Fear not, impatient readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or disillusioned viewers of HBO’s Game of Thrones — these lesser-known fantasy book series are ready to tide you over with magic, intrigue, and dragons galore.
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
Let’s start off with a series that may actually have a chance at televisual success – SyFy just released the first trailer for their upcoming Magicians TV series, based on the book trilogy by Lev Grossman. The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land follow the magical exploits of Quentin Coldwater at Brakebills Academy (which is essentially a grown-up Hogwarts with sex) and in the fantasy land of Fillory (which is essentially a grown-up Narnia with — you guessed it — sex). Like A Song of Ice and Fire, the Magicians series casts a critical, deconstructive eye on familiar fantasy tropes and archetypes.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
A Song of Ice and Fire fans morbidly concerned that George R.R. Martin might die before he finally finishes the series can only hope he pulls a Robert Jordan — when the Wheel of Time author died while working on the final tweltfth book, he entrusted Wheel of Time fan (and fellow fantasy author) Brandon Sanderson with the task of finishing the series, whose screen rights are now owned by Universal. The saga’s convoluted mythology and huge cast of characters might draw apt Game of Thrones comparisons, but Wheel of Time is a wholly original work unto itself, and mandatory reading for any fantasy fan.
The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin
You want dragons? Oh, Ursula K. Le Guin does dragons. Does she ever. Her Earthsea books (consisting of an original trilogy, two additional novels, and some short stories) were hugely influential on the fantasy genre. Earthsea is a riveting, sprawling series with a ton of diversity and an ultimately progressive, feminist message — though screen adaptations have been unsuccessful in the past.
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Speaking of dragons… Anne McCaffrey’s are epic. Quite literally, too: there are twenty-three books within the Dragonriders of Pern universe, beginning with Dragonflight in 1968 and continuing through Sky Dragons in 2012, with Warner Bros. announcing last year that they are developing a film version. Ronald D. Moore of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica fame was previously attached to create a TV version, though, and anyone who’s immersed themselves in the award-winning sci-fi world of Pern knows how fantastic that would have been.
Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Alanna of Trebond — Tamora Pierce’s headstrong lady knight who disguises herself as a boy in order to fight — could give Arya Stark a run for her Braavosi money. The Song of the Lioness quartet was a formative fantasy series for those who enjoy a lot of girl power within their fictional battles and palace plots, and it’s long overdue for a screen adaptation.
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
Various adaptations of Stephen King’s self-described magnum opus have been in development for years, but the series still — somehow! — has yet to make it to screen. Much like A Song of Ice and Fire, the Dark Tower series is dense… and intense. It’s not pure fantasy, instead incorporating elements of other genres such as western, horror, and science fiction. Though it may be a challenge to successfully streamline eight books, Sony is the latest studio stepping up to the challenge: they recently announced both a film and a TV show based on the series. Fingers crossed that this time it actually happens!
The Books of Abarat by Clive Barker
Clive Barker’s weird, twisted brain rivals George R.R. Martin’s in terms of sheer creativity — the illustrated Abarat novels, taking place in a fictional collection of twenty-five islands (one for every hour of the day, plus one) are unlike anything you’ve ever read before, and its vast collection of heroes, villains, and everyone in between is colorfully constructed.
The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix
Beginning with Sabriel, then continuing on with Lirael, Abhorsen, and The Creature in the Case, this series by Garth Nix is dark — it’s about necromancers, after all— and made complex and compelling by its meticulously structured rules of magic. Its rich visuals make it a perfect candidate for screen adaptation, and its dense world-building would keep an audience enthralled across multiple seasons.
What did we miss? Let us know what tops your fantasy book-to-screen wish list in the comments below!