Pilot Novels: How to Evaluate

I’ve read a few books for which I’m working on reviews, and I’m struggling with something. I want to ask your collective opinions as readers.

There are so many series books out now and I’ve been upfront about the fact that series books are difficult for me and my crap-tastic memory unless the world is surprisingly easy to Rhe-Ehnter even if that world mhakhes mhe whant to phuhl ouht my hhaihr sometihmehs.

I’ve encountered so many first-of-a-series books that at this point I’m not entirely sure how to evaluate them: do I want the books to stand alone so well that the quest for the sequels comes from my wanting to revisit that world? Or do I want the book to function like a really spiffy tv pilot that introduces characters, starts a few plot threads, and solves one while leaving other larger ones unfinished so I have to seek out the sequels to find out What Happens in the End?

Do I then evaluate the larger story arc’s potential, though its unfinished, or do I look solely at the plots within the first volume? Do I ask whether I want to keep reading? And if one book is enough does that lessen the effectiveness of the book itself, because even if I did enjoy it, I may not want to read more. Is that book an effective novel on its own? Is the book an effective pilot?

I am having a hell of a time figuring out how I want to evaluate the first book of a series. It’s both a pilot, meant to entice me to read later volumes, and a stand alone novel, so perhaps I should ignore or discount the unfinished plots that continue into later volumes. What do you think? How do you approach the first book of a series?

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    kalafudra says:

    I think it depends on the kind of series.
    There are series which are very loosely connected [Thinking of Mercedes Lackey’s Bardic Voices Series, for example], where each book can and should be able to stand alone, though they are connected to each other by certain events, but mostly through characters. There’s really no great overarching plot.
    And then there are series which are very tightly knit with an important overarching story [like Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling Series] or even series that read like they are one book and just happen to be split in the middle [like Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring].

    For the first kind, I think you should evaluate them as stand-alones with references.
    For the second/third kind, I think that it would be unfair to have a final verdict without having read it all. Although if you are so bored by part one that you don’t want to continue reading, I think it’s okay to say that.

    Basically, my recommendation would be: call them as you see them and just write what you think – the overarching plot is not finished? Write that in your review, saying what you thought about the first part! You really enjoyed the book, but you don’t care about the rest of the series? Write just that!

    I think everybody who’s ever read a series, knows those feelings and will know what to expect.

    Enough of my words of wisdom. ;)

  2. 2
    ev says:

    I tend to look at the first book of a series like a door- I open it, peek in and decide if I want to go into the room or move onto the next one.

    If I really enjoyed it, I have no problem reading the next books, if not salivating over the release date (Death series, anyone?).

    If ti was ok, but didn’t slay me, I will pick it up when I find the next book. If it doesn’t really do it for me, well then, I haven’t invested enough to worry about the hanging plot lines.

    I have run into all of them. I really like it when I run into a new series in a book of short stories and can say either, yes I will go get the books or no, the author’s voice just doesn’t appeal to me and I am glad I didn’t buy those book(s).

    But why do you have to chose as to how you review it? Can’t you just answer the questions you posed above? They seem like well-tought out ones that would be what someone reading a review would be looking for answers to.

  3. 3
    Jen says:

    I think the key is asking the question: does it make me want to read more? It’s the same question that rings true with any kind of book, be it a single novel or a series.

    If the pilot (story arch or stand alone) doesn’t grab you, then it doesn’t grab you and you should just say it. A pilot, although introducing should still be able to carry some weight and produce an opinion. If it’s good, you’ll want to read more, if it isn’t then you won’t care about what comes after because the first part was a wash-out.

  4. 4
    JoanneL says:

    You can only rate what you’ve read, not what you think may be coming or hope may happen. You always do that honestly—with snarks where needed—- and that’s all that any of us can ask.

    By their very nature a first book in a series has to be a bit of an info dump, doesn’t it? It also has to be a stand-alone story and an invitation to come back again sometime soon; it must be the hardest thing to write and review.

    As a reader my standard practice is to never read a first book in a series unless I know and trust the author completely (Nalini Singh’s new Angels series is an example of an exception since I know and trust her writing). The other bhooks that you refher to I started with the 3rd book. Robb’s In Death series I started with book five.  If they make me want more then I can go back and glom the backlist.

    So, obviously no help from me…. but the SBs don’t need help being truthful about how you feel about a book.

  5. 5
    closetcrafter says:

    The first book has to stand alone.  Outlander? Otherwise I find them to be a little weak, not that I won’t continue to read them. Argeneau series. Dark Hunters.

