The Pros and Cons of Ongoing Series

06/05/2016 Discussions, Reading 22

The Pros and Cons of Ongoing SeriesThere’s been much excitement across the book blogging world this week, thanks to the release of A Court of Mist and Fury, the second in Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Pretty much anything written by Sarah J. Maas seems to signal this level of excitement (me included – I’m already halfway through ACOMAF, and am absolutely loving it!), and I think that excitement is largely due to being able to return to the characters and story you have loved after a long wait (and with some authors that wait is longer than others…ahem, George R.R. Martin!), and getting to read a new book by an author that you really like. I certainly remember the madness and hysteria that accompanied the release of every Harry Potter book: I distinctly remember fighting my way through crowds to get to the table heaped with copies of The Order of the Phoenix in Woolworths.

And that for me is the beauty of ongoing series. Every year, or two years, you get to get super excited about being able to find out what happened next to the characters you loved, or to return to a world that you really liked.

However, the waiting is also one of the annoying things about ongoing series. When I read a book I love I can be kind of a brat and want to read the next book RIGHT NOW! and whilst that’s OK if it’s already a completed series, it can be really frustrating if it is still ongoing and the next book isn’t out. For example, I know as soon as I finish A Court of Mist and Fury I’ll be absolutely dying to read what happens next, but am then going to have to wait another year for the next instalment (although thankfully that long wait will be broken up by the release of the next book in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series in September!). Ever since I read the first two books in The Stormlight Archive a few months ago I’ve also been practically hopping up and down waiting for the next instalment to be released so I can catch up with Kaladin and co.!

Anyway, rambling aside, the point of this post is the pros and cons of series. Does the yearly/however long excitement outweigh the frustration of having to wait? Check out my pros and cons, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Pros

  • The excitement of release day.

There’s nothing better than the excitement of either waiting for your preorder to drop through the letterbox, or hurrying to the bookshop on release day to get your hands on a copy. The wait is annoying, but after all, the author needs that to write an amazing book that does all those characters you love justice, and when the wait is over it’s all the more exciting when you finally open that book and find all those familiar characters waiting. Which brings me to…

  • Already being familiar with the world and characters.

I read a lot of fantasy, and so often when I start a new book there’s a little ‘settling in period’ at the start where you have to gather how the world works, the rules of any kind of magic, and even the different humanoid species that you’re going to be reading about (so elves, dwarves, fae, wargs, robots etc.). Similarly with any book there’s that same settling in period in regards to the character, as you try and get a sense of each one and what they’re about.

However, with a series you’ve already done that, and so you can get into the story much quicker, without having to get accustomed to the world or characters before you can become truly engrossed.

  • Getting to return to the characters and storyline you love.

Aside from the practicalities of reading about the same characters, world and story that I’ve mentioned above, it’s just a really exciting thing to read more about characters you really liked, and to find out what happened to them next. Generally a huge event happens to the characters at the end of a book, and so finally getting to find out what happened after it, and how it affected the characters is great.

Cons

  • Having to wait.

No one likes waiting, especially when you feel like you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what happens next in your favourite series. Whilst it makes the experience all the better when you finally read the book, it is frustrating, and the stakes are also higher than if you had got to read it immediately…

  • The book may not live up to your expectations.

For me the stakes are higher for a book I’ve been waiting for, simply because I’ve been waiting for it, and anticipating it. When you’ve waited all that time for something you’ve generally built up an idea in your head of how amazing and awesome it will be, and have your own theories on what should happen next, and so there is a pretty high risk that it won’t live up to your heightened expectations.

I’ve also found that a lot of series tend to fall into two categories: the series that improve as they go along, and those that decline. I have read a few series that just seem to have got better and better with every book (The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson sticks in my mind), and others that I have kind of lost more faith in with every book (both The Hunger Games and Divergent series). Therefore, there’s always a risk that that series you love now won’t be as good in the next book, or the one after that, and you could eventually just find yourself having to give up on a series you have invested yourself in for several years. Or it could be amazing and get even more incredible with each book, so I guess that’s the risk you take!

  • You may have forgotten stuff by the time the next book is released.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to forget a lot of the little details, and even major plot points in series, especially once you start getting to the later books when there is then a significant amount of backstory to try and remember.

