I’m not really sure what more I can say about this post that isn’t in the title. I just wanted to list my favorite series and why I like them so much. I’ve probably covered a lot of this in some of my other posts, but oh well. If you have any that you think I should look into, please let me know in the comments.
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Easily my favorite sci-fi series. The first book I read was Barrayar, and I loved it. One of the things I like the most about these books is that the characters grow. Cordelia moves from a starship captian and soldier to a wife and mother in a believable way. When the books shift their focus to Miles, it’s obvious, if not explicit, that Cordelia has her own life and interests and rarely interferes with her adult children’s choices, even if they sometimes need it. That’s a very natural progression. Miles goes through the same thing. He’s an upstart punk at the beginning, but he transitions to a competent commander, then later to a more reserved, calculating leader. All his transitions make sense, and his personality changes as he matures. Not only are the characters great, but the stories are also a lot of fun. They aren’t particularly difficult reads, but they have enough substance to make you think. Bujold also doesn’t take them too seriously, so even when the nature of the story is very serious, there’s a certain humor that comes through, which keeps the story from getting too dark.
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
There are currently 15 books in this series, and more on the way. None of them are particularly long, but that’s still a lot of material. When I first started reading them, it seemed like each novel was going to stand on its own. As the series progresses, however, more and more connections form. The last few books have started referencing the events of the first few books, and certain decisions made back then start to effect the world to a much greater degree than it appeared they would. I’m not sure how much of that has been planned from the beginning, but it’s really impressive. Another thing that I really like about these books is the sense of humor. Dresden is legitimately funny, and even when the situation is dire, he can’t help but crack jokes. It keeps the character light, even as the stories themselves get darker and darker.
The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
I’m currently reading the 4th book, and it fits right in with the others. You can tell right away that Brett spent a lot of time, thought, and effort into building his world. The different cultures and characters are deep and expansive. What’s nice is that, even thought it’s obvious that there is a lot of information about the world and its history, Brett keeps the exposition to a minimum, relying instead on the reader to gain understanding through context. For me, at least, it makes the world more real and immersive.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, completed by Brandon Sanderson
I debated putting this on the main list, or including it in the honorable mentions. Ultimately I decided that it needed to be here. While it gets some deserved criticism for being too wordy and sticking too hard to some clichés, it’s still a well told story. This was one of the first real fantasy series I ever started reading. A friend recommended it to me when I was talking to him about another book. I loved the first 3 books, but they started to drag around book 5. Eventually, I stopped reading them around book 10. I decided to wait until the series was finished before I picked it back up, and I’m glad I did. When Robert Jordan passed away, I wasn’t sure I would ever finish the series. Then, when Sanderson was selected to finish the series, I had hope. I had read a some of Sanderson’s works before Jordan died, so I knew that he was a good author, my only concern was whether or not Sanderson could imitate Jordan’s style well enough to match the rest of the series. Ultimately, Sanderson is a better author than Jordan was, so the last few books are some of the stronger ones. I went back through the entire series from beginning to end, and it was much more enjoyable the second time around.
Mistborn by Bandon Sanderson
Sanderson has some other books that are better, but so far none of them match what he did in this series. When I reread the books a few months ago, I definitely noticed that Sanderson wasn’t as experienced as he now is, so these books lack some of the polish that he’s developed. That roughness actually helps the series, which is great, but what really makes this series so good is that everything fits, from characters to scope to conclusion. The magic system in the book is fantastic, and even more importantly, it’s not overused or too powerful. The characters all make good decisions, they have specific objectives that grow within each book, and the final payoff is unexpected, but satisfying.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
These were some of the first youth fantasy books I ever read, and I still go back through them occasionally. I really wish these books got more attention. It seems like the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter are the two big fantasy series for kids, but this should really be included. If you haven’t guessed by now, characters are really important to me. If I’m going to like a book, I have to believe that the characters are growing, and this series is one of the best at that. Each character makes mistakes, some of them are really big mistakes too, but they learn from them and do better the next time. What really makes this series special to me is that the 4th book, Taran Wanderer, is probably the slowest book in the series, but it’s still my favorite. There isn’t the same action or adventure as the other books. The villain isn’t as menacing, and really, the entire book is just much smaller in scale than the rest of the series, but that just makes it more intimate. That’s the book where Taran really becomes a man, and it’s a wonderful setup for the conclusion.
- Harry Potter – I’ll probably get an earful from my wife about this, but I think these books are overrated. They’re still very good, and they reinvigorated an entire genre of literature, so culturally, they’re important, but the series has a lot of flaws that are too often overlooked.
- Stormlight Archive – This is on the honorable mentions because I’ve only read the first book, and I’m not planning on reading any more until a few more books in the series come out (to avoid a potential Robert Jordan scenario). That said, this is probably Sanderson’s best writing to date.
- The Bartimaeus Sequence – This is one of my favorite youth fantasy series, and I considered putting it in the main list. It’s a lot of fun and the fact that it’s primarily told from the perspective of a demon makes it even better.
- Kingkiller Chronicles – This may jump into the main list, but Patrick Rothfuss is dragging his feet on the conclusion, so without having read that, I can’t say it’s a favorite.
- Song of Ice and Fire – I’m about halfway through the published books, and am taking a break from reading them until the next book comes out. The series is good, but I’m not convinced George R.R. Martin will finish the series before he dies.