2013 Stellar Series
We’re thrilled this month to feature our Stellar Series list, a look at notable series. While the multiple-volume boom has certainly proved to be popular among readers, it has presented a unique challenge to reviewers. The individual books that make up a series are parts of a greater whole and though they are often quite good, they rely on the previous and subsequent installments to inform their plot, character development, themes, etc. As you can imagine, this makes judging a single book of a series and considering it among the best books of the year somewhat problematic. Our Stellar Series list is an effort to recognize those books that come highly recommended by our staff but that cannot stand apart from their series. The series listed here have least three volumes, the most recent of which has been published in the last twelve months. Please note that while some of these series have indeed concluded and represent a completed trilogy, quartet, etc., others appear to be ongoing but have garnered enough support from the Bulletin staff that we feel the series can be recognized as it stands now.
Political conflict seems to be the theme of this year’s group, as it includes two works of historical fiction set during war, one a captivating portrait of a family of exiled royals during World War II, the other a tightly focused look at four teens changed forever by their service in Vietnam War. The battle between two fictional lands in our third series is no less powerful, although it is best suited for those readers who like their fantasies epic and their heroes flawed.
The Montmaray Journals
Cooper, Michelle. A Brief History of Montmaray. Knopf, 2009. Gr. 7-10 (BCCB 11/09)
—–. The FitzOsbornes in Exile. Knopf, 2010. (BCCB 4/11)
—–. The FitzOsbornes at War. Knopf, 2012. (BCCB 11/12)
Narrator Princess Sophie relays her family’s struggles as they try to hold on to their tiny, island nation during World War II through Nazi attacks, political exile, and wartime losses. Blending political intrigue and domestic drama, Cooper offers readers an eminently readable slice of historical fiction with rich characterizations and authentic details that convey the despair, boredom, guilt and hope of living through a war.
Lynch, Chris. I Pledge Allegiance. Scholastic, 2011. Gr. 6-9 (BCCB 12/11)
—–. Sharpshooter. Scholastic, 2012. (BCCB 5/12)
—–. Freefire Zone. Scholastic, 2012. (BCCB 12/12)
—–. Casualties of War. Scholastic, 2013. (BCCB 1/13)
Veteran chronicler of the American guy experience, Lynch here examines the profound and life-changing experiences four best friends have when they pledge to serve in the Vietnam War together. Each of the books focus solely on one of the four: Morris chooses the Navy; Rudi, the eldest, is called up and joins the Marines; Ivan, always the most belligerent, can hardly wait to get to the Army recruiter; Beck, the brainiac, withstands his family’s disappointment as he abandons his college plans and joins the Air Force. Readers are forced into the thick of the action but it’s the devastating emotional impact and the realistic portrayal of a friendship changed forever that will stick with readers long after the last shot is fired.
The Lumatere Chronicles
Marchetta, Melina. Finnikin of the Rock. Candlewick, 2010. Gr. 9 and up (BCCB 3/10)
—–. Froi of the Exiles. Candlewick, 2012. (BCCB 5/11)
—–. Quintana of Charyn. Candlewick, 2013. (BCCB 4/13)
This stunningly epic series follows the conflict between Lumatere and Charyn, two fictional lands trapped under two horrific curses, brought on by the sins of their former rulers. Marchetta seamlessly weaves together the personal and the political, exploring the larger societal implications of her characters’ actions while keeping a tight focus on their emotional lives. The obstacles in their relationships mirror the tensions built by prejudices and ignorance throughout their lands, and the setbacks they experience as they work toward peace, both as a community and as individuals, are painfully authentic. Readers of high fantasy and fans of Game of Thrones will find this series utterly engrossing. KQG