Guest Post: Memory Scarlett on Re-reading Beloved Series

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Memory Scarlett of the excellent bookish Stella Matutina to the blog, on a subject that’s been on my mind quite a lot lately: finding the time to re-read your favourite book series. Memory shares some of her favourite series, some of which I’ve read and some I should obviously add to my endless TBR mountain. 

I firmly believe that rereading a beloved series is one of life’s great joys. I read, and reread, primarily for character, so nothing makes me happier than the opportunity to spend thousands of pages with my favourite fictional people.

Trouble is, rereading series takes time away from other books, especially if one prefers to binge. Between my on-hand TBR and all the exciting new books I hear about every day, it’s been a while since I’ve returned to some of my favourite series.

Here, then are my Top 5 Fantasy Series I Want To Reread As Soon As I Can Insert Them Into My Reading Schedule:

cover art for Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey, featuring a short-haired white girl astride a white horse Cover art for Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, featuring a long-haired white boy in a tattered cloak clinging to a white horse

5. Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series

It’s been almost seven years since I revisited these traditional fantasies, which played a huge role in my young adulthood. ARROWS OF THE QUEEN, ARROW’S FLIGHT and ARROW’S FALL were among the first adult-marketed fantasies I read, and the very first novels of any genre in which I encountered queer characters. They’ve remained in my heart all these years for their emotional intensity, relatable characters, and wide-reaching story.

Alas, the series now contains thirty books and counting, so I doubt I’ll manage to squeeze a reread in any time soon. My last one took more than a month, even though most of the books only took me a day or so to finish. (They’re hella addictive.) I’m tempted to read just a trilogy or two to tide me over, but I have a feeling that would quickly escalate into a full-on Valdemar binge, leaving everything on la TBR sadly unread.

Someday. Someday.

cover art for Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, featuring a topless white woman in profile with her arms crossed over her breasts against a blue and purple background cover art for Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey, featuring a dark-haired woman in almost profile against a red and orange backdrop

4. Jacqueline Carey’s two Kushiel trilogies

I’ll admit it: I don’t love KUSHIEL’S DART as much as everyone else does. That’s a minor blip, though, because I absolutely adore the rest of the series. These alternate histories are lush and evocative, packed with vivid characters, delicious worldbuilding, and drool-worthy prose. The tears I shed over Phèdre’s love life! The anguish I felt for Imriel as he struggled to be good! Add in some elegant religious fervor, a gorgeously realized alternate world, and a few spies, and you’ve made me a happy reader indeed.

I finished the series in mid-2009 and haven’t yet reread it, despite encouragement from some friends who recently discovered Carey and can’t stop raving about her. Something tells me I’ll like KUSHIEL’S DART a great deal more the second time through, now I know I can fully invest myself in certain subplots.

Cover art for Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb, featuring a figure in a hooded white robe standing beside a young white boy holding a dog, with a blue-tinted tower in the background cover art for Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb, featuring two figures, one of whom is albino, riding a white horse and a black horse down a hill

3. Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series

Fitz and the Fool have my favourite friendship in all of fiction. (Hey, a fantastical tongue twister!) Hobb does many things really, really well in her series of intertwined epic fantasy trilogies, but it’s the connection between these two characters that ensures the books are never far from my thoughts. Hobb writes the sorts of relationships that live and breathe. It’s always possible to relate to her characters, even when they’re royally fucking up. Perhaps especially when they’re royally fucking up.

I’ve held off on rereading the three trilogies (and catching up on the new books that have been released over the last couple of years) because they’re hefty tomes, but I’m not sure I can hold out much longer. I must see Fitz and the Fool again.

Cover art for A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham, featuring a huge statue of a person overlooking a massive city rendered in shades of green Cover art for A Betrayal In Winter by Daniel Abraham, featuring a grey and blue toned city of tall towers, with a low bridge in the foreground

2. Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet

It kills me–kills me–that so few people know about these Asian-inspired epic fantasies. Fully three quarters of the time, the folks I recommend them to haven’t even heard of Daniel Abraham, let alone this particular series.

This must change. It will change.

I love these books in large part because they get better and better with each installment. Abraham ups his game at every turn, forcing both his characters and the reader to question their assumptions as attitudes shift and small details pay off. One could argue that there are no heroes or villains here–just people, doing what they think they’ve gotta do to get by. It’s powerful stuff.

I have a feeling my love for the books will grow richer and more complex with each reread, as I catch on to more of the subtle foreshadowing and the philosophical awesomeness.

Cover art for Melusine by Sarah Monette, featuring a red-haired white man with colourful sleeve tattoos twisted away from the viewer Cover art for The Virtu by Sarah Monette, featuring a red-haired white man crouched on a stone ledge

1. Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths

Okay, this one’s a cheat. These are my favourite books in all the world. I reread them every April, no matter how busy I am–except I skipped last year, because I was in one of those moods where I disliked pretty well everything, and I couldn’t have stood it if I’d failed to enjoy this dark fantasy quartet every bit as much as normal. I planned to leave it a month or two at most, but my mood persisted. Now I figure I’d best wait until next April.

But anyways

I love these books so much, and reread them so often, because I adore the characters. I consider them among the best in fantasy. I always bawl my eyes out for them (which has been problematic in the past, as I often read in public places), and miss them horribly when I’ve closed the final book. Their story is also jam packed with many of my favourite things, including (but not limited to): familial issues; random half-siblings; heartache; woe; heart attack-inducing tension; delicious worldbuilding; a keen awareness and subversion of standard fantasy tropes; magic; redheaded people; How Stuff Works; thievery; and a mammoth.

I’m wicked eager to revisit them in 2013.

This list is, of course, far from exhaustive. I could probably exchange any of the following series for numbers 4 and 5, depending on my readerly mood:

  • Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court series. Historical fantasy centered on the faerie court beneath London.
  • Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series. Dark, character-centric fantasy.
  • Elizabeth Bear’s Wampyre books. Alternate history with a vampire detective and a forensic sorceress.
  • R.A.Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden novels. Fantasy adventure, and my guilty pleasure.
  • Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Historical and contemporary fantasy/horror which were my favourites before Monette.
  • Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. Children’s fantasies which were my favourites before Rice.

Then there are the series I need to finish, like Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy and Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora books; the ones where I’m anxiously awaiting more volumes before I dive back in, like Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards Sequence and Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles; the ones I’m not entirely comfortable dubbing “series,” like Guy Gavriel Kay’s phenomenal Sarantine Mosaic; and the ones I’d include in a heartbeat if I hadn’t just reread them, like Ellen Kushner’s (and Delia Sherman’s) Riverside books and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

I could spend a solid year rereading, and I doubt I’d get through everything I want to return to. Sigh.


3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Memory Scarlett on Re-reading Beloved Series

  1. I love re-reading series too. The opportunity to revisit a familiar setting and story line, favourite characters and situations is always at odds with a new book in my own little world.

  2. I’ve been wanting to reread Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. But there are so many new books and classics I haven’t read, so rereading just feels unfair. Maybe I’ll make some time.

  3. I love Robin Hobb! Her novels are amazing, and I love Fitz and the Fool too! Though I’ve yet to read the latest trilogy, but excited to do so! 🙂

    Bu oh my god, so many series I would love to reread but can’t. Especially the Belgariad, Mallorean, Elenium and Tamuli series by David Eddings!

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