    It also depends on how closely linked they are. If it’s the continuing saga of the main characters, the first book needs to be pretty strong. Sookie Stackhouse. If it’s an ensemble cast so to speak, it doesn’t have to be so strong.Sandra Hill Christine Feehan

  6. 6
    Carin says:

    I think there is a big difference between “series” meaining ongoing saga revolving mainly around one person (or couple) and “series” meaning a set of books closely (or not so closely) linked with a HEA in each book.

    First of all, in a new series, I want to know which type of series it is.  Then, as far as reviewing goes – I think the first type, by definition, doesn’t stand alone.  (like kalafudra mentioned with LOTR)  The series type where each book has a HEA – I think those should be reviewed as stand alone, though a good review would also include all the other information.  And I think Jen is totally right in that any good book, regardless of series type, will make you want to read more.

    I prefer each book to have it’s own HEA.  I’m also tend to pick up a book and not realize it’s even in a series – and for some reason I tend to start with number 2 or 3 in a series.  But I think with a good book and good series it just won’t matter – that 3rd book will just make me want to read the rest.

  7. 7
    Lita says:

    I think that there is a difference between a “series” like Stephanie Laurens’ Bastion Club or Cynster novels or Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books and a trilogy where the plot and characters continue through all of the books. 

    In a series of books,  each novel stands on its own, and by the time you get to the “end” of the series, the plot and characters of first book really don’t matter.  There are few true trilogies in Romancelandia – I don’t think the genre and the requirement for a HEA – lends itself to a multi-book story arc.  However, I’ve found that the urban fantasy genre – which often straddles into Romance – does lend itself to a trilogy-type story arc, but are rarely true trilogies (LOTR, being the archetype of this format).

    Compare Lynn Veihl’s “Darkyn” books against J.R. Ward’s BDB series.  Having read (and suffered) through both, I’d say that if you didn’t read “If Angels Burn” – the first book, you’d be pretty lost throughout the entire series, since the major characters and story lines are established.  But I think if you skipped “Dark Lover” you’d have no problem picking up the story from any of the subsequent books.  With the exception of a fairly minor character, no one from the first book ever really play a major role in the other novels, and Ward kindly keeps providing the same background information over and over.

  8. 8
    KatherineB says:

    Agree with closecrafter…I prefer a standalone-ish book for the first part, with a few unfinished threads that will lead pleasurably into a second.

    My fav type is one where friends or family are introduced but not in a major way. Nora Robert’s Garden series, the Concannons, the Holding the Dream ones – she does the format so well. Three ladies or guys whose opposing love interests are introduced book by book – it works for me.

    One of my biggest griefs with intro books is when the whole crew of the series’ characters are crammed into the book, with conflicting needs and desires, but only one couple gets their plot line tied up neatly. I know, the rest will get theirs but when I lose track of names and pertinent details, I give up.  The Circle Trilogy turned me off for broadly that reason (Sorry, Nora! But really, it’s the only one of yours that I couldn’t get into).

    I guess in the end you’ll have to play it by ear – my opinions are not yours, but as long as you can be honest about why it bugs you, don’t worry.

    BTW, the same feelings apply when it comes to movies that are meant to be series as well. A lot of Japanese friends complained to me about Lord of the Rings having too many character intros in the first movie. I felt the same about X-men, though I hung on for love of the franchise.

  9. 9
    Christine M. says:

    The first book has to stand on its own. And I have to really enjoy it. That’s how I pick my series. I’m more into the UF genre myself, but when I fell into the genre, I picked something like seven novels from seven authors, all the first in a series and as I read them I took note whether I wanted to delve further into in their worlds with the next book in line. Some series I decided were not my cuppa and I also found some pearls, but at least that way I began by giving everyone a chance and since then I’ve also figured out who were my favourite authors, etc.

  10. 10
    Terry Odell says:

    I’ll always start with book 1, whether it’s a true series, or just a connected book. If I discover I’m reading what obviously has references to something that came before, I stop, go back and pick up the first book.  I don’t like “spoilers”.  I “met” Suzanne Brockmann mid-series, and it ruined the read of the previous book that established the back story.  I already knew about the hijacked plane, the rescue, and the relationship, so reading them ‘first hand’ was anti-climactic.  I picked up a Tess Gerritsen and there was so much back story I have no desire to go read the previous book.  Shall I say, I like the MYSTERY genre, not SUSPENSE, so I like being kept in the dark along with h/h. 

