I have a friend who refuses even to start reading a series that hasn’t wrapped up. I get it. Lo, how many hearts have been broken by the long publishing schedules of, say, A Song of Ice and Fire, or the untimely death of a talent like Robert Jordan, hip-deep in Wheel of Time. My own personal heartbreak came when Octavia Butler died after writing Fledging, the first novel in what promised to be a trilogy that ripped up all extant vampire lore and set it on fire—maybe it would have been better not to experience that first book elation, knowing I could never see its ending.
Me, though? I have too much fun reading expectantly between one book and the next, jonesing for that next installment. It was a total blast to see the midnight lines to pick up the latter Harry Potter novels, people treating reading books like they were queuing up for some kind of Star Wars movie or something. How often does that happen? Tennyson was well beloved by Queen Victoria; Byron acted like an actual rock star; and readers completely flipped when Conan-Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, but it has been a long time since the 19th Century.
2017 saw the completion of a number of excellent series my squeamish friend would be well pleased finally start, now that they are complete. In no particular order, here are seven series enders more than worth the wait.
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The Stone Sky, by NK Jemisin
The Stone Sky is the culmination of the Hugo award-winning Broken Earth series that began with 2014’s The Fifth Season. In the world of these novels, the apocalypse is the titular “fifth” season; with irregularity, the end of the world, by one way or another, arrives to the continent of the Stillness every few centuries, forcing society to adapt survival strategies across generations. But at the start of the trilogy, the Stillness faces end times so much more final than anything that has come before—a fifth season that will last centuries, not decades. The reasons for the end of this world, and the very beginnings of that end, are explored in The Stone Sky, and in such a satisfying way.
A Conjuring of Light, by VE Schwab
A Conjuring of Light caps off the Shades of Magic series, which has found its protagonists ranging over four alternate Londons: called black, white, red, and grey for their relationship to magic, or its loss. Black London fell to its ugly magic, cutting off White London to starve from the magical lack. A Darker Shade of Magic detailed Black London’s covert rising, dragging White London up and Red London down. There are rare people who can shift between these Londons—called Antari—black-eyed, red-haired Kell is the last of them, though also flitting between worlds is a hitchhicker named Lila Bard, awakening to her own powers as the series unfolds. A Conjuring of Light sets all these Londons, their visitors and denizens, lovers and enemies, against one another in a final, brilliant display.
Horizon, by Fran Wilde
The Andre Norton-winning Updraft detailed one of the most inventive fantasy worlds I’ve encountered, with lives lived up well above the cloudline in a city of bone spires and towers, travel between them conducted via winglike gliders (the better to steer clear of the invisible, many-toothed sky monsters). The ending of the second novel, Cloudbound, was a shock for both reader and protagonist, unveiling the precarious reality of the bone city. Horizon doubles down, striking out into the shocking landscape revealed in the previous novel. It sticks the landing of a trilogy that has wheeled overhead, like harbingers and omens, settling down hard on the ground, and looking off into the distance.
Feversong, by Karen Marie Moning
Though there is another Fever novel coming out next year, the ninth book, Feversong, caps the end of MacKayla Lane’s long journey. We first met Mac in Darkfever as a naïve Southern girl ineptly trying to solve her sister’s murder in Dublin. Nine novels in, Moning has pitched a full on apocalypse, and subjected her heroine to all manner of horrors. In the novel previous to Feversong, Mac finally succumbed to the sinsar dubh, an ancient book of dark magic, and in Feversong, the entire broken world must come to grips with this possession. Feversong is the culmination of an unbelievably complex mythology, one that has been brewing for three trilogies’ worth of novels.
Etched in Bone, by Anne Bishop
Like Moning, Bishop has other novels planned in the world of the Others, but Etched in Bone gives us the culmination of blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s journey. Also like the Fever series, there has been a full on apocalypse, but it is much more recent and raw in Etched in Bone. In this alternate reality, humans share the planet with beings called Others, magical creatures like shape-changers and the personification of natural forces; humans exist more or less at the largess of these beings. Meg stumbled into the courtyard of the Others in Written in Red, on the lam from the criminal outfit who used her prophetic powers for ill. Her tentative relationship with the Others, and with other humans willing to treat with these harsh beings, has been sorely tested. Etched in Bone gives us the long, bumpy denouement after the brutal culling of the last novel.
City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett
The world we were introduced to in City of Stairs feels like, in some ways, one just leftways of our own, like the one we find in Max Gladstone’s Craft series—fantasy worlds, yes, with divine magic exerting its pressure on reality, yes, but the people who inhabit them, and the systems by which they operate, aren’t so unlike what we have here: corrupt and well-meaning, oppressive and weak, and more complex than we can hope to understand. The divinities of the city-state of Bulikov died, leaving a colonizing force without its force, and now subject to a once client state. The trilogy of novels follows several different protagonists as their primaries from volume to volume, and City of Miracles picks up with a once-secondary character for its operatic finale, wiring together the clockwork of empire, city, and community into one very explosive package.
The Harbors of the Sun, by Martha Wells
We’ve said goodbye to Martha Wells Raksura series before—she wrapped an initial trilogy years ago with The Siren Depths—but thank goodness she was able to go on, penning two related collections of novellas and, finally, a duology that closes the book (for now anyway) on another of the most inventive fantasy worlds we’ve ever encountered. This is epic fantasy with almost none of the trappings of the genre: all of Wells’ protagonists are inhuman, shape-shifting Raksura, who are something like winged gargoyles brought to live. Across seven books, she has created a truly alien culture that feels fully considered, and characters you grow to love, and find beautiful, despite their monstrous appearances.
What was your favorite series-ender of 2017?