After years of waiting, fans of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books burned through the latest in the series, A Dance with Dragons, when it was released last month. It had been five years since the previous book, A Feast for Crows, was released. A Storm of Swords, the third novel in the seven-book series, came out six years before that. Suffice to say, those of us who plan on reading the next book, The Winds of Winter, have resigned ourselves to a long wait. Winter is coming, just not any time soon.
HBO's adaptation of the series will continue to air during the interim, but with the second season nearly a year away, we are very much in a Game of Thrones drought.
Fortunately, there are plenty of good fantasies to occupy readers while they wait. Martin may get all the press and the lucrative television contracts, but some other series waiting in the wings are just as good, if not better, than the Song of Ice and Fire books:
Perhaps that's the lesson we can draw from all of these books. Magic is not simple. It's not safe or comforting. Even in magical worlds, more often than not magic only complicates matters or makes things worse.
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Fantasy worlds, after all, are reflections of our own. Good fantasy gives us a unique perspective into the conflicts and trials in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We see the darker sides of humanity, the more troubling issues of our age, from torture and war to terrorism and the danger of unbridled power. We read them to escape our own world, of course, but also to understand it better.
Fortunately for fantasy readers and dabblers alike, we have more serious works of fantasy to choose from than ever before. The genre has come into its own in the past decade. Harry Potter may have grown up, and The Winds of Winter may be years away, but there are plenty of other worlds to explore.
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