    I always read a new book as a stand alone.  If I fall in love with the characters, I keep going.  (Ditto on the salivating for the In Death” books.) I’ve done all of Lee Child and am working on John Sandford’s “Prey” books.  The list of all the series I’ve stuck with is far too long to list here.

    As an author, it’s troublesome.  One of my publishers doesn’t do multi-book deals. So I rewrote book 2 of what I’d hoped would be a connected series and took out any references to plot elements so that it too could be a ‘first’ book and maybe find another market.

    I also wrote a true sequel to my first book, although I didn’t set up the first one with that in mind. The hero and heroine still had more to say. For that one, I’d definitely recommend reading them in order.

  11. 11
    Jacquilynne says:

    I think there’s a difference between books that are meant to launch a series of interconnected books, and books that are, say, the first of a trilogy, that are really kind of one giant novel, but no one publishes 1400 page novels anymore so can’t really be.

    If it’s a series, then every book should stand alone as readable and enjoyable without having read the others. Yes, there will be background information and interconnectedness and whatnot, but the important details should be re-mentioned in the current book for those who may not have read the previous ones. And the first book should have a complete plot all its own, even if its plot is part of a larger continuing story line.

    So, you can evaluate the novel on both fronts—is it a good novel in and of itself, and does it make you want to read the rest of the series. If it succeeds brilliantly at the former, the latter should almost be a given, but succeeding on the latter doesn’t guarantee the former.

  12. 12
    Christina says:

    I think the mark of a good series is if you can pick it up halfway through and not be completely confused. I’ve picked up mid-series novels by accident and not understood the story or context and I’ve gotten some that got me involved in the series. It’s a fine line to walk between giving too much backstory and not enough. Similarly, there are a lot of series novels in the spirit of ‘my publisher wouldn’t take this as one novel, so it’s broken into installments.’ Anyway, haven’t had coffee yet so I’m pretty sure that didn’t make sense.

  13. 13
    MerryMey says:

    When I pick up the first book in a series, I’m looking for several things. 1) It has to introduce the ‘world’ without being grossly obvious about it. Newsflash:if your series requires a large glossary at the beginning or a prologue telling us the rules of the universe, chances are it’s too complicated.
    2) I want the story to stand on it’s own. If the ending seems entirely geared to sell the next book, I get annoyed. Small cliff-hangers are ok. Big gaping plot holes are not.  I have to want to keep reading. Not because some mystery was left unsolved in book 1, but because I like the universe introduced.

  14. 14

    I like series books that are also standalone.  Too many times I’ve been in mid-series and the publisher ended it or the bookstore stopped carrying it.  And it sucks to come across what looks like a really cool book only to discover that it’s the second book in a series, and the first book is out of print or otherwise hard to find.  All of which is why I wrote my own series books to stand alone.  They interconnect, sure, but only character-wise, not plotwise.

  15. 15
    Maya M. says:

    I have 2 little rule-of-thumb:  do I find the main characters of that story more intriguing, or the secondary characters whose books will be coming up?  And:  even if some plot threads dangle – does this story finish at a logical and emotionally satisfying point?

  16. 16
    JanLo says:

    I have to agree with the other comments. Each book must stand alone and provide the HEA for those main characters. Other characters, not too many please, can be introduced and as a reader, I can hope they find their own HEA. Plot arcs must be complete for each book and background clear for each plot, without having read the entire series. Series plot arcs will reveal themselves as the books are read in sequence, if a reader chooses to do so, however, the general theme of the series should show through in each book.

  17. 17
    Mfred says:

    Honestly, when I pick a book up and see that its part 1 of 2 or 4 or 12, I put it right down.  I think reading fantasy and sci-fi burned me—Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn—and I now view any series as possibly never-ending.  And the investment in my time and money that never-ending series requires makes me too tired to even start it.

    The problem, for me, is that I can’t stand reading the middle book.  The first book is great—all that first date potential and shiny flirty moments.  The last book is also great, its the morning after and I’m glowing from all the hawt loving. 

    And then there is the middle. 

    The story that has to be told to get me to the next part.  And I don’t want to waste my time with that story.  If a book can’t stand alone on shelf, can’t hit the same notes as the first and the last, then I don’t want to read it. 

    Sookie Stackhouse has me in despair because I want to know THE END.  I want the HEA.  I want her to pick ERIC ALREADY ARGH ARGH ARGH!!

