A Series of Posts About Series - Summary

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Well, I'm all out of unfinished series, finally. This post is just to summarize all of them in one place. So:
  • Acorna Universe by Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Ball, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
  • Asian Saga by James Clavell
  • Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
  • The Black Book (Diary of a Teenage Stud) by Jonah Black
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • Discworld by Terry Pratchett
  • Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
  • Earth's Children by Jean M. Auel
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Gemma Doyle by Libba Bray
  • Green Rider by Kristen Britain
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  • King Raven by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
  • The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell
  • Various YA series by various authors

So friends, have you read/finished any of these? How many different series are you currently in the middle of? Do you sometimes get turned off of reading a book when you find out that it's part of a series?

Basically just let me know what you think!

A Series of Posts About Series - Part 3

This is the third part of my post about all the series of books that I've started and haven't finished yet. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

Asian Saga
Author: James Clavell

I didn't do my research properly, so my list of series is out of order. Nooooo. More to the point, Shogun is a pretty great book. It's not perfect, and I thought the love story was really missing heat, but the book couldn't fail to be awesome since it's set in feudal Japan i.e. there are totally samurai in this book. But the rest of the series is set all over the place in Asia (Japanese POW camp, Hong Kong, Iraq) and in time, meaning that the coolest things about Shogun probably don't carry over to the rest of the series.

Will I Finish It? I definitely liked the first book enough that I'd be willing to read more by James Clavell, so I might cherry pick some of the other books in the series. I won't decide whether I'll read the whole thing until then.

The Looking Glass Wars
Author: Frank Beddor

If The Wicked Years is a gritty reboot of Oz, The Looking Glass Wars is a gritty reboot of Wonderland, in which Alice is actually a princess of Wonderland, struggling to save it from the tyrannical rule of her Aunt Redd. While the first two books are occasional victims of excessive cleverness and I-see-what-you-did-there, they're still pretty enjoyable to read.

Will I Finish It? There's only one book to go, and lots that I'm curious (and curiouser!) about, so I'll definitely be picking up the final book.

The Lost Years of Merlin
Author: T. A. Barron

This series is the origin story of Merlin (of Arthurian fame, maybe you've heard of him). I read the first several books during my teen fantasy binges, and I love King Arthur almost/exactly as much as I love Robin Hood, so there's that.

Will I Finish It? I'm not sure. Like so much that I read when I was a teenager, I'm not sure if these books were actually good or not. It's on the backburner, anyway.

Author: Larry Niven

I read Ringworld four or five years ago and it was amazing. From what I remember, a man, a girl, and two aliens take a spaceship out to investigate a mysterious ring built around a star and awesomeness ensues. In the introduction to the edition I read, Niven mentioned how he wrote the sequel, Ringworld Engineers because a bunch of insane (or awesome, I can't decide which) people called him on his bad physics. WHAT. Anyway, the female character who is bred for luck is a really cool concept, I love love love megastructures, and the rah rah engineers aspect of the series scratches my professional pride.

Will I Finish It? I'm not sure that I want to read all four books, but Ringworld Engineers is on my reading list for sure.

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Before you say anything, I read the first Twilight book so that I could put my money where my mouth was in terms of ridiculing the series. Having done that, it was extremely obvious why teenage girls love these books: the first one was a slightly more polished version of the story I myself was writing over and over again when I was about 15, where the attractive troubled boy is drawn to the quiet, unremarkable girl, and loves her forever and ever.

Will I Finish It? I hardly think this needs to be asked. One book was enough.

The Warlord Chronicles
Author: Bernard Cornwell

My flute teacher (really) lent me the first of this historical fiction trilogy about King Arthur, and it goes right where King Raven goes wrong in terms of trying to put a realistic spin on a legend. The first two books have really influenced my ideas of ancient battles, at the very least (e.g. how keen a horse might be to break a line of spears, or the problem of corpses). However, I never quite managed to finish the third book.

Will I Finish It? I will, I'm just not sure when I'll get around to it.

Various YA series
Author: several

While lots of other people were apparently reading awesome stuff during childhood, by the likes of Roald Dahl and Judy Blume, I feel like I mostly read garbage mass market paperback series like the Sweet Valley Twins, its variants e.g. Sweet Valley High, the Babysitters Club, its variants e.g. Babysitter's Little Sister, and Nancy Drew Mysteries (I actually have zero regrets about Nancy Drew and I'm planning to devote a whole post to her one of these days). Now that I'm thinking about it, I wasn't just reading terrible things when I was a kid, and maybe I should do a post about my “formative books,” too...

