What fantasy and sci fi authors do you trust for happy endings?
August 16, 2019 8:03 PM   Subscribe

I’m looking for folks who write fun adventures, but also ones in which the main characters generally not only survive, but also tend to find love, fulfillment, and happiness.

I love finding new-to-me authors and reading my way through all their books, but I want some reassurance that each book and each series is more than moderately likely to end happily.

So, for example, I’ve LOVED reading through Gail Carriger’s delightful Parasolverse, in large part because, despite hijinks and adventure, things turn out lovely at the end of each book/series. At this point I at least 95% trust her that anything of hers I pick up will have a satisfying ending and that it’s safe for me to get attached to the characters.

I feel similarly about Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera (but not necessarily the Dresden Files), and most of what Lois McMaster Bujold and Happy Connie Willis write.

Farther down the spectrum, Brandon Sanderson is an example of someone whose main characters usually turn out amazingly triumphant and happy, but he often kills off a lot of minor characters to get there. Becky Chambers writes warm, loving endings, but often someone dies along the way too.

And then of course an example of what I’m NOT looking for are books written by George RR Martin and similar writers.

Who can you recommend who still writes good, rollicking adventures but whose endings are between Carriger and Sanderson/Chambers on the spectrum? (The closer to the Carriger side, the better!)

Romantic love, redemption, and utter happiness for each character in each book are not required, but the endings of their books should tend to leave you with a genuine smile, not mixed feelings. Suffering earlier on in the books is fine as long as there’s not graphic abuse/harm to children. I am 100% supportive of eucatastrophes, though the more they spring organically from the plot, the better.

Thank you!
posted by bananacabana to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
T Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon's pseudonym.
posted by jeather at 8:22 PM on August 16, 2019 [16 favorites]

Take this with a grain of salt because I wouldn’t describe myself as a sci-fi reader, but I read Ian Pears’ Arcadia twice.It is time travel with a happy-to-me ending. Also am enjoying Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s Long Earth series. It didn’t take long to figure out that threatening situations never went too badly so could relax and enjoy the adventure. Don’t know if it’s what you’re looking for. I’m sure others will be able to help you more.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 8:27 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and Jasper Fford’s Thursday Next books. I’ll stop now since I’m not sure I’m helping. I don’t recognize the authors you mention so maybe I’m missing the mark.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 8:32 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Terry Pratchett for sure.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:41 PM on August 16, 2019 [11 favorites]

Martha Wells. Her Murderbot books have gotten (deserved) attention the past couple years, but for what you're looking for I might try The Books of the Raksura, about (very broadly) becoming part of a community after a lifetime of desperately wanting that, and then suddenly needing to figure out how to actually do it.

Super fun, lots of action, some romance but IMO not the gooey kind, worldbuilding that feels like I haven't been there five hundred times already. Her books sometimes do have deaths of minor characters but overall I find that series in particular really comforting.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:48 PM on August 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

Kim Stanley Robinson. There are no villains, no baddies. People might die and bad things might happen, but not out of evil or anger. Ultimately, his books are optimistic towards a better future despite climate change. And it’s usually the people, as a collective, who emerge as beautiful, tired, happy, exhausted, thoughtful, hardworking, flawed, caring people.
posted by many more sunsets at 10:41 PM on August 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

I like happy speculative fiction, and like probably not that Karen Blaire, I'm a huge fan of Jasper Fforde, but I don't really read more traditional scifi or fantasy. Oh, but Connie Willis! Perhaps start with To Say Nothing of the Dog?
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:07 PM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

William Gibson, of cyberpunk fame. His works and worlds are often deeply grim, but rarely fail to wrap up with an unexpectedly happy-ish ending, usually with a delightful romance.
posted by lordcorvid at 11:20 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Patricia McKillip would do for you, I think. Also Robin McKinley (although her prose has become unreadable to me over the last decade, her first half-dozen novels still hold up) (and while Deerskin ends well, it's very traumatic getting there). CJ Cherryh often has a lot of trauma but the more sympathetic characters generally end up ok if battered.

Katherine Addison has only the one novel in that name, The Goblin Emperor, but it does end happily for the sympathetic characters.

Gillian Bradshaw is mostly known as a historical novelist, but she has some fantasies too, and she tends for happy endings.

Diane Duane's characters often go through trauma and loss but generally get to a happy (or at least content) place at the end.

And I definitely second the Martha Wells recommendation.
posted by suelac at 11:57 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Becky Chambers' Wayfarer series hits this spot for me.
posted by terretu at 2:20 AM on August 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I, too, have enjoyed the same books. Off the top, some other favorites are:

Ilona Andrew’s Innkeeper series
Sharing Shinn’s twelve houses series; the first book, The Mystic and the Rider is one of my favs.