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    As others have said, there are series books where the same character recurs in a new story, and then there are ongoing detailed storyline plots.  As long as I can enjoy each book on its own I don’t have a problem with either type.  I do think that the latter type is much harder to pull off (LOTR is the one exception I can think of, but then it was always one book, the publisher chose to break it into 3).

    An example of the former type, Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” novels are my hands down favorites.  Each book makes me laugh out loud, I don’t have to read them in order, and there’s no trouble catching up with the current status of the character (side note: I’ve learned not to read these in a public place… I have laughed till I’ve cried reading these books and it gets a little embarrassing when you’re trapped on a plane laughing like a loon)!  The downside of these type of series novels is that the author can take too much time recapping basic info about the characters – which can be really annoying if you’re a regular reader of the series.

    For the latter, Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series really has to be read in order, and while each book could be said to be complete I pretty much lost interest after the first three books – I LOVED the first book, but found my interest in the trials and tribulations of Claire and Jaime (after their ‘happily ever after’) waned considerably. All the new characters failed to capture my interest in the same way since Claire and Jaime remained the center of books.  I think for me, this type of series is much harder to pull off, because while one or two books might meet the standard of a complete, satisfying read, I’ve never really found a series where each book met that criteria.

  19. 19

    Speaking from the reviewer’s side of the desk (I have been a reviewer for a very long time on the f&sf; side of the genre fence), I can work with both kinds of series—but the one thing that tends to push my annoyance button most often is a series wherein Not Enough Happens in the first book, so that said first book essentially sets up the conflict for the overall series without having a meaningful conflict and resolution of its own.

    The other frequent issue in series books is, of course, the end-of-book cliffhanger.  On one hand, a book with a major cliffhanger at the end clearly telegraphs the kind of series it is—at the end, anyway.  OTOH, if the cliffhanger leaves that particular book’s major conflict unresolved, this can be the source of a major ARRGH! from the reader’s corner.

  20. 20
    Jane O says:

    Not only should the first book stand on its own, but so should all subsequent books.

    After all, there are always new readers coming into existence. Authors should make it possible for readers to pick up Book Ten in the series and not find themselves lost because they don’t know the back story.

    In the same way, Book One should be complete in itself. It’s one thing to end with the sense that there are more stories to be told. It’s quite different to end with a cliffhanger like the old Saturday afternoon movie serials.

    Whether they start with Book Ten or Book One, readers who enjoy the experience will look for others in the series. Readers who feel cheated may avoid all of the author’s books.

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    In general I prefer a series book that can be read as a standalone but a broader story arc is okay too if it doesn’t overtake the story so much as to be confusing. 

    For example:  most murder mysteries with a continuing protagonist can be read as standalones, since the conventions of the genre dictate that the primary problem be solved within the confines of a single book.  However, an ongoing personal relationship can be developed over the course of several books in the series, without confusing the reader.

    I don’t really count continuing family sagas such as Heyer’s These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub, Regency Buck, and An Infamous Army as a “series” since they are sufficiently removed from each other to function as standalones even though several characters continue from one book to another—I suppose “crossovers” might be a better term.

    Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is kind of a unique case in that it features both standalones such as The Truth AND continuing series like the City Watch books within an ongoing series.  They can generally be read out of order as ongoing story arcs such as the relationship between Vimes and Sibyl function more as subplot than primary story line.  (The very first books of the series, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, are generally agreed to be the weakest of the bunch, and most people don’t recommend starting the series with them.)

    By contrast, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files began as a series of standalones revolving around a single character, and have, over the years, morphed into a continuing story arc that MUST be read in sequence to avoid confusion.  (This is really my only criticism of the series, which is one of my all-time favorites—I feel that the cast of characters and multiple plot lines have become too weighty for their own good and need some trimming in short order.)

    Anyway, I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here with all these ramblings—maybe that series books really have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as every author does something a little differently, and there really is no way to neatly pigeonhole every series.

  22. 22
    Rebecca says:

    It is my suggestion that you judge each book on its merits as it stands – because that is how you are receiving it – as a single book. And that is how it will be bought (initially) – as a single book.

    Yes, the author is working on a larger story arc, but all you have in front of you the first act in a three-act or five-act series or an installment in the adventures of some fun character. So, as the foundation book, how does the author do?

    As you know, the questions you have to answer are the same as with a stand-along book. And you get to add more! Does this seem like an interesting series? DO you want to read more about it? Etc…you know.

    Well, there’s my two cents.

