Search Results for:

Long-running series

Interesting conversation in the comments a few posts down, about The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series by Joan Aiken. I, like apparently many people other than my commenters, didn’t know there was a series, but it turns out that there is, and an extensive one:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962)
Black Hearts in Battersea (1964)
Nightbirds on Nantucket (1966)
The Stolen Lake (1981)
Dangerous Games (1999)
The Cuckoo Tree (1971)
Dido and Pa (1986)
Is Underground (1992)
Cold Shoulder Road (1995)
Midwinter Nightingale (2003)
The Witch of Clatteringshaws (2005)

Plus a prequel:
The Whispering Mountain (1968)

Elaine T suggests that the series gets odd toward the end: Has anyone but me read the whole series to the end? What did you think of it? I thought it went more than a little weird and awry at the end. And evidently other readers agree, which makes me wonder, do you all think the series is actually worth reading to the end, and if you would stop early, which book would you stop with?

Then Cheryl L wondered what other series might be out there that were written over a huge period of time.

I can’t think of any SFF series that were written over 40 years, but the one long SFF series that leaps to my mind as having changed a lot from front to back — though in some ways I think this one got less weird as it went on, rather than more weird — is Jo Clayton’s Diadem series.

That one started with Diadem from the Stars in 1977 and went a mere decade, finishing up with Questor’s Endgame in 1986. I found the whole thing okay but not spectacular, but I particularly remember the way that planets kind of had souls (or something) in the early books, a plot element that vanished as Clayton forgot about it or changed her mind.

Then there’s Cherryh’s massive and ongoing Foreigner series, which has been going since — did you know this? — 1994. So it’s actually been going on for 20 years now. [That makes me feel old!] And of course she’s been adding not quite a book per year, so her series is already longer than the Wolves series. This one, in contrast to Aiken’s series or Clayton’s series, has been quite consistent throughout. I can think of one character who changes significantly over the course of the series as Cherryh apparently changes her mind about the role she wants him to play, but the world and characters are very, very consistent overall, as you’ll see if you read the whole thing fast from front to back. I suspect this is because she’s written it so quickly, relatively speaking, but she plainly also just has an extremely firm mental picture of the atevi and ateva society.

Okay, so — DOES anybody know of another SFF series that was written over a long time span, and if one comes to mind, what did you think of it?

And yeah, I’m definitely going to pick up a few of the Wolves sequels.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Oh, hey, about The Dark is Rising —

I’m sure you’ve all read The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (and everyone but me seems to have already known she wrote more stuff than that, too; how did I miss that fact for so long?) (Still haven’t gotten around to reading anything else by her, but seriously, any time now.)

Anyway, the second book of the series, also called The Dark is Rising, is still probably my all-time top pick for Second Book That Is Better Than The First Book.

If it’s been a while since you read this series, Maureen’s got a brief review of the whole set up over at By Singing Light.

I agree, though the series was a high point in my reading as a kid, the ending did leave a lot to be desired. And if you want to re-write the ending in your head, Maureen links to a fanfic story that can do that for you.

Also, I think this series contributed to my feeling that really, no one needs to bring King Arthur into their original fantasy. I almost always hate that — to me it feels like the author is just trying to throw in All The Cool Stuff whether it fits or not, and the actual original fantasy world gets cluttered.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Anything leap to your mind for Best Sequel Ever? (Updated)

This post by Angie at Angieville caught my eye.

I know that second books are frequently considered not as good as the first in the series. Angie provides a set of exceptions. Of the ones I’m familiar with, I agree most fervently with The Queen of Attolia, which to me seemed like a pretty huge step up from the first book — which I liked, but didn’t think was all that and a bag of chips.

Not sure I agree about Speaker for the Dead. I liked it very much but it’s hard to match Ender’s Game.

Other sequels that match or outdo the first book: The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper! The first book was quite forgettable compared to the actual The Dark is Rising, which was the second book.

