Sometimes you just want to keep reading.
Do you recognize that feeling? A book ends and you’re just not done with the plot (especially if it’s a bit open-ended), the characters or sometimes the whole kit-and-caboodle. The book has left you so ensconced that you’re not ready to let it go yet. I recently had that feeling with the Raven Cycle books.
The Raven Cycle was a 4-book YA series that had me entranced. I’m not generally a YA reader, not because I don’t see value in that type of book, but because the topics of more traditional “adult” books appeal to me more and those titles end up higher on my (seemingly infinite) to-read list. In the end, though, these books weren’t that much of a departure for me. While it didn’t fall under the “gaslamp fantasy” type that I usually fall head-over heels for, this was still a “here’s a regular world that just happens to have magic in it” series; the world just happened to be a modern one. The only departure was that it centered almost entirely on teenagers, which isn’t something that wends its way into my usual readings.
The reason this series ended up on my radar at all was because it reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (yup, that again). OK, reminded might be a bit too mild. I found out that the final book in the Raven Cycle was called “The Raven King” and nearly sucked the air out of my office gasping with excitement. For those of you who have been following the blog, it will surprise exactly none of you that even the slightest reminiscence of Clarke’s tome sent me clamoring for these books. The action of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is significantly compelled by the search for the mythical Raven King, an exceptional magician who communed with Faerie but disappeared; naturally, I had to find out if there were any references in Stiefvater’s series.
There weren’t. Not exactly anyway. The Raven King of the Stiefvater series is a dead Welsh king said to grant a wish for finding his body. (Dont’ worry, that’s not a spoiler; the search for the Raven King sets up the action for the entire series fairly early on in the first book.) So I didn’t find Clarke’s Raven King, but what I did find was an amazing storyteller in Stiefvater. Her ear for character dialog, the sense of subtle, biting humor that appears to break extremely tense moments (and there are plenty of those) and the weaving of wildly different characters who have the ineffability of having a part of their personalities mesh when, by all rights they shouldn’t get along at all, made these books a rare treat.
I was fortunate enough to find out about these books at the time the final book came out, which means I didn’t really have to wait in order to have the series continue (those who have read Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows will feel my pain on waiting for a new installment). they made for a delightful binge-read, with me devouring one after the other, and while I was still a bit hungry for more even after the series concluded (good books will always leave you with something of a book hangover), it wrapped up fully enough that I could move on with my reading life. That’s the double-edged sword of series. The good ones will leave you hungry for more and usually satisfy that hunger with more books. The only trouble is when the reader’s appetite outweighs the author’s ability to churn out books and someone (often both parties) ends up frustrated and anxious.
Since it’s the summer, a time when people often go on vacation and tend to have a little bit of time for binge-reading, but not so much time that they can wait months (years, even) for the next installment of a series to come out, here are some series that are completed so you can binge-read without waiting:
The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin – This series just ended with The City of Mirrors, published in May. The Passage trilogy is set in a dystopian future with vampires. For me, nothing more need be said, but for those of you who may need a bit more, the series is known for its relentless narrative and over 4 star ratings for each of the books on Goodreads. Amy, a child who has been captured and imprisoned by a government experiment that has apocalyptic consequences. Amy finds others who help her lead the fight to save humankind, but to give you much more would involve spoilers. You’ll just have to find out for yourself. In order the books are: The Passage, The Twelve and The City of Mirrors.
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante – This series has taken the literary world, the New York Times bestseller list and the library holds lists by a storm. Pseudonymous author Ferrante writes an intricately woven tale of two impoverished Italian friends throughout their lives across a span of four books. Readers often comment about how real the characters feel to them in these intensely moving novels. In order they are: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child.
Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga by Jane Smiley – Pulitzer Prize-winner Smiley spent the last few years churning out a trilogy of books that covers 100 years in the life of a family, the Langdons, in Iowa. The series begins on a farm in 1920 and follows a couple who eventually have 5 children and the saga continues with the generations that follow. This has been a fairly popular series at the South Branch with Smiley’s followers eager to finish the 3rd book which came out late last year. These books in order are: Some Luck, Early Warning and Golden Age.
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – The Discworld series has ended primarily because Pratchett passed away last year after a battle with Alzheimer’s. The author himself insisted that readers can read any of these novels in any order without feeling lost or left out. While I agree that each Discworld book can stand independently; for me, there’s something about having backstory and character origins under my belt that makes the reading experience richer. I’ve read a few of the novels out of order and while I wasn’t lost, I feel much more firmly grounded now that I’m working my way through them in order. Read them in whatever way will give you the most enjoyment, knowing that there will be plenty for you to satisfy even the most lengthy of binge-reads.
Till next week, dear readers, I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe Independence Day holiday! For further binge-reading suggestions or to let us know what your favorite series are, feel free to leave a comment below, or stop by any of the Peabody Library locations to chat about one of our favorite things: books!