Anyone else here read George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series? “A Game of Thrones”, “A Clash of Kings”, and “A Storm of Swords” have been released so far, with “A Feast for Crows” coming out next, IIRC.
I find it to be superior “pulp-fantasy” reading, and IMHO a grittier evolution of the genre, mainly due to Martin’s consistent internal logic and ruthlessness with his characters. In Martin’s world, it doesn’t matter if you’re a “good guy” or a “bad guy”; if you plan and act intelligently, and prepare for the right contingencies, your plans will likely succeed. If you act foolishly or stupidly, your plans will likely fail, often drastically. No exceptions to this rule are made for being “noble” or “heroic”. In fact, almost every character of whom he writes, with a few exceptions in each direction, hovers comfortably in that gray-shaded moral area.
I think I find it so engaging a series because, finally, I can read books where the “bad guys” can win and the “good guys” lose, because the bad guys had the master plan and acted more intelligently. I’m sick of novels where the villains enact a brilliant master plan and then the heroes win because of some stupid contrivance, just because they’re “the good guys”. In the Martin universe, a stupidly foolish “good guy” is surely a dead good guy.
In summary, I highly recommend George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Good stuff.