5 Summer Fantasy Series

OK, look. There are lots of places you can go online to find life-changing reading material. Today, this is not that place.

In fact, I had to laugh when, as I was drafting this post, one of my favorite bloggers posted her Heavy Summer Reading List. So, you know, if you were hoping to read a voluminous Bible commentary or brush up on the heritage of world civilization whilst lounging about the pool this summer, please head on over to Rachel Held Evans’ blog; frankly, if you look further here it will just embarrass us both.

I joined a book club over a year ago. It’s full of smart, well-read women. Like, three university English professors and a Stanford grad and a CPA and a woman who’s about to take her family on a yearlong sailing trip. These are people who know what to do with a semi-colon and who care about the proper use of who and whom. They’re people who don’t start sentences with “like.” People who didn’t feel even a little bit stabby while reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men in high school advanced placement English class. People who didn’t, hypothetically speaking, read aloud the word rendezvous in said English class and pronounce it renDEZvuhs while the whole class giggled under their collective breath.

This book club has significantly raised my reading level, is what I’m saying. In a good way. But they haven’t stopped me from using fragmented sentences like a pro or from reading books that have no educational or spiritual value, so there’s only so much good they can do. At the end of the day, after I’ve read The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, I get lost in fantasy fiction. It’s my go-to genre for total escapist entertainment.

Just in case you’re looking for some fun, noneducational summer reading material – great stories by talented storytellers – I’ve put together this list, my Top 5 Summer Fantasy Series.

All of these books:

  1. are well-written. There’s nothing worse than reading a series and wanting to take a red pen to it.
  2. have unique, detailed, well-crafted worlds that capture the imagination.
  3. are plot- and character-driven stories that make me want to read far, far later in the night than is reasonable for a mama of five.
  4. champion strong women and strong men working together. I cannot stand – cannot stand – books that make men the heroes at the expense of women or vice versa.

5 Summer Fantasy Series:

1. The Edge by Ilona Andrews

OnTheEdgeIlona Andrews is the pen name of a husband / wife writing team. I have to admit, I’m at the stage in my Ilona Andrews love affair where I’ll buy anything they write. Anything. They’ve won me over with their totally weird mix of urban fantasy, action, humor and romance. A weird mix that works. Ilona Andrews is the writer I recommend to my friends.

On the Edge is the first book in Andrews’ 4-book Edge series which is now complete. Book Description: The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale. The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny. Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.

2. Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs

MoonCalledI was a little bit slower to pick up this series. The books are good right from the get-go, but the real strength in the series is the way Patricia Briggs continues to build her characters and their world from book to book. You know how some series break down over time? This is not that series.

Moon Called is the first book in the Mercedes Thompson series. Book Description: Mercedes Thompson runs a garage in the Tri-Cities. She’s a mechanic, and a damn good one, who spends her spare time karate training and tinkering with a VW bus that happens to belong to a vampire. Her next-door neighbour is an alpha werewolf – literally, the leader of the pack. And Mercy herself is a shapeshifter, sister to coyotes. As such, she’s tolerated by the wolves but definitely down the pecking order. As long as she keeps her eyes down and remembers her place, the pack will leave her in peace. (But of course we all know she won’t.)

3. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore

Graceling

Graceling is the first book in the Graceling Realm series. I loved every minute of this book and couldn’t wait to recommend it to my young adult friends who share my love of reading.

Book Description: Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa’s Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power. (from a review by Heidi Broadhead)

4. Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews

MagicBites

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ll buy anything Ilona Andrews writes. Truth be told, I like the Kate Daniels series even better than their On The Edge series even though (especially because?) it’s edgier than The Edge.

Magic Bites is the first book in Ilona Andrews’ ongoing Kate Daniels series. Vampires aren’t sparkly – or even sentient – in Kate’s alternate Atlanta. Magic fluctuations are reeking havoc on technology, coming in unpredictable waves as the pendulum swings humanity (and others) back to the Middle Ages. Book Description: Kate Daniels a is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way.

5. Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee

Angelfall Angelfall, Book 1 of Penryn & the End of Days is by far the most irritating book on this list. Not because the book is irritating – it’s quite engaging – but because it completely sucked me into its fast-paced world and only one book of the series has been published so far. I just hate coming into a good series on the first book, you know? Because then I have to wait. Argh. But I will definitely buy the second book when it’s released this fall.

Book Description: It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

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Note: Series 1, 2 and 4 above are books written with the adult audience in mind. There is mild sexual content in each of the three. Series 3 and 5 are written for young adults, but there is subtle, mature content in these, as well.

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What are you reading this summer? 
and/or
What are your all-time favorite series?
What books do you recommend to friends?

