10 Space Operas That Will Melt Your Heart

Over on Goodread’s never ending AMA, Gentle Reader, someone asked me to recommend my favorite Space Operas and I thought I would bounce over and do a blog post on the subject as well, a little more in depth.

You read, right? Well then I think you might be interested.

Gail’s 10 Favorite Space Operas

1. Tanya Huff’s Valor series

This military space opera series begins with Valor’s Choice (if you want to read paper you’ll need to buy this book used or, in the USA, the first two are available new in omnibus form as A Confederation of Valor). This is an ongoing series at five books, I think I heard a rumor that #6 will be the last, and I am not caught up. My reviews of the ones I have read so far are up on Goodreads. We read the first one for the reading group.

Marvelous characters and alien races, extremely snappy dialogue, an endearing and tough heroine, and lots of fast action. I am a particular fan of the first book in the Valor series because it opens with a post sex pheromone hangover and ends with a battle based on one of the early moments in the Zulu War. Please, don’t make the mistake of comparing Tanya Huff’s different series to one another. She completely changes her author voice depending on the genre. A truly remarkable ability in an author, and one I admire greatly. The tone of Valor is entirely different from that of her urban fantasy stuff (e.g. Blood series and Keeper series) and both in turn different from her fantasies (e.g. Quarter series). So if you have read Huff before and not liked her, I still suggest giving Valor’s Choice a try. Also, all her books are LBGT friendly.

I intend to finish this series, but at this juncture I am waiting for her to complete it.

Tanya has joined my ill fated list of authors for whom I am suspicious of the dropsies (see The Silvered) so I am waiting until she concludes Valor satisfactorily to finish the books. I have, however, supported the series by buying them all. Because, well, I’m an author so I know how the game is played.

2.  Rachel Bach’s Paradox series

On the flip side: Paradox is a completed military space opera trilogy, of which the first is Fortune’s Pawn. Rachel uses Urban Fantasy tricks in her story making it snappy, romantic, and fun. We read this first one for the reading group too and there was a lively discussion. I finished the entire series immediately, I liked it so much and then reviewed all three at once. My reviews tend to contain spoilers because, frankly, I don’t care about spoilers.

3.  Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why series

Complete at five books (originally intended to be 4) this high-end far-future space opera series begins with A Soldier’s Duty and features a main character who is a psi future seer heavy worlder, best at everything physical and mental. Ia is a pompous Cassandra prophetess figure orchestrating the future of the galaxy. Despite Mary Sue components, repetitive language, info dumping, and various other concerns and issues I found this whole series utterly addicting and hypnotic. (Insert ARGH of frustration here.) I could not put them down and sobbed at the last book. Yes that’s a spoiler but I would want to be warned. SOBBED people. Sobbed. It made my 10 Books to Read When You Need a Good Cry list. She’s planning a prequel spin off. Like Ia, I’m doomed.

4. Doyle and MacDonald’s Mageworlds series

If you want some magic and politics mixed in with your space opera then you can do no better than The Mageworlds series by Doyle and MacDonald. Despite what Amazon says, there are three in the first series (The Price of the Stars, Starpilot’s Grave, By Honor Betray’d), a spin off (The Long Hunt), a stand alone prequel (The Gathering Flame) and (I think) a prequel series (The Stars Asunder, A Working of Stars, and I thought there was one other?). This series is an oldie but a goody, and is hard to get hold of in dead tree as it’s OP. Be thankful there seem to be eBooks out there, last time I checked there weren’t. I like the first trilogy and the prequel, and I read them in that order. (Although I am thinking about a reread in world chronological order soon.) Bonus: the main character is a serious cross dresser. The others all have male main characters so while I read them, you should know by now that as a reader that’s not my thing. They authors have a $0.99 in world short up as well, if you want a low barrier to entry sample of their style.

“In keeping with Prime’s importance, the Officers’ Club there boasted the best food of any Space force base on Galcen, which wasn’t saying that much – and the best wine cellar of any base in the galaxy, which was saying a great deal.”

And it’s their style I love. I’m a fan of co-authored male/female author pairings. These two have a gift for description and I am looking forward to my e-reread so I can gank lots of beautiful quotes for you all. The Price of the Stars trilogy features multiple POV characters, all siblings, but mainly focuses on Beka Rosselin-Metadi: a cross dressing, on the run trickster archetype with possible multiple personality leanings. She’s fantastic! I begin to realize she might have had more to do with Madame Lefoux and Rue than I ever realized before now.

“Beka followed the manager and the Professor across the Lily’s crowded floor, dodging waiters, dancers, and little tables.”

5. S.L. Viehl’s Blade Dancer (spin off from her StarDoc series)


If you want something with more romance and sexy-times then go for Viehl’s Blade Dancer (sadly not available in eBook, grrr). This is a stand alone (YES!) spin off of her Stardoc series which is much longer, started off strong, but devolved and is not as good IMHO. S.L. Viehl is a master of high action, bloody drama, sexy aliens, and true love. This is her at her very best. If you are interested in StarDoc but daunted by the length of the series, give this fabulously fun book a go.

Blade Dancer is a super sexy space opera about ninja-style assassins. It features a tough, if embattled, ex-sportswoman surrounded by engaging characters, strong romantic elements, high action, and some pretty gruesome moments. This universe is full of slave ships and slavers and reminds a bit of Sassinak and the Planet Pirates series.

6. Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series

Speaking of which, Elizabeth Moon has the five book Vatta’s War series that I haven’t read in ages but I remember liking very much. The first one, Trading in Danger, borders on YA about a merchant girl who joins the military and rises unexpectedly fast. (There’s not a lot of true YA in this particular genre that I recommend, but please feel free to comment if you have suggestions. Although no, I will never read the Honor Harrington stuff. No rape for me. Won’t read it. Period.) Also Moon has the Heris Serrano books (series retitled The Serrano Legacy?) of which there appear to be seven, but which appear to have been omnibused and rebranded for ebook. I remember liking these very much as well and may pick up the first one for a reread at some point. These two series have minimal crossover but do exist in the same world.

7.  Lee & Miller’s Local Custom (part of the Liaden Universe series)

I also love Lee & Miller’s Liaden universe, particularly Local Custom. There is an active fan base for this series including a forum called Clan Korval. Another male/female co-author team that strike an excellent balance I’ve read a number of their books. For a while they were hard to get hold of (publisher issues and then tackling burgeoning ebook market I assume) so I haven’t kept up with them. If you want to dive fully into this mire go over and poke about Goodreads where there is a master list via in world chronology (not order as written) up to 17 books at the moment. Most of their books are more sci-fi and anthropology than romantic, there is just something about the details of this universe that seem to have wide-scale appeal.

Local Custom can be read as a stand alone and they have finally brought it out as a self published (?) eBook. You’ll get a sense of their writing style in not standard plot. This is, by far, their most romantic take on the space opera. It features eternal love, clashing cultures, and all sorts of other tropes yours truly adores. None of the others I’ve read have been as romantic. Sadly.

8. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor (prequel to her Vorkosigan series)

If you are in the mood for a, sort of, stand alone than you can do no better than Cordelia’s Honor (which is in print only omnibus of eBooks Shards of Honor and Barrayar). These are Lois McMaster Bujold’s prequels to her wildly popular Vorkosigan Saga staring Miles’s mother. The first installment is essentially a survival story on an alien world with enemies forced to survive, and uncover treachery, together. This falls under the sub heading of planet fall space opera, a sub genre I like because I fancy I have some latent survivor tendencies (when I can drag myself away from the nail salon ~ snark). The second half is more political as Cordelia, now an outcast from her own culture, enters Vor politics in her own fierce and indomitable way. Cordelia has an innate sense of right and wrong and true grace under fire. I’m more interested in her character than in the events leading up to Miles’ birth, as I’ve never had the time nor inclination to commit to the full (seemingly endless) Vorkosigan saga. Please don’t tell me how sad this makes you, or how I should rush out and buy now now now, it’s my retirement plan. The true beauty of this omnibus is that it stands alone, and gives us all insight into Bujold’s brilliance.

9. Anne McCaffery’s Restoree

Restoree by Anne McCaffery is an earth-girl-stolen-to-alien-planet political drama with a great romantic thread and a light breezy tone. It has a summer read feel to it. Don’t worry, the aliens are amorphous ~ no bugs. There is some plastic-surgery kind of experimentation, but it’s very light. The romance element is wonderfully well done.

10. Anne McCaffrey’s Freedom series

Speaking of planet fall, my favorite of these is, by a landslide (pun intended) is the Freedom series by Anne McCaffery, the first of which is Freedom’s Landing. I blush to admit I never managed to finish this series, there was a massive time lag between the 3rd and final 4th book so I thought it was a trilogy and just stopped. But I will finish it, I promise! Only now I need to reread them all. It features a kidnapped from war-ravaged earth trope (see Restoree) plus surviving on an alien world, with a super tough main character plus sexy alien romance (the early 90’s answer to hot vampires). Now that they have all be rebranded (smartly) and released the series as eBooks I might actually finish.

Honorable mention:

An oldie but a goodie. This is a novella length book with wonderful pictures included throughout, is a space opera mixed with highly class driven society romance. It’s all about fashion, in the end. Which is probably why I love it so.

Sigh, writing this blog post has made me realize how much space opera I want to reread. Why is there not more time?

A Reading List of Reading Lists

{Gail’s monthly read along for August is My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse}


Your Infusion of Cute . . .

New Octopus at N. Oregon Coast’s Seaside Aquarium

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Fully Functional Steampunk Computer Made from Old Parts

Book News:
Giles Hash of Beyond the Trope said of Prudence:

“Carriger crafted a shining world, once again, in the pages of her book, more fully-formed thanks to the work she put into her other books.”

Quote of the Day:

“Now stand to your glasses steady –
The galaxy’s nothing but lies.
So here’s to our friends dead already,
And here’s to the next one who dies.”

~ Doyle & MacDonald from The Price of the Stars


Posted by Gail Carriger

 Comments are closed


  1. baker-kitty said:

    I'm so glad to see two of my favourite series on your list. 🙂 (Doyle and MacDonald's stuff, and Cordelia's Honor)

    Have you read Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold? It follows The Curse of Chalion, but stands alone easily. A middle-age coming of age story, with a female lead. And romance. 😉

  2. Fred Kiesche said:

    Based on these (especially Doyle/MacDonald), give (in your copious free time!) Sherwood-Trowbridge's EXORDIUM series a try. They're currently bringing back out as self-published, slightly revised, but previously it was five books from Tor.

    Amazing sprawling stuff.

  3. Eryn said:

    McCaffrey's Freedom series has long been a major favorite of mine. I have it in hardcopy, ebook, and audio formats lol. I like the old covers better personally. The fourth book is an add on to an otherwise finished arc, which is why there was such a time lag. I've now added several of these to my reading list. Thank you.

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