5 Summer Fantasy Series

OK, look. There are lots of places you can go online to find life-changing reading material. Today, this is not that place.

In fact, I had to laugh when, as I was drafting this post, one of my favorite bloggers posted her Heavy Summer Reading List. So, you know, if you were hoping to read a voluminous Bible commentary or brush up on the heritage of world civilization whilst lounging about the pool this summer, please head on over to Rachel Held Evans’ blog; frankly, if you look further here it will just embarrass us both.

I joined a book club over a year ago. It’s full of smart, well-read women. Like, three university English professors and a Stanford grad and a CPA and a woman who’s about to take her family on a yearlong sailing trip. These are people who know what to do with a semi-colon and who care about the proper use of who and whom. They’re people who don’t start sentences with “like.” People who didn’t feel even a little bit stabby while reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men in high school advanced placement English class. People who didn’t, hypothetically speaking, read aloud the word rendezvous in said English class and pronounce it renDEZvuhs while the whole class giggled under their collective breath.

This book club has significantly raised my reading level, is what I’m saying. In a good way. But they haven’t stopped me from using fragmented sentences like a pro or from reading books that have no educational or spiritual value, so there’s only so much good they can do. At the end of the day, after I’ve read The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, I get lost in fantasy fiction. It’s my go-to genre for total escapist entertainment.

Just in case you’re looking for some fun, noneducational summer reading material – great stories by talented storytellers – I’ve put together this list, my Top 5 Summer Fantasy Series.

All of these books:

  1. are well-written. There’s nothing worse than reading a series and wanting to take a red pen to it.
  2. have unique, detailed, well-crafted worlds that capture the imagination.
  3. are plot- and character-driven stories that make me want to read far, far later in the night than is reasonable for a mama of five.
  4. champion strong women and strong men working together. I cannot stand – cannot stand – books that make men the heroes at the expense of women or vice versa.

5 Summer Fantasy Series:

1. The Edge by Ilona Andrews

OnTheEdgeIlona Andrews is the pen name of a husband / wife writing team. I have to admit, I’m at the stage in my Ilona Andrews love affair where I’ll buy anything they write. Anything. They’ve won me over with their totally weird mix of urban fantasy, action, humor and romance. A weird mix that works. Ilona Andrews is the writer I recommend to my friends.

On the Edge is the first book in Andrews’ 4-book Edge series which is now complete. Book Description: The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale. The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny. Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.

2. Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs

MoonCalledI was a little bit slower to pick up this series. The books are good right from the get-go, but the real strength in the series is the way Patricia Briggs continues to build her characters and their world from book to book. You know how some series break down over time? This is not that series.

Moon Called is the first book in the Mercedes Thompson series. Book Description: Mercedes Thompson runs a garage in the Tri-Cities. She’s a mechanic, and a damn good one, who spends her spare time karate training and tinkering with a VW bus that happens to belong to a vampire. Her next-door neighbour is an alpha werewolf – literally, the leader of the pack. And Mercy herself is a shapeshifter, sister to coyotes. As such, she’s tolerated by the wolves but definitely down the pecking order. As long as she keeps her eyes down and remembers her place, the pack will leave her in peace. (But of course we all know she won’t.)

3. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore


Graceling is the first book in the Graceling Realm series. I loved every minute of this book and couldn’t wait to recommend it to my young adult friends who share my love of reading.

Book Description: Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa’s Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power. (from a review by Heidi Broadhead)

4. Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews


I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ll buy anything Ilona Andrews writes. Truth be told, I like the Kate Daniels series even better than their On The Edge series even though (especially because?) it’s edgier than The Edge.

Magic Bites is the first book in Ilona Andrews’ ongoing Kate Daniels series. Vampires aren’t sparkly – or even sentient – in Kate’s alternate Atlanta. Magic fluctuations are reeking havoc on technology, coming in unpredictable waves as the pendulum swings humanity (and others) back to the Middle Ages. Book Description: Kate Daniels a is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way.

5. Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee

Angelfall Angelfall, Book 1 of Penryn & the End of Days is by far the most irritating book on this list. Not because the book is irritating – it’s quite engaging – but because it completely sucked me into its fast-paced world and only one book of the series has been published so far. I just hate coming into a good series on the first book, you know? Because then I have to wait. Argh. But I will definitely buy the second book when it’s released this fall.

Book Description: It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.


Note: Series 1, 2 and 4 above are books written with the adult audience in mind. There is mild sexual content in each of the three. Series 3 and 5 are written for young adults, but there is subtle, mature content in these, as well.


What are you reading this summer? 
What are your all-time favorite series?
What books do you recommend to friends?



ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Ooooh…. Graceling. Yup.

  2. Scott Westerfeld, YA books but so well written
    The Midnighters series
    The Uglies series

  3. The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn. She’s my bestie and just wrote her first novel, and it is SO good!!! You will read it all in one day, you won’t want to put it down. Please read it, then leave her a review on amazon!

  4. I agree with the Robin McKinley suggestion for great young-adult writing (with the exceptions for adult themes mentioned previously). She writes a lot of fairy tale retellings, but my favorite two books of hers are “The Blue Sword” and “The Hero and the Crown” (same world setting). They are phenomenal!

    Another young adult fantasy writer that I enjoy is Tamora Pierce.

    Both of those authors I started reading when I was in elementary school and have yet to stop reading/rereading their stories.

  5. I can second the comment about Robin McKinley. She is entirely awesome, and “Sunshine”, “Deerskin,” and “Beauty” are books that I have read hundreds of times and always get lost in.

    Also, considering your other reads, I think you’ll like Sarah Rees Brennan. Try “The Demon’s Lexicon,” which is the first in a finished trilogy. Also read “Unspoken,” which is the first in a trilogy where the second book comes out in September. Mid to late teen YA; very, very well written, sassy characters and deep intrigue. Lots of humor, but with a tendency to rip your heart out at the same time.

  6. Hi Beth!! (waves madly) I’m so excited to start reading some of these books! I am a big fan of teen and young adult fiction. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading books as a preview for my kids and now they have a (very) long list that they want me to read. 🙂 Harry Potter, always, and I like the Twilight series too. The Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale is awesome, kids saving multiple worlds. I have yet to finish the series, but the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan are very entertaining and my kids love these too. I am in the middle of the Dead Beautiful series by Yvonne Woon (sadly the third book is not out yet). I have yet to read any of the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan (Darren O’Shaughnessy) come highly recommended by my 13 year old son. 🙂

  7. Veronica Roth: Divergent and Insurgent are the first two-thirds of her trilogy. The third, Allegiant, is due out in October.

    I went into these books feeling very stubborn about my dislike for YA fiction, because I am a Rebel and I am Different and Pop Culture is Not the Boss of Me, and I emerged… well, let’s say I read them three months ago and am still thinking about them. Although the titles do make me bite holes in the insides of my cheeks.

    1. And then she saw the earlier post about these books and cringed for being an idiot. Sorry, folks.

  8. I love Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. I also enjoy Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series about 3 sisters who are 1/2 fae/1/2 human. I’ll also read anything by Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey.

  9. I, too, am in a high-class book club, but to balance it out, I am also in a teen fiction book club for adults. Some of my favorites that we’ve read are:
    Chime by Franny Billingsly. (Hard to get into, but don’t give up on it, it gets really good.)
    Fault in our Stars by John Green. (I laughed, I cried, I read it again)
    Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Mentioned above, I see)
    Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (1st book is good, 2nd was AWESOME)

    I liked Graceling, but loved Bitterblue! Read it if you haven’t already!

    P.S. Love your blog. I’ve been hanging out in the shadows since your mashup with crappy pictures. Of course it would be books that would coax me out :). Thanks for all your messages of hope!