Plus in an ongoing series, by the time the next book has been released it will probably be a while since you read the last one, and so it can be a struggle to remember everything that happened, even if you enjoyed the story at the time. I’m finding that now with A Court of Mist and Fury: a few things that have been said have had me scratching my head, trying to remember the exact events of the last book. I know some people like to reread the last book before the next one comes out, but not only does that require a lot of effort, but would be a total pain if the book you’re waiting for is number seven in the series!

So how do you feel about ongoing series? Does the waiting frustrate you too much, or do you just enjoy the gradually building excitement as release day looms? Do you worry that you’ll be disappointed when you finally get your hands on that book you’ve been waiting for?

22 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Ongoing Series”

  1. Melissa

    I’m kind of tossed up between loving and hating sequels. I love being able to reconnect with characters (kind of like catching up with old friends over coffee or something) and it’s nice to continue to watch them battle evil or fight for what they want, but there are definitely negatives. Sometimes the book takes so long to come out, I’ll already be hooked on other stories so I don’t feel the need to pick up the sequel. That, and the treacherous waiting. Ugh. I’ve waited too long for ACOMAF, and I’m still waiting for it to come in mail. Hopefully it will come soon.
    Great post! 😀

    • Laura

      I so hope your copy of ACOMAF arrives soon! 🙂
      Even after writing this post and thinking about all the pros and cons, I’m still confused over whether or not I love or hate sequels too. Unless a book is amazing I do tend to get sidetracked by other (usually completed) series whilst I’m waiting as well.

  2. Cait @ Paper Fury

    I’m a horrible bookworm and actually LOATHE ongoing series. 😂 This is like 100% because I have a terrible memory though!! I had to reread the entire The Winner’s Crime series when book 3 came out because I REMEMBERED NOTHING (despite really liking them!) So it’s super awkward for me, gah. And I always fall into the trap of reading a series beginning without waiting for them all to be out. So I’m constantly frazzled and forgetting things. hehe.
    I must be the only one in the universe who really doesn’t like SJM books. *hides* But I’m glad you love them so much! I was wildly excited for The Raven King. <3

    • Laura

      My memory is horrible too, so I have the same problem! I just end up looking up the plot on wikipedia when I read a bit that refers to the last book and am like ‘what on earth are they talking about?’ I’m sure not everyone else likes SJM books, but personally I love them! Each to their own though! I have seen The Raven King around every where, so that seems to be another book there has been great excitement about, but I have still only read The Raven Boys (and I haven’t even got round to reviewing it yet!). I should probably hurry up with that series, because I’m missing all of the excitement! 🙂

  3. Tiffany @ The Bookish Thought

    I actually really love ongoing series! Yes, sometimes the waiting time is too long and really frustate me, but ongoing series make me have time to save money. What I mean is, if I bought the first book of a series and absolutely love it, then I could buy the entire series in one month and it’s basically R.I.P to my money xD Also there’s a lot of blogs that posted recaps now, so I’m not really worried about forgetting things. Anyway, great post! 🙂

    • Laura

      That is such a good pro for ongoing series! I’m like that when I read a completed series, and I pretty much buy and read them one after the other, but I do buy them usually for about 99p off ebay, or i get them out of the library. I think with ongoing series though i like to get the book pretty soon after it comes out, so being able to save the money beforehand is useful 🙂

  4. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I don’t read very many series because I always forget what happens while I’m waiting for the next book, and I have no patience. When I do read a series, I buy a boxset and marathon it. I can’t stand the waiting!

    • Laura

      I do love marathoning series, so that is one of the great things about completed series! 🙂

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I get what you mean. Reading series as they are being released is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great feeling a part of something as the bookish community gets excited for each new release. But then it’s frustrating being left waiting, especially if a book’s release date gets pushed back. I have terrible book amnesia and it’s annoying forgetting details of the book and having to reread for each new release, as well.

    I don’t know. Sometimes it’s nice to be a part of the series release as it happens, but I am also a fan of discovering a series once it’s all out and experiencing a good old binge read.

    • Laura

      It really is a blessing and a curse, and even after writing this post I can’t decide whether I lone ongoing series or hate them! 🙂
      Being part of a release is definitely exciting as you can freak out about it with other people, but by the time you’ve got to that point you have usually waited for a tortuously long time, so you wonder if it’s worth it.
      I do quite like to binge series too though, so that’s definitely one of the best things about completed series! The worst is when you think you’re starting a completed series and then realise it isn’t actually complete!

