I’ve always been enraptured by the thought that there are other worlds out there. No, I’m not talking about poor, shunted Pluto or any of the planets. The worlds that seized my imagination lay just beyond the wardrobe. Parallel universes: places that could mirror our existence or turn the laws of physics on its head. Somewhere, somehow, there might be another you with blonde hair. Weird, right? Even weirder? Your other you could have wings.
The craziest part is that this isn’t outside the realm of science. According to String Theory a multiverse could exist. Some theoretical physicists even posit that every choice we make births a universe where the opposite action was taken, thereby making the number of worlds—and their possibilities—infinite. This concept is a treasure hoard for storytellers such as myself. Invictus—my novel about a crew of time-traveling thieves who fence antiquities on the future black market—couldn’t resist the opportunity to utilize the multiverse. In this book, time travelers who cause a large enough change to the fabric of history actually create a “pivot point,” where the altered future splits off into a new world. This is a big whoopsie-daisy to be avoided at all costs.
There are many different ways to weave the multiverse into a story. Here are five of my favorite series that cross multiple dimensions:
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This childhood classic submerges readers into a world slightly altered from our own: Lyra’s Oxford. Its inhabitants have souls that exist outside of their bodies in the form of animals, known as daemons. As the series progresses, we discover that Lyra’s world is connected to our own by a magical artifact known as the Subtle Knife. Will—from our own version of Earth—can cut windows through the fabric of the multiverse. This allows Lyra and Will to travel through all sorts of realms. Including that of the dead.
Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
I, like many others, love Schwab’s take on the multiverse. This series features a finite number of worlds, all four connected by a single fixed city. Grey, Red, White and Black… each version of London has its own personality and only Kell, the protagonist, possesses the ability to travel between them. His magic is a dying breed, however, and the consequences of this become clear when Kell mistakenly smuggles an item that puts every London in peril. The way Schwab parallels these worlds while also pitting them against each other makes for an addictive, exciting read.
The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This sci-fi series brings twist after twist after twist and explores theoretical physics in an accessible way. I actually fear that putting it on this list might be a spoiler, so I’ll decline to detail exactly how Kaufman and Kristoff implement String Theory in their plot. But the way they do so is very clever and mind-melding.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
The scope of this series unfolds wider with each book. Daughter of Smoke and Bone begins in a fog-wreathed Prague, then takes us to Eretz, a world where seraphim are locked in a generational war with creatures known as chimera. What first reads as a portal fantasy swiftly expands into an epic multiverse where worlds are layered like pages in a book. Or a multi-tiered cake. Indeed, this trilogy is decadent and rich. Readers will be eating out of the palm of its hamsa-marked hand by the end.
The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Gray
Gray can always be counted on to tell compelling and original tales, and she tackles the multiverse head on with The Firebird Trilogy. A Thousand Pieces of You tells the story of Marguerite, whose father invents a machine called the Firebird, which allows users to travel through dimensions. Celebrations over this innovative piece of machinery are cut short when Marguerite’s father is killed by his assistant Paul, who then uses the Firebird to flee into another world. Marguerite pursues her father’s murderer through many parallel worlds, meeting many different versions of herself in the process.
Ryan Graudin is the author of six novels, including the Carnegie nominated Wolf By Wolf duology. Her most recent novel Invictus, features a ragtag crew of time traveling thieves. She resides near Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at her website.