Best 10 Fantasy Series (which don’t drop the ball)

Every time I read a series where the books decline in quality with each new release (and there have been a lot of them lately), it makes me appreciate the few series that remained consistent in their quality, or better yet, get better with each book! As you read a series, you can almost see the difference between the authors who are sick of their world and are just beating money out of a dead horse, and the authors who are still truly excited and engaged by it, and it shows in the quality of their writing and plotting.

A “Series Breaker” is a book (or books) in a series that is so bad that it breaks a series quality so much that it makes people not want to read that series anymore. The point of this post is to list every fantasy series I’ve read that DO NOT have a single Series Breaker in them, where the quality is either consistent or actually improves with every book. Note the “or” because having both is impossible.

Considering how disappointed readers have been with the quality of current on-going fantasy series, this list is a life raft for those who want to avoid the feeling of forcing yourself through the pain of reading a book you really don’t want to but feel you should because you enjoyed the previous entries in the series. I really feel your pain, which is why I put the completed series first. And for those wondering why a certain series is missing, just ask yourself if the series is as good after books 2 or 3; that’s why.

Fantasy series that have ended and didn’t drop the ball once:

1. Book of Words by J.V. Jones

Take a massive standalone book that you think is just awesome, then break it into chunks that have good story arcs with satisfying endings. Is it still great? Yes? Then it’s a miracle and one that Book of Words achieves without even trying (and yes, I actually asked the author if she originally intended to write this as one big book and she said she didn’t, so yeah, without trying).

2. The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham

Five books, and although the fourth in the series was the closest, none of the books dropped the ball. That’s right, there are better and worse books but not a single Series Breaker, and even the worst book of the series is still better than the best book in most series and was definitely made up for with its series finale, which I can say was both conclusive and very cathartic. Honestly, his other series, The Long Price Quartet would be on this list as well if the final book, which felt like an epilogue, didn’t drop the ball.

3. The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell

Confession, I actually prefer the characters in this series over the ones above, but it’s at number 3 for one reason: where it peaks. Although books 3 and 4 are great and still better than most series finales, if they don’t rise above the previous, in this case, the phenomenal book 2, it’s much harder to insist someone finish it compared to if the ending is the best part (but they should because it’s still amazing compared to most series out there!)


Fantasy series that haven’t dropped the ball yet but still could:

4. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

To use an analogy, The Dresden Files is like an Olympic sprinter who stumbled on his second step (book 2) but then took off like a rocket (book 3) and each subsequent book has been overtaking runner after runner (and there are A LOT of them) until he was tied neck and neck with The First Law series (which I love more but can see more reasons other people might not). To clarify, book 2 is not a Series Breaker, but it is the worst in a long series of crazy-good books.

5. The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

If there was a graph showing the quality and enjoyment had by Joe Abercrombie’s books, it would look like a horizon line of overlapping alps. Sure, there are peaks and valleys, sure, some have higher peaks than others (usually the second book in each of his series IMO), but I’m prepared to die on the hill plastered with the two claims “no author does character as good as Joe Abercrombie” and “Joe Abercrombie hasn’t released a single bad book” and that includes his YA Shattered Sea series.

6. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

It’s all riding on book 3, The Doors of the Stone, and if a decade isn’t long enough for a great author to make the final book in a series incredible, then no amount of time will and we have waited a decade in anticipation for it. God forgive me if anyone read this series because it’s on this list and we still don’t have the third book in the next few years. If anything this entry needs a warning for those thinking of beginning it: Wait until book three is out!


Fantasy series that fumbled the ball without dropping it:

7. Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley

This is one of those “it’s great once you’ve finished it” series. You may think that one of the books (particularly the first one) dropped the ball. I assure you, it didn’t. Like all great books, The Emperor’s blades slowly build what needs building for the conflict in the rest of the series, which is all the epic and deep and painful as you could want. The reason this goes above the later two is because the 2nd and 3rd book were the best.

8. Powder Mage by Brian McClellan

There’s a trend with the last three, that being they are all military fantasy. What can I say? Military fantasy has a way of keeping consistency, almost like the books are organized and regimented and uniformed like… well, like a military. Powder Mage is by far the purest of these. It’s as military fantasy as you can get with ranks and flintlocks and wars and gods of wars. Like the last military fantasy on this list, the finale was the weakest, but it never dropped the ball.

9. Age of Iron by Angus Watson

So yes, military fantasy, like the former and latter, but unlike its neighbors, Age of Iron is not musket and flintlock fantasy, but classical historical fantasy set when Rome invaded Britain before it was called Britain. Again, the third book is the weakest but still great, again, great characters and magic… it’s a good thing I’m running out of compliments because my last one in this list is bit of a copout.