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
53 comments
  1. […] set the record straight, a) I was broken WAY before the Time Traveler’s Wife, b) I am reading extremely smutty vampire books to make up for the terror and angst TTW has caused so will be fully recovered shortly, and c) I […]

  2. Please please if you have any spare time in your life (which I know the answer to that is NONE but you need to find some anyway), read the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. And then read everything else he’s written, and thus ignore everything else in your life. Thankfully, he is a prolific as well as amazingly fast writer, so you don’t have to wait too long for sequels (simultaneously in several series). He has several different fantasy trilogies (which are probably expanding past that now), which are all interconnected in the background of his magical mind, and also a young adult series which is goofy, intriguing, and still good writing. But start with Mistborn. Actually, if you’d like to get a taste of his writing, you can download a pdf one of his books for FREE FREE FREE (yay!) off of his website. It is a great book, so honestly I don’t know why he gives it away, but it gives you a glimpse of his epic world engingeering, lady heroics, and magic systems. Go here http://brandonsanderson.com/books/warbreaker/warbreaker/warbreaker-rights-and-downloads/ and scroll down towards the bottom for the full PDF.

    1. DO NOT WORRY, Deborah. I’ve read and LOVE Mistborn. Greg, in fact, JUST finished the series last week. We learned about Brandon Sanderson when he was picked to finish the Wheel of Time series. He’s very talented.

  3. I want to thank you for this list! I was desperately looking for a new author that I’d love as some of those I’ve completely tapped out–it is as if you felt my desperation and so kindly helped me out as you always do (and many others, I’m sure). I read Burn for Me this week and it was so good. My poor husband does not thank you. We don’t get a ton of time to sit and talk and the measley hour we might get at night turned into: ME: “How was your day?” (He responds here) Me again: “Oh yeah, nice.” I insert another obligatory question here to demonstrate genuine interest in a more specific topic than the overall day…act interested for two more minutes and then BAM – shut the conversation DOWN so that I can get back to the book. Both Jillian Michaels and my husband felt very neglected. But I’m happy.

  4. […] be lying if I said my kids don’t have to put their wee little faces between my head and the latest Ilona Andrews novel and remind me they’re there. MommommommomMOMMYmom! Face to face? Oh, yeah, kids! Sorry […]

  5. We seem to have pretty much exactly the same taste in books. Totally love Ilona Andrews. Can’t wait for Burn for Me!

    If you are looking for a good read maybe try Nalini Singh Archangels Blood. Wonderful world building, characters, dialogue and writing craft.

    1. OMG i love all those authors. Also try Darynda Jones.. I liked her First Grave on the right series…. the main charachter is sarcastic and enjoys a lot of coffee..

      Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

  6. Love the Mercedes Thompson books and I’ve heard good things about the other series you mentioned. I recently discovered the Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock) series by Faith Hunter. It’s similar to the Mercy Thompson books and is about a rogue vampire hunter that can turn into animals. I thought it sounded kinda lame the first several times I came across it but now that I’ve started reading them they are actually very engaging. I would also recommend the Rachel Morgan books by Kim Harrison if you haven’t tried them yet. 🙂

  7. My favourite is Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens series. Absolutely amazing series. Magic and mythology brought to life in modern day Hong Kong. The first book is “White Tiger”. Written for an adult audience, but still suitable for young adults.

    But, if you’re looking for younger, I’m in love with Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series and can’t wait for the final book to be released this year!!!

  8. I don’t think these have been mentioned yet…. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Great books… and the movie adaptation of the first book comes out in August. Excellent series about demon hunters. The characters are well-developed and complicated. These are books that are easy to read, especially when you are trying to tune out the 478th time your kids are watching Elmo’s World.

  9. If you like retold fairy tales, I loved Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier and Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. And I second whoever said Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. Also, can I just say that I love all these comments and this whole post. I feel like you are all my friends–most of my face to face friends do not share my affinity with young adult fiction or my addiction to fantasy.

  10. If you love books with strong female leads, read the “Whisper Series” by Kristina Circelli. The first book in the series is “Beyond the Western Sun.”

    From amazon: A gripping journey into the heart of Native American legend, “Beyond the Western Sun” follows the epic struggle of Whisper, a young female Cherokee apprentice, on a harrowing adventure into the Land of the Dead to save the captive son of Ian Diavya. Together they face insurmountable odds, conquer terrible demons, and in the process, find a strength and courage within themselves neither knew possible. What they don’t know is that these early adventures are only tests, for to save Ian’s son, they must also stop the evil-minded Raven-Eater from unleashing his Army of the Dead to destroy the living world. As the Army of the Dead marches closer to the Western Sun, as Whisper leads them deeper into the Land of the Dead, and as the truth behind Cole’s death is slowly revealed, Ian discovers that the fate of both worlds depends on his courage, his humility, and the life of his son. An epic saga of hope, redemption, and undying love, “Beyond the Western Sun” is what all fantasy adventures must strive to be: a complex, intricate examination of human emotion set within the context of worlds known only in our imagination.

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