Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Perfect Series Length

I read and write fantasy.  Most of the early fantasy I read had been written in three book series.  Most epic fantasy followed the standard set by Tolkien.  After all if the master could create a story the scope of The Lord of the Rings, would would anyone need to drag the story out for more than three books.  But some could argue Tolkien's saga was actually four books if you include The Hobbit.  Then along came Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series and a new idea of how long epic really is and it's not done yet, outliving even its creator.  Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series came along to challenge Jordan's record and he's still going with it.

So what is the perfect length.  I don't mind reading ten or fifteen books set in a series unless I have to wait more than half a decade for the next book in a series and if the author keeps the story tight and moving ever deeper into intrigue with escalating tensions and the fate of the world at stake.  Some can do this and some can't though I won't mention names.  On the other hand I've read three or four book epic fantasy series where I didn't even care if I finished the final book. 

My first fantasy series is four books long.  I planned it for three but the complications took longer to bring to a head than I expected when I started it.  I'm currently a book and a half into my second fantasy series and expect it to also be four books long. 

How long do you like for your book series to be as a reader or a writer?  Have you fallen out of love with a series after you'd invested time reading the early books in it?


  1. When I was 16 I went mad for Micheal Moorcock's series 'Elric Of Melnibone. These weren't long books unlike the series of today.

    But I've never read a series of book since apart from Tolkien when my son was young and I would read them to him at bedtime.

  2. I hate having to wait for books but I try to be understanding because I know how hard it can be to write those things.

    I think three or four is a good number of books for a series (and not just because that's what my own will likely end up being). But I loved the Harry Potter series and there were seven of those, not to mention the wait between novels toward the end.

    I haven't made it through all of Terry Goodkind's novels (I think I stopped after #4 or #5) and never even attempted Robert Jordan's (although I have all of each series)series just because of the sheer length of it.

  3. I think three or so is my limit. I gave up long ago on The Wheel of Time because it just wouldn't end!

  4. Stories have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Series should be the same. After a while they are repetitious (boring) without and end in sight. Why do editors and publishers allow this?

  5. I think between 3 and 6 is an acceptable number, most of the time. It depends on how well the story's plotted--and if they're the same characters over and over again, or if they're a different set every time.

    One series I tore through during the first few books was Pendragon by D. J. MacHale. But after the fifth or so, I found them repetitive and gave up.

    Speaking of waiting a long time for books, the last book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is set to come out this Fall, when the last book was released in 2008--I really don't like waiting around for books to come out. :P