The Acacia Trilogy, David Anthony Durham
An acclaimed author of historical fiction, Durham slips into the epic fantasy realm with his Acacia trilogy — though his roots are showing, and so much to the better. The world Durham creates is, if possible, even more complex than Martin’s, his characters all equally morally gray, their destinies unclear. Even better, Durham masterfully plays with the conventional fantasy tropes we all know and love, both satisfying and lampshading them with a keen eye.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen , Steven Erikson
For those of you hesitant to start a series that might run out too soon (or one that will leave you hanging, like Martin’s has so far), you’re safe with Erikson’s ten-novel high-fantasy epic, featuring a huge cast of characters and multiple arcing, intersecting plotlines. It’ll keep you busy for years, never mind weeks.
The First Law series, Joe Abercrombie
Vivid and bloody, Abercrombie’s work in this series was described by The Guardian‘s Eric Brown as “tipping his hat to the Western genre but continuing his mission to drag fantasy, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century with his characteristic mix of gritty realism, complex characterization, set-piece scenes of stomach-churning violence, and villains who are as fully rounded as his flawed heroes.” Sounds good — and Martin-esque — to us.
The White Queen , Philippa Gregory
In case you’re really yearning for a bit more Sansa, try Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, particularly the first book, The White Queen, set during the Wars of the Roses, on which the events of Martin’s series are loosely based. Or you could just wait for the TV series, which no doubt owes at least some of its existence to the success of Game of Thrones.
The Deryni novels, Katherine Kurtz
OK, so these are really the books for people who want to get lost in a single world for years. The first installment in Kurtz’s insanely expansive historical epic appeared in 1970, and since then she’s racked up five distinct trilogies, one stand-alone novel, two collections of short stories, and a couple reference books to boot. Well, you need all that when you’re tackling the murky race relations between humans and magic users in a land fraught with political, personal, and religious strife.
The Shadowmarch tetralogy, Tad Williams
The castle of Southmarch stands guard at the border between the lands of man and the world of the immortal Qua, encroaching bit by bit and drawing the castle into the darkness. The royal family must fight back. Pretty standard fantasy fare, but Williams is a master world builder, and does it with style.
The Prince of Nothing series, R. Scott Bakker
Filled with holy wars, divine prophets, and the coming of the Second Apocalypse, Bakker’s series is one of the most intellectual, intriguing, and philosophically fascinating of the bunch. You know, if that’s your thing.
The Chronicles of the Black Company , Glen Cook
If your favorite parts of Game of Thrones are on the Wall and beyond with Jon and the rest of the Night’s Watch, this is the series for you. The Chronicles follow an elite mercenary unit over several decades of war, wizardry, and internal politics.
The Kingkiller Chronicle , Patrick Rothfuss
In this series, the legendary Kvothe tells the tale of his life as a famous adventurer/arcanist/musician — a typical Hero’s Journey with more than a few metafictional twists that manages to be both a fantastical action-packed epic and a true portrait of human life at once.
The Tales of Dunk and Egg series, George R.R. Martin
So none of that appeals to you — you know what you want, and the world of Westeros is it. Well, all right then. Dig in your heels with George R.R. Martin’s series of novellas, prequels of sorts (the first one begins 89 years before A Game of Thrones) but largely concerned with different characters. There is some fun crossover, of course, as a bonus.