Now that the king - Game of Thrones - is dead and buried, an awful lot of shows want to be the king in his place. I have doing to do a list myself, but er, Rotten Tomatoes has done all the research and actually found some shows I didn’t even know about, so I will instead link to their excellent article:
That said, I do have comments on a bunch of these.
Shadow and Bone/Grishaverse - Probably no-one here has read these books, but they’re almost 1910s fantasy, with a lot of people with low-to-moderate level psychic/magical powers (“grisha” or witches, but they’re actually closer to telekinetics and elemental wizards and the like, with quite defined powers), the odd magical beast or miracle, and generally a pretty dark tone without being excessive. Some of the books would make an amazing TV series - particularly the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, which essentially deal with the underworld of an Amsterdam/London/New York-like city in this world (and I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy at all).
What’s weird as fuck is that they seem to be combining these novels with the chronologically preceding Shadow and Bone novels, which are set in a sort of fantasy-Russia/Poland which had a significant chunk of its interior turned into a shadowy hell-realm centuries ago, and which, um, no two ways around this, are much weaker that the Six of Crows books (indeed, the writer, Leigh Bardugo, seems to basically get better every book she writes - and the difference between her first book and even her fourth is stark), so I’m a bit concerned.
If they just did Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom, with the casting they have, they’d have basically a 100% chance of making something awesome. But instead they seem to be going rogue and it looks like they’ve done the classic showrunner thing of combining a bunch of characters who were somewhat similar. This is a bit worrying because it limits the road they have to run on, and the fact that they haven’t cast people like Nikolai Lantzov and Nina Zenik is particularly bizarre given they’re utterly central to the books. Still, maybe it’ll be good?
Very different to GoT though - definitely more about young people in trouble than epic clashes of kingdoms.
GoT Prequel 1 - “Age of Heroes”
If this isn’t a trashfire, I’m going to be shocked. It’s about an ill-defined and not-terribly-exciting-seeming period of quasi-history (a mythical age) of Westeros. It’s got a cast and everything but I just am not seeing how this is anything but a one-season disaster.
GoT Prequel 2 - “Targaryen Invasion/Incest-Fest”
I mean I don’t think that’s the actual codename, and to be fair, it’s like, only about 30% of Targaryen relationships are incestuous, but that’s still a pretty high number. This one is set from about 300 years before GoT, when the Targaryens took over Westeros. It has some potential, because it’s quite GoT-like in structure, but at the same time, it’s basically just going to be a lot of unlikeable characters slaughtering each other for dubious reasons plus dragons.
Wheel of Time
This one has some potential. The books… oh the books. Lots of good ideas and exciting developments, buried under literally thousands of pages of needless description, repetitive exposition, and terrible dialogue. A lot of it is brutally derivative of Tolkien/LotR (and, oddly Frank Herbert/Dune), but turning into a TV show should, in theory, massively improve it, because first you lose all the terrible, needless description. Secondarily, you’re unlikely to have the repetitive exposition (like where we are told both by the narrator - twice - and by actual characters - twice that “the men of [starting zone] are a hardy and independent folk” in the span of ONE chapter!). Robert Jordan was ever a man in need of a very stern editor that he never found. The terrible dialogue should also be a non-issue, because you can just re-write that, though it does mean you can’t lean on it like you could lean on GRRM’s stuff.
Also there are literally entire books that could but cut (except maybe 1-2 chapters - I am not joking or overstating!), and the TV show would presumably do that. The cast looks good - apparently they actually READ the books because someone realized most of the characters were NOT, in fact, white people (when they go to a big city they’re amazed that there are loads of people with far paler skin than them, as well as some with darker). Cast is mostly unknowns, but so was GoT, so if anything that bodes well.
It also is twisty and bizarre enough that it might get a GoT-style audience. However, there is the challenge that the books take place (astonishingly) over slightly over two years (!!!) despite there being about 14 of them. So they’ll probably have to expand that.
The Wizard of Earthsea books are some of my favourite ever fantasy books, but this has been optioned by Fox, so er, my hopes are not high. They don’t always fuck up, but this is show that would have few/no white people on it (initially at least), and is largely about, as the writer of the article correctly puts it, accepting the inevitability of death, so er, yeah, not really thinking this is going to go well. Oddly I think the BBC or someone could do a good job.
When I heard this was going to be “Young Aragorn”, I had high hopes for this. Turns out that’s not what they’re doing. Instead it’s some 3000-years-earlier Second Age shit (which I’m not clear they even really have the full rights to!). I give it 50/50 that it’s not a beautiful trashfire (the money and New Zealand filming assures it will be beautiful), and maybe a 20% chance it’s actually worth watching for anything but the scenery and people screaming shit at each other in Elvish.
The Ruin of Kings
How the actual fuck is this already being made into a TV series? This novel came out in February this year, and it’s basically 1200 pages of a whiny teenager alternately getting told exposition, and engaging in exposition. The teenager is charming enough and the story ridiculous enough that it still works, that you don’t throw the book across the room or anything, but good god. Talk about unfilmable! If you did film it, I’m not sure you could even fill a season, either, because you’d turn most of the exposition into actual sequences, and those would be quite short.
The Kingkiller Chronicle
Basically an unreliable-narrator story as a bard/wizard/ninja/sexpert (according to him) tells his woeful tale of money-trouble and woman-trouble in a scary inn possibly about to be attacked by demonic creatures. One of the best-written, as in terms of the actual writing, fantasy novels of the last twenty years, and a joy to read because of that. It’s also unusual in fantasy in that money and love are actual problems for the main character, which gives it a sort of Dickens-like feel (where both things are frequently problems for the main characters). The second book is ludicrous and feels like the character is just making up a story to cover a darker tale. The third book as been “out next year” for um what, nearly a decade now? Eight years anyway. Sooooo.
There’s also a lot of singing and music and stuff, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote zeitgeist-y musical Hamilton) involved somehow.
But I think this one, despite being potentially very popular, is dead in the water, due to the author being unable to finish the third book, and no-one wanting to repeat that particular problem with GoT.