Ok the wizard now turns to the damsel in distress books … which it turns out usually means damsels kicking ass and taking names. There are some really great series here and “cross over” reading is to be encouraged. Because girls read more than boys, my top ten list here covers 15 series plus a few honorable mentions. As before, the series had to be of modern origin and at least 3 books long (plus I had to have read them.) So without further adieu, here is the wizard’s ribbons and bows fantasy award winners. NOTE: For several, I have included fan created “movie trailers” (see bottom section.)
MY TOP FIFTEEN:
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – This is one of the best works of fiction of all time. With sales of over 450 million copies and a series of movies that were blockbusters all, it is hard to argue about the universal appeal of the plucky Mr. Potter. The real question is why did the wizard place this on the XX list? The simple answer is that it had to go somewhere. Plus Hermione was the brains of the wizarding world that Potter inhabited so that made my choice easy.
- Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Mass – In this series we are introduced to a true kick ass heroine by the name of Celaena Sardothien (well she is called that for awhile.) Celaena is an assassin who somehow survives the un-survivable prison and becomes the Kings personal assassin by winning a rogues contest for best killer. This is a beautifully depicted world with many memorable characters and lots of action. It even has prequels to help explain the person you read about in book one and sequels with lots of personal growth and challenges. There are numerous love interests. This series was fabulous. It is still ongoing.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. This is a story about angels and demons that is extraordinarily original. The demons are mostly the good guys and the angels are mostly the bad guys. It is what fantasy writing is all about … creating believable worlds that draw the reader in by creating a place that you believe could exist. There are great characters in this book and there is a truly unique love story that you will enjoy. This is a must read.
- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – Ok, here is where the wizard loses all credibility by including the whole world of vegetarian vampires, shape shifting werewolves and vampire police (the Volturi) in his top 5 list. Critics are almost universal in their criticism of the writing in this series. Fair enough … however it really begs the question “what is great writing?” Yes it is word craft and great writers like Tolkien or George RR Martin come to mind with their clever meanderings through all the dictionary has to offer. BUT it is also about the ability to connect with readers and with over 120 million copies of the books having been sold, this has succeeded to an extraordinary degree on this level. Plus for me, I ask only one thing of a book … make me turn the page. These books did that … and so at risk of losing my wizarding card (which is basically of the roadrunner Acne variety anyway,) I am recommending the series.
- The Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Mayer – This is a beautiful retelling of famous fairytale classics all held together with a great love story. They are at once both familiar and yet vastly different from the originals. The first book Cinder tells of a cyborg who lives in a futuristic Chinese kingdom with her two step sisters and an evil stepmother. It is a post apocalyptic world with robots, plagues and handsome kings. The poor Cinder survives by being extremely clever (a theme I enjoy). After the first book you get a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel (who is a skilled hacker and secretly in love with a nare do well ship captain whom she fantasizes about from her prison in space) and finally Snow White (set on the moon in sealed in a glass world ruled by an evil queen.) This was really very imaginative and can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages.
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – OK this is a real chick series, BUT there is lots of action and some fascinating looks at British, French and American history. It is about a woman who goes through a time portal (set in a Stonehenge like series of stones) and winds up in 1700’s Scotland. There Claire falls in love with the ever so handsome Jamie and the two try to change history. There are dramatic rescues, a trip to the Court of Louis the 15th, as well as journeys through England and America. This is a beautiful depiction of the romance of the 18th century. The casting for the TV series was truly fabulous as it captured the essence of the characters in the book (unlike say Twilight or Vampire Academy.)
- The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – This is really two long series. I read only the Mortal Instruments series and not the Infernal Devices series so that is what I am listing. Most book tubers say that the other series (set in 19th century England) is just as good. This is about a young girl discovering that she is really more than she thought. She is a shadow hunter and killer of demons. Finding out you are really more than you seem is a meme we see explored over and over again in YA fiction (Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, Iron Daughter, etc). All of the books were very enjoyable.
