fantasy novel" starts and ends with Tolkien's brilliance. "Epic" is an understatement when applied to the vast depths of Middle-Earth's characters, history, religions, myths, houses, genealogy, creation, magic and litany of original languages.
Just wrapping my head around who the hell, exactly, Tom Bombadil is has taken up hours upon hours of my life.
If you've never read it -- or have started to read it and then stopped because you got confused who was whose father and from where and during what age -- then you are truthfully missing one of the greatest stories ever put down on paper. I've read the novels more times than I care to count, and love them just as much as ever.
It's long, dense and somewhat archaic in its prose, but it's worth it. Wholly and completely worth it.
And there's an appendix, so you can know that Arathorn is father of Aragorn, Isildur's heir and wielder of Andruil, flame of the West.
Valuable things to know, I assure you.