I can’t start a series in the middle. I don’t care that the characters might be slightly different in different books (romance does this) or that they’re kind of sort of standalones (urban fantasy has been known to try this tactic). I want book one EVERY TIME. Nothing frustrates me more than getting halfway through a book and finding out there was even one before it. It’s not as often as it was the pre internet days. Remember picking up a paperback and checking out the bibliography and the publisher just put every book the author wrote on it, without separating the series ones? These were the days where I was only scouring used bookstores to fill my collection because full price was not an option. It also was pretty difficult to get all the romances that I wanted at new bookstores. A lot were older and bookstores (depending on the store) don’t usually carry a lot of romances. Which is dumb because it’s only one of the most selling genres, but I digress. Then when I got into urban fantasy it was a very small genre and super hard to find at the time. Especially where I grew up. They didn’t really play around with that supernatural “nonsense.” The used bookstores didn’t have booksellers that could help you either. They could probably tell you where the certain section you were looking for, but anything really detailed about those books? Not a chance. At least this is what I experienced in my local used bookstores.
Don’t get me started on those standalone series. One that immediately comes to mind as a series that the author claims is a standalone is the Elemental Assassin series. Jennifer Estep is lovely (I’ve talked to her a lot on Twitter), but she insists the books are standalone when people ask. The reason she says this is is because she spends an enormous chunk of each book recounting what happened in the last book, who all the people are. As a series reader, this is seriously (see what I did there?) frustrating. Just tell people, “Nope, they don’t standalone, start at book one like everyone else.” That way you don’t have to waste a good word count on summaries. You can give a few sentences, “Hey, remember that bad guy that we chased last summer who wore his victim’s lungs around his neck like a scarf? Yeah, while I was learning to use my psychic powers and being broody. Anyway, he’s back.”
And then there’s Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series where I’m told there is no real beginning. I really want to bust in to that one, but the whole thing scares me to death. I’m told Color of Magic is the first, but then I’m told to read Mort or The Wyrd Sisters to start. I think every different Discworld fan has their favorites to beginning. Is there a wrong answer? Kind of. What if the first one I pick I don’t like so I don’t want to try the next? I have quite the TBR, I don’t have time for books or series I don’t like.
As I said, it’s harder these days to catch me, but it does happen. I’ll pick something up and forget to check Goodreads or be in a place where I can’t check like at a library book sale where speed is important. There will be a online sale on the last book in a trilogy so I’ll have to go back and hopefully not pay full price for the first one just to see if I like it.
I don’t have the rule of some people that the series must be finished for me to start it, however. That’s probably from the days of not having a wide reading range. I read what I could get my hands on and a lot of the time the books I liked were in ongoing series.
Now I actually have only a few series that I’m following. Most have already wrapped up or I abandoned them. I have a few UF’s that are floating around and some others that I’m not sure are going to be series or just trilogies. We’ll see.
Do you have any rules about reading at the beginning of a series? Or do you just drop in?