The world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a complex one, and with so many houses and regions, it’s easy to get a little lost. There’s often mention of the “Seven Kingdoms”—but what exactly are they?
As it turns out, the kingdoms Cersei and Dany so passionately tack onto the end of their names no longer exist. During Aegon's Conquest, the founder of the Targaryen dynasty united the seven independent realms of Westeros, reorganizing the continent into the nine administrative regions Westerosi know today (the "Kingdom of the Rock" became the "Westerlands," for example).
Whether you prefer the fierce cold of the North or the steamy climes of Dorne, these books are perfect for fans of any kingdom. From bandit tricksters reminiscent of a revered Lannister hero to falcon-riding warriors like the Vale’s legendary Ser Artys Arryn, each book ties into a crucial part of the kingdoms’ histories. As you wait (and wait, and wait …) for The Winds of Winter or the final season of Game of Thrones (April can't come soon enough), get a taste of similar fantasy universes with these eight books.
Kingdom of the North
Set in the Winterfell-like world of Alaska, Guardian follows the epic adventure of Rosa Coleman during the 19th-century gold rush. After discovering her husband’s true nature, Rosa and her son flee to the wintry wilderness in search of wealth—only to find a greater destiny awaits them. Rosa’s intelligence and take-no-sh*t attitude is comparable to Northern ball-busters like Arya or Catelyn Stark. Meanwhile, Rosa’s trusty guide—a prophetic raven—brings Bran to mind.
Kingdom of Vale and Sky (formerly Kingdom of the Mountain and the Vale)
Storms of Victory
Capital: The Eyrie
Reign over the Mountain and the Vale switched houses after the “Winged Knight”—mounted on the back of House Arryn’s falcon mascot—defeated the last Mountain King (also changing the kingdom’s name to Vale and Sky). The Arryns have ruled from the Vale’s impenetrable stronghold, the Eyrie, ever since.
The members of House Arryn would feel comfortable in Andre Norton’s Witch World series, where a people known as the Falconers live in a hidden fortress also called the Eyrie. Like the “Winged Knight,” Falconer warriors have a special connection to their namesake birds—often using them for guidance in battle. One of the two novels in the Storms of Victory collection revolves around these Falconers and their strained relationship with the Dales of High Hallack, their noble neighbors.
Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers
The now defunct Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers consisted of the Riverlands and the Iron Islands. Its ruling house, the Hoare dynasty, met a catastrophic end when House Tully of Riverrun joined the Targaryen Conquest and attacked Harrenhal, the Hoare’s ancestral seat. Since then, the great castle has become a symbol of bad luck, shadowed by its grim past.
ASOIAF readers will see some similarities between Harrenhal and the setting of Jennifer Egan’s novel of magical realism. As The Keep’s protagonists renovate a crumbling medival castle, they’re haunted by ghosts—but are they of the paranormal sort, or are they simply their own horrific memories?
The Golden Horn
Once a constituent part of the Isles and the Rivers, the Iron Islands have earned and lost their independence several times throughout Westerosi history. George R.R. Martin has drawn comparisons between its ironborn natives and real-life Vikings. The Golden Horn is part of an epic fantasy trilogy about the last true Viking king, Harald Hardrede. This first installment sees a teenage Harald get his first taste of blood and glory before he finally sets out to claim his royal birthright.
Kingdom of the Rock
The Blade Itself
Capital: Casterly Rock
Ever since the Andal Invasion, House Lannister has ruled the Kingdom of the Rock (now called the “Westerlands”) from their clifftop palace. Legend claims that Lann the Clever—a trickster nicknamed for his incredible wit—snuck into the castle and took it from its Casterly owners. The four anti-heroes of The Blade Itself have quite a few things in common with Lann and his Lannister heirs: infamy, cunning, and a propensity for villainy as much as goodness.
Kingdom of the Stormlands
And I Darken
Capital: Storm's End
Though the Stormlands former lord, Robert Baratheon, dies early in the first book/season, his decisions helped shape the entire series. Believing Rhaegar Targaryen had kidnapped his betrothed, Lyanna Stark, a young Robert launched a grand-scale rebellion to rescue her. But only her brother, Ned, heard Lyanna’s deathbed confession (she actually loved the Targaryen prince), and we’re finally feeling the reverberations of this deception in season seven.
A similar, three-sided conflict propels the drama of And I Darken, as a brother-sister duo befriend—and romance—the future ruler of their rival court. But which loyalty is worth keeping: one of blood, or one of love?
Kingdom of the Reach
In the time of the First Men, the founder and King of the Reach was rumored to “make the land bloom.” It was a legacy immortalized by the rose sigil of his Tyrrell descendants—though perhaps it’s better reflected in the temperaments of the family’s women. Margaery and Olenna Tyrell lived beside beastly husbands and enemies—but every rose has its thorn. Similarly, Robin McKinley’s take on the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, shows the darker side of beauty.
RELATED: 12 Enchanting Fairy Tales for Adults
Principality of Dorne
The Great Alta Saga
Founded by the warrior-queen Nymeria over one thousand years ago, the Principality of Dorne has a long history of badass women. Among them, are the eight Sand Snakes—Prince Oberyn’s brood of bastard daughters—who know combat as well as any knight of the Kingsguard. Jane Yolen’s Great Alta Saga also follows two warrior sisters. Like Nymeria, Jenna is prophesied to lead her people to freedom, and Skada—her invisible twin—is her powerful sidekick. Together, they must combine their skills to save their all-female kingdom from usurpers and a malevolent evil.
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Featured still from "Game of Thrones" via HBO