I’ve been asked a couple times recently for suggested reading order for Cobalt City books. Or, “I read X, what should I read next?” So here’s me taking a stab at it.
It’s kind of a loaded question, since there’s been such a hodgepodge publication history. In theory, most of the books are written to stand on their own. But it’s certainly helpful to have earlier context for some of the items. You can read Kensei without having read any other Cobalt City books, but the storyline is built out of a lot of stuff that happened earlier.
If you want a strict chronological order of events, setting creator Nathan Crowder has a timeline on his website.
Below is my reading order recommendation, framed as sort of a “complete Cobalt City experience.” This is meant to be mostly chronological where I can, but also geared towards reading complete books at a time. So even though some short stories in the anthologies take place much earlier in the timeline, I’ve tried to minimize the need to bounce around between books.
I’ve added a series of asterisks to the titles. Here’s what they mean.
* These are titles that I feel like you can jump into reasonably easily. They represent the beginning of a new story arc, and could be jumped into pretty easily.
** These are collections that have new content but also include content previously listed.
*** These are stories that appear in anthologies that are not related to Cobalt City.
- Chanson Noir by Nathan Crowder*
- Cobalt City Blues by Nathan Crowder
- Cobalt City: Dark Carnival by Nathan Crowder, Matt Adams, Ashley Bates, Erik Scott de Bie, Rosemary Jones, Charlie Kenmore, Amber Keller, Dawn Vogel, Andrew Warren, Catherine Warren, Jeremy Zimmerman, Minerva Zimmerman
- Cobalt City: Adventure Unlimited (podcast)
- Cobalt City: Los Muertos by Nathan Crowder
- Cobalt City: Ties That Bind by Nathan Crowder
- Greetings from Beuna Rosa by Nathan Crowder*
- Ride Like the Devil by Nathan Crowder
- Cobalt City Christmas by Nathan Crowder, Nikki Burns, Rosemary Jones, Angel Leigh McCoy, Jeremy Zimmerman
- Cobalt City: Timeslip by Caroline Dombrowski, Nathan Crowder, Erik Scott de Bie, Michaela Hutfles, Rosemary Jones, S. Aarron Kemp, Dawn Vogel, Jeremy Zimmerman
- The Devil, You Say by Jeremy Zimmerman**
- Sparx & Arrows by Dawn Vogel**
- Snowflake War Journal by Jeremy Zimmerman**
- “Sword Saint of Karlsburg” by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman*
- The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Kensei Tales: Offensive Driving by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Kensei Tales: It’s the Great Yule Cat, Jamie Hattori by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Kensei Tales: Live and in Concert by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Kensei Tales: Unorthodoxy by Jeremy Zimmerman
- Cobalt City Rookies by Nikki Burns, Rosemary Jones, Jeremy Zimmerman
- Eye for an Eye by Erik Scott de Bie*
- “Madjack” by Nathan Crowder***
- Cobalt City Christmas: Christmas Harder by Nathan Crowder, Amanda Cherry, Erik Scott de Bie, Dawn Vogel, Jeremy Zimmerman
- Rites & Desires by Amanda Cherry*
- Cobalt City: Resistance by Nathan Crowder
- Nathan Crowder on Patreon
I’d argue that Cobalt City starts with Chanson Noir, which features the superhero team called the Protectorate. It was not the first book written in the universe, but it’s the first book that takes place in Cobalt City proper. Combined with its sequel, Cobalt City Blues, it sets up a lot of the universe that later authors have played around with.
There have been other superhero groups in the setting, but none as detailed in books as the Protectorate. Nathan Crowder has called this the Golden Age of Cobalt City, chiefly because of the influence it has had on the rest of the setting.
In addition to the original Protectorate series, I’ve included a few other pieces that are part of this period. Cobalt City: Dark Carnival is the only anthology specifically set during this time period.
Cobalt City Adventures Unlimited was a short-lived audio drama that we are trying to slowly return to existence.
Cobalt City: Los Muertos and Cobalt City: Ties That Bind are stand-alone pieces set in the same time period. You could arguably read them on their own, but I think you get more out of them if you are familiar with the characters.
There’s two parts to the books included here.
Greetings from Buena Rosa was the first Cobalt City book published. But it and its sequel, Ride Like the Devil, are set after the dissolution of the Protectorate. I read Greetings first, and wished afterwards that I had read the two Protectorate books first. There’s a lot of context to character relationships with the main characters that are really explored more in the Protectorate series.
The rest of the books here represent a relative lull in Nathan writing more books, as well as him inviting other authors to play around in his sandbox with a series of short story anthologies. The anthologies I included here often have stories taking place all through the timeline for Cobalt City, from pre-Columbian time to what I’ve classified as “Revival.” But I feel like they were shaped by the fall of the Protectorate.
This period marks the rise of new fullish length books in the setting. Nathan published two bundles of novella length fiction, all set about five years after the Protectorate dissolved. The were meant to represent a new wave and (in the case of Cobalt City Rookies) a new generation of stories. Cobalt City Rookies collected three young adult novellas, including my first published book. Cobalt City Double Feature had two books within it, of which Eye for an Eye is the only one available now.
The Prather Administration
This period marks a new wave of fiction in the setting, shaped by a mix of Nathan’s Patreon and the 2016 presidential election. In universe, the big event is the election of anti-super pundit Lyle Prather. Cobalt City: Resistance have a different view of what superheroes look like in a polarized and increasingly fascist United States. And Nathan is still producing new content on his Patreon that has not yet been made available outside of there.