Fantasy series that I haven’t finished but haven’t failed me yet:

10. The Shadow Campaign

That’s right. I’m breaking my own rules for this list. Because I haven’t actually finished reading this series yet, but if you’ve gotten this far down the list, I consider this an ominous foreshadowing for what the end of this series could be like. So far it hasn’t dropped the ball, and as soon as it does, I will remove this series from this list… because I have integrity…

I’m enjoying it and the audiobook reader is the same person who read the Dagger and the Coin, so even if it is bad I will still enjoy his dark chocolate baritone. I’ll probably review it when I’m done if it turns out to be really good, but considering how infrequently I post on this blog, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


So just note that the list of over, but there is one other series I think doesn’t drop the ball and that’s the Red Rising series and the Bobbiverse books, but they are technically sci-fi so I didn’t include them. You understand.

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[Announcement] New Book Out: War of Kings and Monsters

Here’s my new book; it launches today. Monster battles in a fantasy world – a short summary.

Here is a link that I hope you will go:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085M5M6PP/

And here’s a puff quote from an author you might know:
“War of Kings and Monsters is a fast and compelling read with lovable characters and a well-drawn premise.” —M. L. Spencer, author of The Rhenwars Saga

I’ve added the cover to give this post spice.
I think you’ll agree it turned out quite nice.
Although this rhyme’s intended as a marketing ploy,
The book itself, you’re sure to enjoy.
Don’t trust my words?
You’ll just have to see.
You now know where to find it, so that’s it from me😁

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Grudgingly Updating my Top 10 Fantasy List from 2017

For anyone familiar with my Top 50 Fantasy list, you would know that my Top 10 are what I consider my ‘Must-Reads’, so it’s a little difficult as time goes by to see my opinions on what my readers must and must not read shift slightly.

In order to make such an important transition go smoothly, I thought would do a post explaining why I’m adding, removing, and shifting some of these books, and so I don’t confuse people, I’ll start with the ones I’ve recently removed and added.

[Removed] The Kingkiller Chronicle

Why:
There is a condition for Kingkiller’s removal, and if met, it may return to my top 10. That condition is a 2020 release date for book 3. If not, bon voyage. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder… until it doesn’t and it instead grows bitter and apathetic. I read Wise Man’s Fear in 2012, with which it shot to 3rd place in my “must-reads” list, but has lost a rank every year Rothfuss has failed to produce the final book. However, if book 3 comes out in 2020 and is decent, who knows? I may return it to its rightful place.

[Removed] The Lightbringer Saga

Why:
Ever since winning the David Gemmel award for Book 2, it has been all downhill for this series. Talk about blowing your load early, not only did the later books have difficulty holding my attention, I barely cared at all when I heard that the last book, The Blinding White, is being released in October. You know your series has lost relevance when it’s readers reaction to its final book is “Meh.” But because I can’t see into the future, there is also a condition for this removal. It all hinges on the quality of book 5.

[Added] Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

Why:
As I covered in my review of this series, I was rather impressed with the level of depth and thought that went into the world and characters. In that review, I said this book wouldn’t be in my top 10, but that it would be very close. However, until I have read the final books in the series above, this will be the place holder until they have met the conditions or I read another book that outdoes it. For this reason, Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne holds an extremely tentative #10 spot.

[Added] The Greatcoats Series

Why:
As I said in my Best Sequels post, although book 1 felt like multiple premises crammed into one novel, the second book was so good it shot straight to #9. By the time I was reading the third book I was really enjoying myself, and with how high the stakes were in book 3 was dubious about the final in the series. Once again, it’s surprised me, still out-doing the first by increasing the stakes for the characters internally rather than externally as all great stories involving escalating conflicts should. An easy MUST-READ. Continue reading

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Last Day for this Preorder Package

Super Dungeon Series

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A Sequel Makes the Series: Top 12 Best Fantasy Sequels

Harder than writing a good fantasy book is writing a good fantasy series. To achieve this you need to have written a sequel or sequels that either live up to or are better than the original. It’s tricky, too, because either your first book wasn’t the best but was still good enough to justify reading the sequel or your first book was great and you still somehow managed to top it, which is crazy impressive.

With that in mind, here are a dozen sequels to fantasy books that I think are much better than the first in the series, and if you stopped at book one in these series, you should still give the sequel a shot because if you didn’t you’re missing out on what made the series so fantastic. For these first books, no matter what you thought of the first in the series, you should definitely read at least the first sequel:

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (The First Law #2)

The second book in each of Joe Abercrombie’s series is always the best of the series. I can say the same of The Heroes and will give a similar statement for his Shattered Sea series lower down the list but it’s the forming relationships in this book that makes it so great. Logan with Jezal and Ferro, West with the Northmen, it’s all just fantastic.

The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and Coin #2)

The first Dagger and Coin book was an average generic fantasy so it wasn’t a surprise that it didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the political intrigue and maneuvering in the sequel was enough to put Game of Thrones to shame. Plots, coups, and the rise of a new cult and their effect on the characters make them so much more real.

51pt18q1kWL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLiar’s Key by Mark Lawrence (Red Queen’s War #2)

Mark Lawrence has some really good books under his name, but so far this is my favorite of his, and luckily it’s also the second in a series. I did an entire post on why I thought this book was so great. So, besides everything I put in that post, I think this book has something that his Broken Empire trilogy did not, although one of those is also on this list.

