“Fitful drafts of chill air blew in through the cruciform windows of the Bell Tower, and the fire did little to combat them.”First line in Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan
So on June 5th, it was Constitution Day here in Denmark, or “Grundlovsdag”, as I would say, a day where we celebrate the signing of our Constitution, first in 1849 and then again in 1915 when women were given the right to vote. We don’t have a national day so Constitution Day is the only thing that really comes close, although the celebratory traditions are limited. It’s mainly politicians making speeches all day, but hey, we get a day off (at least when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday that is also Pentecost because then it’s completely useless 😒).
To translate this occasion into a blog post, I figured I would recommend some of my favorite political fantasy books. ‘Political’ has really become one of my buzzwords when it comes to books, so this is basically just a list of books I adore.
The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
I know this one is a dangerous one to start both because of the size of these humongous books and because you might never see the end of it. Still, there is a reason why so many people love these books, and the politics in them is a huge part of that, at least for me. It can get quite dry but to me, that’s a sign of Martin playing the long game with his plots and characters so everything is in the detail. It also gets brutal with political schemes, backstabbing, beheadings and children caught in the midst. So if you’re into all the dark stuff, this is for you.
The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima
Moving on to something a little lighter, The Seven Realms is a YA series that because of its rich world provides some very interesting political situations. You have the classic monarchy (with female monarchs) that has to consider the different factions within the realm. There are wizards gunning for political power but they have history working against them. The clans from the mountains are also working against the wizards but the clans also make their own demands from the monarch, and all this makes for a tense political backdrop. One thing to mention about these books, though, is that there is just as much romance drama as there is political scheming so just be aware of that.
The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty
This series is one of the best when it comes to portraying multi-faceted political situations. There are no easy choices, no issues with a clear solution, and every decision means a sacrifice of something. It gets even more complicated as the trilogy isn’t just the good guys vs. the bad guys. There are multiple sides and groups in this world that our characters have divided and/or shifting allegiances to. It kept me on my toes, especially in the first book because I wasn’t presented with that obvious character I had to root for. Not that the main characters aren’t firmly in the “likable” territory, but the politics in these books forces the reader to still see them as flawed.
The Onyx Court by Marie Brennan
I think this series is a must-read for people who love political fantasy because the politics in it is intricate and complex to a degree that sometimes makes it hard to follow. If you’re up for the challenge though, it’s such a fascinating historical fantasy series that mixes fae court politics with human court politics, and everything is inspired by real events that happened in London.
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
This YA duology is part of the bigger Grishaverse but I still wanted to mention it. As opposed to the other books by Leigh Bardugo, these ones follow a ruler, king Nikolai, so they feature politics a lot. We see him navigating a political landscape that sees enemies preparing to strike against him while he’s also struggling to maintain his own image in the eyes of his people because of some unfortunate circumstances. Nikolai is expected to make sacrifices for the greater good of his people, so you can also expect to see him struggle in his political role throughout the two books.
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
I love a lot of things about this trilogy but the subtle political scheming that goes on in the background of every scene might be my favorite thing about it. Most of the trilogy takes place at court where we follow the bastard Fitz who is trying to live his life while the king and the nobles attempt to use him as a pawn in their political games. He’s a child and that makes for a very interesting spin on political fantasy because the adult reader is left to connect some of the dots that child Fitz isn’t able to. It’s an amazing trilogy for the reader who likes to come up with their own theories as they’re reading.
The Tide Child by RJ Barker
This trilogy is very different compared to everything else on this list because the politics in it isn’t court politics. In a world where seafaring is highly valued, you can’t spend too much time in a court on land, although the books do have some of that too. It gives some very interesting situations though because you both get the politics of the world handled between the captains of different ships and the politics and shifting power dynamics that happen in the enclosed space that is a ship. It’s definitely a trilogy that features just as much backstabbing as any other political series.
What do you think of political fantasy? Are there any you think are missing from this list? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations so please leave your suggestions in the comments if you have any. Are you planning of reading any of these?