What Dena Reads: When Good Series Go Bad

By Dena Wed, May 7, 2014

For the longest time I loved reading series. The bigger and more epic the better. But I succumbed to series fatigue years ago (just in time for all my favorite genres to decide that series were the Best Thing Ever!) and here are the three reasons why:

1. Unnecessarily long, drawn-out series
I used to adore Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. This was one of the first urban fantasy series (way before sparkly vampires) and it was something I’d never read before. A cool strong heroine who was also full of contradictions about what she did and how she thought.  And there were scary monsters and sexy vampires and people just trying to live their lives even though they were werewolves… These books were like crack. I read them all as soon as they came out. But soon I noticed that something was changing in the books. It seemed like Hamilton was trying to figure out what it was about the series that sold and she decided that it was the sex. So all of a sudden, Anita was in a relationship with not only the vampire and the werewolf, but pretty much any other character that had a penis and some sort of supernatural ability. But it was all about the power, because Anita was a super special snowflake who took on the abilities of all the supernatural beings she slept with. It just became one tedious orgy scene after another (I never thought I’d write that sentence). Narcissus in Chains was the turning point for me in the series but I stuck it out until book 12, hoping that the books would get better (I should have given up sooner).

My suggestion for reading Hamilton's Anita Blake series: the first books are great and really gives you a sense of the beginning of the rise of this particular type of urban fantasy. But stop reading after Narcissus in Chains! It only goes downhill from there. In my opinion, Hamilton’s just writing for the sake of putting out books and making money instead of actually using the series to tell a complete story.  It’s not just her who does this, but she’s the one I’m the most bitter about.

On the flip side, there are some authors who know when to end a story (even when I want to read more of the world and characters they’ve created). Another early writer of urban fantasy is Tanya Huff. Her Victoria Nelson series about an ex-cop, her former partner, and a romance-writing vampire—who also happens to be the bastard son of King Henry the Eighth—is only six books long (plus a three book spinoff series and a couple of short stories). On paper, the two series aren’t that different: strong female main character, love triangle, supernatural beings, crime solving; but the Huff books had one overarching story to tell (and a self-contained story in each book) and when it was done the series ended. So there was no filler in the series that stretched it out indefinitely and I didn’t have time to get bored with the books. Truthfully, I will read anything by Tanya Huff. She writes urban fantasy, science fiction, and high fantasy and all of her stuff is good. My only frustration with her is that she finishes her series while I’m still invested and interested in her characters and don’t want to say goodbye.

2. Time
This might be because I read so fast, but here’s an issue I have about reading series that aren’t complete. I read one book, and then usually have to wait a whole year until the next one comes out. By the time the next one comes out I’ve completely forgotten what happened in the previous book. So I go back and reread the whole series leading up to the newest one so I can have everything fresh in my mind. This is especially frustrating with epic fantasy series where each book is upwards of 500 pages long. This specific frustration led to my creation of what I call the "Robert Jordan Rule": I told myself that I would not start a new series unless the author was either finished or dead. Of course, Jordan then proceeded to die leaving his Wheel of Time series unfinished. I was about to pick it up again when Brandon Sanderson started writing more in the series. So there you go – Robert Jordan broke my "Robert Jordan Rule". 

The rule is more of a guideline, and I do read series when they’re not finished yet, but I avoid the epic fantasy ones… except Game of Thrones. I held out for a while, but when the HBO show started I decided to start reading the series even though George R.R. Martin writes like a glacier. My compromise is this: I read a book before each corresponding season. I’ve read the first three books so far and will be reading the fourth this fall. Although I hear that they’re mashing up the fourth and fifth book in the newest season so I’m thinking I should probably read both…

Check out this interesting article on Jezebel about how publishers are rethinking how they release series basically for this reason.

3. Growing Up
Sometimes you just outgrow a writer. Goodbye, Piers Anthony. The Xanth books got me through my teens, but now they’re just painful to read.

What about you? Do you have any series that you started out loving and ended up breaking up with? Or conversely what series remain fantastic all the way through?

Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures
Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures
Tanya Huff's Blood Price
Tanya Huff's Blood Price
Robert Jordan's Eye of the World
Robert Jordan's Eye of the World


I love J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The series is still going strong and every book has left me loosing sleep to finish in one day! I also love James Patterson's Alex across series. I have been reading that series since highschool! I have been a loyal Patterson reader for over 15 yrs so thumbs up to him for continuing to keep me excited in his books.
Alanithai Martin - Philadelphia Tue, June 10, 2014

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