A couple weeks ago I reviewed a book and, unbeknown to me, it was part of a series. I was left wondering if that really impacted my review in any way, even if it possibly negated anything of value in the area of constructive criticism that would have applied to a single title composition. And, dear reader, I realized it didn’t. It is true a series has a different construct and if the story flows from one book to the other, a stream of plot not to be resolved until the next installment (like my serial as example) then, well, okay. However, if a book is designed to be a stand alone but merely has a similar cast of characters as its predecessors then one should not have to READ the preceding tales to have a sense of character depth.
This does, of course, bring about some other complications. The “In Death” series is something I’ve loved pretty much since the first book. Fast forward to me reading the 28th book and you’d find me completely and utterly disgusted. Yeah, the incest/rape thing is traumatic and all and it’s true there’s only so many times you can make it “fresh” but if you’re going to keep bringing it up as something the heroine is dealing with it needs to be doled out creatively. I’m not pretending it’s easy but the truth is, after a certain point in a series, the author needs to sit down and take stock of how many “new” readers will be picking up installment twenty something and if that justifies beating your faithful readers over the head with a dead horse. I never finished that book for precisely that reason – 100 pages of being berated with a past that haunts the heroine in EVERY book was just a wee much for my patience to handle. There were many times within the series I felt it was handled exceedingly well and in plot relevant ways so a new twist on the issue was played out. The flip side, of course, is that unlike the first book I spoke vaguely about there is no lacking for depth in these stories – in ANY OF THEM.
Balance. It’s all about balance, ya’ know? What do you think of series with character driven stories? Have you come across any of the issues I have? How do you know, as an author, when there is too much backstory? Too little?