Geek Culture

Published on April 20th, 2015 | by Amy Dittmeier

Game of Thrones Readers’ Advisory

The fifth season of Game of Thrones is now upon us, and winter is closer than ever before. The Game of Thrones series has been immensely popular in both book and television form, and most people are now familiar with it in some fashion. Its story pervades pop culture everywhere, with its merchandise even appearing in stores like Hot Topic. The book series (titled A Song of Ice and Fire) is written by George R.R. Martin, and follows the interwoven stories of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, and other minor houses as they each strive to survive and gain power within the world. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call all media that has to do with the world of Westeros the Game of Thrones series.

The series has crossover appeal for teens and adults because of the many forms it has taken – books, graphic novels, television, video games, and spin-off works. However, performing readers’ advisory for the title can be difficult. The fanbase for the series is growing as the television show grows in popularity, but we are nearing a moment where the show will surpass the books in content. The show creators recently said that the HBO series will most likely spoil moments that will be in future books. Since we cannot rely on Martin publishing the sixth book in the series any time soon, we must look elsewhere for good read-alikes for patrons.

Another issue is readers’ advisory for young adults interested in the series. The book and television series contain content that may not be suitable for a young adult readership, but teens will still be interested in something that is like the series. On the other side, adult readers may be daunted by the 500+ pages of the book series and want something shorter or with less pervasive violence. Finding titles that contain the elements of the Game of Thrones franchise but are still suitable for YA readers is very important to connect with these readers.

When choosing titles for young adult and adult readers, we should think about characteristics that make series so popular. Because the series itself is so diverse in its media, there are many aspects to focus on to find suitable read-alikes:

High Fantasy: A high fantasy work is fiction set in a secondary or alternate world to our own. Many aspects of the world may be similar to ours – in the case of Game of Thrones, Martin has drawn from many areas of history from the War of the Roses to the Hundred Years War. But there are still fantastical elements, such as magic use, mythical creatures, and other fantasy races (White Walkers/the Others, the Children of the Forest, etc.)

Intricate World Building: The world of Westeros and beyond is deep. There are books just to explain the different areas of the world of Game of Thrones, as well as the houses, food, religion, and culture. Reading or watching Game of Thrones is an immersive experience.

Though as Martin has borrowed elements from European history, the world of Game of Thrones is very much one of his own creation. Most titles that have great world building occur in a series, but there are some single tile fiction works that achieve this.

Women Who Fight: Cersei, Catelyn, Brienne, Arya, Asha – these are women in Game of Thrones who will stop at nothing to fight for the people they love or are sworn to protect. Though their reasons for fighting may all be different, they all circumvent the usual trope of fantasy novels where women are secondary characters waiting to be saved.

Ensemble Cast: Each chapter of Game of Thrones is from a different character’s perspective. Through them, we see how the story unfolds in different areas of the world. Martin creates a distinct voice for each character, and through the perspective characters he picks for each book we as the reader see the entire story unfold. The characters themselves aren’t so lucky.

So what should you read next? Here are some titles that librarians should know about when looking for read-alikes:




A Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Hadrian and Royce comprise Riyria, a duo of notorious thieves in Elan. When they take a job to steal a famous sword and are set up for the murder of the king, it spurs a series of events that will forever change the world they live in. Sullivan creates a fantastic world for Hadrian and Royce to play in, and has a wide cast of secondary characters to follow throughout the five book series. This is a good selection for young adults as well, as the books contain little violence and no inappropriate language.


The Accursed Kings Series by Maurice Druon

This historical fiction series follows the tumultuous events of the French monarchy in the 13th and 14th centuries. The realm of Philip the Fair aka the Iron King sounds like the nebulous world of King’s Landing, with scandal, murder, and politics permeating the royal court. This has long been a cult classic for fantasy readers, and has found a resurgence since the HBO show came out. Martin has called this “the original Game of Thrones and wrote the introduction to the recent reissues of the series.


The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson

Multiple advisory articles recommend the Mistborn Series for Game of Thrones fans, and the appeal is obvious. When the heroine Vin finds out she is Mistborn – a person who is able to ingest metals and use them to power various magical abilities and mental skills – she embarks on a journey filled with political intrigue and sensational adventure. The world of Mistborn is not as large as Game of Thrones, but readers will appreciate Sanderson’s strong female protagonist and sprawling ensemble cast.


The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Another advisory favorite, this book focuses on the seedy underbelly of Camorr and the adventures of a beginner thief. The Gentlemen Bastards are a gang of thieves and tricksters who prey on the decadent habits of the city nobles. A young orphan named Locke quickly grows into the society of thieves and leads them to infamy – but with his success comes a complicated conspiracy. Readers will enjoy the cast of character that comprise the Gentlemen Bastards and the adventures that the crew embark on throughout the series.


Young Adult


By Chance or Providence by Becky Cloonan

Fantasy doesn’t have to be all dragons and giants – it can have ghosts and zombies too. Becky Cloonan’s collection of three stories – Wolves, The Mire, and Demeter – all embody this fantasy – meets – horror subgenre that Game of Thrones plays with in its Night Watch storylines. Each story portrays a character encountering a great evil, which they cannot hope to defeat. Cloonan’s art is stunning and intricate, and her stories show realism within fantasy stories through strong characterization. The graphic novel format may appeal to young adult readers more than other fiction books.


Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is an Abhorsen – a group of powerful magic users who use a form of necromancy to quell restless spirits and lay the dead to rest. Each Abhorsen uses a series of bells as their only weapon against those who attempt to use the dead for evil. The series itself has won numerous young adult awards, and Nix restarted the series last year with his newest installment, Clariel. Like Game of Thrones, Sabriel is ready to fight whatever comes her way in the intricate world created by Nix.


Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Magic has left the world of Mytica, long forgotten by its people in the place of remembering the kingdom’s peace. But unrest rumbles below the surface, and magic may not be as forgotten as some thought it to be. Four unlikely people are thrust into the kingdom’s conflict, full of deceivers and hidden allies. The power struggle of the series is similar to the War of the Five Kings.

About the Author

Amy Dittmeier is a former Chicagoan who left her hometown to pursue her MLIS at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her life is now full of textbooks and paper writing as she works towards her dream of opening up a comic book archive in the Midwest. Before entering graduate school, she ran the pop culture website HEAVEmedia, where she acted as an editor and produced her own podcast, Pocket Protectors. When she’s not studying, Amy enjoys reading comic books, making new characters for D&D games she doesn't have time to play, working on cosplay (see her latest projects here), and binge playing video games. She can be found on Tumblr here.

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