There is an indescribable pleasure of returning to a world and a cast of characters in a series well loved and well enjoyed. I've been reveling in that feeling all day as I began Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy.
I imagine it's a feeling not unlike what Star Trek or Harry Potter fans feel when a new installment is released in a series. It's akin to being surrounded again by old friends, but going on a new adventure. Only, you're simultaneously solo (unless you join a fan club, I guess).
I don't get this feeling with every series I follow. In fact, for the majority that I follow, I greatly enjoy them, but they lack some indefinable element to raise them to this level. There are, in fact, only two series I can put name to that invoke the anticipation and delight for the next installment: Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. All others, such as those written by Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K Hamilton, Terry Goodkind, even my beloved Katie MacAlister, fail to carry for me this same level of excitement and enjoyment.
I haven't given it too much thought yet. The only reasons I can come up with are these:
1. Both are epic fantasies, meaning that the breadth of knowledge and life that I've "lived through" with these characters is so much more than is developed in a straight fantasy series.
2. The themes are ones that resonate with me. Terry Goodkind had me in this for a while, but I felt his novels became repetitive and too preachy. Robert Jordan has the epic part down, but the themes are rather broad (good vs. evil; friendship triumphing and pulling through tough times). Carey, however, has it all.
I suppose I could wax on about the perfection of Carey's novels (which, given that I'm right in the middle of reading one, would probably make for a very long post), but I want to get back to reading. After all, I'm not quite halfway through with it. But this was a good breather for a few minutes, and a good reminder that I have a life outside the novel.