Golden Son by Pierce Brown (Red Rising #2)

Where the first book is more akin to Hunger Games or a space hegemony version of Lord of the Flies, this story is what the setting of Red Rising demanded, light sword fights and strategic space battles. Everything foreshadowed in book one happens in book two, and without the cliffhanger, would’ve left very little for book three.

Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell (Greatcoats #2)

The first Greatcoat’s book was a mess. It almost felt like the first third of the book was it’s own story, nearly completely disconnected from the rest of the tale. Book two, however, is one beautiful flowing mystery that expands with each scene and setting until it ends in a beautiful thrilling climax where no character comes out unphased.

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time #2)

By far my favorite Wheel of Time book. This is everything I wanted from book one but was withheld for the sake of foreshadowing and a slow character build. Honestly, if the series had ended here, I wouldn’t have minded because everything after this one felt diluted in the need to scrape the rest of the story over so many books.

Half a World by Joe Abercrombie (The Shattered Sea #2)

Here’s Abercrombie again dominating the second book in his series. For the last five years, if you’d asked me who my favorite female character is, I would say, without hesitation, Thorn Bathu. She’s only a main character in this book and her journey and rise in the world of the Shattered Sea was by far the highlight of the whole series.

12891107.jpgThe King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (The Broken Empire #2)

Although clearly the best book in the series, I added this book to the list more from a request than anything else. Where the Prince of Thorns revealed a morally gray character and his adventures in a messed up post-apocalyptic world, The King of Thorns shows his rise as a man to conquer the obstacles his tyrannical father put in his way.

Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

Don’t get me wrong, it was close, but Wise Man’s Fear’s world-building with the Ademre and the city of Severen puts it head and shoulders above Name of the Wind. What put this at the bottom of the second-book list is not only that he’s taken forever to get out his new book but because of a good part of the book is STILL missing.


Now reading the first sequel to a book you thought was good or just average is no problem, but what about holding out until the third book in the series? What third book is so good you have to finish two whole books just to get to the best one and it’d still be worth it? Here’s a list of the third books in series that I think justify reading two books just to get to the third installment:

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #3)

When I started reading the Dresden Files I thought it was good, but I didn’t understand why I should keep reading the whole series with its fifteen books until I read Grave Peril. In this book the sides are set, the stakes have risen, and the characters are finally at the point where you care about how things turn out for them.

A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

Storm of Swords is still George RR Martin’s best work. Not only does it have the best character arcs and conflicts in the series, every scene the show is known for, besides maybe one, happened in this book. This is the peak of epic fantasy, and no matter how long the other books are, it’s worth it to get to book three.

The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #3)

This one might be controversial given Harry Potter’s popularity with everyone having one book or another being their favorite, but I feel this was the first book that people could point to and say the first book wasn’t just a one-hit wonder and I would say that this one shows that the story doesn’t have to rely on the villain to be great.


Honorable mentions of sequels that are also great and could easily be argued as being better than the original but IMO are still not as good as the original:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive #2)

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer Saga #2)

Blade of Tyshal by Matthew Stover (The Acts of Caine #2)

The Desert Spear by Peter V Brett (The Demon Cycle #2)

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (Malazan #3)

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (The Dark Tower #4)

While I’m speaking of series, I have a book in an upcoming fantasy series adapted from a board game franchise. In this case, the fifth book is the best because, of course, I was the one who wrote it. The pre-order for it is up for a limited time so go give it a look for a specialty card and model for the characters:

Super Dungeon Series

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So these might show up in bookstores soon… just saying

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Summoner Promo

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My Rewrite of Another Author’s 1st Chapter

The trees around me sway as their branches catch in the breeze. Four fat rabbits rest in my hunting sack, its bottom soaked with their blood. As scrounging for food went, it was a successful outing. We wouldn’t go hungry tonight.

I hike through the forest, making my way home, my fist clenched tightly around the neck of the sack. It’s not like wildlife is hard to come by in Sunnan, but if I had been only hunting for myself, it wouldn’t have taken up most of my day.

From the reactions I usually receive upon my return, I get the impression Herinda and Grinden don’t appreciate the effort I put into making sure they have food to eat. They are still used to everything being provided for them by our parents, but they aren’t around anymore. Continue reading

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New Announcement

super-dungeon-treffin-art-860x420Here’s the announcement of a project I’ve been working on with several other authors.

https://ninjadivision.com/info/news/article/super-dungeon-novel-series-by-future-house-publishing

 

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Steady…

“General, they’re charging up the hill. Should we shoot?”
“Steady…”
“General, they’re well within firing range.”
“Steady…”
“General, they’re on our toes, sir!”
“Steady!”
“General, we’re being overru—ah!”
“Steady…”
“Necromancer, your army has been slaughtered. Surrender or we will claim your life also.”
“Now.”

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