Will I Finish It? I got most of these terrible books from a library trailer (not sure what this should actually be called) that stopped by my street each week, and basically had to get whichever books from these series that they happened to have, so I never read the entire things. At this point, that's ok with me, though. I won't be revisiting any of them anytime soon.


R25. The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Year Published: 2011
Pages: 400
First Sentence: Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.

Right off the bat, I'll tell you that The Magician King is the sequel to The Magicians, and thus this review is going to have a bunch of spoilers in it for The Magicians. So for those who want to stop reading here, I'll say that I really highly recommend The Magicians, and only slightly less highly recommend The Magician King.

For those who don't care about spoilers and are still reading, the reason that I recommend the sequel less highly is that it's just really unnecessary and doesn't have enough magic in it.

You may remember The Magicians as being the best book I read last year. I read it after A Bend in the River and it's what convinced me to love reading again. The story is basically Harry Potter + Chronicles of Narnia + college angst, and it was the most enjoyable fantasy book I'd encountered in quite a while. Quentin Coldwater is a high school senior obsessed with a series of children's books about a magical place called Fillory. He's pretty mopey and, like, 75% of the people read the book seem to hate him with a violent passion that I reserve for the likes of Sebastian Dangerfield and, dare I say it, James Joyce.


Imagine Quentin's surprise when he's randomly selected to take an entrance exam at a magic school called Brakebills. His experience there is basically regular college debauchery, except while learning magic instead of your typical post-secondary courses. Quentin and his bunch of friends graduate and then basically squander their lives in magic-enabled decadence.

Imagine his surprise again, then, when it turns out that Fillory is as real as magic is, and the stories in the books are true but darker. Insanity ensues, by which I mean a lot of death and destruction, and Quentin goes back to reality and gives up magic.

The first book ends with Quentin's return to Fillory, with his friends Eliot, Janet, and Julia, to become kings and queens.

The Magicians was full of really intense, interesting magic, which provided relief from all of the angst. It also had some really scary monsters, particularly "The Beast," a very powerful humanoidish thing whose first appearance involves immobilizing an entire classroom full of people and then killing one of them.


Imagine no one's surprise when Mr. Impossible to Please (i.e. Quentin) gets bored again at the beginning of The Magician King and decides that he wants to go on a quest to liven things up a bit. Insanity ensues once more, this time with ocean and inter-dimensional voyages, interspersed with the story of how Quentin's friend Julia developed her powers (she didn't manage to qualify to attend Brakebills, and thus had to use other means to learn how to do magic).

If you're one of the people who doesn't despise every character in these books for being too debauched, the next thing that may trip you up is Grossman's style, which is too expository to be truly great, i.e. he does rather more telling than showing. It works just fine for me, but I can see how it might not quite be your cup of tea.  The climax also lacks punch, although the shock of the culmination of Julia's story makes up for most of that.

As I say above, though, the main problems with The Magician King are a lack of magic and lack of reason for existing.

Where the original has all kinds of interesting magic in it, it's extremely sparse here. Quentin storms a castle at one point, but that's basically his lone grand magical display, and there isn't much else to be found in the book, outside of Julia's explorations. Even those are more alluded to than actually described. I was so excited to read this book because I wanted to see more of the cool things that Grossman might come up with, even though...

...As much as I enjoyed the book (even with its problems), I don't think it needed to be written. The Magicians has a nice open ending, after which everyone presumably lives (as) happily (as possible under the circumstances) ever after, but The Magician King seems to reduce the scope of that ending in disappointing ways.  I read this book for the same reason that I played Portal 2: I adored the original so much that I looked past all my doubts about a sequel because I just wanted more.  But where Portal 2 deepened its universe and retained everything that made me love the first game, The Magician King fell short of those marks.

I'd say that the book is still worth a read, but you could just as easily stop reading after The Magicians and not be missing too terribly much.

"Oh, Jolly," Janet said. She crossed her arms in mock outrage. "You should have let us catch it! Now it'll only tell your future."
   She sounded not at all disappointed by this, but Jollyby—a superb all-around huntsman but no National Merit Scholar—looked vexed. His furry brows furrowed.
   "Maybe we could pass it around," Quentin said. "It could do each of us in turn."
   "It's not a bong, Quentin," Janet said.

A Series of Posts About Series - Part 2

This is the second part of my post about all the series of books that I've started and haven't finished yet. Part 1 is here.

