The just-released Black Magic Woman is the 11th book in Christine Warren’s Others series. In her preface to the book, Warren talks about the original six book series—the Fixed series, published by Ellora’s Cave in 2003 and 2004—that she started re-writing for publication by SMP. Wolf at the Door, the first to be published in the Others series, came out in 2006.
If you guessed that Wolf at the Door matched up with book one in the Fixed series, you’d be mistaken. Though the preface offers readers an interesting peek into the mind of an author as she shares the creative process of begetting one book from another, by the time Warren lists the proper chronological order in which the Others books should be read...and they so didn’t match the publication order...my eyes glazed over. Particularly confusing was Untitled #9; not only should it be read sixth, and before Wolf at the Door, I don’t believe it’s yet been written.
There’s a method to Warren’s madness, though. She explains how she first created the Others (from the Fixed) in brand-new works for SMP, then brought the original stories back and re-wrote them, interspersing them between additional new books. She needed to adjust timelines to make it all work, but her goal was to keep readers of the original series happy by providing them with brand new material while also allowing newer readers to meet her original characters.
My first Others book was She’s No Faerie Princess, which I thought was the second book in the series. Turns out this very enjoyable read is actually tenth, chronologically speaking. And Black Magic Woman, which is the 11th Others book to be released, is really fourth. Confused much? Sorry.
Correct Chronological Order, the Others
- One Bite with a Stranger aka Fantasy Fix (2008)
- Big, Bad Wolf aka Fur Factor (2009)
- Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here aka Faer Fetched (2010)
- Black Magic Woman (2011)
- Fighting Fear
- Untitled #9
- Fur for All
- Fur Play
- Wolf at the Door (2006)
- She’s No Faerie Princess (2006)
- The Demon You Know (2007)
- Howl at the Moon (2007)
- Walk on the Wild Side (2008)
- You’re So Vein (2009)
- Born to be Wild (2010)
Not included on this numbered list are “Any Witch Way She Can,” from the No Rest for the Witches anthology, and “Heart of the Sea,” a free “bonus” short story just out last month digitally that I cannot place, chronologically speaking. AWWSC is actually 11.5 on the list.
Last month when I shared some of my “book-selling savant” recommendations, I mentioned that I’d just read Night Magic, the third in Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer Hunter series...without having read books one and/or two. Fellow H&H blogger Rachel Hyland commented, “How were you able to start with it? I simply cannot do this. It makes me feel all weird, and then I need to have a lie down.”
I know just what she means. Because world-building is involved in urban fantasy/urban fantasy romances, started at the beginning really is a necessity. For reviewers, though, it’s not always possible, and I’m impressed whenever an author successfully draws me in mid-stream. Even without that consideration, though, following a series in proper order isn’t always easy...it’s even more difficult when an author like Warrren sets out to make everyone happy.
My favorite historical romance is Julie Garwood’s Castles, the fourth in her Regency Spies quartet. I didn’t know it at the time, though, as this was in the early days of my romance reading, and I simply picked it up while browsing. After reading it I began to read the rest of the series...in reverse order. Although I don’t recommend it to others, reading the series bass-ackward didn’t pose a problem for me. It’s always nice to read historical romance series in order, but it’s not generally as important as in books featuring world-building and/or following the same character. Jumping into the Bar Cynster series mid-stream posed no problem for me. Not starting J.D. Robb’s In Death series at the beginning? That would have been a Huge Problem. Eve may solve a specific case by the end of each book, but she and her world expand and deepen with each successive story. Not only does her relationship with Roarke change, the secondary characters are fleshed out and what happens in their lives becomes important for readers. All the in-jokes, the nuance and character idiocyncracies would have little meaning. Don’t Do It. If you recommend the series to others, tell them, Don’t Do It.
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb “gets” it; each of the In Death books includes a handy-dandy list of all the books preceding it...in order. The only thing she omits are the annual short stories. As I didn’t start the series until 2006, figuring out where the short stories fit in created somewhat of a hassle, but I simply turned to my favorite backlist website, Fantastic Fiction. If fantasticfiction.com isn’t on your radar yet, it’s the best source I know for sussing out backlist and series order information. Just last week I learned that Rose Fox’s (one of my PW editors) mother wrote romance. I looked Jennifer Rose up on FF and sent Rose the link, which she promptly included in her Twitter feed.
As the publishing landscape changes, in particular as a result of the digital explosion, it seems to me that more and more authors are publishing “extra” short stories to either kick off a series, to act as prequels after the fact, or, like Warren’s Heart of the Sea, may not fit into a series chronology but are part of its world. Anne Stuart’s “The Wicked House of Rohan,” the e-book-only prologue to the House of Rohan series, served as an appetizer should. It whet my appetite for the full-length books that followed. If I didn’t read electronically, I’d probably be pissed that I missed the series’ introduction, but it was a stand-alone story.
On the other hand, Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series muddied things up considerably for me. The Darkest Fire, which is a stand-alone prequel, was initially only available in digital form, but later it appeared in print in the Into the Dark anthology, along with another LOTU short story, the Darkest Prison. Both these short stories appear both digitally and in print in Darkest Beginnings as well, which also features The Darkest Angel, a short story that was first published (I think) in the Heart of Darkness anthology. I did not realize until after I bought Darkest Beginnings, specifically for that third short story, that Showalter subsequently offered it as a free download from her website, which did piss me off. All three of these short stories were also made available in last year’s Dark Beginnings, which features a “bonus guide to the underworld.”
That said, though, Showalter’s series is one of those I was unable to start at the beginning. I’d never read her before, but when Amazon Vine offered The Darkest Whisper (book five or six, depending on whether you consider the short story that kicks off the series as a book; it’s on my Kindle as 5.5), I asked to review it. I enjoyed it so much I quickly downloaded and read the previous books in the series.
As a Greek mythology fangirl, the backstory to Showalter’s LOTU intrigued me: Immortal warriors steal and open Pandora’s Box, thereby unleashing into themselves the demons within. Sabin, the hero of The Darkest Whisper, is possessed by the demon of doubt. Those around him come to doubt themselves, and he must battle within himself constantly to keep doubt at bay.
What darkens the narrative for this series is the paradox beneath it all: The warriors no longer have the box and are in a race against others to find it, all the while being pursued by a band of hunters. Only trouble is, if they are able to release themselves from the demons, they will also destroy themselves. Delicious!
Though I easily jumped into Showalter’s world with The Darkest Whisper, my experience with Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series was markedly different. Being thrown into the series with book seven, White Witch, Black Curse, I was so lost by what had come before that I never connected with the world or characters Harrison created, and never considered further reading in the incredibly popular series.
J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and Christine Feehan’s Dark series fit somewhere in-between. I’ve read only sporadically in both of them, and by the time I took my first peek into the complex worlds created by the authors, they were already well established. I’ve liked all the books I’ve read in both series, but because I started late, I never fully invested in either. One day I hope to remedy that.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.