  23. 23
    Lissa says:

    Not only should the first book stand on its own, but so should all subsequent books.

      This is exactly my thought Jane O.

    For me a really good example of a series is JD Robb/Nora Roberts In Death.  She has developed a core of main characters who weave through every story with each book having a plotline that begins and ends in that book.  You can pick up any one of these books and be satisified that you read a complete story.  I think it is one of the reasons that even after 30 stories In Death still seems so fresh to me. 

    When the series has so many characters per book, and you know the author is introducing them to set up future stories, I tend to get lost.  Especially if there is a long time between books.  I have moved on, read other stories, lost the threads.  I don’t want to have to go back and re-read the previous books so as to understand plot points in the new one.  After awhile it all blends into one jumble of mis-matched stories and couples and becomes to confusing and time consuming to remember.

    One series that I am so on the fence about right now is Karen Marie Moning’s Fever books.  I really want to love these books but we are three books into the series and I have yet to feel as though I have read a complete book; most especially the third one.  I am not talking about the controversary over the fact that there is no sex in these books – which, quite frankly, I didn’t expect there to be and don’t see how she could write it into the series without losing major plotlines – but that I don’t feel like we have been given enough reason for the things that are happening to be happening.  I want the backstory; I want to know how/when/who had the book in the first place, I want to know how/when/who it was lost.  I want to know who/what Alina was – three books into to it and I have NO IDEA who/what the main focus of the story is.  And as far as I am concerned, the last book just stopped.  It didn’t have an end, it didn’t come to a conclusion, it just stopped.  I feel like I have been suckered into a series where I am being compelled to spend my money for the story, rather than allowing each book to be a story in and of itself. 

    I think I got a bit off track there – but my point is this:  I like the option of a series – if the writing is good and the characters are well done, I want the option to revisit them in subsequent stories – but I don’t want to me made to feel that I have to go get subsequent books in order to find out the rest of the story.  Write each book – beginning, middle and end; revisit if you choose, but don’t make me feel like I have to come back to finish it. 

    A good book is like a good meal – I should be able to walk away from the table feeling full and satisified; not like I missed out on dessert.

  24. 24
    Goblin says:

    I really dislike books that just end without resolution. A massive majority of the series I do like have self-contained stories in each book.

    That said, my agent pointed out that (in fantasy, at least), almost all the big sellers are series. Stand-alone novels aren’t as popular.

    Pity, because that’s my preference for both reading and writing.

  25. 25
    Lori says:

    I read a lot of series and my only hard & fast rule is that I won’t start in the middle.  Aside from that, I have general preferences but for every one of my “rules” I can think of at least one series that I love that totally break that rule.  This is because, as others have noted, there are many ways to structure a series.

    For Sarah’s question I think I think it makes more sense for me to answer as a reader of reviews.  When I read a review the most important thing to me is knowing how the reviewer is approaching the issue.  Whether it’s wanting a stand alone story or the feel or a good pilot or whatever, I just want the reviewer to clearly state her basis for judging the book.  As long as I have that information I can work out for myself if the book is likely to work for me. 

    I also think it’s perfectly far to essentially give 2 separate grades, one for the book on it’s own & one as part of a series.  For example, “This book is a B on its own but I have no interest in reading more, so as a series its an F.”

  26. 26
    Leslie says:

    I have to say that my favorite “series” need to be read in order but offer some kind of resolution early on that segues into more character and relationship development later in the series, like Laurie King’s Mary Russell books. Of course, the exception to the rule would be the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane relationship that takes forever to resolve, but needs that long to really become “realistic.” It may be that those two series are successful because of the extraordinary talent of the writers.
    Well, neither one is a romance, so I will address those directly – I am thinking of MJ Davidon’s Queen Betsy and Fish out of Water series – they need to be read in order and (as yet) there is no clear HEA/resolution, even though characters have been given romantic HEAs (particularly Betsy). I liked the teasing between Betsy and Sinclair that developed for a couple of books – they could not have HEAd in the first book, b/c Betsy was not ready – but we are left with the knowledge that a Big Bad could end the Betsy reign. Maybe it gets moved to Fantasy now, rather than Romance.
    I know, rambling…my beef against series is in the waiting – and the movement four or five books in to hardcover (which is its own issue, I know) and the sense that some authors are dragging out an ultimate resolution either b/c they do not know where they are going or they are worried to try omething else.

