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Weekly Nerd Chat: Fantasy Book Series of Note (You May Have Missed)

Us nerds like nothing more than to banter back and forth on nerdy topics in Slack. Here is one of those chats, very lightly edited.

[divider] 3 Fantasy Book Series of Note You Might Have Missed [/divider]

Jason (Co-founder of Nerds on Earth and budding cosplayer) Nerds: We gather for this week’s chat to talk about something that nerds know all too well: books. But we want to take a moment and introduce a series that we each think might have been ignored.

With that in mind, I am going to go first and share what I think is one of the best book series in YA fiction that sometimes gets forgotten. In 1962, Madeleine L’Engle published the book that would go on to win the Newberry award for that year: A Wrinkle in Time. From there over the course of time, L’Engle tells the story of the Murry family and their various adventures.

There are now 5 books and they were published out of order. The first three books focus on Charles Wallace and Meg Murry, which is truly one of the best sibling relationships in fiction to me. There is a 4th book that focus on their twin brothers (Many Waters) and the last book is set a full generation after the first four and is called An Acceptable Time.

Jennifer (Cultural educator to all young women) I remember reading A Winkle in Time as a kid. It is one of my favorite books. Mainly because Meg isn’t perfect or beautiful but she cares so much for her family and will do anything for them.

Jason That is definitely one of the best parts of the story to me. The first book centers on the hunt for their scientist father. Meg is one of the first truly “real” characters to me, and the fact that L’Engle makes it such a prevalent part of the story makes it stand out even more.   And over the course of the series, we see her grow into a confident woman and mother by the end.

Jennifer Meg as a mother is awesome.  And Many Waters is an amazing book. I love the twins.

Jason Many Waters was written after the first 3 and feels like it is an add-on book but the fact that it focuses on the twins who are largely not a focal point in the first 3 books is a great decision by the author as well.

Part of why I love the series so much is, in part, it is about nerds of different kinds.  Meg struggles with math but is a great lover of literature. Charles Wallace is a savant in many different ways, bordering even on super powers on some level. Their mom is a strong scientist in her own right and is one of my favorite parents in literature. She is helping them grow into strong, independent adults, which is a rarity in literature, especially YA literature.

And L’Engle is a person of faith, who uses that imagery in some ways throughout the series. It isn’t as heavy handed as CS Lewis in the Narnia series but it is definitely there if you are paying attention. It adds a level of depth and meaning if you are aware of it but doesn’t wreck the story if you don’t.

Clave (Co-founder of Nerds on Earth; loves him some unicorns) I was assigned to read Wrinkle in Time as a kid, but I gotta be honest, I remember next to nothing about it. Is there a unicorn? Is it high fantasy? A lot of magic and stuff like that?

Jason It is definitely a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. There is talk about physics, science, etc. but there is also a strong sense of supernatural fantasy.

It is one of those works that stretched the genres of its time and because of that, it still holds up pretty well as a story.

Clave And by the title, I’m assuming time travel. Or no? Clearly I was checked out majorly when I was assigned to read that book.

Jason Time and space are “wrinkled” in the first book. Who needs the rules of nature when you want to tell a good story?!?

Clave OK, so wrinkled time and space, well done young characters, evocative imagery, and a unicorn (you didn’t confirm that, but I’m sticking to it)…I’m sold. I might give my girls a couple years to get a little older, then Wrinkle in Time seems like a good read to introduce to them.

Jennifer My first time reading it I checked out in the science bits but my mom and I read it together once as well. Great bonding right there.

Clave I love that.

Jason And the story still generates some interest. A good starter when they are ready, Clave: the Hope Larson graphic novel. Plus there is a movie in the works, with one of the writers of Frozen adapting the screen play for Ava DuVernay to direct.

So Jennifer, what series are you bringing to the table to share with us?

Jennifer A series I read in high school and continue to go back to every few years. Tamora Pierce has created a world of magic and knights with strong female characters. Her first series is The Song of the Lioness but what I’m gonna talk about is the second series set in this world, Wild Magic.

