The video game world has given us some incredible worlds and extended universes to explore. Some of these worlds are then expanded upon with other pieces of media, such as movies, online lore databases, and novels.
The Mass Effect franchise is a good example of this, having been released by BioWare in 2007 to massive success.
The series takes place in a vast and well-developed science fiction universe that blends complex characters with action-packed storytelling.
The franchise was extended with all kinds of additional media, with some of the most notable entries being novels and comic books.
If you’ve recently found yourself immersed in the video games, and want to start reading the novels to learn more about the lore and story, then you might be wondering what are the best novels to start with.
In this article, I’m going to take you through the definitive reading order for the Mass Effect books, making sure to explain what each book does for the overarching story of the franchise.
About Mass Effect
Mass Effect is one of the most popular science fiction franchises to have sprung from a video game.
The first game of the series came out in 2007, simply titled Mass Effect, which was then followed up by Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3.
After that time, fans waited eagerly for another entry, only to be given Mass Effect: Andromeda which was met with middling reviews.
Since then, the Mass Effect video game series has been on standby, with fans who are immersed in the lore hungry for more.
The Mass Effect universe has an expansive bed of lore that extends much beyond the games, with a series of novels and comic books that have been used to flesh out the characters and different factions.
The novels serve as companions to the main games, allowing the reader to get some additional insight into the motivations and important past events of the universe.
First off, it’s important to say that I wouldn’t recommend reading these books if you haven’t played the games, or at least have some understanding of the story.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the series of books released under the Mass Effect umbrella.
There are two main entry points into the universe here, starting with the books written around the original games.
Reading Order For Mass Effect Novels
The first novel you are going to want to pick up is Mass Effect: Revelation. This was released around the same time as the first game and serves as a prequel to the story.
This is the best place to start, even if you don’t have that good knowledge of the game’s lore, as it will introduce you to the main themes, characters, and lore of the story.
This one tells the story of a young lieutenant named David Anderson, who searches to find survivors of an attack that happened at an Alliance base.
In short, pick this one up to learn everything that will set you up for what is to come later in the series.
- Serves as a great entry point for the franchise.
- Goes over some of the major plot points of the series.
- The story is small-scale compared to some of the later novels.
Next up is a book that takes place between the first and second games, meaning if you read directly after Revelation, this one might not make all that much sense to you.
Mass Effect: Ascension, is a novel that was created to help bridge the gap between Mass Effect and its sequel.
The story picks up two months after the first game and follows some of the same characters who feature in Revelation including Kahlee Sanders.
Pick this one up when you’ve read the prequel, and or played the first game.
- Features a captivating story that picks up after the first game.
- Follows familiar characters.
- Relies on you having knowledge of the first game’s story to properly enjoy.
Like the novel before it, Mass Effect: Retribution takes place right after the events of Mass Effect 2.
It follows the story of Paul Grayson, who attempts to infiltrate and learn the secrets of the Reapers.
When Paul Grayson goes missing, familiar protagonist Kahlee Sanders reaches out to David Anderson to help her go looking for him.
This novel follows directly from the past two novels and relies on you having read them before.
- Features a major Mass Effect game villain—Kai Leng.
- Continues the story of the last two books with major characters.
- This novel is the least standalone-friendly novel of the series.
For the final entry in the series, we switch to a different author but stay with the same characters.
The story of Mass Effect: Deception continues on from what has come before, and sees David Anderson and Kahlee Sanders dealing with the fallout of Retribution’s storyline.
Antagonist Kai Leng features heavily in this novel and the story extends out into the timeline of Mass Effect 3.
It’s worth noting that this novel received considerable backlash from fans, who petitioned for it to not be considered canon.
- Acts as the final installment for the series so far.
- Features characters from the games more heavily than previous entries.
- The sudden shift in author could be jarring.
From here, we move on to a new trilogy that revolves around the 4th entry into the video game series, Mass Effect Andromeda. Nexus Uprising is the first novel and is a prequel to the game’s storyline.
The collaboration between authors K. C. Alexander and Jason M. Hough created a story that fans lauded with praise.
- You can read it as a standalone novel, or as a new entry into the series.
- Collaboration between two established authors creates great pacing and characters.
- Disconnected from the previous novels.
Initiation acts as another prequel to the Andromeda era of the game and features two different authors including N.K. Jemsin and Mac Walters.
It tells the story of Lieutenant Cora Harper as she joins the Andromeda Initiative. This is a more character-focused entry into the franchise but comes with a thrilling plot that will keep you guessing.
- Great character writing, especially in the main character Cora Harper.
- Gives extensive backstory into the Andromeda Initiative.
- Another author change may feel jarring for long-time readers.
Next up we have another book and another author. Catherynne M. Valente is a New York Times bestseller, and she uses her skills to cap off the Andromeda trilogy.
It details the final events before the video game’s story begins, outlining the downfall of the Andromeda initiative ship.
Annihilation is an important part of the story to read and one of the best entries of the entire franchise.
- Outlines an important event that leads up to the video game Mass Effect: Andromeda.
- Well written, fast-paced, with a large cast of characters.
- Doesn’t feature too much of the wider lore, mainly focusing on a singular event.
So to conclude, I would recommend two main entry points for the Mass Effect book series. You can either choose to begin with the original trilogy, which serves as a connection between the first three video games.
One of the difficulties with these older books is that they do require some game story knowledge in order to properly enjoy them.
Another entry point is to start off with the Andromeda books, with each of them serving as prequels to the fourth game in the series.
The Mass Effect books are a great way to learn more about the wider lore of the series.
Although there has been some controversy from fans about the overall quality of these franchise entries, if you love the Mass Effect Universe then I would suggest reading them in publication order.
I wish you the best of luck and hope you have many happy hours delving deeper into the Mass Effect universe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There Going To Be A New Mass Effect Game?
After Mass Effect Andromeda, fans waited for a long time for any news on the series. It was recently confirmed that an untitled Mass Effect game is in production.
Is Commander Shepard In The Mass Effect Books?
Commander Shepard does not appear in any of the Mass Effect books. This is because he is a player-character, and as a result was avoided in the books.
He is however mentioned in passing in Mass Effect: Retribution.
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