The Boy Who Lived, the Child Prodigy, and the Dragon Reborn

A couple weeks ago we took a look at my favorite YA books of all time. Today, I’d like to talk about my three favorite series. I feel like that’s an important distinction to make, because while every book in each of these series is a good read, I would rank very few (if any) of them among my favorite books of all time. However, when taken as a whole rather than as individual books, I think that these series can only be described as literary masterpieces.

Each of the synopses of these series will be spoiler-free. Let’s take a look!

Harry Potter

HarryPotterSeries
Image from eBay.

Background

I couldn’t do a blog series about my favorite books without talking about the multibillion dollar sensation that is Harry Potter. Everyone has at least heard of this series, even if they haven’t read it, and none would argue that Harry Potter is not popular. Personally, I was late to the bandwagon, reading the series for my first time in the summer between eleventh and twelfth grade. I just wasn’t interested in something that everyone talked about all the time; I wanted to be my own person. But in eleventh grade, I decided I’d be willing to give it a try. And I mean it when I say this is perhaps the best series I have ever read.

Synopsis

We all know the basic premise of this beloved series. Harry lives a miserable life in the custody of his aunt and uncle until Hagrid, a giant of a man, shows up to Harry’s eleventh birthday and declares, “You’re a Wizard, Harry!” Harry is then whisked into a magical world of wizards and witches and elves and goblins, where he meets his best friends Ron and Hermione as they learn more about their world at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Meanwhile, the villainous Voldemort – greatly weakened from the powerful dark wizard that he used to be – searches for ways to regain his former power.

Over the course of the series, Harry goes through many adventures both fantastic and mundane. On one hand he struggles with all of the everyday challenges of being a teenage boy, and on the other hand he wrestles with far more fantastic problems, namely how to stop Voldemort from destroying Harry’s world as he knows it.

Why it’s a Favorite

It took me a long time to finally sit down and read Harry Potter, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. I now understand why it’s discussed at such exhaustive lengths among my peers. All of the books are well written to begin with, but none of them are outstanding enough on their own (in my opinion) to be my favorites as individual books. However, the world that J. K. Rowling creates and the story she tells over the course of the entire seven books is a masterpiece. From the carefully slow, subtle, and entirely believable character development to the fascinating world and gripping plot, the series as a whole tells one of the best fictional stories of all time.

Final Thoughts

To any of you who haven’t read Harry Potter for whatever reason, I can attest that finally caving in and reading this series was one of the best decisions I have ever made concerning books. From the first moment, the books are gripping, engaging, and easy to read. You feel as if you’re there in the hall along with the students. You come to feel as if you know the characters personally. The writing is absolutely incredible. I cannot recommend this series highly enough, and I encourage everyone to read (or reread) the story of the Boy Who Lived.

Artemis Fowl

ArtemisFowlSeries
Image from Amazon.

Background

This eight-book YA series by Eoin Colfer stars Artemis Fowl, twelve-year-old crime lord with a fascination for the paranormal and magical. A brilliantly unique concept, Colfer blends the genres of police/crime, fantasy, sci-fi, and middle and high school in astounding ways. If you enjoy any of those genres, then you will definitely find enjoyment in this series.

Synopsis

Artemis has long believed that humans have coexisted with fairies for ages, but fairies have managed to evade detection. Artemis finally finds out what happened to the fairies: they moved into subterranean cities to avoid having to interact with their human counterparts. Artemis and his bodyguard – simply named Butler – kidnap a fairy named Holly, member of the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance division (or LEP-Recon for short) in an attempt to ransom her for immense profit.

The first book resolves this conflict, but leaves plenty of strings untied to come back to for future plot hooks. The following seven books take Artemis, Butler, Holly, and a plethora of other memorable characters on fantastic adventures as they square off against each other and team up to stop even greater villains.

Why it’s a Favorite

There are many reasons that I would count this series as a favorite. All the characters in this series – from Foaly the tech geek centaur to Mulch the kleptomaniac dwarf to Opal Koboi the evil genius fairy – are all beautifully unique and shine as dynamic and creative characters. Each character interaction is enjoyable to read and creates a memorable and exciting reading experience.

The most prominent reason that the Artemis Fowl series really shines is the character development. Over the course of eight books, Artemis and the other characters in the series all undergo tremendous changes as individuals, and the journey is absolutely thrilling. The long-term changes in personality are very believable and inspiring to follow, and it is in this character development that I rest my claim when I say that this series is one of the best that I have read.

