Five Book Series You Can Delve Into Without Fear

There are dangers that come with reading series books: long waits between volumes, authors who drag the plot out forever, and book after book with no end in sight.
Publish date:
April 4, 2015
science fiction, fantasy, xobookclub, xoBooks, Novels, Book Series

Genre fiction loves its series books, as do genre readers. There's something comforting in slipping back into a world you already know, sometimes with characters you're already familiar with, and plunging into a new adventure.

There are dangers that come with reading series books: long waits in between volumes, authors who insist on dragging the plot out forever, and book after book with no end in sight. My strategy is usually to wait until a series is finished before diving in. In lieu of that, I am a fan of books in a series that each tell a complete story, meaning subsequent books can build on them yet the reader isn't left hanging. Cliffhangers are not my thing.

That in mind, here are some book series I love that I think you'll enjoy.

A Memoir of Lady Trent/Dragons series by Marie Brennan

This fantasy series is set on an alternate Earth in a time period roughly equivalent to the Regency or Victorian eras. It follows the career of Isabella, a gentlewoman who forms an interest in dragons as a child and grows into the most celebrated naturalist of her day, despite this going against the conventions for her gender and class. The books are written in the style of a memoir, the fictional author an older woman looking back on her life (and owning up to her mistakes). Through her eyes we get both beautiful and technical descriptions of dragons alongside ruminations on culture and politics and travels that range across several continents.

I'm in it for the dragons, myself. But I do like that Brennan addresses colonialism, cultural appropriation, the problems with white explorers in pith helmets, and sexism, among other important topics. And I like Isabella--her voice is very compelling and pulled me into the book very quickly.

The series is not done yet. Each book tells a complete story, covering a different stage in Lady Trent's career, so you have reason to go on but won't feel like you're twisting in the wind after each one.

A Natural History of Dragons (Powell's|Amazon)

The Tropic of Serpents (Powell's|Amazon)

Voyage of the Basilisk (Powell's|Amazon)

Warchild series by Karin Lowachee

The first book in this series, Warchild, is military science fiction for people who don't normally like military fiction of any kind. It's very character-driven and spends as much time on character development as it does on space battles and tech stuff. It all balances really well. But going forward, the tone shifts. Burndive is more political in nature, but again the tight focus on characters is what makes the book sing.

Where book two follows on from the events of the first book, there is some overlapping time. You see the events at the end of Warchild through other eyes near the beginning of Burndive and the ripple effect of those actions disrupt many lives, including the protagonist's. In the third book, Cagebird, Lowachee does the difficult structural trick of moving back and forth between two time periods, matching them up emotionally at the end of the book, with the "present" time matching up with the events from both of the previous books. I suggest reading each one after the other because all of the plots and personalities are tightly woven together, so you'll need to remember what happened in each book.

Warchild (Powell's|Amazon)

Burndive (Powell's|Amazon)

Cagebird (Powell's|Amazon)

The Mr and Mrs Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris

I know that there is a lot of Jane Austen "pastiche" (i.e. fanfiction) out there in the world and thus fans of Lizzie and Darcy have their pick of many possible futures to follow them through. I admit to not having much time for most of the ones I see crowding the bookstore shelves.

This series I ran across by accident, and I didn't start with the first one. I found Suspense and Sensibility under my couch and, having no idea where it came from, stashed it on the bathroom bookshelf. Despite my misgivings about Austen pastiche, I actually enjoyed the book once I gave into some of the silliness involved.

The first in the series, Pride and Prescience, follows directly on the events of Pride and Prejudice. In S&S, Lizzie and Darcy meet the characters from Sense and Sensibility and from those ranks Kitty finds a suitor. The rest of the books follow suit, with the Darcy's meeting characters from each Austen book in turn.

In each book there's a mystery (usually involving murder) that Lizzy and Darcy work out together. The early books involved supernatural goings on (such as an evil, soul-sucking mirror), but that element goes away later on, leaving just the mystery portions. Bebris does a good job of capturing the essence of all the Austen characters, and I must admit that I enjoy seeing them interacting with the Darcy clan, including Georgiana. Plus, there are some happy endings for minor P&P characters.

There is one more book in the series coming up--based on Sanditon--which I believe is the last one. You have plenty of time to get caught up before it's released in this summer.

Pride and Prescience (Powell's|Amazon)

Suspense and Sensibility (Powell's|Amazon)

North By Northanger (Powell's|Amazon)

The Matters at Mansfield (Powell's|Amazon)

The Intrigue at Highbury (Powell's|Amazon)

The Deception at Lyme (Powell's|Amazon)

The Suspicion at Sanditon (Powell's|Amazon)

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

Jemisin once told me that she had little patience for epic fantasy trilogies because she didn't like waiting for all the books to come out to get to the conclusion of the story. Thus, the first two books of this series can each be read without reading the other and are complete stories in themselves. The third book does require you to have read at least one of the first two, and two and three both build on book one. Overall, it's a very satisfying way of going about the big idea fantasy trilogy.

Not to say that Jemisin's books are typical fantasy fare. Her protagonists tend to be brown-skinned women, which is already a deviation from what you normally see. But the books are suffused with gods and godlings, politics, machinations, plus the fate of the world and the universe. The time span stretches across centuries, yet doesn't feel sprawling or out of control.

In book one we meet the ruling Arameri family, given dominance over the other people and cultures in the world by their god, who won an epic battle against the other gods. Their punishment is to be slaves to the Arameri, and over the centuries various family members have abused this power. It's time for rebellion. Book two happens after the fallout from that. At its core, it's the story of two people who come to understand each other after much trial, humbling, and near death. The third book goes big--this is where the fate of the universe comes in.

If you buy the omnibus edition you also get a novella set after book three that is both fun and enlightening.

The Inheritance Triology (Powell's|Amazon)

The Swords of Riverside by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

Kusher's first book in this series, Swordspoint, isn't actually a fantasy book. It has the sensibility of one--alternate world, European renaissance-like setting, political intrigue and sword fights--yet contains no magic, dragons, or any of the other markers one usually finds. Fans have dubbed her works the Fantasy of Manners, but the only novel in this series with any actual magic is The Fall of the Kings, which she wrote with Sherman.

In the first book we meet Richard St. Vier, the best swordsman in the city, and his lover Alec, a former university student who is messed up in a lot of ways. The other Riverside books and associated stories all have a connection to these two men somehow. Their descendants, lovers, ancestors, whathaveyou. Alec in particular is responsible for some rather interesting offspring (such as his seafaring daughter), and his niece Katherine (heroine of the third book in the series) earned my heart when she learns how to use a sword and then does so to defend someone's honor. Swashbuckling, secret kings, magic from the roots of the earth, women learning swordcraft, and plenty of characters with fluid sexuality.

If you're a fan of audio dramas, consider getting the audiobook version. It's not just a straight reading, there are multiple voices and some fully dramatized scenes. Somewhere between radio play and traditional audio books.

Swordspoint (#1 chronologically) (Powell's|Amazon)

The Privilege of the Sword (#2 chronologically, published 3rd) (Powell's|Amazon)

The Fall of the Kings (#3 chronologically, published 2nd) (Powell's|Amazon)

The Swords of Riverside audiobooks (Amazon)