  10. I whole-heartedly recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Sooooooo. Good. http://www.jim-butcher.com/books/dresden

  11. I liked a lot the “Night / Day / twilight / next / New watch” Books by Sergei Lukyanenko.
    Basically the story of a parallel society in Moscow where vampires and magicians live among the “normal” people. There are two organizations, the Night watch and Day watch, that are supposed to have an eye on each other. Night watch are the good guys, taking care during the night that the others are not doing too much evil to humanity. Whereas Day watch takes care that not too much Good is done during the day. At least that’s what it seems – throughout the series the concept of what is Good and Bad (and why) is questioned. Oh, and if you saw the movie Night Watch based on the books, forget it, the book has a lot more to offer (although I liked the movie too, in a way)

    Thanks for your list also, I’m just starting to discover the genre, so this is perfect 🙂

  12. Anything my Robin McKinley. My favorite of hers is Sunshine, a vampire novel where the vamps are non-sparkly and properly creepy and the heroine is the baker at her family’s coffee shop/restaurant (as well as having a powerful magical heritage that, of course, turns her life upside down). That one and Deerskin have “adult” content, but all McKinley’s other stuff is “safe” for a somewhat younger audience (I first read her two versions of Beauty and the Beast when I was in 5th grade).
    The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin is one that I read a few months ago, and it blew me away. Excellent world building, fantastic characters, plus very thought-provoking. Again, lots of “adult” content.
    I’ve also been binge-reading anything and everything by Neil Gaiman. His novels take me a while to get invested in but are usually worth it, but I can’t get enough of his short stories and comic books. No, really: the Sandman is beautiful in every way fantasy and literature can be, and since it’s a comic book series, it’s got gorgeous illustrations as well, AND the public library system has all of them. In terms of novels, my favorite so far is probably Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett: it’s about an angel and a demon trying to avert the apocalypse because after thousands of years stationed on earth, they rather like the place and would prefer it’s continued existence to the alternative.
    Fantasy is my genre, so I could go on for ages and had thus better stop there.

    1. I just discovered Neil Gaiman and think I might be starting a binge on his books. I read American Gods last week and just could not stop reading. I will be fair and say that I go through books like water so it doesn’t take me much to not stop reading but I love his style.
      I am halfway through “Good Omens” and it is great so far!

      1. Neil Gaimsn is great: American Gods is awesome, and I love Stardust, too.

  13. Also . . . Chloe Neill, great vampire series starting with Some Girls Bite.

  14. I just read Frost Burned, the latest Mercedes Thompson book by Patricia Briggs.
    I kept it out of the library an extra couple weeks so I could read it twice! Love the whole series.

    Darynda Jones, series starting First Grave on the Right. Another good series.

    Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game – read it before the movie comes out. There are a lot of books in the series but Ender’s Game and then written over 20 years later, Ender’s Shadow are the best.

    Charles de Lint (have to promote a Canadian author). I love his books, an amazing storyteller who weaves reality and fantasy in a enthralling way.

  15. If you want classic, Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy is my all-time favorite. Blew me away as a kid, and I was so in love with Sparrowhawk. Now, anything by Maggie Stiefvater, if you want well-written magic realism (Scorpio Races) or fantasy (Shiver trilogy) or The Raven Boys. Man, I love her! A new dystopian series that’s getting good buzz among us school library personnel is The 5th Wave.

  16. Thanks for the book recommendations! The only ones that I’ve read are the Patricia Briggs books. Have you read the Alpha and Omega series? It’s in the same world setting and time as the Mercy Thompson books, but it focuses on events with Charles Cornick. There are some short stories in that series that you will want to find to maintain continuity.

    I’m bookmarking this post so that I can read the other books, and look at ones in the comments as well. 🙂

    For my recommendation, have you read Jim Butcher’s books? His Harry Dresden series is urban fantasy and his Alera series is high fantasy.

  17. The Descent series by SM Reine…completely became addicted to this author in the last few weeks on my Kindle. First book is free on Kindle from Amazon too…just enough to suck you in! Urban fantasy predominantly, strong angel vs demon (where really both are “bad guys”) theme. My permanent favorite is the Black Jewels trilogy (there are other books related beyond the initial trilogy too) by Anne Bishop. Can read this one over and over and over!

