Top Ten Most Awesome Worldbuilding in a Novel/Series
In no particular order.
1. Kim Harrison - The Hollows series
This was the first Urban Fantasy series I ever read, and I am still in awe of how thorough the worldbuilding is! Rules, laws, species, habits, rockstars, food, history, places... it seems so real I know I'd be disappointed if I ever actually went to Cincinnati and none of it all was there. I love how Kim Harrison adds new aspects to the Vampire myth (living vs. dead vampires) and also bring in weres, witches, demons, pixies, fairies, leprechauns, banshees, elves, gargoyles... and all of it fits together to create one gritty, realistic world!
2. Neil Gaiman - American Gods
Neil Gaiman is a master of worldbuilding and I could just as well have chosen The Sandman graphic novels, but I decided to go with American Gods. I love the basic ideas of people taking their gods with them when they emigrated to America, then slowly forgetting about them. Old gods having to fight for survival as new gods, gods of technology, appear... intriguing idea. Loads of research on Old Norse gods, Native American gods, as well as eastern European, South American and many other regions must have gone into this. I just love how it all comes together, though I am not pretending that I understand everything in this book. But it contains some of my favorite passages in fiction.
3. Kelly Keaton - Gods and Monsters series
I am re-reading Darkness Becomes Her right now to prepare for A Beautiful Evil, and I was once again struck by how awesome the worldbuilding is! The series is set a couple years in the future, in a New Orleans (now called New 2) which is privately owned by the Novem, a city council of nine old and wealthy families. It is no longer part of the US nor under US law. New 2 has become a haven for all things freakish and paranormal. I love how Kelly Keaton combines traditional New Orleans imagery and themes with old Greek myths and creatures! I have never been to New Orleans or even the US, but the city with its old houses, smells, mix of cultures and beliefs, maskerades, rituals and cemeteries has forever nestled into my mind now.
4. Rachel Vincent - Unbound series
I have not read Shadow Bound yet, but I loved the world of Blood Bound! It is gritty and cruel and realistic. If something like Skills existed, this is what it would be like. I liked the idea of a city divided into different syndicate territories by the river, the difficulty of trying to be independent of the mob and still make a living. This is a harsh world where no one without both fighting skills and a brain can survive very long. There are quite a few serieses involving people with special skills, but the ones in this series worked differently than those in any other I have read.
5. Melissa Marr - Wicked Lovely series
Hands down my favorite fairy series ever! I love how the world of fairie and our world intersect, influence, and depend on one another! I love how each fairy ruler represents the traits of their kingdom. I love the descriptions of the clubs where fairies and mortals intermingle. I love the dark, twisted relationships of some of the characters. And I'm just always in awe of Melissa Marr's writing.
6. Holly Black - Curseworkers series
All of Holly Black's novels that I have read have great worldbuilding, but I've decided on this series for this post. I really enjoyed how the workers are both wanted/needed and feared, the whole history of them and how the great families rose to power in the US. I also enjoyed the whole idea of fighting for equal rights vs. making people disclose their abilities so they can be controlled. Plus of course the whole con artist and blackmarket aspect for workers and protective amulets, as well as the family relationships in this one.
7. Kate Griffin - Urban Magic series
Honestly? If I had put this post into a particular order, this series would top it. I loved how Neil Gaiman brought London to life in Neverwhere, but the worldbuilding in this series just tops everything. I have never looked at London the same way again when I visited after I read the first novel in this series. The city is suffused with magic, a modern magic. Magic in the telephone lines, the tube map, the river, the city lights. Magic in the gutter and the routine and clockwork of the city. The rats. The pidgeons. The beggar king. The graffity and other street art. "Life is magic", and Matthew Swift can use it all. And the writing was so gorgeous that I had to plaster the novels with sticky notes for the especially awesome bits.
8. Laini Taylor - Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Everyone raved about this book when it came out, and it took me way too long to finally get a copy of it... but I am so glad that I did! I loved the Prague Laini Taylor created in this novel, and I am excited to see what the city is really like when I go there in only 8 days! I loved the art and sketchbook aspect, I loved the ideas of wishes made from teeth and bones, I loved the idea of a chimaera world and a doorway that can go anywhere! Chimaeras are a type of creature/myth I had not seen in YA before - the book is just a breath of fresh air.
9. L.A. Weatherly - Angel series
Before I read the first book in this series, I was not a big fan of angel books. Very often they are just suffused with Christian/religious beliefs and ideology, and I'm not a big fan of that, nor do I believe in god. (Just for the record: I have no problem with people who do, as long as they respect that I don't and don't try to convert me.) But a book where angels are evil and suck humans' energy and nobody knows? Well, apart from the Angel Killers of course. Well, I was intrigued. Awesome read!
10. Richelle Mead - Vampire Academy / Bloodlines
Yup, last but not least I have to mention Richelle Meads. To be honest, I did not think the first few VA novels were that great, but probably that is because I read them in the German translation my sister borrowed from a friend of hers before she bought the whole thing as a boxset in English. I read the last 2 books this summer and I was so immersed in that world again, and it was so much better than I remembered, that I had to get the Bloodlines novels at once! I love the moroi/strigoi mythology as well as the alchemy aspects and the whole political dimension in these serieses!
Okay, this post took forever to write for some reason, and I'm sure I have left out a lot of novels with amazing worldbuilding... for example The Mortal Instruments / Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Or Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers. Julie Kagawa. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.
So, have you read any of the novels I listed above? What are some of your favorite books with awesome worldbuilding? Let me know in the comments :)