Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Cliff-hanger" series

Python Update:

In the latest move to cut down on the explosion of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades, the Florida Wildlife Commission has hired a pair of python hunters from the southern India Irula tribe. In three weeks the two men have captured fourteen pythons. There will also be a repeat of Great Florida Python Hunt, which is open to the public.

For a video of a python eating an alligator - a big one! - click here.

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"Cliff-hanger" Series

 I thought I'd tackle series in which individual books feel "unfinished" first, as Regency Reader commented about not liking this type of series. My feelings? It depends on how the "unfinished" feel is handled. In many of Nora Roberts's 3-book series, particularly the ones with paranormal elements, I feel a sense of frustration, because no matter how well written the book (and Nora is always good), the books are so focused on the solving the final goal (leaving the first two books in cliff-hanger mode) that I end up grinding my teeth. They are definitely not among my favorite reads.

Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series, even her Fallen Empire series, are birds of a different feather. Even though they have a long-term problem to solve, each book has a satisfying completion to the adventures of the moment. It's necessary, of course, in a long-running series with the same characters to provide an impediment to any romance between the two main characters. In the Emperor's Edge series Ms Buroker manages to go all the way to the final pages of the 9th book before she allows the hero and heroine to do more than talk about the possibility of a future together. Nine books? Let's just say that Buroker is a master of writing action, and lots of it, keeping her characters too busy for much else. In her Fallen Empire series, the problem is mechanical - her cyborg hero needs surgery before he can . . . well, use your imagination.

In her Temeraire series Naomi Novik carries her hero and his talking dragon through a series of startling adventures that span the world during an alternative history version of the Napoleonic wars. But every adventure is so complex, so intricately delineated, that I doubt readers mind that the hero remains an outcast at home, and sex happens more among the dragons than with the hero. Is there a long-term solution to his problems? Well, there's another 9-book series you should read. To emphasize my point: each book can be read as a "single title," and the author does not leave you hanging by undue emphasis on the problems that remain to be solved.

Speaking of dragons, Anne McCaffrey's Pern series is at 21 and counting. These books provide examples of both "finished" and "unfinished" endings. All the earlier books (written by McCaffrey herself) have satisfactory finished endings, even though the threat of "thread" permeates them all. More recent books, written by Ms McCaffrey's son and aimed at a younger age group, tend toward cliff-hanger endings. I find myself not so eager to read them. (And I am a long-time Pern fan.) This does, however, raise the question of whether or not a younger audience deals better with "unfinished" endings.

As long as we're talking about fantasy . . . what about the Harry Potter series? There's a lot of room for action in 700 pages times 8 books (!), and J. K. Rowling milks every page for all its worth. In general, I think it's safe to say that she gives each of Harry's adventures a satisfactory ending. She does not leave you in suspense except for the final resolution of the long battle against Valdemort. 

Meljean Brook in her 8-book Iron Seas series provides an excellent example of a series with a single driving theme that still manages to deliver a satisfactory ending for each adventure. (Well, perhaps not in the romance department. Naturally, she had to find an impediment to keep the hero and heroine apart until Book 8.) 

And then there's George R. Martin and Game of Thrones. Nothing is ever settled at the end of his books - the "game" and its cast of thousands goes on - yet somehow each book manages a satisfactory ending to that particular set of adventures. (And if you have only seen the series on television, I strongly recommend reading the books. Within the first chapter of Book 1, I found  answers to questions that had been plaguing me throughout all the years of the TV series!)

Summary: Most series with continuing main characters emphasize plot and action over romance for the obvious reason that a Happily Ever After ending precludes further books! Within this type of series, there are two styles of writing: 1) books that have endings without a resolution to the hero's or heroine's problems; and 2) books that provide a satisfactory resolution to the hero's and heroine's adventures in that particular book, leaving the overall problem hanging but not spoiling the resolution of the individual book.

My personal opinion is that I strongly prefer series in which each book comes to a satisfactory conclusion, not leaving me hanging and often annoyed. 

Next week: Authors whose series read more like single (stand alone) titles.

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Reminder: Tarleton's Wife is on Pre-order at 99¢. Pub date:  February 6, 2017 
For link to the Pre-order page, click here.

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Thanks for stopping by,



For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  


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