What else?

Of EON / EONA, I thought the second book was much better, but I admit it is really all one story.

I don’t think Ilona Andrews hit their stride till the third Kate Daniels book, but Angie was restricting herself to second books only, so I guess that doesn’t count.

Okay, one more, though: I will say, my opinions about my own books are highly changeable, but I do think the second Griffin Mage book is my favorite.

Update: Good comments below, and wait, there was a sequel to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase? I had no idea.

But after spending a few minutes perusing my library, I do have a couple more contenders for Sequel Beats First Book:

I preferred Sharon Shinn’s Truth-Teller’s Tale to the first book in this loosely-linked trilogy, which starts with Safe-Keeper’s Secret. It doesn’t hurt that a pair of twins are at the center of the second book, since I’m a twin, but in fact I just prefer it in general — though I really enjoyed the whole trilogy.

Moving to Big SF Epics, I strongly preferred KSR’s Green Mars to the first book, Red Mars. One reason: I disliked most of the pov characters in the first book, but liked most of the pov characters in the second book. Naturally that made a big difference. Also: a revolution against tyranny that succeeds is just a lot more appealing to read about than the same kind of thing that fails. Also: for me, a partially terraformed Mars is more fun to read about than the initial settlement.

Usually I like the initial development of the world and the characters, but in Varley’s Titan, Wizard, Demon trilogy, I preferred the second (and third) books to the first. Maybe that’s just me. I will say that I have re-read this series several times, whereas KSR does not write books I revisit often.

Okay! As far as sequels that beat their first books, I’m out.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Recent Listening: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion — more than a love story

Warm Bodies is a very unusual zombie novel. I feel safe saying that even though I haven’t read a wide range of zombie novels – just Myra Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. In that, as you probably know, the zombies are very typical zombies. Ur-zombies, if you will. They lurch. They shamble. They moan. They pursue the living and eat brains, and if a loved one get turned into a zombie, then you shoot that person in the head because the zombie contains nothing of the person he or she used to be.

You can surmise at once that Warm Bodies is going to put a different spin on the zombie thing, because the whole novel is from the pov of a zombie, R. Let me just say up front that although R is a zombie and although he is in love with a living girl, this is not a disturbing awful necrophiliac kind of story at all, so if you thought it might be heading in that direction, let me just assure you, no.

Now, with that out of the way, the story:

R doesn’t remember more of his original name than the first letter; thus his abbreviated name. Memories and thoughts and feelings – those are all strong terms for the vague second-cousin approximations R experiences. Until R eats Perry’s brain, and falls instantly in love with Perry’s girlfriend, Julie. And thus immediately rescues Julie from his fellow zombies, and eventually conducts her back to her home, and well, events ensue.

Perry is actually a continuing character in the story, too; at first because R experiences moments from Perry’s life in unusually vivid detail, and later because he and R hold actual conversations in various dreamscapes. Is Perry, who seems to show independence and volition, real? Or is he just a figment of R’s awakening consciousness and imagination? You could argue it either way, but in fact *I* have no doubt that Perry is a real person in the story. And the reason I’m so sure is because – here comes a sort of spoiler –

Warm Bodies is, first and foremost, a story of redemption. Perry – who is a really interesting character, in some ways my favorite character in the story – anyway, Perry had his issues while he was alive, but by the end of the novel, he seems well on the way to sorting them out – even though he’s a ghost (or whatever) in R’s head. Obviously R and Julie also show a lot of promising signs of getting their lives, or whatever, straightened out. R’s friend M? Julie’s friend Nora? Yep, them too – and let me just add that I really enjoyed both of these secondary characters, too, and btw the narrator for the audio version did an amazing job of giving everyone a distinctive voice.

Even the one unsympathetic character whom I feared might be the exception experienced a fleeting but crucial moment of grace. If he hadn’t, I’d have had trouble writing this post, because I wanted and needed the theme to be universal within the story. And it is.