  6. Topaz @ Six Impossible Things

    This is a lovely post, Laura – and on a topic that I know I have struggled with many, many times! I personally am quite partial to binge-reading series, and so it is rather torturous when I pick up a book I did not realise I was part of a series, then fall in love with it and realise the next book doesn’t come out for years and years (oh, the horror!).

    But on the other hand: one of my fondest memories is dragging my mother to Barnes & Noble at seven years old to buy the seventh Harry Potter book, then devouring it all in only a few sittings. There is such magic in a release day, I think – a kind that does not come, really, with having all of the books out already.

    Pros & cons, certainly. A wonderful discussion, love. xx

    • Laura

      I hate that when you think it’s a completed series and fall in love with it, and then realise it isn’t finished yet! I think it’s the worse when you get to binge read most of a series, but then just have to stall whilst you wait for the final books. That was like me with A Song of Ice and Fire – I read all of the released ones in one summer a couple of years ago, and have now been waiting ever since for the next one.
      Harry Potter releases are definitely some of my fondest childhood memories too though! They really were some of the most exciting book releases I can remember! 🙂

  7. E J Frost

    Excellent post and something I think about as both a reader and an author. I’ve loved some ongoing series (Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, Ben Aaronovich’s Peter Grant series, Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift series), but I’ve fallen out of love with others (Illona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series).

    What attracts me to series are big story arcs (like the “find a way to defeat Voldemort” arc in Harry Potter) and characters who change over time and who I can really get invested in (I’ve never cried so hard at a character’s death as when Jim Butcher killed off wizard policeman Donald Morgan).

    What worries me about series is exactly what you’ve articulated: that the later books will be a disappointment. Some just aren’t as good/exciting/whatever. Some feel like retreads. Some just go in directions I don’t like (which I think is what happened with the Kate Daniels series). When that happens, I feel frustrated that I’ve invested so much time and energy following a series that is ultimately a disappointment.

    Since on balance I like more series than I’ve found disappointing, I continue to read series, but sometimes I shake my head at myself and think “so many books, so little time”!

    • Laura

      I think that’s one of the risks with ongoing series – if you can’t read the next book immediately I think you’re more likely to just fall out of love with the series. Especially when the sequels don’t meet up to your expectations.
      Big story arcs are definitely essential for keeping me reading with series too though, because I really want to know how it all works out, and how it changes the characters (I have been seriously gutted over character deaths too when they have been in a series – you grow to really love them after a few books!).
      I definitely get the ‘so many books, so little time’ thing too, and when there are so many things I already want to read, I feel like I really don’t have time for disappointing sequels, so I always really hate when a sequel doesn’t live up to my expectations.

  8. Got My Book

    I’m a chronic series dropper; I rarely make it past number 3 or 4, if I get that far. And I find that every book in a series I am loving gets harder to start, since I’m afraid it will be a disappointment.

    • Laura

      I always struggle with series that go on beyond 3 books to be honest. They have to be pretty amazing to keep me interested past that point! I totally get what you mean about it getting harder with each book to start. I find that the fear of disappointment just grows with each book for me as well.

      • Got My Book

        And, as you pointed out, it’s not just a matter of how good the books are. It’s hard to maintain interest in a long series that only has one book a year.

        People’s interests change, and there are just so many new books waiting to crowd out those old series.

  9. Blaise

    I find this kind of stuff fascinating to read about, partially because I’ve never gotten this hung up on a series, for lack of a better term. I’ve never been this ridiculously excited for a new release that I would stand in line and wait for it and devour it the minute I got home. I’ve never actively waited for a new release–there are so many other books to be reading, after all. I find it fascinating that this is so consuming 😮

    • Laura

      There are so many books I want to read in general, but if there’s a book coming out that I’m really looking forward to then I will pretty much drop everything to read that one! I guess something about having to wait just makes it all the more exciting, even if it is frustrating 🙂

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    That forgetting thing has been a real problem for me lately, and it’s made me seriously consider trying to hold off on most series until they’re finished. But I don’t think I can actually do it. Still, sometimes I think I’d be better off …

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