For about a decade now, readers and publishers have been searching for "the next Harry Potter." The HP phenomenon turned a single, struggling mother into one of the richest women in the writing world (and an OBE at that) and drew thousands of children and adults worldwide away from television and videogames and back into reading.
I must admit, in the beginning I wasn't sure if she could do it - sustain and develop plot and characters interesting enough to complete the 7 book series, let alone imagine that the series would join the ranks of such Greats before it as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings.
The first three Potter books, to me, contained strong echoes of Roald Dahl's work, which I have always loved. I read them in quick succession as the series was interesting enough to keep me hooked. The fourth book was published as the third went to paperback, and from then on, I knew it would only get better.
JK Rowling succeeded wonderfully in creating not only a set of brilliant characters but an entire new world, one readers willingly embraced, as evidenced by the abundance of fansites dedicated to the series, not to mention record-breaking book sales and movie adaptations.
Even before the last couple of books in the series were published, the hunt was on for the next great one. There have been many contenders but in my book (pun intended), none have quite matched up to the hype accorded to them.
Perhaps the most recent popular series is the four-part sparkly vampire story that appeals mainly to female readers. Apart from the fact that this series too was penned by a young woman who shot from obscurity to worldwide fame, there is almost no comparison between the vampire-human romance and the wizard-Muggle saga.
However a reader might view these up-and-coming potential contenders, the great thing is that more books are being published and read, which is really what matters. While I'd love to read them all, there are too many books and too little time (and money) to do so. Here's are the ones I have had the chance to read and my brief take on them:
- Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness - the first book didn't grab me, so I didn't continue with the series.
- Zizou Corder's Lionboy - a great trilogy, highly recommended for boys and girls aged 8-12
- Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - this trilogy reminded me of Tolkien's LOTR. The movie adaptation of the first book was not so well-received, but the books are well worth reading, more than once.
- Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series - with an author who was published at age 17, this series garnered a fair bit of media attention. The first book was fantastic, but the second dragged quite a bit, and I have yet to read the third.
- Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books - I think these are fantastic. Man and magic meet again, but in a very different world than Harry Potter's. Wonderful, wonderful reads, highly recommended to all above age 10.
- Isabelle Allende's Nadia/Alexander trilogy - this 3-book series doesn't have an official name, but the books are Allende's first Young Adult ones and earn a full five stars from me. With her trademark style of magical realism, this author grabs the reader's full attention and presents a very satisfying tale, one I have read again and again.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan has also been well-reviewed, and is next on my Young Adult fantasy book wishlist.
With the state of our groaning bookshelves and the new additions that will surely come as time goes on, I can only hope my son develops the same passion for reading that I have. They say the best way to teach is by experience, and since Little A sees mummy reading whenever she can, perhaps he will follow suit.