Series Review – The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede

While the Enchanted Forest Chronicles remain Patricia C. Wrede’s most famous fantasy book series, she also began The Lyra Novels before her later success. Now, it can be a lot of fun to read early novels by writers you enjoy. Readers can see how professional authors grow and change as writers. However, sometimes, these early novels are not as good as the ones that came out later, and sometimes, they are still solid pieces of fiction. For me, The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede are certainly the latter.

The Basics

The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede is made up of five books, Shadow Magic (1982), Daughter of Witches (1983), The Harp of Imach Thyssel (1985), Caught in Crystal (1987), and The Raven Ring (1994). Each story follows a different set of characters in the same magical realm and each book builds on the next in a satisfying and logical way. That said, every book in the series could be read as a standalone.

Genre-wise, The Lyra Novels are a fantasy series, so expect warring kingdoms, magical artifacts causing trouble, and a variety of memorable heroes and heroines.

In a lot of ways, The Lyra Novels are also your typical eighties fantasy romp, and I loved every minute of it (some minutes more than others). There are magic forests, immortal/ancient beings, and each story also features a variation on the coming of age story.

Characters are coming into their own, either finding out their true potential or returning to their roots at long last. Personally, I love this, making me love the series even more.

The Writing

The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede book covers

Overall, the story is solid. Patricia C Wrede writes similarly to Anne McCaffrey and Tamora Pierce, so if you’re a fan of these fantasy authors then you should enjoy The Lyra books.

In the series, there’s just enough exposition so readers aren’t confused, but not so much that we’re overwhelmed with details.

Generally, I enjoyed the world she created in The Lyra Novels, and I also appreciated the magic system. As the characters learned, so did we. There were times I mixed up the geography of the world a little bit, but that could just be me.

Besides the good world-building, there were memorable romances, but it never overshadows the main plot. Still, there were some sweet romances in the series romance fans will appreciate.

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Still, it was odd reading this series. I know Patricia C. Wrede from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and Sorcery and Cecilia (Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot), and both of those books have a ton of humor embedded in the core of the story. There is markedly less humor in The Lyra Novels. This is not a bad thing, by any means, but if you are familiar with Wrede through her more humorous works, be prepared for the shift.

Patricia C. Wrede

Reading this series, however, I was reminded just how talented of a writer Wrede is. She can write serious fantasy and poke fun at the genre in her satire. Wrede also writes dynamic characters you want to follow, and a fictional world that draws you in.

While I would rather live in the world of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, I was happy to stop in The Lyra Novels for a little while. To be clear, I was just there as a visitor; I don’t want to live there.

Overall Thoughts

If you enjoy works of fantasy or fiction epics from the 1980s, you might want to give The Lyra Novels a try. If you’re a fan of Patricia C Wrede’s other works, or just looking to try something new, consider adding this to your reading list. I got my set on Amazon when they were in a Kindle bundle for less than five bucks. They’re back up now but watch them. Like a ton of classic fantasy, they often go on sale.

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Something I also appreciate about this series is that it doesn’t have gratuitous violence and felt, on the whole, quite clean. There was some violence, there was a war, and characters fled assassination, torture, and certain death, but I never felt like it was being lingered on.

The violence was brief, to make a point to the characters and to us that yes, we can all be better. The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede is a worthwhile adventure to take. You’ll probably love three of the novels and like two of them. At least that’s how it worked out for me.

Content Note: There is some violence, both performed on and by our characters. Characters also die. But it’s not too graphic.

Have you read The Lyra Novels? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

“You had me at hello.”
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
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