Author: Isaac Asimov

This series is the first one where I became keenly aware of the difference between writing order and chronological order (I'm one of those people who thinks The Magician's Nephew should be read before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). The original Foundation trilogy is an sf classic, and psychohistory, the mathematical method of predicting the future, is in it, fully formed (although the book itself carries a lot of 50s weirdness, like how there isn't a single woman in the entire thing, if I recall correctly). Prelude to Foundation, which wasn't written until much later, tells the story of how Hari Seldon develops psychohistory in the first place, and of course I read it first because it comes first chronologically. As much as I love Isaac Asimov, Foundation the book was kind of a weird step down after that.

Will I Finish It? Contrary to everything I just said, I do still want to read the last two books in the original trilogy, but I'm not sure whether I'll read any of the other newer books. I'm fairly certain that Asimov has other works that are worth checking out first.

Gemma Doyle
Author: Libba Bray

This YA trilogy caught my eye thanks to the corset on the first book's cover (I am being serious right now). Gemma Doyle is a student at a girls' school that isn't quite what it seems i.e. there is magic involved. Not a very demanding read, and it falls victim to what I like to call the Historical Tomboy trope, where the main character is especially rebellious against gender roles of her time. (This is an exceptionally irritating trope in modern fantasy, but that's another topic for another time.) Still, Gemma's a likeable character and fun to follow around.

Will I Finish It? I'll probably pick up the final book in the trilogy sooner rather than later. The books read quickly and I'm interested to see how the story will end.

Green Rider
Author: Kristen Britain

Not to be too hard on Kristen Britain, but I think Green Rider was one of the last "conventional" fantasy books that I read in high school, before my frustration with the genre resulted in my rejection of most of its offerings. The series is about a young girl who becomes a sort of royal messenger, but the first book (the only one I read) isn't written very well, with strange character tics (the main character tucking strands of hair behind her ears, which happened so frequently that I still remember it now) in place of real characterization. Credit where it's due, though, Britain clearly knows more about wilderness survival that just about any other author.

Will I Finish It? This is one series I definitely won't be returning to. It's possible that the later books improve, but I'm just not the target audience for this kind of book anymore.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams

Believe it or not, I had never heard of Douglas Adams before I read his obituary in 2001. I read the first Hitchhiker's Guide book that summer, and moved on to one or two of its sequels shortly after. At that point I'd been reading Pratchett for a couple of years already, though, and I found I liked Adams less, so I abandoned the series.

Will I Finish It? These books deserve another chance, considering their place in the geek canon (hence why I haven't even bothered to tell you what they're about). I'll get back to them eventually, for sure, but I still haven't decided whether I'll read Eoin Colfer's conclusion of the series.

The Inheritance Cycle
Author: Christopher Paolini

Probably the best example of derivative fantasy on this list, this is the story of a boy and his dragon, with clear Star Wars and LOTR parallels scattered throughout. I read the first three books at my brother's prompting, and the final book of the series, Inheritance, has finally been published.

Will I Finish It? There are tons of problems with these books, but my completionism means I really want to see how they'll end, so yes, I'm going to finish the series.

King Raven
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

I love Robin Hood with probably most of my heart, and I'd enjoyed Lawhead's book The Iron Lance as a teenager, so I recommended the first book in this trilogy, Hood, to a friend of mine, and borrowed it after she read it. Unfortunately, further reading seems to indicate that Lawhead is excessively Christian, and his "historical" Robin Hood isn't close enough in tone to the legend, or adept enough in distinguishing itself.

Will I Finish It? Nope. I struggled through the last two books of Lawhead's Celtic Crusades trilogy, and I'm not really interested in reading anything else written by him.

Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott

When I talked about my love of unicorns in Part 1, I mentioned how that love had some pretty clear origins in movies and tv. Well. I can trace probably about 75% of my personality to Little Women (the book, not the unofficial trilogy). My early gleanings on everything from sisterhood, writing, friendship, romance, goodness, etc. etc. ad nauseam come straight from this book, and all of that has stuck with me to this day. I read Little Men a bit later, but I don't think I ever made my way to Jo's Boys. Anyway, you might imagine my absolute horror when I found out about a year ago that my copy of Little Women, which used to belong to my mom, is actually an abridged edition. What.

Will I Finish It? Most definitely. Of course, I need to get a full edition of the first book somewhere, and then I'll be diving in for sure.