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Some of My Favorite Fiction Series

When I created bookreviewpro.com, I immediately identified categories of books I wanted to highlight and, in many cases, share favorite quotes from them. I knew I would have a category for my all-time favorites.

I’ve always read—partly for the enjoyment of a good story—also because I’m a student of life with lots of questions. I find numerous answers in many of the books I read, which I track. I underline and sometimes even type my underlined parts into a separate document.

I read mysteries, fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and quite a few young adult books. In addition, I read business books, self-help books, books about science, writing, and research books about educational issues, and most recently about the second half of life.

So how do books get on my all-time favorite list of the literally hundreds of books I’ve read over the years? There are several criteria for fiction book series where the characters find themselves in surprising and challenging experiences with each book:

A Stunningly Beautiful World

I love books that create such a beautiful world that it’s heart breaking to leave it. This is what Juliet Marillier does in her fantasy series time and time again. These books are elegantly written based on fairy tales. The Sevenwaters series is based on the Seven Swans story. The first book is Daughter of the Forest. She fills out the characters, the setting, the sorrow, and the tenacity of those who overcome devastating challenges out of love for family and friends.

Her mother dies at her birth, and Sorcha is the seventh child born after six brothers. Her brothers grow up running wild in the forest around the keep of Sevenwaters.

“Maybe I wasn’t the seventh son of the old tales, the one who’d have magical powers and the luck of the Fair Folk, but I tagged along with the boys anyway, and they loved me and raised me as well as a bunch of boys could. Our home was named for the seven streams that flowed down the hillsides into the great, tree-circled lake.

“The boys grew up quickly. By the time Liam was twelve, he was undergoing an intensive training in the arts of war. Not long after Diarmid’s particular skill with the spear earned him a place, and all too soon both were riding out with Father’s band of warriors.

“Cormack could scarcely wait for the day when he would be old enough to go to war. Padriac had a talent with animals and a gift for fixing things.

“The rest of us were different. Conor was Cormack’s twin and loved learning, struck a bargain with Father Brien, and was taught to read. Eventually he found his place keeping the records and accounts and maps for our father.

“Finbar would find his own path; he could handle a horse and learn sword and bow to defend himself or me, or aid my brothers in time of peril. But he would have nothing to do with Father’s campaigning. Finbar could see ahead, and offer warnings.

Sorcha would continue to teach herself the healer’s art, because her heart told her that this would be her true work. All is well until their father remarries.

An Invented World at Its Best

Another cleverly-written series is the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. The first book in this series is Moon Called. Patricia has created an urban-fantasy world about a Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Mercy’s Native American heritage has gifted her with the ability to shape-shift into an unremarkable coyote.

When her mother didn’t know what to do with her, she sent Mercy to be raised by the Marrock—head of the North American werewolves. She always finds herself in the middle of a variety of complicated and dangerous circumstances in a world of far more powerful supernatural beings—werewolves, vampires, fae, and witches.

“Grunting with effort, I held the transmission where it belonged with my knees and one hand. With the other I slipped the first bolt in and tightened it. I wasn’t finished but the transmission would stay in place where it was while I dealt with my customer.

“He looked gaunt, as though he’d been a while without food. My nose told me, even over the smell of gasoline, oil, and antifreeze permeating the garage, that it had been an equally long time since he’d seen a shower. And, under the dirt, sweat and old fear, was the distinctive scent of werewolf [who said to call him Mac].

“Adam Hauptman, who shared my back-fence line, was the Alpha of the local Tri-Cities werewolf pack. Werewolves don’t take to strangers very well. There are all sorts of protocols they insist upon when a new wolf comes into someone else’s territory, and something tells me that Mac hasn’t petitioned the pack.”

A Surprising Twist

I especially enjoy books that are cleverly written with a surprising twist.

The Cadfael mystery series is written by Ellis Peters. Cadfael is an herbalist at the Shrewsbury Monastery in 12th century England. The first book in the series is titled, A Morbid Taste for Bones. This is a delightful story of a soldier in the crusades who becomes a monk later in life. He sometimes is at odds with the strictness of the order as mandated by the head abbot.

Because of his experiences with wounds and poisons, he finds himself right in the middle of the latest murder. This gives him some relief from the strict schedule of the monastery. The story usually includes a romance, and there’s a surprising back story that runs as a thread through the series.

I enjoyed this series so much that during one visit to England, a friend and I went to Shrewsbury “on pilgrimage” to see the village and monastery where the story was placed.

“In the enclosed garden within the walls of the Shrewsbury Abby, Brother Cadfael ruled unchallenged. The herbarium in particular was his kingdom for he had built it up, gradually through the fifteen years of labour, and added to it many exotic plants of his own careful raising, collected in a youth that had taken him as far afield as Venice, and Cyprus and the Holy Land, and ten years as a sea captain. For Brother Cafael had come late to the monastic life.

“On this particular May morning Brother Cadfael rolled to his own chosen corner, well to the rear and poorly lit, half-concealed behind one of the stone pillars. It was his habit to employ the time to good account of sleeping, which from long usage he could do bolt upright and undetected in his shadowy corner.

“After the reading, he knew that most of the remaining time would be given to Prior Robert’s campaign to secure the relics and patronage of a powerful saint for the monastery. Three other priories nearby had rediscovered or recovered relics and the great Benedictine house of Shrewsbury was as empty as a plundered alms box.

Prior Robert had been scouring the borderlands for a spare saint now for a year or more, looking hopefully towards Wales, where it was well known that holy men and women had been as common as mushrooms in autumn in the past. Brother Cadfael had no wish to hear the latest of his complaints and urgings. He slept.”

These kinds of books—a beautiful world created, an invented world at its best, and books with a surprising twist, provide the learning and entertainment I enjoy most.

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