- His Dark Materials series (starts with The Golden Compass) by Phillip Pullmanm – This is another fabulous job of world building that creates a place that is both familiar yet very different (sort of like Daughter of Smoke and Bone). It is also considered a sharp criticism of religion and has many interesting themes as well as telling a good story. Great read.
- Divergent by Veronica Roth – The movies are out so you probably know what this is about. Like the Hunger Games and so many YA classics, it is a post apocalyptic (PA) telling of a world gone horribly wrong. In this case, all of humanity (that we know of) is living in a run down Chicago with no way to go beyond the barriers around the city. Everyone is living in factions which divide the world into primary human characteristics … bravery, piety, intellect, etc. The heroine on her day of choosing leaves her old life behind and joins dauntless … the brave. There she finds out she is so much more. Really fun … especially the first couple of books.
- The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima – I don’t think this ever got the buzz it deserved. It is a story of a wizard kept alive for 1000 years (at least in spirit) until a young boy (a thief they call “Cuffs”) learns that he too is more than he seems. It is love story filled with magic and really vivid world building. The heroine is a princess who has to grow up way faster than she ever wanted to. One of the best series I have read at keeping your attention through all the books. It took seven books to tell the story and a little bit is revealed in each book. This was really good. I also enjoyed the Heir series by the same writer.
- The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins – You have probably seen the movies but as usual the books have so much more. Definitely worth a read. Also I liked the little known Gregor series by this writer about a boy who finds an opening behind the dryer in his apartment (which leads to a vast underground world beneath New York City.)
- Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead – VA was the most famous series by the talented Ms Mead but check out the other series by this author. She is a really good writer. The fun thing about vampire books is that the worlds come with so many different rules and creatures. This one includes good vampires (the moroi) and their damphir protectors (including Rose Hathaway the main character) and really scary vampires … the strigoi. There is a really nice love story that is a interwoven throughout all the books. It asks the question “How far would you go for love?”
- Poison Study by Marie V. Snyder. On the day of your execution, you are offered the job of food taster for an unpopular king. Surviving one day at a time, the heroine has many exceptional adventures.
- Pretties by Scott Westerfield. Ok here is your basic steam punk, post apocalyptic selfie world. Is there more to life than beauty? Some don’t think so. More PA YA.
- Arch Enemy by Frank Beddor – A re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. These books were really good. In a nice twist, some of the characters in Wonderland visit the “real” world. This has lots of adventure and is really quite imaginative.
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. More PA YA
- Across the Universe by Beth Revis – (This is Sci Fi about the things that can go wrong on a long trip in space.)
- Dust Lands by Moira Young. More PA YA like hunger games.
- Legend by Marie Lu. Nice PA YA love story.
- Beautiful Darkness by Kim Garcia. Liked the first book. The others weren’t as good.
- Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine – What happens when your school town is run by blood sucker types and you can’t ever leave.
- True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris- Ok you have seen the TV series and it is way over the top. The books were better. Also see the Shakespeare series by this same author. It is a true feminist tale of surviving at all costs. Has been read by almost no one.
- Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa – A nice telling of how a seemingly ordinary teenager is able to “cross over” to the world of fairies and elves and how the modern world is changing the seellie (Summer Court) and unseellie (Winter Court) landscapes. A fun love story that even has Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream as one of the characters.
- Kiss of Deception – The author creates a brand new world where running away doesn’t always work out as you imagined..
- Kim Harrison – Like your fantasy all sexed up. Then this is the writer for you.
Just about every popular book has a YouTube “book trailer” or “movie trailer” created by fans or the publisher. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
OK I have left out a bunch of great books, but this is my XX list. Time to get back to science.
NEXT UP – Can nanobots make us smarter, bring about collective consciousness, cure diseases and allow us to swim with the dolphins or will they simply make us compliant sheep? Inquiring minds need answers.