The Book Club

As a Wisconsin resident, I have grown used to the brisk winds and slippery snow over the years. But I know a lot of the students on campus aren’t quite used to the harsh weather, and some are starting to regret going to a school that resides in the frigid Midwestern wonderland. That being said, this week’s recommendations are dedicated to those who are desperately dreaming of escaping this frozen state – and what’s better than getting lost in a new book? For this week I am deciding to focus on a few fantasy series that are known for their elaborate worldbuilding, in the hopes that you all can lose yourselves in the enriched realms these authors have designed.  

The first series I want to mention is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, a daunting collection of seven and a half books. In them, readers follow Roland, known as the Last Gunslinger, and the companions he finds along the way as he travels across vast deserts, ghost towns and parallel worlds that mirror our own modern one. The purpose of these journeys is to catch the elusive Man in Black and reach the nefarious Dark Tower. The books are a fantasy lovers’ dream, filled with werewolves and other monsters, magic and countless adventures for our heroes. I genuinely did not expect to love this series as much as I did, and the conclusion still haunts me even today, despite having read it years ago. King went above and beyond when he created this world, or worlds, rather, and even goes as far as to tie them to worlds mentioned in his other books. You can’t help but appreciate the details and history he incorporates into every character and town in the series. If you like the idea of old apocalyptic westerns mixed with cross-dimensional travel and monsters, then this series would be perfect for you.  

Another series I absolutely adore is the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. If you have ever discussed books with me or have been following this column for a while, you may remember me mentioning this series before. The books take place in multiple universes, such as an off-brand Oxford, and follow Lyra and her daemon – an animal representation of her soul – named Pan. They encounter witches, armored bears, angels and ghosts, and learn to use numerous tools that will help them save the world, such as the golden compass, which answers the questions of the universe through complex symbols. The trilogy tackles a lot of theological subjects, making it reminiscent of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. As a person who has read the series on numerous occasions, believe me when I say that you cannot help but be absolutely enthralled by the story and world that Pullman manages to create. Pullman happens to be working on a sequel trilogy as we speak, but I have not picked them up quite yet. To be honest, I’m worried I won’t love them as much as I did the original trilogy. But those are for another day. If you like a wild mixture of fantastical ideas, such as the ones mentioned earlier, that help to tell a deep, thought-provoking story unlike what appears at first glance, then the His Dark Materials trilogy might be for you.  

I have a few honorable mentions as well that didn’t quite make the cut for this edition, mainly because I don’t have as much sentiment for them as the others, so I cannot properly hype them up in the way they deserve. That being said, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is a four-book fantasy series and is perfect for those who are craving a good old-fashioned fantasy series, filled with dragon riders, swordfights and lots of magic. Similarly, Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy is good for those with an identical sentiment, though it focuses more on assassins rather than dragons. In either case, if you want something a tad more traditional, then these would probably suit your needs.  

That’s all for this week’s recommendations! Stay warm, everyone, and try to get lost in a new book if you can – it might be enough to keep your mind off of this cold weather.