For half a century, fantasy has essentially been a series of footnotes to Tolkien. Until George R.R. Martin, that is. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire series -- now five novels and counting, with the first two dramatized by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on HBO as Game of Thrones -- ventures boldly outside the Tolkien box and has revitalized the entire genre in the process. Gone are hobbits, elves, orcs, non-human dwarves, ents, balrogs, and most magical items (although not all magic or magical creatures). Gone too are the Manichaean simplicities of a world in which most characters can be quickly identified as good or evil. Martin's saga has few one-dimensional heroes but many fully fleshed out people.

A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a world modeled after medieval England, and many claim that the series' genius and popularity stems from its

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

Subscribe
  • KELLY DEVRIES is a professor of history at Loyola University Maryland, the General Mark W. Clark Visiting Professor of Military History at the Citadel, and the author of several books on medieval warfare.
  • More By Kelly DeVries