Article published on December 15, 2017.
Ultimately, I was quite surprised that I was able to compile a ‘Top Ten’ list of trilogies. I thought I was on to a no-brainer, but my groaning bookshelves are testament to the viability of this concept. So here they are:
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – I simply wouldn’t dare submit a list of trilogies without including this seminal trilogy and putting it, deservedly, at the top of the list. I’m not even sure I want to say much about it. I think it’s all been said with better words than I can find. I’ve nothing new to add. It probably set the benchmark for most of today’s fantasy and trilogies. Sublime. Years ago, I had a friend who worked for Book Club Associates. She used to procure books for me. The Lord of the Rings was one of them and it is still much loved.
2. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson – I know that there was a subsequent trilogy, The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and then a cycle of four more books, but this first set started the whole ball rolling. I loved them. It was the first fantasy series that tried to merge the modern world with the fantasy world I had come across since C.S. Lewis. I loved the characters: Thomas Covenant himself, so solid, so angry, so cynical, raw and real. And the giant, Saltheart Foamfollower. There are parallels with Tolkien which could be fuel for criticism but in the end I just soaked up, not only the story, but all the ethical and moral dilemmas. The world that Donaldson created is fantastic. Just writing about it has made me want to read the whole lot all over again.
3. Illuminatus by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson – This series wasn’t even called a trilogy; it was Parts I, II and III. My editions are small, yellowing paperbacks that date from the 70s. I found the books hilarious on one level, a glorious anarchic romp. Wonderful characters like Hagbard Celine, just the name conjures an image! But it also demonstrates an innovative writing style that makes you think of William Burroughs and even James Joyce maybe. I won’t say too much more in case I’m being watched. For they’re still around, you know, the Illuminati, and I don’t want to upset anyone.
4. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson – I avoided this series for as long as I could. It seemed that everyone, everywhere, was reading one of the volumes. I have this contrary, almost OCD trait of avoiding things that are ‘too’ popular. I can’t even remember how I came to pick up the first book. I know it wasn’t new!! But I do remember sitting in the garden in the sunshine and not wanting to put the book down. I loved it. And I came to love Liesbeth Salander. She’s one of my true kick-ass heroines. I wouldn’t want to be her because I simply don’t deserve it!! Neither am I good enough. But I can aspire, can’t I? The first book was the one that sucked me in and held me captive. The next two I just read as quickly as I could to ‘see what happened’. They’re detailed, well plotted crime books. I think they pushed Scandi crime into the popular consciousness.
5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – The same friend who gave me The Hunger Games lent me these books, one at a tantalising time. I had to wait until she’d finished one before I could read the next!! I’ve subsequently bought them for myself. Is there any self-respecting bookshelf without them!? I remember we had a discussion about the pronunciation of Lyra and whether these books were suitable for children or not!! They’re a marvellous fantasy sequence with worlds and characters created that stay with you forever. I once considered changing my name by deed poll to Serafina Pekkala! Nah, not really, but isn’t it just a wonderful name? However, there is much beyond mere story telling here and ideas that have fuelled many a fierce debate. La Belle Sauvage is waiting on my bookshelf. I’m putting it off because the lady in Waterstones told me to read it slowly because it will be a while before Pullman produces the next one!
6. The Abhorssen Chronicles by Garth Nix – Another gift, which I knew little about before I received it. I remember absolutely loving the sequence while I was reading them, but here’s the really weird thing, I cannot remember what happened in them!! And I hadn’t realised that until I started to write about the books. It’s enough to make me read them all over again. But it is odd? Maybe that will give rise to another 10 list! Ten books I read but can’t remember a thing about!!!
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – A good friend gifted me this set one Christmas. I knew little about the series or Suzanne Collins, but I guess the friend knew me well! I think I might have read all three in practically one sitting. The whole dystopian world created was so complete and so clever. The whole concept of the Games themselves was so contemporary and fed off so much of the popular culture of the time. ‘May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favour’ was my favourite catch phrase for a while. In some ways I don’t even see this as a trilogy; it’s like one big book. Katniss Everdeen became another of my heroines. And I would like to be her.
8. The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth – There’s many who see these stories as a poor man’s Hunger Games and I know what they mean. Somehow or another I had a free copy of the first book, Divergent, on my iPad and I read most of it on a train journey from London to Hereford! Despite my antipathy to reading digitally I thoroughly enjoyed the book and how quick it made the journey go. And one of those odd little synchronicity moments occurred on my trip for I found a second-hand copy of the next book in the series, Insurgent, and believed it fate that I should read them all!! Allegiant still sits on my TBR shelves.
9. The Maze Runner by James Dashner – So I’m cheating here a bit because this isn’t a trilogy. But it was when I read the books!! Well, the first three, The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. I gave a friend the Hunger Games trilogy as a gift and her response, because she loved them, was to lend me The Maze Runner! I read all three quite dutifully. I could never say I didn’t enjoy them, especially the first one, because I loved the premise but I felt that the momentum wasn’t sustained throughout subsequent books and I suppose it’s telling that I haven’t sought out the last two in the cycle.
10. The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver – I got a free copy of Delirium though the post. To this day I don’t know who sent it to me!! But I read it, enjoyed it and subsequently read Pandemonium. Requiem is waiting on the TBR shelves. It’s a variation on a theme, well written and engaging but has all the elements of the previous works in this genre. There’s a pattern emerging here, the last four trilogies listed: Young Adult fantasy, dystopian fiction. It seems either that the genre lends itself to the trilogy format or perhaps putting everything into one book would be too much? And am I the only Old Adult who enjoys them?! I still think the Hunger Games leads the field and the others owe something to that series or maybe it’s just because I read them first!!
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