Are you sick of waiting for Game Of Thrones to return to your TV screen? Have you all but given up on George R. R. Martin finishing the next book? If the answer is "yes" to both questions, here are some TV shows, books, movies and comics that will help to fill that Westeros-shaped void in your life...
Winter may nearly be over here in Australia, but for fans of A Game Of Thrones it's only just begun. Whether you're an avid viewer of the HBO TV series or a proponent of the original books, there's going to be a long and chilly wait ahead. (The show isn't slated to return until Q2 2014, while the next book probably won't hit shelves until 2089.)
But don't offer yourself up to the Many-Faced God just yet. Here are some other bloody slices of Martin-esque entertainment that should help to keep you occupied.
A note on our selection criteria: You may notice that not all of the choices below belong to the fantasy genre. This is no accident. The beauty of Game of Thrones is that it has the scope and complexity of a meticulously researched historical drama. Indeed, George R. R. Martin originally toyed with having no magic in the series at all, but eventually changed his mind due to a lifelong love of dragons.
Subsequently, we've widened our net to include fictional works set in the real world; from Ancient Rome to Medieval Europe. Basically, as long as it's set in the past, has highly compelling characters and lashings of sex and/or violence, we considered it fair game! Now onto the list…
Legend (David Gemmell)
The late, great David Gemmell is one of the true heavyweights of heroic fantasy, and it all started here. Imagine if the Battle of Blackwater from A Clash of Kings had been expanded into an entire novel — that's what Legend is like. It tells the story of Druss, a grizzled, legendary warrior who decides to embark on one last adventure in the twilight of his winter years (imagine the Hound crossed with Barristan Selmy and you're halfway there).
The majority of the story takes place in a besieged stronghold which is the only obstacle between the civilized 'Drenai' realm and an invading horde of barbarians. Much like A Game Of Thrones, Legend features a believable medieval-style world with a light sprinkling of the fantastical. Its characters are flawed, morally grey and tragically expendable. Gemmell went on to write other books in the Drenai universe but this original tale remains his best.
If you love Game of Thrones' gritty medieval atmosphere and large-scale battle scenes, Legend won't disappoint.
A Game Of Thrones Comic (Daniel Abraham)
The Game Of Thrones comic allows you to relive all your favourite moments from the novel and TV show. Featuring sumptuously muscled art by Tommy Patterson, the series resembles a superhero version of Martin's work — it's like Westeros on steroids.
Despite the beefcake illustrations, it's actually a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the book with none of the clumsy abridging that so often mars comic adaptations. The series is published monthly in 29-page installments, although you can also snap up collected editions complete with hardcovers and bonus art.
The First Law series (Joe Abercrombie)
Joe Abercrombie's First Law saga currently comprises six books (a trilogy and three standalone novels). All are based in the same war-torn fantasy universe and feature a rotating roster of characters. The main protagonist in one book may only have a cameo in the next, which adds a fun Where's Waldo? element to proceedings. Abercrombie's imagined world might not be as meticulously realised as Martin's, but he makes up for this via a compelling cast of likeable killers and ne'er do wells.
The First Law series also contains an essential element that A Game Of Thrones arguably lacks — humour. The droll inner monologues of each principle character are often hilarious, which helps to brighten up the bleak and bloody subject matter. If Terry Pratchett toned down the satire and amped up the violence in his novels, the result would read something like this.
We recommend starting with the standalone Best Served Cold before moving onto The Blade Itself which kicks off the core trilogy.
Borgia comic series (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
The Borgia comic series by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara is a delightfully OTT retelling of Italy's most infamous family. Set during the Renaissance, the books follow the debauched, bloody exploits of the House of Borgia who allegedly hosted orgies in the Vatican palace, practiced incest and murdered multiple rivals at court. (In other words, they were essentially real-life Lannisters.)
Jodorowsky plays fast and loose with historical accuracy, but that only makes the story more fun. Meanwhile, the art by Milo Manara is almost too good for the silly sauciness on display. There's also a few tragic deaths and some excellently choreographed battle scenes — everything that a Game Of Thrones fan needs, basically.
If your favourite part of A Game Of Thrones is the court intrigues and deviant sex acts, the Borgia comic series is for you. You pervert.
