I like it when stories end. I like British television, where six episodes can be a season. I like self-contained graphic novels. I like standalone fantasy. I like being able to look at something as a whole: beginning, middle, and end. I absolutely loved Finnikin of the Rock (a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten title). It had so many things I like in it: powerful magic with few enough rules to be open to interpretation, a hero to fall in love with, a well-traveled world that leaps off the page, vivid intensity between romantic leads, and it all took place in just one book. And then I found out it was going to have sequels and I felt a lot of things, the first of which was disappointed. Can’t anything be just one book anymore? (Yes, sometimes.) Why does everything have to turn into a series? (Probably for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is marketing, but ultimately I decided more might not be a bad thing.) Here’s what happened:
I was reading email from the yalsa_bk mailing list one day and somebody asked about Finnikin of the Rock, wondering now that it was going to have a sequel, what readers thought of the first one. A few emails trickled by, singing its praises, and I wrote in reply that I was sad about it having a sequel because I loved the completeness of the book. The next day I got an email from Jenny Choy at Candlewick saying she understood my reservations and would be sending an ARC my way in the hopes that it would put me at ease.
Froi of the Exiles showed up in my mailbox and I read it. And I pretty much loved it.
In Finnikin, Froi was a great point-of-view character for watching the protagonist, a thief who had grown up on the street, slowly being redeemed by the love other characters show him and the love he begins to feel for them. Now three years have passed and he has grown up some more. Perhaps he is ready to discover that he is more than just the promises he’s made. The conflict between Lumatere and Charyn is far from over and Froi is about to get right in the middle of things. Like its predecessor, Froi of the Exiles does not pull any punches in terms of content or complexity. I will warn you now that there is a third book planned. But by the end of Froi, I was getting excited about that prospect. Find Froi of the Exiles on a bookshelf near you on March 13.
I found myself thinking about all the times when great series bring depth, character growth, and world building to the fantasy genre. I do love it when books end, and I will always applaud standalone fantasy titles for doing so, but great stories with great endings can span multiple books. The trilogy is a time-honored tradition (think Lord of the Rings or His Dark Materials) and sometimes a series of books can go on longer that that and still captivate (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson). Here are some recommendations for great fantasy titles in one book or many:
Standalone Fantasy Books
- The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier (her Floating Island is a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee)
- The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee for 2012)
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (a 2006 Alex Award winner)
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman (2000 Alex Award winner)
- Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee, with potential for sequels)
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (2008 Best Book for Young Adults)
A Few Series Where More is Better
- Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series will have six books. (The first three made YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten in 2008, 2009 and 2010.)
- Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura series will have four books. (Rot & Ruin and Dust & Decay are both nominees for this year’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.)
- Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series* is four books. (The King of Attolia was on the Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten in 2007.)
Do you have a favorite series or standalone fantasy book? Share it in the comments!
— Erin Daly currently reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
* You might enjoy this series as a read-alike for Finnikin and Froi