If Rowling is the C.S. Lewis of her generation, writing close-focus fiction about children and magic, then Martin is his generation's Tolkien: his astonishing Songs of Ice and Fire series chronicles the massive battles, generational struggles, diplomatic sorties and backstage backstabbing in Westeros, a kingdom that is both rapidly falling to pieces and threatened by external invasion on at least two fronts. Combining the richness of historical fiction with the emotional power of high fantasy, Martin takes the reader inside each of the royal houses vying for the Iron Throne of Westeros. The books follow the storylines of the children and the grownups (a fan favorite is Tyrion Lannister, a cynical, hard-boiled, high-born dwarf) as they struggle to negotiate the altered political terrain of their shattered nation, wielding swords and lances but also judicious amounts of Martin's strange, bloody brand of magic, and in one case at least dragons. Be warned: if you thought the ending of Half-Blood Prince was cruel, you haven't seen anything. Martin's pen is a dangerous weapon, and he has no compunctions about killing off major characters.