The joys and pains of finishing a series/the joys and pains of starting a series

It’s the eternal lament of the book lover, to never have the time to read all the books you want to. Forget about the books you might want to read, those that sound really good and really interesting and, perhaps, are really recommended to you by others. There’s already books that you really, really want to read that you’ll likely never get to. People regularly recommend books that just don’t clear my personal threshold for “must-read” status and get the (perhaps too brusque) response, “never gonna read it…I’m sure it’s great, but I just don’t see a scenario where I’d get around to it.” While I should probably massage the message a bit, I consider it a sign of my personal growth as a reader that I can assess those books (perfectly worthy reads all) and preemptively prevent additional “to-read” pileup.


A nifty new display at the store has created a flare-up in my so-much-to-read, so-little-time anxiety. This “Start a New Series” table has rekindled my desire to (finally) start two different series I’ve truly wanted to read for a while. I’ve heard and read nothing but great things about both, things that make me believe that they are great reads. I have little doubt that both Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy and Ben H. Winter’s Last Policeman series would absolutely be in my wheelhouse.

But, yet, I can’t ever seem to get around to reading them. All the shiny, hyped new books that arrive weekly, coupled with the regular flow of exciting advance readers copies of upcoming books we’re sent from publishers makes it near impossible to make a dent in my to-read pile. If Maddaddam and Last Policeman were both just stand-alone books, I’d probably have hammered them out already (though, they weren’t nearly as intriguing to me when I didn’t know they were anything more than just a stand-alone book). But knowing they’re both three-book commitments makes getting started difficult somehow. If they’re terrific, I could continue the series and, in doing so, fall behind in my other reading. If I don’t continue, then I’ll be unable to process and move on from the one I have read because I know the story isn’t finished. If I don’t really like them, then why did I waste my valuable time reading only one book in a trilogy?

Starting a new series can be fraught with peril for a time-crunched reader.

fatal flameI recently completed The Fatal Flame, the third and (presumably) final book in Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde trilogy. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this one in the coming weeks. It’s a terrific, totally satisfying ending to the story Faye started in Gods of Gotham and continued in Seven for a Secret. All three books are outstanding, character-driven mysteries that have a great sense of time and place (1840’s New York City). I can’t recommend them all more highly to anyone who enjoys well-written, historically researched, literary mystery.

What struck my particularly when reading The Fatal Flame was how the characters grow and change through the series. Like humans, these characters carry their experiences—good and bad—with them and change because of them. I was caught off guard by how one character, introduced in the first book, responded to an action by Timothy Wilde (the series’ narrator and central protagonist). My surprise was, in retrospect, somewhat…well…surprising. Of course she might react that way after all that happened to her (a central story in Gods of Gotham).

What makes Lyndsay Faye’ trilogy so compelling and rewarding, particularly the further along you go, is the immersive world-building she accomplishes. The setting and all the historical factors that affect customs and drive character behaviors are vividly exhibited. Characters are fully-drawn. You grow to care about them. This accumulation of time and experiences and traumas and victories are shared and not easily replicated in a single, one-off novel. Like with all terrific series, at the end of The Fatal Flame, I didn’t want to leave Lyndsay Faye’s world.

Finishing a book series can be fraught with peril for a book lover.

What’s your favorite book series?

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One Response to The joys and pains of finishing a series/the joys and pains of starting a series

  1. Kat says:

    Talking books with you is as likely as anything to make my too-many-books, too-little-time anxiety flare up. I just have to remind myself that I won’t always lead a zookeeper’s life and will one day be able to read at my preferred clip again.

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