Jan 17, 2010

Call for Comments: Reviewing Serial Books...

I just finished Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky. I'm currently crafting a review but I don't feel like I can define my enjoyment of the book until I read the subsequent volumes. While some serial books can be read purely as independent volumes, this is not one of those books.

So my question for you is:

When reviewing books that don't have enough individual plot resolution to be considered stand-alone, what are the most important elements to consider in your review?


  1. If a book is sold as a standalone, it can be reviewed as a standalone.

  2. I'm all for multi-volume story cycles, despite my post to the contrary on TSS yesterday and a sore lack of free time to read them, but if a single novel can't wring out some sort of resolution on its own merits, I'd be peeved to say the least. There's something to be said for narrative hooks left dangling from book to book, but we're not talking about television here; a novel is a novel. If it's missing a beginning, a middle or an end, for my money it's simply unfinished.

    I suppose the most prescient aspect of Bright of the Sky to tackle in that case would be whether if offers closure in any sense. In terms of character arcs, worldbuilding, the few narrative threads that might be considered self-contained. You take the long view - provided the view from there is good enough to justify the strain of looking that far.

    In any case, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on this one, Yeti.

  3. Define sold as a standalone.

    This book was clearly part of a sequence, look at the cover. But is that a flaw?

  4. @Niall - You snuck in there between the time John commented and I responded.

    It's ends at an appropriate point. It's not like it just stops midsente

    I just wouldn't call where it ends a resolution persay. If I could draw a comparison it would be like stopping Star Wars after they free Leia from the Death Star. It's at a natural breaking point but there is clearly more story there.

  5. Even though a book is part of a larger series, it should have its own self-contained story, as well as a plot that furthers the over-arching storyline. Reviewing it not only on its own merits, but how it fits within the series, is probably the way to go.

    With this being the first book in a series, character and world-building might be some important points to discuss, as they will obviously be key to the rest of the series.

    You could always pretend that the subsequent volumes haven't been published yet, and write your review accordingly ;)

    I'm interested to see how you will approach it. Best of luck!

  6. >>Define sold as a standalone
    I meant that if it is published as a single volume with a price tag, it can (and should) be judged on it's own merits.

    Either the book was written intentionally as part of a series, or the publisher did a "booksplit" (Se Scott Westerfeld's Succession space opera). In either case, it can be judged alone.

  7. What do you usually address in your reviews? Character development? Writing style? What you liked? What you didn't like? (That, of course, makes it sound like a primary school analysis of a book....) All of the same can be applied when the novel is the first in a sequence - deal with those bits in the first review; leaves you to address the actual plot in subsequent reviews, which also means you're saying different things in different reviews rather than rehashing the same over a sequence of book reviews.

  8. I would say that writing style and character development would seem to be the things to focus on. Although, each book in a series should have some sense of closure.

  9. Does this book make you want to read the next one in the series? That's a good question to ask yourself when reviewing.


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