For many years, if I fell in love with a book that was the first of a series, unless it was a Lord of the Rings type pseudo-series, I would continue the series at a leisurely pace. One, perhaps two a year, even if I adored them, because I wanted to make the pleasure last for as long as possible. After all, what if I never found another series I wanted to read again? And then I was all out of new books to read? For the rest of my life?
Lately, though, I’ve become a gobbler. I blame Lois McMaster Bujold; I came across her via her Sharing Knife quartet, which I read back-to-back (they’re not quite a LOTR pseudo-series but do each pick up where the other leaves off). Then I proceeded to read her four other fantasy books, all within a month or two. And finally I moved on to her gigantic science fiction series named The Vorkosigan Saga (and much much more loveable than that name implies, at least to my sci-fi skeptical self); even though I made a conscious attempt to draw them out I managed to finish sixteen or so books well before my first ‘anniversary’ of Bujold discovery. And I loved it.
Of course, Bujold doesn’t share all of the blame. My library’s excellent electronic branch, promising me both Nook-compatible books and audiobooks at any time of the day, with a simple click, has made it easier than ever to give in to my cravings. No longer must I wait until my next library visit; as long as no other patron has the book checked out, I can be reading the next one minutes after finishing an earlier book. It turns out my will power is weak in the face of such instant gratification.
To be honest, though, I’m happy in my newfound guzzling approach. I know instantly where I am in the story and easily remember details about the world and character development, picking up on any little tidbits an author might throw out. It also brings me back to my childhood bookworm self, who stayed up the night after Christmas one year to read the entire Narnia series before dawn. There is such pleasure in beginning a book when you’re simply in a fever of impatience to find out what might happen next in a character’s life, or in getting to spend another three hundred pages or more in a beloved fictional world. When I read a series more quickly, I’m reading for the sheer love of story, without any external considerations. This shift in my reading habits has occurred at the same time that I’ve incorporated more rereading into my life, which I’m sure has calmed my subconscious fears of somehow running out of magical books that speak to my soul.
It seems silly to write this post without discussing at least one of the specific series that’s entranced me! Let me tell you about Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books, which are set in an alternative England-centered world during the Napoleonic wars, ones in which there are dragons. As the series progresses, we visit various other countries, and Novik expands how the existence of dragons would have changed the face of colonialism, since a fighting dragon makes the musket quite a puny weapon. The world building is delicious, and sure to satisfy any feminist, post-colonialist reader, but in a way that also feels authentic to that period. But the real reason I keep reading them is that I’ve fallen utterly in love with Temeraire, a dragon who loves to read and wear fine jewels and protect his friends, and his captain Will Laurence, whose entire world view changes when he finds himself thrust from the Navy to the (Dragon) Air Corps and who struggles to match his strong internal sense of honour and patriotism with the shades of grey contained in a newly widened world. I read the first one, His Majesty’s Dragon, six weeks ago and am now impatiently waiting for the sixth one to become available.
Then there’s Seanan Maguire’s October Daye series, which are a noir crime and urban fantasy mash up that feels like what would happen if Veronica Mars had grown up as a half-Fae outsider in both the Faerie and human worlds of San Francisco and had ended up as a Faery knight/human private investigator who keeps being thrown into terrifying situations in which she must fight against all of the odds to save her known world. The books hover right on the edge of being too gritty for me, but Toby’s (don’t you dare call her October) sense of honour and grudging affection for the Faeries who just won’t leave her alone have convinced me to read the first five books since August. It’s one of those series that just gets better and better; Toby changes so much over the course of the books but in an utterly organic and true way. The Fae world is complex and fascinating, and I love spending more time there, even if I know I’ll cry at least once during each book. Maguire always seems to play fair, though, in my opinion and she throws in plenty of amusing asides and a couple sexy men to the bargain; I can’t wait to read the next in the series. They begin with Rosemary and Rue, in case you’re interested as well. On an amusing side note, I actually thought Maguire was a man until just last week, when Debi casually referred to her as a ‘she,’ and I scurried off to Google. I had been admiring how wonderfully ‘he’ wrote female characters and the feminism at the bedrock of ‘his’ writing, only to suddenly have all of that verisimilitude make much more sense.
Well, my soup has simmered long enough to fill the entire apartment with its flavours, and my stomach is informing me that I can write about more series another day.
I’m curious; do you ‘save’ series for later, the way that I have for years, or plunge happily in and read them all fairly quickly? And do you have any particular favourites that you think I should begin devouring?