Mar 082013

I wanted to bring back some discussion posts because I love reading them on other blogs. My topic today was inspired by the trouble I had writing my review for Grave Peril, the 3rd book in the Dresden Files series, which was posted earlier this week.

The Trouble with Reviewing Series Books

I have a lot of trouble writing reviews for series books when it’s not the first book. I struggle with what to discuss because usually you are already familiar with the main characters, and their general situation. So the main points that I usually discuss have already been covered. So what’s left?

I don’t want to keep repeating the same thoughts over and over for each book, but at the same time it’s almost impossible to treat each book on its own since most series are read in order. So I tend to re-read past reviews that I wrote for the series before composing the current review. I try to think of the book as both a stand alone plot as well as part of an overall picture.

Some things that I try to think of when reviewing a series book are:

  • has anything major happened to the main character that isn’t a spoiler for that book?
  • does the main character grow or change in any way?
  • is the main character consistent in thought and action from previous books?
  • are there new supporting characters?
  • what’s different about this book from the others?
  • how satisfying is the storyline in only this book?
  • is the world building consistent with previous books?
  • is there a lot of repetition from previous books?

Overall, I find series books to be a lot more work to review than standalone books. But at the same time, I enjoy reading them because you really develop a feel for, and connection with, the characters because you see them over and over in multiple scenarios. So I’m stuck struggling with every series book review I write.

Do you also struggle with reviewing series books? Do you have any tips for me?

  7 Responses to “Discussion: The Trouble with Reviewing Series Books”

  1. I do struggle with reviews for series. It’s more difficult if the main character is always the same, because maybe for book…let’s say 3 you try to give very few details without being spoilers, and then for book 4 the entire premise is based on a huge spoiler for book 3. It is difficult, but like you said, reading series is more… engaging. I feel like I care more for characters from series than from stand alones, because I get to see them more. Not that I don’t love stand alones, I do, it’s just that you have their story, there’s nothing more you can find out about them. Characters from series usually surprise you when you least expect it or they hurt you more or they leave you heartbroken at the end of the book. As for tips, I really don’t have any. I try to not include spoilers, sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it’s impossible, sometimes it’s easy. Depends on the book, really. But usually with series with one or two main characters I try to focus on the changes in the characters sometimes and with how I felt while reading it, other than on the plot itself (if it’s too spoilerish)

  2. I definitely know the feeling you are getting at here. I too have tried reviewing series and it’s so much harder than I thought it would be. I just didn’t feel like I had that much left to say; You can comment on the consistency but I find it hard to talk about many other things. Because it’s just so easy to spoil things! And I find that it becomes harder the more books there are in a series. I reviewed the mortal instrument series and by the end I just didn’t know whet else there was that I hadn’t said before. My posts get shorter and shorter every time around. But I love reading series as well, so I will keep reviewing them, 🙂
    Great post by the way, I love discussion posts 🙂

  3. This! I love series but I struggle with the reviews. First because I feel like I dont want to spoil anything for people who’ve either not started or haven’t gotten to the next book yet. Then because I dont have as much to say about the characters, world, and olot. I guess I stick mostly to whether I liked it more or less then the last one, if the writing is consistent with the last one and if I still feel the same way about characters. I also think It’s exciting to finally read the next book but for some reason always worry my readers will be bored with reading about the same series again. I have so many series to finish. Now this has me wondering if subconsciously I’ve been avoiding them for some of these reasons.

  4. great post and yes these are hard. I focus on character growth, the current tale (without spoilers) and whether we see development in the overall arc.

  5. Ugh, reviewing a sequel is one of my least favourite things to do. I don’t know that I have perfected it yet. I think the only time I may have done is successfully was with Fever by Lauren DeStefano- but there was enough different to be said about the novel that it was ok. But, for others (like The Evolution of Mara Dyer) it’s a real struggle.

    Great discussion,

    Sara @ Just Another Story

  6. It’s definitely difficult – I always try and put in a disclaimer at the beginning of my review that it may contain spoilers for the previous book and then try as hard as possible not to include too many of them.

    I usually focus on the character development without giving too much away, and if there are new characters is interesting, because some series focus solely on a single group of characters so I like knowing if there’s some fresh new faces.

  7. Series reviews can be really challenging. You’ve come up with an excellent list of things to consider. Avoiding spoilers is always tough, and sometimes it just can’t be done if you’re going to discuss the new book in any meaningful way. At that point, I think a lot of reviewers simply warn the reader that there will be spoilers, and let them choose whether to read on. I had to do this when I reviewed Jennifer Nielsen’s The Runaway King — although in that case, even the title is a bit of a spoiler for the first book!

    The small-town contemporary series (like those of Robyn Carr, Debbie Macomber, and Sherryl Woods) are easier to review than most fantasy and paranormal series, because while thesmall-town books revisit characters from previous books, they tend focus on a new main character or couple. Mystery series aren’t too bad, either, because each mystery is different; you just have to tread carefully around any longterm story arcs, like a romantic attraction that takes a number of books to resolve. Fantasy and paranormal series, on the other hand, tend to follow the same main characters, and the individual books are often segments of an overall story, making it much more difficult to avoid spoilers.

    There’s always the option of reviewing the series as a whole, particularly if it’s complete. I’ve done this for a few series, including Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet and Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton romances. Of course, it’s not an option when you’re dealing with newer series that haven’t been completed yet.

    I applaud you for thinking about this. It’s important to remember that not all our readers have read the first book(s) in a series; our reviews may be their introduction to the series as a whole.

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