After falling hard for a book series, it’s hard to find other books that measure up, to find a series that makes you feel like you’re in that universe and enlivens you in the same way. At 28, I am constantly measuring series’ against Harry Potter, and I doubt I will find a book series that will surpass my love with the Harry Potter universe.
However, I still get pleasure out of old and new series and the series in the list certainly resemble the feelings I had about Harry Potter. Hopefully this will help fill the void for you and enlist you in new fandoms, too.
My Top Five Series Picks
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This series is an epic trilogy involving parallel universes, two coming of age children, and magic. The series poses questions of theology, philosophy, and string theory.
“Northern Lights” (titled “The Golden Compass” in North America) is the first in the trilogy and shows the first universe in the multiverse the books spans. It showcases a young girl, Lyra Belacqua, and her daemon, which is an animal embodiment of her inner soul. Lyra accidentally learns about Dust, which the church believes is related to original sin, and this knowledge propels her journey into other worlds.
Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield
This trilogy is set as an alternate version of World War 1, with many steampunk elements throughout the books. The German powers are the Clankers, which use mechanized war machinery and are opposed by British powers which are Darwinists. The Darwinists use living creatures that have been genetically modified, with the most famous of the Darwin creatures being the Leviathan. The Leviathan is a large, modified airwhale and is a living ecosystem for many of the Darwin creatures aboard it.
One of the main characters, Deryn Sharp, is a girl whose father died in an air ballooning accident. Her relatives want her to grow up a proper lady but instead she decides to conceal her gender and portray a boy to become an airman. Aleksander Ferdinand is the son of Archiduke Ferdinand and is on the run throughout much of the trilogy so he won’t be killed since he is in line for the throne of Hapsburg.
Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Over 190 novels have used the Dragonlance setting, and if you’ve played Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve heard of them –they were created to accompany D&D campaigns in the 1980s.
The universe is similar to Lord of the Rings but it’s a less tedious read. The Chronicles Trilogy is composed of “Dragons of Autumn Twilight,” “Dragons of Winter Night,” and “Dragons of Spring Dawning.” It focuses on a group who had separated five years previous but had pledged to return in five years. The group, mostly unwillingly at first, is propelled into becoming heroes again to save Krynn (the world the story is based in).
The plethora of characters make the books especially great for HP lovers, who also came to love a barrage of various characters. You have massively faithful and honorable characters like Sturm and Goldmoon; simple but kind characters like Caramon Majere and Fizban; an honorable character dealing with massive internal struggles Tanis Half-Elven; a happy-go-lucky kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot; and (my favorite) a chaotic neutral mage that suffers for his magic: Raistlin Majere.
Even the secondary characters have good characterization and motivation, Raistlin and Caramon’s sister, Kitiara follows her own path despite her brothers opposing her. Depending on what type of character you like, you can probably find a Dragonlance novel or two centered on that character.
Divergent series by Veronica Roth
Definitely more modern feeling than the other series mentioned, the Divergent series is the only one in the list that is a post-apocalyptic book.
“Divergent“ is set in Chicago and, in order to cope with the downfall of society, they (the ominous they) create factions to streamline how their civilization works. They undergo a test to see which of the five factions they’d do best in and they can choose to stay with their family, go to the faction the test said they’d be best in, or step outside that and go to any of the factions.
Tris is the main character and discovers she’s divergent, which means she’d do well in a number of the factions; this is looked down on by the leaders of the society because it shows more freewill than those who only test well in one faction.
The trilogy follows her coping with being divergent and living in the society built on controlling their members. The Divergent trilogy is the first novels Veronica Roth has written and though the series could use some polishing, it is still a good read posing interesting philosophical questions.
(Note: I know people get crazy over book versus movie but the movie did a great job of showing the action that’s vaguely described in the book.)
Land of Oz series by L. Frank Baum
Most people have heard of the Wizard of Oz, but many don’t know there are an astounding numbers of books set in the Land of Oz.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” begins with Dorothy Gale being swept away to the Land of Oz. Baum himself wrote 13 more Oz books and many have added stories on to the original set. The stories of course include the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Woodsman, but also has fairies, gnomes, gargoyles, a glass cat, unicorns, a squirrel king, giant purple spiders, and dragons!
- Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – A series about a boy who finds out he is half-god (demi-god) and has powers like that of Greek god Poseidon. Percy is hurled into the world of the gods and other kids who happen to be half-god too. Plenty of Greek myth goodness.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket— A series centered on eerie misfortunate. Misery often follows three orphans but the story is punctuated by wit, hilarity, and vocabulary lessons. Great for children and adults alike.
- Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien— The series that started the modern blueprint of elves and halflings and weaves a story so fantastical every library should house at least one copy of the trilogy.
- Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice— A series for lovers of the night, Anne Rice writes very descriptively and intertwines tales of history so rich in gothic passion that any vampire lover should invest some time in the series. My favorites are “The Vampire Armand” and “Blood & Gold.”
Photo credit Thalita Carvalho.