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September 14, 2016

Autumn Reading: Three Addictive Series #fallreading #bookseries

By Alison DeLuca

autumn leaves

I love to read, but I hate coming to the end of a great book. Enter the book series, a concept that, when well done, is a reader’s addictive delight.

A great series offers a buffet of interconnected novels. Along the way, a good author will present vivid action and multi-faceted characters. 

If the writer is seriously on top of her game, each book in the series is a complete and satisfying story. At the same time, the series develops an overall adventure that concludes in the final book.

The Infernal Devices Series - Steampunk and Romance
Victorian drawing room
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Last fall I got sucked into the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. If you liked The Mortal Instruments books, the Infernal Devices offer more of the same.

When I first saw the titles: The Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince and The Clockwork Princess, I knew I had to read the books. I’m a steampunk fan, and Clare’s stories offer fantastical Victoriana with great gadgets and gorgeous guys.

In The Clockwork Angel, Tessa Gray arrives from New York to meet her brother in London. Instead, she’s kidnapped by the Dark Sisters into a strange society, where Tessa learns she holds some very strange powers of her own.

covers of The Infernal Devices books

Tessa escapes with the help of Will and joins the Pandemonium Club. This is a group of Shadowhunters, a familiar name to anyone who read Clare’s other books. With Will and his friend Jem, Tessa confronts the terrifying clockwork creatures known as The Infernal Devices.

I loved Charlotte, the beautiful lady’s maid with a hideous scar on one cheek. I also loved Jem, who is addicted to a drug since he was a child and now depends on it to stay alive. The relationships between Jem, Tessa, and Will – as well as Charlotte – will be familiar to readers of The Mortal Instruments series.

The first book concludes with several questions answered and a few left open for the next in the series, The Clockwork Prince. This might be my favorite of the series, as Jem (my favorite) starts to win Tessa’s love. Will, at the same time, can’t tell Tessa about his feelings due to (SPOILER ALERT!) Will’s childhood arrogance, resulting in an encounter with a demon.

The final book, The Clockwork Princess, is exciting and satisfying – although the language becomes a bit high-blown as the characters become impossibly noble. One thing I love about Clare’s books is the usual snarky tone of the hero, and Will is no different. He’s a lot like Jace, as several reviewers have pointed out.

That sarcasm gets lost in the twisting plot. In fact, The Clockwork Princess starts with a father who turns into a huge, murderous worm.

I’m not kidding.

Still, you’d hardly be reading this series if you’re someone who insists on realism. Besides, the London setting, followed by some intense scenes in Wales, is perfect for longer nights and cooling weather.

Each writer, like each season, has her strengths. Cassandra Clare is fantastic at breathless teen romance, adolescent snark, and a hidden layer of society that exists underneath the real world order.

I held off reading The Infernal Devices for a while, but once I finally settled down to the trilogy, it swept me away. It’s the perfect companion for black cats, hot chocolate, and October nights.

The 5th Wave - Aliens and Angst
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I'm all about alien invasions in my books, and I love angst almost as much as I love fall and hot chocolate.

But first, an observation: the movie for City of Bones wasn't very … good. 

I wanted to like it. Lily Collins is gorgeous, and Jamie Campbell Bower has the right type of in-your-face good looks for Jace’s sarcasm.

Somewhere, something went seriously awry in bringing the book to the silver screen. FAIL!

Apparently the same thing happened with The 5th Wave. The preview looked amazing, but it has a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Too bad, because the book is incredibly exciting. Rick Yancey’s writing is stark and lovely: 
“Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky.”

Cassie Sullivan is alone, a final survivor of four waves of alien attack that have included power shut-downs and plague. Her parents are dead, killed by a military commander who also took Cassie’s brother Sam.

It’s her mission to get him back.

The book also centers on Ben Parish, who was Cassie’s crush in school. He survives the plague and is conscripted by the same agency that took Sam. They are forced to fight aliens, or what Vosch says are aliens.

Vosch – Commander Vosch. See where this is going?

The loosely connected stories of Ben and Cassie develop separately, with a third and more mysterious figure called Evan, who saves Cassie.

As in The Infernal Devices, there is lots of sweaty, terrified action. The characters are stark in their survival against all odds – and there are three of these books!

If steampunk doesn’t do it for you but you still want some romance with your action, The 5th Wave series is a great choice for your fall nights. Don’t start reading too close to bed, though – you won’t want to stop.  Take it from me, it’s hard to get up the next morning when you stay up until midnight to read “just one more chapter” about Cassie, Ben, and Evan.

Otherland - Internets and Imagination
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If you need even more books to get you through to winter, you can’t do better than the Otherland series by Tad Williams, because – Tad Williams.

The master of hard-core sci fi with a heart, Williams delivers brilliant characters and scene after imaginative scene that made me wonder, “What planet was this guy born on?”

His characters, however, let you know Tad is an Earthling, and a very talented one. City of Golden Shadow, the first of the Otherland books, starts with Paul Jonas. He’s a soldier in WWI who falls into an alternate reality along with a beautiful bird-woman.

Oh, we’re just getting started.

The story shifts to the 21st century and a society ruled by Virtual Reality. Around the globe, children are falling into comas during virtual gaming, a disease called Tandagore Syndrome.

Renie Sulaweyo, a Virtual Engineering instructor in Durban, is devastated when her brother succumbs to Tandagore Syndrome. Along with her student, !Xabbu, she digs into the sinister and strange happenings within the Net.

Much of the action happens in virtual reality, which leads to some amazing adventures in lands loosely based on children’s books. You’ll recognize The Wizard of Oz, the Trojan War, and a terrifying version of Peter Pan.

Williams’ imagination took my breath away in this series. The story is boldly original, the characters compelling, the scenes vivid. However, each page delivers a new facet of Williams’ talent. The chapters start with news items, showcasing how crazy real-world society has become. Each of those snippets could become a novel.

Not only that, minor characters spring to life. They aren’t just cardboard props to poke the action along. One of my favorites was a little girl made out of clay, who travels with Renie in the final book, Sea of Silver Light.

Did I mention each installment in the series is hundreds of pages long?

With Otherland, you’ll have plenty of reading for those evenings when it’s raining, windy, and you just don’t want to go out. Light a fire, make some tea, and dive into Williams’ magical, frightening world.

Have a wonderful autumn. And if you have a moment, tell me what great series you have discovered.

at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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