Look, this is a really well-written novel. There’s some beautiful writing here. The image of the inverted cemetery is going to stay with me, for example. The dialogue is often excellent, particularly when Perry or Nora are in the scene. But this story would not have worked for me if the author had not kept his theme firmly in mind from start to finish.

Marion took on a tough job, because he stuck to an extremely limited first-person pov throughout. So we don’t see any more of the world than R sees — except now and then via Perry’s memories – and Perry was a self-absorbed kid. Why and how did the zombie apocalypse occur? Exactly what are zombies, how do they work? Those details, covered in detail in Myra Grant’s trilogy, remain almost completely mysterious in Warm Bodies. What governs the transition from “fleshy” to “bony”? We don’t actually know; we only get little hints around the edges. The explanation intuited by Julie — we did this to ourselves through greed and hate and etc — is ridiculous, but nothing in the book actually suggests it’s true, either. Personally, I could easily interpret the zombie plague as a kind of invasion of parasitic alien entities, but there’s nothing in the story to support this interpretation either.

We actually do see a little bit of zombie . . . society, I guess you could say. So we know right from the start that zombies aren’t one hundred percent mindless corpses. Still, R is significantly more mindful than most. What exactly is special about R, what happened to him when he ate Perry’s brain, why him, why Julie – if this book has a weakness, it’s that we never really get answers to any of those questions. But we get answers to different important questions: Is it possible to reclaim life from death? Is it possible for the world to recover from the zombie apocalypse? In Grant’s trilogy, the zombie apocalypse is forever, and the best you can do is build your own stronghold in which to hide from the world. In Warm Bodies, there’s a different answer.

The review that made me try this book was Thea’s of the Book Smugglers, btw.

Please Feel Free to Share:


September buys —

Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel by Kate Elliot. I know, I was not exactly fast off the mark in picking up Cold Steel, but since I hadn’t read the first couple, I didn’t feel much need to rush out and grab the third. However, I now have the complete trilogy. Or I will when I get home and turn on my Kindle’s internet connection.

Now that I have bought this trilogy on Kindle, though, I sort of regret not buying the paper copies. Because those covers are really pretty.

All that swirly stuff going on is very nice. I’d have turned one of these face-out on my shelves to display the cover, but I guess now I won’t.

So, if I picked up the Cold Magic trilogy late, what is the single title I picked up the earliest?

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn doesn’t come out till early November. But since I was on a just-go-on-and-pick-em-up kick today, I pre-ordered this one as well. It makes no difference to me that it’s not coming out till November, since that’s roughly when I expect to have time to read again anyway.

I also now own Snow-Kissed by Laura Florand, which is short so maybe I will read it fairly soon. Especially since it is contemporary and that doesn’t jar me as much as a fantasy title when I’m trying to work on something of my own.

And The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, which is not short and also part of an unfinished series, so there’s no rush there, but I picked it up anyway.

And The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, which I KNOW, I was slow to pick this one up also, but I haven’t even read the second book yet! Soon, I hope, which means this year rather than next year — maybe.

And Shadows by Robin McKinley, which I might drop everything and read, because hey, McKinley. I mean, one must have priorities, right?

Added to Wishlist: The contemporary Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Dollar, because Chachic‘s description made it sound good; Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear because it sounds intriguing and I want to read more by Bear, Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch because someday I really must find out how he gets his protagonist out of that corner he’s painted him into; and The Thousand Names by Django Wexler because the characters sound like they would appeal to me, it’s military fantasy which I sometimes really like — I’ve seen the term “flintlock fantasy,” which is a great name for a subgenre — and it’s picking up great reviews.

I don’t feel a serious need to pick up any of that list right this very minute, though. My TBR shelves are not exactly running low.

Please Feel Free to Share:


A creative use for macaroni

I should have linked to this the other day, when I first saw it, but here’s a fun guest post by Emma Jane Holloway, over at Fantasy Book Cafe.

