There’s only so much I can really swallow of real-world politics before it all gets so bad that not even The Daily Show makes it any better. Political fiction, though—that I can’t get enough of, and frankly, the more cynical the better. I’m a huge fan of The Thick of It, and the US House of Cards was, disturbingly enough, my happy place for the last couple of months—though fans of that show will appreciate that it was really something to watch a certain very dramatic episode of House of Cards on the same day that HBO broadcast the now-infamous “The Rains of Castamere.”
And while I definitely enjoy the dragons, ice zombies, fire magic, and prophetic visions of both the Song of Ice and Fire novels and the Game of Thrones TV show, it’s the courtly intrigue that keeps me coming back for more. Cersei Lannister’s struggles to hold on to the power that the men of the court would take from her, Daenerys’s hard-knocks school of statecraft, Tywin’s ruthlessness, Tyrion’s desperate attempts to make something of himself in service of the kingdom, the charm offensive of the Tyrells—this is what really makes the books and the show for me. That the intrigue occasionally explodes into shocking and bloody violence is, perhaps, a bonus for those for whom contemporary political drama is a bit too arid.
But now we’ve got several months to wait for the next season of Game of Thrones, and some as-yet-undetermined period before The Winds of Winter pops up on shelves and e-readers, and I’ll probably be tiding myself over for the next season of House of Cards with the UK series. What else is there to take up the slack? Well, one contender is a pair of books whose praises I’ve sung here at Tor before—Hilary Mantel’s Tudor-era historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. No, there’s not an ice zombie to be seen, and the only dragons are likely to be those gracing a coat of arms, but there is plenty of royal intrigue, and even a few lost heads.
[No, really, hear me out.]