  18. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. If you haven’t read this book, you really really need to. Not only is it possibly my most favourite book ever, but the author is an amazing guy who does a ton of stuff for his charity, Worldbuilders. You will not be able to put it down, I promise.

  19. The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. Young adult series, strong female lead. I love the world that Carson has created.

    1. OH, YES! Loved this series. Can’t wait for the next book.

  20. I don’t usually read fiction. And I never read fantasy. Except for Harry Potter. I only read the first 3 books. Then they got far too scary and dark for me. I have a goal to read a fiction book next.
    However, I’m proud to announce that I am a Twilight fan. Yep, I’ll be 29 this year and I love Twilight.
    I just had my second baby and I’m trying to find time to read. Sleeps wins over reading every time. Miracles happen, my children sleep at the same time and you better believe I do too. I’ll read some day.

    1. I’m in the same boat. It’s been more than 2.5 years (my oldest is 2.5) since I’ve read anything that isn’t baby or parenting related. My reading wish list is so long I won’t know where to start when I finally get there. Although I’ll probably start with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the 4th time. I can’t stop reading that book.

  21. The Discworld books by Terry Pratchett.

    1. My sailing friend mentioned above recommended The Wee Free Men. I finished it just a couple of weeks ago. It was GREAT. Of course, since I come from Scottish ancestry, a fantasy story about terrifying, 6-inch, kilt-wearing fairies whose specialties are drinkin’, cussin’ and fightin’ is pretty much perfect.

    2. The Discworld books are some of my favorites too. BBC did several of the books as miniseries and Netflix has them. If you have Netflix I highly recommend them, they stay pretty true to the books.

  22. Oh I love a book list and these are all new to me, though fantasy fiction isn’t always my go to choice. But my son got me hooked on the FableHaven series by Brandon Mull. I LOVED it!

  23. I love Kate Daniels, and found the edge to be okay. Gunmetal Magic (Andrea’s story) falls in-between for me, but much closer to KD. They also have a completed urban fantasy/ sci-fi free serial on their website Cleansweep that I enjoyed.

    I’ve just gotten hooked on the Iron Druid series and have really enjoyed it. One of my absolute favorite is the Soulless Series by Gail Carriger. She just started a YA series set in the same world.

    For fun, the Nice Girls. . . series by Molly Harper always makes me laugh

    I’ve gotten sucked into the YA Frost series by Jennifer Estep, and read a few of her adult Elemental Assassin series but have dropped off a bit after the first 3 or 4 books.

    Connie Willis is amazing and diverse. For fantasy comedy read To Say Nothing of the Dog for heartbreak in the same world, read Doomsday Book, Blackout, and All Clear (the last 2 go together). I’m sure there’s a few more that I’m not thinking of but this is without digging into my goodreads. Happy Reading!

    1. I’m glad you mentioned Cleansweep! I haven’t read it yet because I don’t do much book reading on my computer or phone, but I hope they compile it and make it available on Kindle. If they don’t, I’ll have to bite the bullet and read on my computer. 🙂

      I also dropped the Elemental Assassin series at a similar place. Was a HUGE fan, but then the latest books weren’t well edited or were rushed into production or something. I was so bummed! I think Jennifer Estep has a great future ahead of her and this was just a hiccup.

      Haven’t read the others… downloading Kindle samples! Thanks.

    2. I second on Molly Harper too. And for more in the same line (paranormal romance-type), check out Katie McAlister. Hilarious…can’t go wrong with a demon who decides to show up as a Newfoundland. Yes, talking dog. Either her dragon or vampire series are great.