For me, it gets there for a happy ending—also enjoyed Katherine Arden’s winter night series.
posted by inevitability at 4:11 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robbinette Kowal. Her lady astronaut series is slightly grim but also enjoyable.
posted by tilde at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Due to a quirk of fate, I have only read the last book in the Elemental Logic series by Laurie Marks - Air Logic. I can tell you that it was surprisingly uplifting and given how much, eg, swordplay there was an astonishingly small number of people died. I have been assured that this is characteristic of the series.

It was also much, much better than I'd assumed - I'd thought it would be one of those generic "everyone has a talent assigned according to the stars or colors or seasons and maybe there is a magic school and it's written in a functional and dull voice" post-Harry Potter fantasy books, but it was really good! I was totally sold by about the second chapter.

Also, Small Beer Press in general publishes good, unusual fantasy and science fiction. I've never really seen a bad book from them.

I'm pretty picky about reading YA - quite a lot of it is great for the youth but doesn't have as much to say to an Old - but I do really like Diana Wynne Jones's Dalemark Quartet. I would suggest starting out of order with The Spellcoats.

I also enjoy Melissa Scott's Astreint Series. The first one is pretty different from the later ones in tone and structure; they become more magic-detective-y and less weird after Point of Dreams. So there's this place with some magic and some early modern social structures, and they've just started to have police, but the police structure is bad - everyone just assumes that you personally have to pay the police to help you. It's not corruption per se because it's not illegal or secret. One of our heroes, Nicolas Rathe, is a policeman who doesn't take fees over his salary. Various cases ensue. Astreint is also reassuring because it's very slightly female-dominated - families tend to be structured with the assumption that men marry in, women head businesses, etc, and there's no fridging, rape-as-plot-point, etc. Point of Dreams is my favorite because it's the weirdest.

Obviously, since these are mysteries there are some murders and some sad elements, but in general these are not gloomy books.

You've read Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot, right? If you really think about it, obviously it takes place in the Regency, hence inequality, slavery and violence undergird the book's society. But I have a headcannon in which History Is Different In This World and enjoy it anyway. Carol Stevermer, who co-wrote it, wrote a bunch of light fantasy that is also pretty enjoyable - the Mairon the Magician books are light and have happy endings.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2019 [10 favorites]

All of Ann Leckie's books that I've read have been tremendously uplifting to me: her epic trilogy Ancillary Justice and sequels, as well as Provenance. They are space operas, but really they are about the people.
posted by heatherlogan at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fire Logic and Ancillary Justice both involve significant character deaths. Provenance is a safer pick, given the guidelines you have sketched here.
posted by yarntheory at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and Passage are decidedly not happy like you want, so maybe skip them unless you want to read Nebula winners.

A lot of what you ask for can be found in the "fantasy romance" category commonly published by Mira and Harlequin Luna. The common beats of a romance novel usually have people overcome the problems and end up happy, mixed with magic and strange settings. I don't know why they don't have a sci-fi equivalent although Martha Wells started out with fantasy romance so maybe she'll start it.

Heist stories have similar beats to romance novels so maybe Patrick Weekes' Prophecy Con and following books would work?
posted by fiercekitten at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Martha Wells, Ann Leckie, and Becky Chambers. If you haven't read Leckie's latest novel, The Raven Tower, I'd start there; it's in a different setting and I think less traumatic; the sad parts are at least more personal and less global.

Also gonna recommend Shira Glassman's Mangoverse series, which is cozy queer Jewish high fantasy. Everything turns out all right, but set aside some time for these when you're prepared to have Feels.

I'm partial to C. J. Cherryh's Chanur series; it's pulpy and a bit stressful, but ends well enough and there's a lot of awesome worldbuilding in there.

And if you really want to sink your teeth into a megaseries, there's Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe. Same kinds of stress as Chanur, but also a proportionally similar amount of worldbuilding, and a lot of very nice family and/or romantic relationship feels. Here's my recommended reading order.
posted by dialMforMara at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

In general, Scalzi fits the bill.

Becky Chambers' Wayfarer series hits this spot for me.

Have to disagree. The overall tone is still very positive and hopeful, but she kills off major characters on the regular.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2019

T Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon's pseudonym.

Um. Yes, absolutely, she's wonderful, but... maybe give the Clocktaur duology a miss.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:37 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used to love Hickman and Weiss for this as a teenager, especially the death gate cycle.
posted by fizban at 1:50 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

A Lee Martinez

Jim C. Hines
posted by porpoise at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks, all! These are great!
posted by bananacabana at 8:33 PM on August 20, 2019

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