From Thriller to Fantasy to Horror, the Genre Series Is the Cash Cow

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WORLD SERIES Of the six books that make their debuts on the hardcover fiction list this week — all in their first week on sale — not a single one is a stand-alone novel. Each of these new best sellers is part of a series, its story already long underway for readers before the book even hit shelves.

For example, at No. 2 is “Diablo Mesa,” the third volume in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Nora Kelly series, which follows an archaeologist on a privately funded excavation in Roswell, N.M., at the historic site where a rancher recovered mysterious debris in 1947 and sparked theories of a U.F.O. crash. When the dig turns into a crime scene, Kelly reconnects with the F.B.I. agent Corrie Swanson to solve the case.

And there is “Moon Witch, Spider King,” the second book in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, which began in 2019 with “Black Leopard, Red Wolf.” Entering the list at No. 10, the new installment in this “nonlinear” African fantasy series tells the same story from the perspective of Sogolon, the titular moon witch, who appeared in “Black Leopard” as a thieving and murderous antagonist. Our reviewer calls the novel a “bildungsroman of a character scrappier than Arya Stark, cleverer than Jane Eyre, as foulmouthed as any gangster, with the world-weary humor of a noir private eye and the inscrutable morals of an antihero.”

The title of Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s Gwendy’s Button Box trilogy, like the box itself, belies the horror within. The series has seen Gwendy Peterson mature from a 12-year-old girl into a novelist and aspiring politician, accompanied always by a cryptic box that was gifted to her as a child by a stranger. If she pushes any of its seven buttons, danger will ensue. In “Gwendy’s Final Task,” which enters the list at No. 14, now Senator Peterson must protect this lethal object from evil entities that seek to obtain it.

Like these five previous authors, Sarah J. Maas too has succeeded in captivating enough readers of her imagined world to land its latest manifestation on the best-seller list — in her case at No. 1. Continuing her steamy dark fantasy series Crescent City, “House of Sky and Breath” finds the semi-human Bryce Quinlan and the fallen angel Hunt Athalar — who together rescued their city from a demon in the first book, “House of Earth and Blood” — needing rest. Enter the rebels who will wrest power from the good guys, unless Bryce and Hunt can do something about it.

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