So you’ve finished A Dance with Dragons and need something new to read. Though it probably won’t be as long a wait for the next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire, it still won’t be tomorrow. Here are some suggestions for books to tide you over.
The Religion by Tim Willocks. This somewhat historical novel is set during the siege of Malta where the Ottoman empire sent the largest armada in history against the Knights of Saint John the Baptist, and follows the exploits of the Saxon soldier of fortune, Mattias Tannhauser. This is sword and ax swinging action at its best, complicated by religious conflict, geopolitics, and romantic betrayal.
The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson. I believe this is the best adventure novel ever written. This Viking saga is the tale of Red Orm, from when he is kidnapped from his small coastal village, until he returns home as a powerful and wealthy lord. He rows a slave ship for an Arabian Caliph. He raids Irish villages and attacks all the way to the heart of England. He even gets so far East, his party comes in contact with Genghis Khan. Along with the battles and high seas adventure you expect from anything involving Vikings, Bengtsson sets the adventure in the time when Christianity was just beginning to reach the Viking cultures. A monk eventually falls in with Red Orm, and (somewhat reluctantly) becomes Orm’s official missionary. In wonderfully subtle ways, Bengtsson captures the process of understanding a totally foreign belief system. For example, the first step in Orm’s semi-conversion is when he decides to give this Jesus guy a try and has his men pray to him before a battle. They win and add Jesus to the list of other gods they invoke before heading off to kill people in bunches. I lent my first copy to my father, and he quite politely informed me that there was absolutely no way he was going to part with it. So I bought another to have on my shelves.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Brandon Sanderson is probably best known as being the writer trusted with finishing Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series, but he writes his own sci-fi and fantasy as well. The Way of Kings has a bit more sorcery than Song of Fire and Ice, and all the politics, intrigue, and adventure. Following a surgeon’s son who ends up at the lowest rung of slave society, a young noble woman in a desperate plot to save her family, and one of the high princes of the realm, this massive, opening book promises a complex story, with compelling characters, in a richly textured and fantastic world.
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. Though most famous for his horror novels, many believe his fantasy epic The Dark Tower is Stephen King’s best work. At 19, King decided he wanted to write something like the Lord of the Rings. Chiefly inspired by the Robert Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” and drawing from the spaghetti westerns, he published the seven books and one short story in the series over the course of 22 years. It’s the story of Roland Deschain, the last of the gunslingers and his quest to find the Dark Tower.
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