If you've just been watching HBO's hit series Game Of Thrones, you're definitely missing out. The book series, A Song Of Ice And Fire, may be a tad longer than a season's worth of episodes, but it's a future American classic to be sure. I'm four books into the series and have been amazed thus far and would recommend it (perhaps not for children) over Lord Of The Rings. Why, though? (Hint: It's not boobs.)
Two words: "The Game."
The Game of Thrones is not only the title of the first book in the series, it's also a major plot point for the whole series. It is "The Game" that makes a sellsword just as relevant as the ruling king in the series. One thing George R.R. Martin did very well with this series was character development. At times you have to wonder if this world is at all imaginary or if he was just taking accounts from some ancient book and putting it to print.
He very well might have as every character in the story becomes relevant at some point down the line. Literally...EVERY CHARACTER. I always felt like characters come and go throughout LOTR to serve a single purpose in advancing the story. The characters in this series, however, can be mentioned in passing in a couple lines in one book, only to have a third of the next book dedicated to their role in the events going on! It's hard to expound upon that without revealing some major spoilers from the series so I'll just leave it at that.
Because "The Game" is played by so many in the series, this is the first book I've read that beautifully translates to being told through multiple perspectives. It gives you a sense of scale when characters lands away receive word about something that happened a book ago, while people within Westeros are kept up to speed via raven. I also think the inclusion of sea travel (don't ask me why) gives me the illusion that the world of A Song Of Ice And Fire is much more vast than LOTR, but that's just my opinion.
While "The Game" and all the scheming and plotting that goes behind it is one of the major strengths for A...Song Of....Ice *hand cramp!*...And Fire (I think I found a third reason why they stuck with GOT) over LOTR, I do have another perhaps more controversial reason. George R.R. Martin does a good job of balancing Fantasy and drama, something not all Fantasy writers do. While the series might not be the most hardcore fantasy in the genre, four books in, I can say there is quite a bit of the fantastical going on. Just watching the first two seasons of the show you can see how we were gently led into the dragons, wights, etc...and in doing so, Martin succeeded in capturing an audience I don't think he would've gotten if he'd gone out guns blazing. Like I said, might be a bit controversial, but none the less true in my opinion.
Let it be known that this is not a diss of LOTR. I grew up on the books and still enjoy watching the films from time to time. That being said, I believe it's high time the torch is passed to a new champion of the genre. Like I said, I strongly encourage you to check out these books if you haven't yet. If you've been following the series and don't want to reread, you can start into the third book with just some minor things you might be unaware of (save one Jojen and Meera Reed), but all in all the series does a decent job keeping things in line. You won't be disappointed.