Is Investing Your Time in Novel Series Worth It?

Malazan – 17 novels and counting

Valdemar – 34 novels

The Riftwar Cycle – 30 novels

The Wheel of Time – 15 novels

Shannara – 29 novels with more to come

The Legend of Drizzt – 27 novels and more coming

Dragonriders of Pern – 26 novels

The Dresden Files – 15 books and more coming

I could keep going. These are all long novel series, mostly fantasy. What is it about series that keep us coming back for more? Are they worth reading all the way through?

In my opinion, absolutely yes. I’m currently only on the third book of The Wheel of Time, and I’m actually reading it fairly quickly. I’ve read most of Shannara that’s been written, other than the eight or nine most recently written ones. I have to catch up! I’ve read only four Drizzt novels and only the first two Malazan novels. Damn, I really need to catch up.

I love reading series. I love getting back into the worlds and meeting my old travel companions, or seeing new and familiar places. They feel like home.

Of course, there are some drawbacks. They take time, they may drop in quality, they may lose direction. The Wheel of Time becomes a bit of a drag in the middle of the series, I’ve heard, but the ending is supposed to be incredible. I look forward to reading all the way through.

I’m a bit of a completist (if that’s a word). I want to finish the series I’ve started. I’ve never actually finished a long series, but I have finished trilogies and other short series. I’m curious to see where they lead, and I can’t wait to dive into the next book of the series.

How do you feel about novel series? Let me know in the comments.

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20 thoughts on “Is Investing Your Time in Novel Series Worth It?”

  1. I’ve only read the Shannara series all the way through. Though I think of them as separate series each containing 3 or so books. All of Terry books take place in his world of Shannara, but they are about different times and different people. I started The Dragon’s Pern back in University, but only read one of them and I don’t even remember which one that was. I’ve heard of and seen the Wheel of Time but never got into it.

    1. Yeah, Shannara is several trilogies, basically. I started Pern in university, too. I’ve read almost all of them. And I’m really enjoying The Wheel of Time.

  2. I’ve read some of Valdemar, most of Drizzt, all of Dresden. They’re a bit different in their presentation. While the Valdemar books all take place in the same kingdom, most are actually standalones, duos or trilogies — you can jump in at almost any point and not need to read back unless you get intrigued by the ‘history’ that points to other books.

    Legend of Drizzt is one long ongoing story, but again it’s also separated into (mostly) trilogies, with a few entry points. That being said, you need to start close to the beginning to understand what’s going on, since it follows one character’s life and takes place over a span of centuries.

    The Dresden Files are all technically standalones, in the episodic way of a detective show. After reading one or two near the beginning, you can probably hop in and out of the storyline and still follow everything all right. It also follows one character, but for a much shorter span of time.

    They all do their job reasonably well. The Legend of Drizzt books suffer from being bound to a game world whose timeline they have to follow; R.A. Salvatore isn’t entirely in control of what he writes. Mercedes Lackey drifted from the Valdemar stuff for a while, which might have represented a dissipation of ideas — in which case, good on her for setting it aside and coming back when she had something workable. I know Jim Butcher has a grand plan for X number of books, and changes things up enough per book that I don’t go ‘oh this again’ when I read one.

    That last point is the one that matters, I think. When a series turns into a set of Mad Libs, or on the other hand (in the case of C.j.Cherryh’s 16-volume Foreigner series) when the first two books in an in-series trilogy do nothing but set up the third, it becomes frustrating. There needs to be an overall arc — some push forward, some sense of a path if not a resolution in the distance — but it also can’t be -just- about that push; there need to be events of interest on a per-book basis. I love the Foreigner series but I feel it’s starting to be hurt by the in-series-trilogy pattern it’s set up.

    1. The only one you mentioned that I’ve read is the Drizzt series. But then, I’ve only read Icewind Dale and the first book of the Dark Elf trilogy. I can see how he has less control, because Forgotten Realms isn’t actually his. He’s just one of many authors for it, although he is the most famous.

      1. It’s not a big deal most of the time, but the Forgotten Realms world did a 100-year time-jump semi-recently, so you can see where that could be a problem for some of his characters. I don’t know if I like how he’s handled it…I’m a few books behind now, since they’ve gone into another world-story arc that I feel rather ‘meh’ about.

  3. I haven’t attempted a series nearly as long as the ones listed. I’ve finished the original 6 books of the Dune series, and am working on the Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan right now. I’d also like to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, but can’t at the moment for obvious reasons.

    1. I think it’ll be a while until A Song of Ice and Fire is finished. I’ve only read the first of the Dune series. I need to read more. I loved the first book.

  4. I’m a notorious non-lover of series. I tend to run in the opposite direction as soon as I see a “book 2”. However, with that being said, throughout the years a couple series have wormed their way into my shelves. One of them, my favorite, is 41 books long and still going.

    Now, fantasy novels? 2 is my limit, and even that is stretching it. Too much world building, not enough action for me.

  5. It depends on how well the author sets the series up and how well the novels are ‘needed’ for the plot. When i am reading a series, I want there to be satisfaction in each individual novel as well as in the series as a whole.

    For example: Pillars of Creation in Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series. I read it and there was *nothing* in there that was especially needed. It felt like world building to me and, in the end, is completely skipable if you don’t mind a little bit of Deux Ex (and the book itself feels a little Deux Ex anyhow). It did nothing significant to advance the plot or the series as a whole in my opinion.

    1. I’ve heard some of Goodkind’s books suffer a bit later on. While I enjoyed the first book, it wasn’t the most amazing fantasy novel. The characters were very stereotypical.

  6. I’ve currently only read the entire Dragonriders of Pern series – as well as several other of Anne McCaffrey’s series. I’ve gotten a good chunk of Drizzt (12, I think?) a few of the Dresden Files (six or so .,.) and three or four Shannara books. I really liked Shannara – I need to get more of them.

    Needless to say, I love series. I’ll probably check out a few more of the ones you’ve listed here. 🙂

    1. Shannara’s fun. It and Pern are my homeworlds. I mean that I feel at home while I read them. I get into them so easily, and I love the worlds that were created.

  7. I love a good series as much as the next reader, but I cannot bear anything with “teen” or greater in the suffix. I start getting nervous after 5 or 6. All good things must come to an end. Or – how does it go? – you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain, you know.

    1. If it’s a series that goes that long, it can easily get lost. But if there are many books, but they’re grouped in independent trilogies, how is that? They use the same setting, but the stories don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.

  8. I guess I’m going to be the only stick in the mud here, but when I’m interested in a book, as soon as I find out it’s part of a series I move on. The reason being is when I complete a book, I want it done (especially if it wasn’t a good book).

    I’m not opposed to the need for a series in some (many?) instances, but I am not drawn to a story that takes more than one (two at maximum) to tell.

    1. I think it depends on the scope of the story. Standalone books are fine. Actually, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series may be a long series, but the books can stand on their own without any knowledge of other books.

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