Long before I knew about Game of Thrones, there was another fantasy series that I was heavily invested in during the course of its publications. It was known as the Darkness Series, written by Harry Turtledove (also known as “the Master of Alternate History”). The Darkness Series is, in a sense, very similar to the Song of Ice and Fire series. Mainly, many viewpoint characters that are from different nations whose individual stories weave a larger, more epic story. These characters are from a fantastical world in the grip of war and who, even if they are a viewpoint character, can still die.
There is also another similarity the two have. If A Song of Ice and Fire is inspired by the War of Roses, then the Darkness Series is not only inspired by, but directly paralleled with, the events of World War 2. Each country in the Darkness Series, which takes place in the fiction continent of Derlavai, is usually based on one (sometimes a few) country(s) in our world. For instance, Algarve represents Nazi Germany while Unkerlant represents Soviet Russia. The similarities don’t stop there as these fictional nations have the same languages, city names, customs, and so forth as our world does.
These similarities though are highly jumbled. The Algarvian people speak Italian, have red hair, and wear kilts. Unkerlantians, meanwhile, speak German, wear tunics, and have a darker complexion. For those of you who are curious, the Jews are a race of people called Kaunians who are fair skinned, tall, have blonde hair, and speak a Slavic-like language.
But here, the similarities to our world end. Great rhinos are tanks, dragons are airplanes, fierce leviathans are submarines, rifles and pistols are wands that shoot energy beams, and magical crystals serve as communicating devices similar to our radios and telephones. Also, like Game of Thrones, the world’s countries are mainly monarchial. These fantastical elements are amazing and give a great twist to a world at war.
I never had such joy in reading and appreciating a series such as this before. Figuring out what historical events are happening and guessing how the characters will survive was a real treat. And though we know that dear Algarve will eventually lose the war, what we don’t know is if our characters will survive the war or not. Some of my favorite characters did eventually past away and that was a great shame.
Turtledove has a greater appreciation for characters than George R.R. Martin does. Though characters may die, their deaths do not seem premature or forced. We have grown to love and respect the viewpoint character as Turtledove takes time to flesh them out. We are also not bogged down with tons of characters who may show up for a few chapters and then go away without any further notice on what exactly happened to them.
Some of the best moments in the book are when viewpoint characters meet each other for a brief moment. They may fight each other in the battlefield, walk by one another in a busy town, or develop an actual relationship of some kind with the other viewpoint character. I even developed an intricate diagram years ago dedicated to how all of the characters were connected to each other and it was amazing (too bad I can’t find it now).
Well before I knew about Game of Thrones, I imagined what it would be like for this series to hit the small screen. At the time, I thought it would never happen but now with Game of Thrones being quite popular nowadays, that idea isn’t too far off. However, because of their similar concepts, people might think it was just a shameless rip-off which is too bad. Regardless, seeing the Darkness Series in live action would be amazing.
In short, if you are fan of Game of Thrones, epic fantasies, or World War 2, this is a great series of novels that is fun to read. I highly recommend it if you have the time.
(for those who are curious the series goes Into the Darkness, Darkness Descending, Through the Darkness, Rulers of the Darkness, Jaws of Darkness, and Out of Darkness)