Know When to Hold ‘Em…

by Big World Writing Club Moderator A2

Laurell K. Hamilton's "Obsidian Butterfly"I found my first Anita Blake book in a used bookstore in a small town. It was an unexpected find; I had, at that time (it was around 2002 or 2003), never heard of the author, or the series. The book was Obsidian Butterfly, and I enjoyed it enough to do some research and start the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series from the beginning.

In retrospect, I really believe that Obsidian Butterfly was the turning point in the series, or maybe the beginning of the end. Portent of death, and all that. The real nail in the coffin (pun sort of intended) was Narcissus in Chains. Look, I know I’m not the only one to write about this, but the ardeur killed one of the most seminal urban fantasy series and characters ever.

After that, I stuck with the series for about four more books and just got tired of an interesting female protagonist being reduced to a sex bomb. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore a female character that is the subject and agent of her own sexuality, just as much I love when an author writes a nuanced, well-done, steamy sex scene. (See The Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey for stellar examples of both of these things.)

In my opinion, the Anita Blake series jumped the shark on both counts after Narcissus. (And also, there was too much suspension of disbelief required to believe that nobody could seem to manage to get the ardeur under some kind of control, even after several books. #thatisall)

Laurell K. Hamilton, at one point, was one of my go-to authors. Now, I just refuse to read any more, and I’ve felt that way for awhile. I don’t rule out ever buying one of her books (or borrowing them from the library) again. But instead of this turning into an author bashing, I want to ask a question:

When should an author end a series? What are the conditions for continuing a character’s journey in a particular universe?

I think this is different for every author. Right now, I am finishing up Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and I was surprised to find that Book Five is the last of the series. In some ways, I’m sad, because I so want to go on reading about the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti. But in other ways, I applaud Carriger for ending the series now, or at least this particular leg of it. There’s no saying that she can’t or won’t return to it in some form later (and it looks like she is with the Parasol Protectorate Abroad).

I’m aware that I say these things as a reader, and not as a writer. As a writer of a series, I may feel differently. I may really want the universe I created to go on and on. And hey, as a full-time writer, your livelihood may be dependent upon continuing a popular series. But sometimes I feel like you have to “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” And I hope that, if I ever write a series, I can make these distinctions.

What are some series that you wish the author would have ended earlier than they did? Or extended, for that matter?

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