Game of Thrones is over, but a spin-off may be coming. Amazon’s Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings series are well on their way to our screens, and a Tortall universe series based on the works of Tamora Pierce has just been announced, but there is so much room for fantasy and science fiction books that have been largely underappreciated by the masses and deserve to be seen.
Mostly because I want them on my screen.
The Queen’s Thief
Megan Whalen Turner won a Newbery Award for her first book in the twisty, turny, intelligent young adult series, The Thief, in 1996. Since then, she published four more, and a final book is forthcoming this year. Ostensibly about a thief named Eugenides, Turner pulls us in with a cantankerous, sarcastic antihero whose boasts are too big for his britches. He’s been pulled out of prison to help a power-hungry leader get a fabled magical artifact to help cement his right to rule. Pretty straightforward, right?
Well, all is not as it seems in this story and you’ll find you don’t know who to trust as the book goes on. It would be an interesting exercise pull the series, which often plays with plot and style, into a visual format, but I would give my right hand to see it happen.
Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire are often the books that come to mind when discussing epic American fantasy, but an addition to that list should be the Kushiel’s Dart collection by Jacqueline Carey. The original three center around a courtesan/trained spy Phèdre nó Delaunay and her role in the various court and political intrigues of Terre d’Ange. The book is flowery and romantic (and sexy), but at its heart is a heroine made of tougher stuff than your average hero. Phèdre is imperfect and certainly doesn’t always make the best decisions, but that’s why we love her. Her character is one who revels in the mixture of pleasure and pain, and that notion lends itself to some deeply satisfying, terrifying experiences. And don’t even get me started on Joscelin, the love of her life.
A lot has been written on how sex was portrayed in Game of Thrones, and bringing Kushiel's Dart to life would be a chance to update our mentality on the politics of sex and what it looks like when a woman is at the center of the story.
In excellent news, Kushiel's Dart has been optioned, but that's never a promise in the land of TV, so I pray to all the Gods of Terre D'ange, to Blessed Elua himself, that it happens.
Want and Ruse by Cindy Pon are two of the best science fiction books to come out of young adult publishing in the last few years. Set in future Tapei in a world where clean air is a commodity to which the rich have better access, the series feels almost painfully current. In Want, the first book, we follow Jason Zhou, a street-smart kid out to infiltrate the wealthy and make sure he and his friends are doing better than just surviving. He wants to take down the corporations taking advantage of a broken earth and putting profit above people. With a cast full of young, survivalist characters, the high tech and beautiful imagery, and a forbidden romance at their heart, the books seem tailor-made to be on television.
Our current fantasy seems so focused on faux-European societies and politics, but there’s a whole world of literature being influenced by cultures that we rarely get to see in our pop culture. Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas series is here to rectify that. The main character, Alex, is a bruja — a very powerful witch. The catch is that Alex hates magic. So, in the first book, Labyrinth Lost, Alex tries to rid herself of it and accidentally vanishes her family in the crossfire. Then she’s forced to engage with that part of her and fall down into the mystical land of Los Lagos.
There’s so much in the Brooklyn Brujas series that would work on television: beautiful scenery, a bisexual romantic triangle, the visual of magic through a new cultural perspective. Give it to me now.
The Prey of Gods
The lone standalone on this list, The Prey of Gods is a near-futuristic sci-fi novel set in South Africa. Nicky Drayden's debut is a funny, well-paced story that pulls us into a world where the challenges are many. What makes Drayden's title stand out is a focus on the wide range of characters who impact the story: a magical young girl, a queer teen with mind control power, a pop musician, and … a politician. Oh also, there's a God.
I'd love to see a company take a page out of the BBC's book and bring Drayden's title story to screen as a limited series, one that has a definitive end since it follows a single title, would be amazing. The book is ripe with incredible characters that viewers can get behind, and relationships to be analyzed. It seems made for an online fandom. Let's do it!