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Series And Spoilers

A photograph of David Eddings' Belgariad series

Laurie and Jessica brought to my post on blogging and spoilers the very good point about series, and it gave me enough food for thought that I’d like to expand on the linked post.

Because series are a different kettle of fish to stand-alone novels. You can’t generally apply the exact same rules to both ‘types’ and even if you like including spoilers in reviews, you still have to include more information to those about series than you would otherwise.

When I review series, and here I’m meaning from the second book onward as the first will of course be reviewed similarly to standalones, I know there’s a balance I need to find between keeping quiet and adding enough information about how this particular book fits in context to the others. I believe that making note of the general success when compared to the others is important, be it personal opinion or objective. I think that no matter whether a reader plans to carry on the series and regardless of how much they may like it, they are going to want to know the ‘truth’. Lower expectations can improve a book, for example.

To discuss a book in this context is to include spoilers from the previous. Readers might like to know how the new book relates to the last, and if it relates to the last beyond a minor connection (as can happen). And I think most people like to know how long after the previous book this new book is set (I know for me if the answer is years, I’m less likely to want to continue unless there is a very good reason for the gap). Some may want to know where the bad guy stands.

All this necessitates an explanation, often in depth, and thus spoilers for the first book and perhaps the current. I do think that in the case of series, spoilers for newer books aren’t as bad as those for standalones. In order to discuss themes, and ongoing themes, you require spoilers of some kind.

Of course most people will forgo reading a review of a newer book if they haven’t yet read the first, so in this way spoilers are fine. I’m yet to see a blog that doesn’t note in some way, before any spoilers, that such and such is the second/third book. It’s just common courtesy and sense.

My thought is that as long as you remain conscious of what it is you’re spoiling and have a good reason why, it’s okay. You need the context.

How much do you think ‘should’ be discussed of previous books, and/or how much are you comfort revealing in your own reviews?


Tracy Terry

November 26, 2014, 5:17 pm

Interesting post that gave me plenty to think about.

A balancing act, I always feel I need to justify myself but then whether a standalone or a series am wary that in doing so I may well be including a spoiler/spoilers.


November 26, 2014, 5:58 pm

I am pleased to hear my ideas gave you food for thought.


November 26, 2014, 8:27 pm

I’m never quite sure how to review a book that’s part of a series but usually I start the post with a spoiler warning and links to my reviews of earlier books in the series, if any. I can then go on to discuss the current book without worrying about spoiling the previous ones – but it does mean I get fewer comments as people who aren’t up to date with the series will have stopped reading at the spoiler warning.


November 26, 2014, 9:27 pm

Of course I talk about previous books, I assume my readers understand that. Cos I am always careful when reading reviews of like book 5 when I am only on book 3

Laurie C

November 29, 2014, 6:55 pm

Got a little behind on Twitter and in the blogosphere because of Thanksgiving, so am just seeing this post now!
I think we’ll all still struggle with this as we go along. I don’t read reviews before I’ve read the book, myself, which may seem odd for a book reviewer! I’m extremely careful to try never to have spoilers in a review, but it definitely does get harder for books in a series.

Literary Feline

November 29, 2014, 8:52 pm

It really depends on the type of series. Many of the series books I read are enough like stand alones that it’s often easy to review them without spoiling anything that might of happened in a previous book (although not always). And if it’s a series book that features different characters in each book, even easier!

Books with continuing story lines are more challenging. My preference is to review multiple books at once, especially if it’s a trilogy. It’s easier to contain spoilers that way, or hopefully the reader knows not to read beyond the first book if they haven’t read further in the series. It doesn’t always work out that way though. That’s when spoiler alerts come in handy.

I am reading a series right now that will be tricky to review because it’ll be next to impossible to talk about each book without spoilers.

If I have to give away a spoiler, I like to state so to give my reader a choice to skim or skip over the spoiler. More often, I remain as vague as possible. It depends on the book.


November 30, 2014, 8:11 pm

I’m really inconsistent with this, I think it depends on how old the series is or how well known it is. I’ve written a lot about Parade’s End or the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, but on Monday I’ll be posting about another series and barely revealed anything.

Katie @ Doing Dewey

November 30, 2014, 11:12 pm

When I’m reviewing a book in a series, I always use the previous book as a jumping off point and talk about how the second book is similar or different from the first. In terms of content spoilers, I label them or avoid them, the same as in a stand-alone review. Most of them, I do include a summary so that readers will know how this book relates to previous books, but I make sure to only share information which is in the summary on the back of the book.


December 8, 2014, 4:03 pm

Tracy Terry: That’s a good place to be, I reckon. Always aware :)

Jessica: They did, thank you :)

Helen: That’s a fair beginning. Yes, there is that, I think most of us will still be wary even with all the notes. I think reading the review can also depend on how much you want to read it right now.

Blodeuedd: Fair enough :)

Laurie: Glad to hear it; take your holiday! True, it’d be hard to come to a firm decision given that books differ as do the amount of story that relates to the next. I think many are wary like that and stay away from reviews. Quite ironic, yes, but as we all do it it’s understandable. You just hope some have read the books already so your review does get read!

Literary Feline: Now that you say that I’m thinking of your books and yes, I can see how it’s easier. Reviewing at once is a great idea because that’s one post to keep track of.

Alice: Despite my thoughts on spoilers overall, I agree with the age of the book being a factor. It can make it easier.

Katie: Those comparisions are important. I like your method.



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