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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.

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6. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

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With a story spanning decades of story time and real-world time (the ten books of the series were published between 1970 and 1985), adapting The Chronicles of Amber for the small screen would be no small task, and bringing audiences along might be even harder. But for the right studio, the series would be well worth the attempt.

The novels focus on the relationship between two “worlds” (dimensions) the various shadowy worlds “around” them, and the special few who can travel between the worlds. Reality is a fragile thing within the confines of the series, and meddling with the wrong magic (or taking the wrong hallucinogens) can send hapless users onto terrifying new planes of existence.

5. The Belgariad by David Eddings

Another rags-to-riches orphan story in the oldest tradition of high fantasy, The Belgariad follows the story of Garion, a farmboy destined for greatness. The story begins with a prophecy of a confrontation between good and evil foreshadowed by a mysterious “storyteller” character. The five books in the saga have a lot in common with A Song Of Ice And Fire with the exception of a much larger emphasis on magic.

Eddings’ first novel in the series, Pawn of Prophecy, was published in 1982, and the following four books came out within the next two years. It makes for a fast and extremely cohesive read, and the divisions between novels are pretty much perfect for season-long story arcs.

4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Beginning with the titular Outlander, this time-traveling romance series follows protagonist Claire Randall. She begins the story in Scotland in the 1940s, just after World War II, where she and her husband are investigating some family history. After a pagan ritual near some standing stones (a la Stonehenge) goes awry, Randall is whisked away to the 1700s, wherein she meets a swashbuckling captain who bears an uncanny resemblance to her future husband.

Outlander and its sequels stress historical fiction and romance more than strict fantasy, but if its fervent fans are any indication, there’ more than enough room in the current TV schedule for its like. Gabaldon doesn’t skimp on the sultry details (shifts and bodices go flying with remarkable regularity), and there’s plenty of alpha males and despicable villains to keep the story clipping along.

3. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

If there’s one series on this list that fits the traditional fantasy mold to a T, it’s The Riftwar Saga. The fist volume was published almost thirty years ago, with a long history and well-developed world that rivals George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, despite being only three books long. Squabbling kingdoms, ancient magic and a world war all flesh out the long story.

The primary character is an orphan named Pug, who begins his career as a magician’s apprentice. Across thousands of pages and decades of story time, high magic and good-old-fashioned steel determine the various rulers of the world – heights to which Pug ascends via luck, skill, and no small amount of scheming.

2. Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

Beginning with Kushiel’s Dart and extending across a pair of trilogies, Kushiel’s Legacy may be the most risque of the currently popular fantasy series. This medieval world has enough debauchery and deviancy to make residents of Sodom and Gomorrah blush – in other words, it’s right up Showtime’s alley.

Kushiel takes place in a fantastic mirror of 12th-century France, with a plot inspired by some of the more spicy segments of Christian and Jewish mythology. Leading lady Phedre is cursed by a minor physical flaw and sold into slavery, wherein she embarks on a whirlwind tour of Carey’s complex and intricate world. There’s enough material in the first book for three seasons of television at the very least.

1. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Curse of Chalion is a sprawling saga with spiritual overtones, in the vein of a medieval Ben Hur. Lupe Cazaril returns to his ancestral home after a disastrous war and an even more horrifying internment. Despite yearning for a life of quiet fulfillment, his new assignment as a royal tutor brings him front-and-center in a struggle to free the royal family of an ancient curse.

The gods of the fantasy world are characters in their own right, not unlike a modernized Greek epic. The Father, Mother, Daughter, Son and the Bastard are an integral and ever-present part of everyday life (far more so than the various gods of Game Of Thrones) and give Bujold’s universe a distinct culture that few can match.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we know there’s a few well-loved novels we’ve missed. If you’ve got a favorite fantasy series that you want to see adapted for television, let us know in the comments.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @ MichaelCrider.

Michael Crider blogs at Screen Rant.

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