Remember the anticipation for Christmas or your birthday, when you’ve given everyone hints and suggestions for what would be the best present in the world to receive? And you just know someone will come through even if it isn’t exactly the watch you pictured? Or when you get a complete surprise gift? For me the best gift is the promise of a new series from an old friend. And I consider the author of every good book I’ve read as my friend. Usually the author doesn’t know it in “real” life, but in my reader universe, we’re best buddies. So when I hear rumors of a new venture my heart picks up the pace and I start to anticipate a special treat just for me. In reverse, I’m usually sad when I learn that a series is ending. The final book is always bittersweet.
I’m always thrilled when a favorite author, especially one with a great track record, starts a new series, so I’ve been anticipating Charlaine Harris’ next journey for a while. I was really excited to receive a review copy of Midnight Crossroad last week. Billed as the first of a trilogy, I only hope there will end up being more books in the long run; Harris is known for having more than three books in most of her series. And as a Texan, it’s great to have her set this new series in West Texas. The town of Midnight is filled with a cast of strange characters. Well, as I told my book club members, some of the characters are quite similar to us—they just have a few supernatural traits. There’s the rejected businessman, the strange reverend, the old maid Wiccan, the strange couple who live in a basement apartment and a con man psychic. The inhabitants of Midnight are loners and yet they bond together to form a family.
The kind of family Harris knows how to create is usually one filled with people who have pasts and weren’t necessarily loved unconditionally by their biological families but manage to create families in their own world. In Midnight Crossroad, not everyone gets along and it’s not all sugar and spice but they do have all the hallmarks of being a family: the oldest taking charge, the youngest spoiled and yet lovable and the middle ones sometimes misunderstood. So when a body is found on their first and final annual picnic down to the river, they rally around the prime suspect, who is one of their own. And as the story develops we learn more about each person, and I’d like to know even more, so I hope the Midnight series extends for more than three books.
Although sometimes a series starts to decline in quality, or “jump the shark,” as they say in television. To be honest, I was tired of Sookie by Dead and Gone (book 9 of the Southern Vampire Mysteries) although I loved taking short visits to her world in the novellas. In a way it’s similar to visiting relatives: You’re good for a day but a week is definitely pushing the limits. So it seemed with the Sookie’s series; the cast of characters was overwhelming and the plots were tired. But I did loved the interplay between characters. Although Harris doesn’t seem to be scheduled for more original Sookie Stackhouse works, she is opening up her Southern Vampire world by allowing some of her author friends to collaborate in a collection of stories set in Sookie’s world. Although none of the works feature Sookie as the main character, they each allow us back into the world of Bon Temps and into a life of one of the secondary characters. Dead But Not Forgotten will be released in audio format in May followed later by e-book and hardcover editions.
Authors include Rachel Caine, Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holder, MaryJanice Davidson, Christopher Golden, Seanan McGuire, Dana Andrews, Miranda James, Leigh Perry, Nicole Peeler, Bill Crider and more. Not all of them are known for novels with supernatural elements, but some are known for their strong mystery craft or humor. The authors have their own series going, so it will be interesting to see how they handle writing in the Sookie universe. Each author is writing about one of their favorite characters—everyone from Alcide Herveaux to Bubba. How could you not love Bubba in the early books of the series? He’d always pop up at unexpected times and give me something to smile about even as the blood and fur flew.
My favorite fairies, Claude and Claudia Crane, will be making an appearance as well as the best tough-girl vamp, Shreveport’s Pam. And not leaving the man-hunk stage to just Alcide, Eric will get a tale as well. Not all of the characters are of the supernatural sort; good ole boy Andy Bellefleur is featured too. Perhaps this is the best way to let fans enjoy their cake and yet move on to a new world. No big new plots but a gentle revisit to an old familiar world and characters.
What are you looking forward to this summer? Any new series to break you out of reading slump?
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors Adventures in Fiction in February, an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.