Jason Wow. So there are two series set in the same world?

Clave Wait, so there are different book series set in the same fantasy world?

Jinx!

Jennifer There are actually even more. Pierce continued writing about different women/young ladies in this world. But Wild Magic (the first book of this series) and the following books just blows me away.

Jason So if that is the case, then it has to be a pretty amazing world that has been built. So what are some of the key aspects of the world that make you love it and this series?

Jennifer We open with Daine, a young girl who can speak with animals and gain abilities similar to theirs. She’s homeless and travels with a horse named Cloud. And she doesn’t trust humans at all.

Clave A vagabond druid…go on…

Jennifer She starts to learn under a Mage that helps her with her magic and teaches her to actually transform into animals. She grows into a strong, willful young woman with an amazing Gift that helps the kingdom in a war that cannot be won without her.

Jason So does the Wild Magic refer to her gifts or does it go out into the broader world?

Jennifer It refers to her gift. Her teacher tells her that it is very rare but very powerful.

Jason So, there is obviously something that isn’t right in the world. What is the thing she is struggling against?

Clave Is there a ‘chosen one’ vibe to it?

Jennifer A chosen one vibe…slightly. But that is a running thing in the other series as well.

And this not right thing in the world…now that would be spoiling it.

I highly recommend this author in general. Young girls would LOVE her.

Clave Cool. Sounds like a lot to like with the animals and all that.

Jason Very cool. I will add it to the list for the nieces AND myself to check out.

So Clave what are you going to bring to us as your series?

Clave Well, I’m going to go with something completely different, as Terry Gilliam would say.

I’ve written a brief primer of this series before, but I think it’s worthwhile to bring up the Dresden Files once again.

The Dresden Files are set in modern day Chicago. Harry Dresden is a wizard who often serves as a consultant for the Chicago PD, helping them to solve unusal cases.

Jason Now, I’ve seen that name on Netflix or one of the streaming services. Same source material?

Jennifer I’ve had someone mention this to me!

Clave Yup. Syfy made a TV series several years back that starred Paul Blackthorne. The TV series was a little hokey, but it was fine fun. The books have a similar vibe. The author, Jim Butcher, listens to Motorhead when he writes, I think. The books are pulpy, and totally serve to entertain.

Jason So is he a detective or just a paranormal detective?

Clave He’s a wizard-for-hire. In the first book he helped the Chicago PD solve the mystery of a black wizard who got his power from lightning storms, the second book was werewolves. It’s street-level. He gets beat to heck. He can’t make rent. He has a ghost that lives in an empty skull who serves as his research assistant. And there are love triangles of course. Again, The Dresden Files are meant to entertain. And they read fast. One of the books don’t take me more than a solid evening.

Jason So he is Daredevil to Chicago’s version of Hell’s Kitchen?

Jennifer So an imperfect hero? I like!!!

Clave Oh, he’s imperfect, that’s for sure. The lessons aren’t much more than Harry Dresden, wizard trying to help others, despite people holding him with skepticism.

Jason Is it important to read the series in order or is it a situation where you can just grab and go?

Clave Book one is Storm Front. I bet you can get it for a couple bucks in a used bookstore. Jim Butcher did some fun stuff in worldbuilding as well. Wizards make electronics fritz out, for example. So Harry has to go old school and can’t use a cell phone.

Or you could watch a couple of the shows on Netflix. I’m warning you: they aren’t high art.

Jennifer This sounds very interesting. I’m putting this on my list right now.

Clave I have new stuff for my list as well!

Jason Pulp doesn’t mean bad, Clave.

Clave You don’t have to tell me that!

Jason So that is the list for this chat. Madeleine L’Engle’s series starting with A Wrinkle in Time, Tamora Price’s series that starting with Wild Magic and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, which start with Storm Front. Three good series for all us nerds to check out!