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10 fantasy novels that would make great TV shows

With ‘Game of Thrones’ preparing to film its second season, and Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ in development, what will be the next epic fantasy novel series to become a TV series? We have 10 great suggestions.

By Michael CriderScreen Rant / June 21, 2011

Sean Bean stars in HBO's new show 'Game of Thrones.' The show is based on George R. R. Martin's best-selling 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series of novels.

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With HBO’s Game Of Thrones wrapping up a stellar first season and American Gods (far) on the horizon, television is on the cusp of a fantasy revolution. And it isn’t the squeaky-clean fantasy of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (for that, see the upcoming and very promising Once Upon A Time) – cable TV is ready and willing to tell adult fantasy stories for adult viewers.

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With that in mind, the Screen Rant crew put together a list of the fantasy novels we’d most like to see adapted into serialized TV dramas with modest-to-big budgets. All of them would make sprawling, epic TV shows… in the right hands, of course.

Check out our list and see if you agree with our picks – and add a few suggestions of your own to our comment section.

Honorable Mention: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Gods Behaving Badly is a lot like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, in that it assumes that the old Greek pantheon is real but diminished in a modern world devoid of religious fervor. The difference is that in Phillips’ interpretation, all the Greek gods live in the same crappy house outside of London. Immortal, yet developmentally stunted, gods like Ares, Hephaestus and Aphrodite take menial jobs while clinging to their last shreds of power.

This gives them just enough time to squabble amongst themselves and make life a living Hades for any hapless mortal who spoils their fun. This book screams for a dark comedic drama along the lines of Dead Like Me – here’s hoping that Red Hour Films gets their act together and delivers on their promise to make the novel into a TV series.

10. The Necroscope Series by Brian Lumley

Harry Keogh sees dead people. In the modern United Kingdom that could be a problem, but the protagonist of the Necroscope novels uses it to his advantage, discovering that the dead are generally okay folks. They teach him the skills he’ll need to solve his mother’s murder, fight a growing menace of vampires and necromancers, and affect the growing operations of ESP-ionage on the world stage.

With over a dozen novels roughly coinciding with real-world time, there’s a lot of material to cover for aspiring writers and producers. This is a series that’s not afraid to throw spies, psychics, sorcerers, vampires and mathematical formulas for teleportation into the mix – and that’s just in the first novel! Later novels go even further down the fantasy path, including adventures set in twisted vampire realms, inter-dimensional wars, and conflict on both sides of the life and death divide. With the complex and multi-faceted world of the novels, a rich continuity rivaling the likes of Doctor Who is not out of the question.

9. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

Imagine the Assassin’s Creed video games, minus the ridiculous “genetic memory” framing device. Now add in a medieval setting and a pinch of magic. Bang! You’ve got The Night Angel Trilogy, also known as The Shadows Trilogy, by Brent Weeks. These three paperbacks have been flying off the shelves since their introduction in 2008.

The protagonist is Azoth, a pickpocket orphan (man, there’s a lot of them running around the fantasy genre) living in the streets of Cenaria. The boy becomes an apprentice to the best assassin in the city in hopes of avenging the rape of a childhood friend. Cable viewers who want blood and sleaze in equal amounts (I know you’re reading, True Blood fans) couldn’t hope for better source material.

8. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

A more modern fantasy interpretation, The Kingkiller Trilogy begins with The Name of the Wind, in which our hero, Kvothe, recounts his many adventures. As a skilled fighter, intellectual and musician, Kvothe is a pre-Rennaisance man, and uses his talents to haphazardly solve whatever quest is laid before him.

Like A Song of Ice and Fire, The Kingkiller Chronicle isn’t finished; the last of Rothfuss’ three books has yet to be published. That shouldn’t worry fans too much, though – were development to begin immediately, it would still be 2-3 years before the first episode aired, with plenty of time to conclude the story. Which is more than many George R. R. Martin fans are currently hoping for.

7. The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks has been described as a master of modern fantasy, and tens of millions of readers can’t be wrong. The first set of novels in his main universe are centered around the mythical sword Shannara, and the generations of men who wield it. A classic adventure fantasy, The Sword of Shannara is seen by many as a continuation of the Tolkein tradition – although there are a few who say Brooks follows his inspiration a little too closely.

Many have tried to adapt Shannara to the big screen with exactly zero success thus far. The latest comer was Warner Bros., who let the rights slip out of their grasp back in 2010. Perhaps someone could take a hint from Game of Thrones (which started out as a movie project) and sail for the long-form serialized waters of television. And if the series should last more than three seasons, there’s plenty of material to draw from for a continuing story.

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