  27. 27
    Tina C. says:

    I agree with others that say that each book should be able to stand alone.  That said, I don’t mind if there are unresolved side issues, ie, secondary couples or such, as long as they eventually have some resolution in subsequent books.

    On a completely different note, though, one of my big pet peeves is when there is a series around a main protagonist and the author never really resolves his/her underlying issues because then they would have to either come up with something new or end the series.  Take LKH’s Anita Blake, for instance.  On the one hand, she keeps becoming more and more powerful because the villain of the week has to be more and more powerful to top the previous books.  So her powers become all but god-like in that sense.  This is annoying enough.  However, add in the fact that the character has shown absolutely no emotional growth or willingness to work on her personal issues because god forbid we actually have some sort of resolution with the various men in her life (other than throwing Richard, aka LKH’s Ex-Husband Stand-In, under the bus, that is).  “Oh, I have yet again hurt so-and-so because I can’t seem to stop myself!  I really must work on that.  We’ll talk it out and I’ll resolve to do better.  Oh, it’s another book and I’m acting exactly the same way!  I really must work on that.  We’ll talk it out and I’ll resolve to do better.”  Ad nauseum.  All I can figure is that LKH is unwilling to commit to some sort of resolution of those particular plotlines because she’d have to come up with something else to generate dramatic tension or else she would have to end the series.  I finally just gave up on the character and the series in wearied disgust. 

    At the other end of the spectrum, you have Tanya Huff.  She may take some of her characters and transport them into a new one, but she does not carry a particular arc/series past what she considers The End.  I may not want the series to stop at that point (because I love the characters, not because I feel that part of the story is unfinished), but I appreciate that her stories, both the individual books and the over-all series, have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

  28. 28
    Melissandre says:

    To me, it’s all about two things: expectations and book reading habits. 

    I enjoy reading fantasy, so I know to immediately check a book that interests me to find out where it fits in the series.  People expect that fantasy books will be either part of a trilogy or an epic series (or a series of trilogies).  I agree that the first in a series should be a stand alone, yet a good fantasy will also introduce an over-arching conflict that will take several books to resolve.

    Romance, for me, is a whole different animal.  I have certain authors and series that I follow, but I also grab books at the drugstore, pick up what I can find at the used bookstore, or check out interesting titles at the library.  I am not looking for a series in romance, but rather a quick and enjoyable read.  It can be hard to follow a series in romance because I am more inclined to just pick up whatever interests me, and I may not have access to the back catalogue at the time.  Like others have said, I prefer a series of interconnected books that are complete in and of themselves.  The Mallorys, the Cynsters, the Fallen Angels, anything by Eloisa James, etc; these series tell individual stories with occasional glimpses into the lives of the other characters.  If I care enough, I seek out the other books.  If not…eh, whatever.  But it can be frustrating to grab a book at the checkout only to find that the characters from the first two books keep popping up and talking about things you know nothing about.

    Since romance and fantasy are starting to meld, maybe romances should take a page from fantasy’s book: make it plain what number this book is in the series.  On a fantasy, that information is usually right on the cover.  Romances will occassionally have that information on the page where the author lists previous titles, but not always.  Make it clear this book is part of a series, and the order of the series, and I might be more inclined to find the first title and dive in.  Otherwise, I just get frustrated and pissed.

  29. 29
    Melissandre says:

    I just realized I didn’t give Sarah any thoughts on how to review a series book.  I think any good pilot book should be able to stand on its own, yet dangle just enough bait to make us interested in the next book.  Maybe that is another character whose story will be told next, or a plot conflict not quite resolved.  I think you should also grade the book series advertising.  Is there a teaser chapter for the next book?  That helps.  Does it clearly indicate what number it is in the series so I don’t accidentally read in the wrong order?  That’s useful information.  Is there a list of all the books in the series in the order I should read them?  Very much appreciated.

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    Count me in with the “if it’s a book, it should be able to stand alone” crowd. 

    I don’t mind series with overarcing themes, but if I’m going to buy a book, I want to know that the time I spend in that particular book is going to pay off by the time I close the cover.

    It’s not romance, but case it point, the Harry Potter books. Each one was a complete story in and of itself. Each book added to the overall journey the characters were taking as they grew in the overall series. But you could just as easily pick up the third book and read it as you could the first one and still get a complete satisfying read.

    This is not the same as reading a series where the books are not interlinked except by secondary characters, like Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons. You like the family, but the books don’t really depend on one another in the finale of the series like Cherry Adair’s Edge trilogy did. However both series each book could be read on its own.

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