The Steel Remains (Richard K. Morgan)
In 2008, the award-winning sci-fi author Richard K. Morgan decided to take his first stab at the fantasy genre. The result was The Steel Remains, a rollicking slice of sword 'n' sorcery that is part fantasy and part noir detective story. Like A Game Of Thrones, the book features an otherworldly demonic threat that is mostly kept to the sidelines. (Here they are called 'the Aldrain' instead of 'the Others'.)
Refreshingly, one of the main protagonists is a brutal mercenary who also happens to be gay. The book explores his sexuality in a frank and open manner. So if you enjoyed the Renly/Loras dalliances in the Game Of Thrones TV show there'll be plenty to interest you here.
Spartacus is like Game Of Thrones's dumber, sexier sibling. Loosely inspired by the historical figure of Spartacus, the show takes what is great about Game Of Thrones and then ramps the sex 'n' violence up to 11. The show comprises four seasons and is well worth checking out if you need a guilty pleasure.
Some consider Rome to be a forerunner of HBO's Game Of Thrones, laying much of the groundwork for large-scale period TV drama. Beginning with Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul and ending with his nephew's rise to power, Rome proved that TV could be every bit as epic as cinema. The show features a sprawling cast of characters who are constantly forging alliances and double-crossing each other as they strive to consolidate power (sound familiar?)
There are also plenty of shock deaths for people who don't know their history — by the last episode, practically everyone is sailing up the river Styx. Because this is a HBO series, there are one or two wholly gratuitous sex scenes per episode; just like another show we could mention.
Vikings (History Channel)
Like the Greyjoys? You'll love this.
Ironclad (Jonathan English)
Ironclad is an underrated historical adventure that chronicles King John's attempts to reclaim the English throne in 1215. The film shares many of the same elements as HBO's Thrones adaptation: there's a motley assortment of lords, knights and brigands struggling to gain power, brutal battle scenes with a worrying amount of spurting claret, an assortment of lumbering siege engines and improbably toned commoners in ill-fitting corsets (including the fashion model Bree Condon).
The film also boasts a cameo from Charles Dance (AKA Tywin Lannister) as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Conan The Barbarian (John Milius)
We'd be remiss not to include 1982's Conan The Barbarian on this list: after all, Martin has cited Robert E. Howard as a chief influence on his own writing. While Milius' bombastic adaptation isn't perfect, it remains the best movie version of Conan that we have. If you can get past Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian-oak acting, the film has a lot to offer Game Of Thrones fans — there are warring realms, exotic cultures, unknowable magic and gratuitous violence and nudity (natch).
Like HBO's Game Of Thrones, the film benefits from a realistic, historical look thanks to on-location shooting in Europe. The swordplay and practical effects are also impressively authentic looking — real animal blood was used in many of the fight scenes. We're not sure why it has such a hokey reputation; it's actually a very solid movie.
Khal Drogo fans might also want to check out the 2011 remake which stars the horse lord himself; Jason Momoa. That's your cue to start swooning, ladies.
Queen Margot (Patrice Chéreau)
Queen Margot, or La Reine Margot to give it it's native title, is a 1994 French film based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas. It follows the power struggle between Catholics and Protestants in 16th century France, with the titular Margot de' Medici used as a political pawn to forge alliances and spill bloodshed. The film looks extravagantly gorgeous (especially when the ridiculously beautiful Isabelle Adjani is onscreen) and the endless betrayals and intrigues are pure Game Of Thrones.
Oh, and if you thought the Red Wedding was bad, just wait until you see Margot's bloody nuptials which culminate in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Rob Stark got off lightly, frankly.
So what have we missed out? If you've found a fitting substitute to Game Of Thrones (whether book, TV show or movie), let us know in the comments section below. But be warned — anyone who suggests Dungeons And Dragons: The Movie will be tossed off the Wall.
See also: How To Avoid Game Of Thrones Spoilers | What Ten Australian Films Would You Recommend To A Non-Local? | Amazon Wants To Pay You To Write Terrible Fan-Fiction | Can The Splendour Of 4K Save A Crap Movie?
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Originally published on Lifehacker Australia