Season six of HBO’s Game of Thrones is set to air later this month. Looking back, it’s kind of surprising (but totally awesome) that a show about dragons, medieval politics and the coolest dwarf this side of Middle-Earth is one of the biggest things on TV. With Game of Thrones making fantasy cool for mainstream viewers, it got us thinking about other great fantasy novels that deserve a chance to shine on the small screen.
Before we go in, let’s set a couple of rules. First of all, any novel that has had a successful franchise such as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings are off the table since there’s no point in remaking something that everyone already loves (cough cough). That being said, something with a failed TV show or movie are totally fair game, since these stories deserve to be done well.
Here are 10 Fantasy Novels That Deserve The Game Of Thrones Treatment.
12. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
From Ocean’s Eleven to the Italian Job, and even an episode of Doctor Who, heist stories are a staple of television and movies. Part of the reason they are so popular is because they combine witty, likable characters with the classic story of the underdogs outwitting a powerful and wealthy opponent. So how do you raise the stakes even further? You could do what Brandon Sanderson does — add in a healthy dose of magic and have the thieves rip off the dark lord.
Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is set in a world where the chosen one failed and the kingdom suffers under the reign of a mad god. A group of thieves come together in order to rip off the dark lord and hopefully start a revolution that frees the land from his tyranny. Combining a unique and well-designed magic system with a fantasy twist on the classic heist story, Mistborn is well-suited to multi-season epics.
11. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time is a monster of a series, spanning 14 volumes and more than 3 million words. With that much space to work with, it should come as no surprise that Jordan crafted one of the most detailed worlds and casts of characters this side of Tolkien himself. With a large cast of characters, plenty of action and a well-realized, if slightly traditional, magic system, Wheel of Time is well suited to a place alongside Game of Thrones.
When discussing the success of Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin mentioned that he had originally planned to sell A Song of Ice and Fire to Hollywood as a movie in the vein of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He eventually turned to HBO simply because a movie or even series of movies wouldn’t be able to do the books justice — there’s simply too much material. The Wheel of Time suffers from the same problem, in that it would take at least two movies to do a single book. So despite the smaller budget the comes with a small screen adaptation, we think TV is the natural home for this epic fantasy.
10. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
What do you get when you cross Harry Potter with a series of classic detective stories? Probably something a bit like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Harry Dresden is the only wizard listed in the phone book, and whether you need help finding a lost dog or dealing with an evil foe, he’ll gladly take your case for the right price.
There was a short-lived Dresden Files TV show on Syfy back in 2007, but a tight budget combined with several unnecessary changes to the source material doomed it to a single season run. A revamped series that could take advantage of the series’ rich mythology and well-written characters could be a big hit, in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or similar monster of the week shows.
9. Temeraire by Naomi Novack
This one is more historical fiction, as there is no magic or supernatural elements, aside from dragons, and even they are treated as natural creatures akin to horses.
But that lack of overt fantastical elements is part of what makes the Temeraire series so interesting, because it has something that can appeal to fantasy fans and history fans. Set during the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Temeraire follows William Laurence, a captain in the Royal Aerial Corps, and his dragon Temeraire as they fight for king and country against the armies of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It’s real world setting coupled with its fantastical elements would make this a very fun series for fantasy fans.
8. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The stories of King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table are a cultural cornerstone, and it can be challenging to breath new life into such a well-known story, but Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon manages to do just that by shifting the focus from Arthur and his knights to Morgan Le Fay and other women who are either ignored or demonized in most retellings of the classic myth.
7. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Discworld is a bit different from other items on this list, due to it’s humorous and often satirical tone, but that’s what makes it so unique. While there are plenty of heroics, action and magic, the series isn’t concerned with the fate of the world or overthrowing a dark lord, but rather embraces the joy of escapism and grand adventure that attracted so many of us to fantasy in the first place.
6. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Dying is one of those things that can really ruin your day, but you know what’s even worse than dying? Dying and then going to hell, where you’re forced to fight demons for the amusement of Lucifer. That’ll ruin your whole week.
So what do you do when you get back from all that? Well that’s what Richard Kadery’s Sandman Slim is all about, as James Stark returns to the land of the living after 12 years spent in hell. A thrilling anti-hero with a biting wit and a classic tale of revenge makes Sandman Slim a supernatural thriller that we would definitely binge watch.
5. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
The concept of a lost roman legion, inspired by the actual disappearance of the 9th Spanish Legion, has become a bit of a cliché in literature, but a good author can take even a clichéd idea and turn it into something interesting. Such is the case with Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, which takes place in a world heavily inspired by Roman culture with just a touch of Pokemon. Everyone, aside from the main character Tavi, is bound to an elemental spirit called a Fury, and the series follows him as he struggles to make his way in a world where he’s seen as a bit of freak for his lack of Fury.
Tavi is an interesting choice for a main character because without a Fury, he is at a constant disadvantage compared to everyone around him, forcing him to get by with his wits alone. Combining a well-realized world with political intrigue, well done battle scenes and a likable cast of characters, Codex Alera would be a welcome addition to our Netflix queue.
4. The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence
One of the most popular characters on Game of Thrones is Arya Stark, the noble girl turned orphan and assassin. If you’ve ever wanted an entire book devoted to her and her quest for revenge, then Matthew Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy is exactly what you need in your life.
Jorg Ancrath was once a prince raised in a life of luxury and privilege, until his parents were killed and he was forced to go on the run. Going by the title of the Prince of Thrones, he lives the life of an outlaw, but now he has returned to reclaim his father’s throne and avenge his family’s death.
3. The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God is one of the more unique and, possibly, darker entries on this list. The story follows Thomas Cale, a teenager who has spent his youth training for an impending holy war under the watchful eye of the Redeemers. Thomas is just one of thousands of boys being trained by the Redeemers, until he stumbles across a discovery that forces him to flee the relative safety of the Sanctuary.
2. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
One of the best things about fantasy is the world building. That feeling of getting lost in another world’s history and culture, and few series do it better than Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen.
The author’s background in archaeology and anthropology are put to good use as he creates one of the most detailed and authentic worlds to be found in fantasy. Unlike a lot of epic fantasy, the first five books in the series are largely self-contained, but this could work to a TV show’s advantage, as it would give each season a satisfying finale while building the lore and characters that will become important as the series transitions to a more serialized format in the latter half.
1. The Silmarillion
George R.R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire might be the current big thing in fantasy, but Martin readily admits that it all began with Tolkien. So what better way to honor the father of epic fantasy than adapting his lesser-known, but, personal favorite, work, The Silmarillion.
A collection of the myths, stories and lore of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion is an ideal work for adaptation because it offers tons of possibilities, but the stories are vague enough to allow plenty of room for creative freedom, which is often the biggest hurdle when adapting a work of fantasy to TV or film.
Did we miss any of your favorite fantasy series? Let us know in the comments section!