Book Series: First is Worst?

I love book series, and if the number of fantasy series on my wish list is any indication, so do lots of others. They’re interesting to write, too, in both good ways and bad. Good=your world is already developed, and your much-loved characters get to come back in sequels and do nifty stuff. Bad=your characters have to grow and evolve as they do all that nifty stuff.

Still, as a friend and I were discussing recently, there seems to be a “freshman phenomenon” among series: the first one always seems the weakest.

My favorite series probably aren’t very different from yours if you’re an urban fantasy fan:
* Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series;
* Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series;
* Simon R. Green’s Nightside series;
* Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series;
* Kim Harrison’s Hallows series;
* Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series;
* J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

In every single one except the Mercy Thompson series, which I thought hit a home-run first time out, each of those series’ first books was the weakest, at least for me. Obviously, they were good enough to pull me into the second, but still the weakest. In fact, I started the first Sookie book three times before finally pushing through it and on to the second book. By the third book, I was all “pick Eric! pick Eric!” [Just in case you don’t know where my vampire sympathies lie!]

So, what’s your favorite series, and was the first one the worst? What kept you reading?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

9 thoughts on “Book Series: First is Worst?

  1. I’m a great fan of novel series. I absolutely adore Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, Gena Showalter’s Alien Huntress series, and Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series.

    Out of all of them, it was probably the first Alien Huntress book I didn’t care as much for. In fact, I didn’t read the series again for several years. It wasn’t until recently that I gave it a shot again and loved it. I’m not sure what changed, if it was the world, or the characters, but I’m totally hooked now.

  2. My favorite series:
    Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau series
    Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series
    Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series

    The first book in the Argeneau series is really her third written, but I don’t think I found any weak ones in the bunch. I love her!

    My daughter couldn’t get past the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I fell in love with her right away.

    And I guess the first book in the Anita Blake series was the weakest. I wasn’t sure I would go on, but my daughter convinced me they would get better (and they did). Now I only have to get her to listen to me regarding the Sookie books!

  3. Well, I don’t do vampires, or much urban fantasy, so these might be a bit obscure. My favorite SF series is Honor Harrington by David Webber. No, I don’t think the first was weaker than the rest, and the character kept growing throughout, plus a whole series based on the Manticore/Haven universe has spun off. Most of them are pretty good.

    My favorite romance series is the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis. They were written back in the late 70’s early 80’s so probably even more obscure. But they were the ones that turned me on to romance in general. Again, her first book in the series was as strong as any of the others.

  4. I’m with ya on the
    * Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series
    * Kim Harrison’s Hallows series

    I’m still getting into the Kim Harrison one, though…it’s a bit slow for me. But I’m hoping it picks up momentum soon. 🙂

    I think the first one of Charlaine’s was pretty darn good, actually. 🙂

    Twilight, I’d say the first book was the worst, though

  5. I’ve read and loved almost all of your favorites. I haven’t pushed through the Sookie book yet, though it’s on my bookshelf. Love the series, though. Haven’t read JR Ward yet. I’ll have to check them out.

  6. Sookie Stackhouse… it took me forever to get through the first one. I wasn’t interested in going any further in the series. So I didn’t. 🙁

    Twilight… the first one wasn’t as well written as the following three but I liked it more simply because of the romance, the tension, the chase. The next three, to me, were less about falling in love and more about keeping each other. Not as fun for me. I think this series is much more subjective than others.

    My favorite is MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series (Betsy the Vampire Queen. Yeah, fluff but so fun!). The first one was fantastic and each after that were equally enchanting. Definitely don’t think the first one was weaker.

  7. Oh…Lois McMaster Bujold and the Vorkosigan series.

    Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

    Charles deLint and his books set in Newford.

    Kim Harrison, yup!


  8. Funny I’ve thought the trend was going the other way recently…in that the first book has been great and then the next two go downhill.

    Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter. Loved the first one but hated the next two I read.

    I can’t remember any other examples right now. I tend to forget the books I stop reading.