    3. I love Connie Willis!!! The first of her books I read was Bellweather, and it had me cracking up the whole time. 🙂 I also like To say nothing of the dog. My husband has just gotten into Brandon Sanderson, so far I’ve only read one of his books, Elantris, and I enjoyed it. It’s one of his earliest books, so the writing was a tad rough in a couple places, but I liked the dynamic of the lead characters. The male and female characters were both strong and interesting. Discworld books are incredibly funny and thought provoking at the same time, and sometimes make me cry in a good way. (Specifically thinking of Vimes of the Watch and his son’s bedtime story in “Thud!”). I like Tamora Pierce’s books. She definitely has an agenda, and sometimes I get irritated with needless references to birth control charms, (especially since they’re actually quite clean books!) but on the whole the stories are interesting and the characters fun. And personally, I love Jane Austen’s books, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It took me a while to learn the language of the times well enough for me to consider them light reading, but they’re so full of wonderful passages that I couldn’t help reading them over and over again, and now I find them very easy to read. Out of Jane Austen’s books I most like Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. Northanger Abbey doesn’t get as much attention as Austen’s other books, but personally, I think it’s the funniest out of them all. Very satisfying to read out loud to friends. If you enjoy Science fiction, I like Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R Dickson. I’m not as fond of the other books in the cycle myself since they tend to delve a little more deeply into that realm of sci-fi that gets unintelligible to us plebes, but Tactics of Mistake is easy enough to follow, and has a good plot that makes you want to finish the book. Another fun sci-fi/fantasy book is The Compleat Enchanter, a collection of three novellas about a psychologist who invents a way to get to parallel universes where magic works, finding love in one, and having to re-find the same love in another.

      1. I love the Tamora Pierce novels (her Alana novels were great for Jr. High me in realizing that it is My choice to work for the life I want, not anyone else’s). And I think it is a reasonable position for an author who’s characters engage in physical relationships to stress that (especially for a teen/ preteen audience who may start to feel pressured into sex) babies deserve a more stable situation than is possible at that point. I love that her novels show that a healthy relationship is more important than status, and that being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t be strong or that you have to be beautiful to have a good life. I definately recommend her Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small series for Jr high /high school readers (of both genders) and as light reading for adults too. Another series I really recommend is The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede. Her main character is a princess who decides to work for a dragon instead of marry an imbicilic prince. Lots of fun with strong women, men, dragons, and cats.

  24. Okay…we’re in the same boat as far as loving to break the “heavy” up with a little fantasy, especially post-apocalyptic. Have you read Divergent by Veronica Roth or Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve [both young adult]? Couldn’t put them down!

    1. I haven’t read Phillip Reeve. Downloading my Kindle sample now.

      I’ve read Divergent and Insurgent and liked them both; I’d definitely recommend them.

      Speaking of Veronica R… have you read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi? Excellent.

  25. Game of Thrones. They are up to the season finale next week on HBO and I am into book 4. 5 books have been written and there are two more on the way. I think one is coming out this fall. I also hate it when I can’t go through the whole series because they haven’t written them all.

    I will also be reading Stephen King’s new crime book, Joyland, and in September, Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining comes out and I will be waiting on Amazon’s list.

    1. Um, there is no release date announced for the Winds of Winter. We’re all just hoping it’s not as long of a wait as there was between books 4 and 5 (SIX YEARS). Basically,

      1. can I “like” this about 17 more times? My husband (of 8 years, who was my VERY new boyfriend at the time) got me started on Game of Thrones when there were only 3, and I waited YEARS for the 4th book. When it [finally!] came out I re-read the whole series and got frustrated again waiting for book 5. Then I gave up waiting for the 5th book and decided I’m not reading anymore until they’re ALL out. I can’t put myself through that kind of obsessive torture knowing full well that it’ll be another decade or 2 before I finally have the resolution I need! PS, I think it was very irresponsible of HBO to start this show and get millions of mainstream people addicted to the story when there’s no end in sight (but I do kindof like that they all understand the agony that we’ve endured for years waiting for more…)

        1. Especially since the Red Wedding was last weeks episode. So many reaction videos of people who had no idea what was coming filmed by people who had already gone through the agony and horror in the book. And then came the too-soon-but-I’m-laughing-really-hard-anyway internet reactions.
          P.S. I’m grateful to the show because it’s why I read the books. I mean, I read about half of the first one five years ago and stopped because of all the sex, but then two years ago my husband found the show and I realized it was from that really good book with all the sex, so we watched the first season and then we both read all the books and have been keeping up with the show and enjoying the angst that is being a fan of ASoIaF.

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