Thursday, September 30, 2010

BTT: When does a series jump the shark?

I don't usually do a Booking through Thursday, but this week's topic called to me. :)

If you read series, do you ever find a series “jumping the shark?” How do you feel about that? And, do you keep reading anyway?

I read a lot of different series (check out my not-so-up-to-date list!) and - as a general rule - love doing so. When you find a character you love and a setting that you want to live in, it is easy to want the good times to go on! But sometimes I do worry that a series will jump the shark. And when it does, I tell myself it is ok to let go. I will read on if I truly loved the first books, but I try not to let the new books affect the way I think about the characters I love.

There are a lot of examples out there of series-gone-bad. In UF, the most common example is Laurrell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake books. I am only 4 books into that series – supposedly the pre-shark jumping phase – and love it. But I have no idea how I will feel when basically Anita turns her home into a brothel, and shall have to read before I judge. Nevertheless, I completely understand why fans were rather horrified – it is quite the change from the horror and action of the first books!

In YA, Twilight is example of good-gone-very-bad. Honestly, even though I enjoyed Breaking Dawn, it was such a change from the first books that I struggled to accept it. When I think of Twilight, I try only to remember the teenage swoon-worthy romance of the first book – and perhaps the heartbreak of the second book – and leave the rest. While I wouldn’t say Meyer “jumped the shark”, she certainly got in the water with it.

But for me, the most unfortunate case of good-going-very-bad was the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. I adored the first book, loved the second – but had to force myself to finish the third. Epic disappointment. The characters were self-centred shadows of their former selves, and my only consolation was that at least the series was ending. It was actually very sad.

Other than those, most of the series I am following have stayed on track. Although sometimes I can read the first in a series – love it – and then hate the rest of the books. Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series is one I won’t be continuing – after the sour taste that the second book left in my mouth. Vicki Pettersson’s second book in the Sign of the Zodiac Series was also a supreme disappointment, and while I haven’t gotten rid of the rest of the series yet, I am hesitant to pick up book three.

Perhaps series do better when there is only a set number of books? In other words, when the author has a contained plan where the end is known right from the beginning. My favourite series, Harry Potter and the Darkest Powers Trilogy, seem to be prime examples of that!

Jump the shark?  To those of you wondering where this peculiarly phrase came from, watch this highly informative video featuring The Fonz!


  1. "Jumping the shark"...I like that term. Amazing how you've named just about every series I too had a problem with becoming either boring or just out right bad. Laurrell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake books just plain disappointed me. Anita had so much promise in the beginning then became nothing more then a cheap porn star. I never got past the 2nd book of the Cassie Palmer series. Frankly, she just got whinier & whinier. Chance's Midnight series is good though.
    What does it for me is the heroines and/or heroes never evolve. Or they evolve into something that doesn't even remotely resemble what they started out as.

  2. I totally agree with you about Cassie Palmer and the Zodiac series. I read 3 books into each series and hated them the whole time... I don't actually know why I forced myself to read so many LoL! Sometimes I really don't understand where all the rave reviews come from. I really liked Tanya Huff's Blood ties series....Only 5 books I think. And I agree on the set number of books. I need an ending!

    Ok I'm done rambling!

  3. I think you're right : I think series do better when authors have a clear plan on where it starts and where it ends, than when they just write book after book without a clear idea. It makes sense too, because this way they know when to close storylines and open others, and you can feel this is going in a straight direction.
    I haven't read the 3rd book of the Study series yet, but you're having me scared a little now!

  4. @tori - I'd say you got it just right - if a character isn't going to evolve, they had better be pretty perfect from the start. Actually, it is the reason I kept reading Rachel Vincent's Werecat series - because as much as I didn't like Faythe, I could see she had potential to become a grown up... someday. Cassie Palmer? Not so much.

    @straylights - Set numbers of books really are the key. I will try to get through book 3 of the Zodiac series, but too much whining about Jo's human "love of her life" and I just want to jump off something tall.

    @Kay - The Study series had such fab first books that I can't regret reading it - but by GOD, I wish there were a way to scrub Fire Study from my brain. I have been unable to write a review for it because a) the thought of knocking a trilogy I had adored is simply depressing, and b) the thought of having to relive the book practically gives me hives.

    Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration... but not much.



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