A Song of Ice and Fire–or as the series is better known as, Game of Thrones–has in many ways redefined the epic-fantasy genre. From the sprawling world George R.R. Martin has created to its incredibly diverse cast of characters, this series has gone from one of the top selling fantasy series to one of the most successful television shows of our generation.
The series (mostly… in the beginning…) follows the family of the Starks, who are quickly entangled in the political intrigue of the Seven Kingdoms, while a Dragon King matures in exile hoping to reclaim his throne.
(Not a shabby summary, if I do say so myself.)
For myself, this series (especially the first three books) are among my top favorites of all time. What I like the most about Martin’s books is that the world outside of the narrative still has weight and effects the story in meaningful ways. The reader is not given every detail and therefore has to make conjectures based on context clues and rumors given by the characters and events.
The characters themselves are very complex, and not just defined by one or two traits doled out by Martin. He invests in them and allows them to change. Without providing spoilers: one of the characters I immediately hated in the first book became one of my favorite characters in book three.
Finding a series that was comparable in every way to A Song of Ice and Fire would be difficult if not near impossible. But I think I found something that can stand up to it.
The Mistborn Trilogy
Enter: The Mistborn Trilogy. Admittedly small compared to the unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire, but what it lacks in number of pages it makes up with a fully realized world and characters that are more than just a few defining characteristics. And, like Martin, Sanderson enjoys surprising the reader with well thought out twists and turns, leaving a rare sense of satisfaction.
The series begins as Kelsier, a man who is as charismatic as he is reckless, starts assembling a team to overthrow the Lord Ruler, a tyrant who keeps the skaa class subservient to the elite aristocracy through fearsome power.
Kelsier stumbles across Vin, who is naturally skilled in the world’s magic system, Allomancy, but isn’t aware. As he trains her, the team made up of colorful characters begin to act on their plans, which are successful, then thwarted, overcame, then thwarted again.
What made me connect Mistborn to Song of Ice and Fire are the twists and turns the plot makes. The tried and true formula that most readers are accustomed to is used and then betrayed, making for a compelling story.
Sanderson’s characters are not two-dimensional with only one or two traits to define them. Where Kelsier is easy to root for because he stands up for the skaa, he also has deep rooted prejudices that threaten their coup.
Everything is not given to the reader upfront in the first book. To answer all of your questions about the world, its magic system, and its creatures, you will need to read all the way through.
And that reminds me, I almost forgot the best part of the series!
That’s right, you can start and finish this series without years of waiting between books.
So, while you’re biding your time waiting for Book 6, why not try an equally satisfying trilogy already finished?