Final Thoughts

Each individual book is an enjoyable read on its own, and so I would certainly recommend at least reading the first book. After I read the first one, it was quite a long time before I actually picked up the second and read through the rest of the series. Each book has a very unique plot that tells an overarching story, and not a single book feels forced or repetitive. Each book in this series is a very fun read, but as an entire series the ongoing story is an absolute masterpiece.

The Wheel of Time

WheelofTimeBooks
Image from wheeloftime.tv

Background

Disclaimer: I have only read four of the fifteen books in the Wheel of Time epic fantasy series, having just finished the fourth earlier this week. After finishing the third book in my senior year of high school, I was a little disappointed and leery of pressing forward. The third book felt too predictable; while well-written, the plot was a carbon copy of the second book, but on a slightly larger scale, and I hesitated to hazard the fourth book for fear that it would repeat the same exact story again. But I decided to give it a go and I bought the fourth book anyway. It put my qualms to rest, taking the story in a fresh new direction.

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, and Age yet to come, and Age long past, a wind rose on the great plain called the Caralain Grass. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.” (The Shadow Rising, p. 15)

Each book (at least of the ones I’ve read so far) has started with this opening paragraph. It shows the reader the world on a grand scale, then slowly zooms in from the world to nations to cities to an individual room where the first scene finally begins. This refrain at the beginning of each book works very well as a hook, drawing the reader in and assuring them “Yes, this is the Wheel of Time. Buckle up.”

Synopsis

Alright, I realize I’ve rambled and yet said nothing about the plot so far. And as you know, I’m less than a third of the way through the entire series, so I can’t speak with authority on what the outcome will be. (and I ask that if you comment, please don’t spoil it for me. Thanks.) I will give a brief spoiler-free synopsis of the first book, and then the basic framework for what the entire series seems to be doing.

The first book in this series, The Eye of the World, introduces three boys from the small town of Emond’s Field: Rand Al’Thor and Matrim Cauthon, two farmers; and Perrin Aybara, a blacksmith’s apprentice. They have lived a relatively quiet and unassuming life, but this all changes when Moiraine – an Aes Sedai, a powerful mage from the White Tower of Tar Valon – shows up looking for what she calls Ta’veren: individuals that are capable of causing great change in the world around them. When Trollocs – monstrous creatures that are an unsettling blend of man and beast – attack Rand’s farm, Moiraine and her Warder or bodyguard, Lan, lead Rand, Mat, and Perrin away from Emond’s Field and on an adventure that spans multiple kingdoms over the course of several months. Egwene Al’Vere and Nynaeve Al’Meara, young women from Emond’s Field, join them and round out the party.

Over the course of the book, Moiraine gradually reveals to the three young men why she took interest in them: Ba’alzamon, or Shai’tan by his true name, the Dark One, Father of Lies, is slowly but steadily breaking free of his prison in Shayol Ghul. And Moiraine wants Rand, Mat, and Perrin to face him. Of course, they think the notion is ridiculous; they’re just three simple villagers, not saviors of the world! But Moiraine believes otherwise, and over the course of the book, vague prophecies about the three boys begin to take shape.

From the four books I have read, I extrapolate that the rest of the series tells a story of epic proportions as Rand, Mat, Perrin, and a vast host of colorful and memorable characters fight among themselves and try to unite and stand against the ever-present threat of the Dark One’s return.

Why it’s a Favorite

The second book, The Great Hunt, actually does stand on its own as one of my favorite books of all time, but today I’ll just talk about why I like the series as a whole. For starters, each and every one of the characters has an enormous amount of thought and care poured into them. Robert Jordan carefully crafted each character and allowed them to take shape in immensely real ways; each character has been written with vast insight into how humans act and interact with one another. The world is equally deep and wide, with wonderful lore behind the world and astoundingly comprehensive attention to detail. Each kingdom has a decidedly unique flavor, making the reading experience memorable and entertaining. Finally, the style of writing is absolutely breathtaking. Jordan writes as if he is an epic poet; the novels, though written as prose, suffuse the senses as thoroughly as any masterful poem.

Final Thoughts

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is a story of magnanimous proportions. It draws the reader in to the point that I actually started using colloquialisms from the novels, not realizing that these phrases aren’t normally used in day to day conversation. The series is engaging, incredibly well written, and has one of the most immersive worlds and memorable characters of any series I have ever read.

Well, there are three of my favorite series! Have you read any of these titles or authors? What are your opinions on them? What are your favorite book series? Comment below and let me know!

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