This post will not only make you smile, it offers a really clever idea for sorting out the big-picture action scenes in your novel. I actually did have to do a flowchart once, to get everyone where they were supposed to be at the right time, but I have never used macaroni to sort out troop movements. I may totally steal this idea!

Also, fans of fantasy related to Sherlock Holmes may want to check out Holloway’s series. I am not actually a Sherlock Holmes fan, but these do look like fun. Plus, there are links so you can read excerpts — such a valuable thing when you’re not sure about a new-to-you author.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Not your typical personality types

Hey, if you didn’t have enough fun picking your Harry Potter Myers-Briggs twin, then you MUST check out where you stand in the SFF/Gamer’s Myers-Briggs world.

Are you an Evil Overlord? (ENTJ)

A Mad Scientist? (ENTP)

Of course you know I’m an INTJ: “INTJs are often baffled by the strange and incomprehensible recreational activities of other people . . . INTJs don’t have relationships — they may, however, build their own friends.”

This is a must-read. Truly. Put your coffee down so you don’t spit on the keyboard, and click through.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Two books I most want to read / am most fervently putting off reading


I don’t think I even have these formally on my wishlist. Because the chance I’ll forget about them is zero.

When I feel prepared for something emotionally hardcore, I will reach for one of these.

In the meantime, I appreciate reviews like this one by Liz Bourke, which sing their praises without spoiling the books.

Please Feel Free to Share:


The very very best writers today

How about that for a topic that absolutely no one will agree on? Yes, I know, it’s all a matter of personal taste. Or not ALL, because some aspects of quality are just objective and an author who lacks a feel for language need not apply for best-of lists, but *basically*, yeah, personal taste.

I mean, for me, in mysteries? The actual mystery and plot are not as important as the characterization and setting. Obviously that’s just me. And I’ve read A LOT more fantasy than, say, contemporary romances.

In fact, I should probably mention that I have read uncountable novels in the fantasy, SF, historical, and mystery categories, but much more lightly in some of the other categories below. But why should I let that stop me from tossing out a highly opinionated list, right?

So, forging ahead:

1. Very best historical novels: Gillian Bradshaw

2. Very best romances: Laura Florand

3. Very best fantasy: Patricia McKillip

4. Very best magical realism: Sarah Addison Allen

5. Very best mysteries: Barbara Hambly / Barbara “Hamilton”

6. Very best SF: Um, there I skid to a halt. Um. Yeah, here I want a top-five list, minimum. OKAY FINE how about CJ Cherryh

7. Very best horror: Dean Koontz, but I admit I like horror-lite, not real horror

8. Very best satire: Terry Pratchett

9. Very best middle-grade/young adult: Diana Wynne Jones

10. Very best classic novelist: Jane Austen

Please Feel Free to Share:


Gillian Bradshaw is the very best —

When it comes to historicals, especially impeccably researched historicals with a strong romance subplot.

So pleased to see that Maureen has started reading Bradshaw’s backlist. Yay! Such a pleasure when you get to watch someone discover a favorite author.

My own Bradshaw list:

Fighting it out for top place:

A Beacon at Alexandria
Island of Ghosts
Cleopatra’s Heir
The Sand-Reckoner

Also very good:

Render Unto Caesar
The Bearkeeper’s Daughter
Imperial Purple
The Sun’s Bride
Wolf Hunt

Not as good imo:

Dark North — I’d almost put this in the set above, though
London in Chains
Horses of Heaven
The Arthurian trilogy

The ones I haven’t read:

Her science fiction (I have one on my Kindle, though)
Her children’s books

If you’ve already read a lot of Bradshaw’s list, which ones are on the top for you? And do you think there is a bottom to her list? I have no impulse to re-read the Arthurian trilogy, but then for me Mary Stewart wrote the definitive Arthurian series.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Scroll to Top