I’m with Jo Walton here, where she delineates four kinds of series and notes that she likes them all but that they are not the same.
Jo Walton says, “What I can’t stand is when I pick up a random book in a bookshop or the library and it’s part of a series and that isn’t clearly indicated anywhere on it. I’ve picked up random volumes that are clearly part of a series in style one or style two, read a bit, been utterly confused, and never looked at the author again. I hate this.”
Yeah, don’t we all! Styles one and two are the kinds where you can’t really go out of order, which is why this failure to mark books appropriately would be a problem.
This is Sarah Monette’s recent livejournal post, referenced by Walton, in which Monette also addresses this issue.
Sarah Monette is discussing her own four-book series, the one that starts with MELUSINE, and says, “This seems to me to be related to one of Ace’s marketing decisions that still puzzles me, namely the absolute, vehement refusal to indicate anywhere on any of the books that they are part of a series. I actually asked about it, back when Mélusine was in production, because the series has a name and was never conceived of as anything but a series, and my editor told me that we couldn’t put Book One of the Doctrine of Labyrinths on the cover or in the front matter. Marketing wouldn’t let us.”
To which my own response is a little stronger than puzzlement. I think that’s outrageous and infuriating as a reader, and I’m not nearly so convinced as Ace’s marketing department that it’s a huge benefit to the writer, either. Me, if a Second Book looks good, I’ll go find Book One and try that one and then go in order if I like it. It’s not like it’s hard to find Book One, my God, people, Amazon is right there! But only if someone is kind enough to inform you that there IS a Book One and it needs to come before Book Two.
Anyway … I’d say that The Griffin Mage Trilogy is actually in between Style 1 and Style 2: the volumes have closure but even so probably work better in order rather than out of order (Style 2) but switching protagonists for each volume means, to my mind, you are perhaps not really required to go totally in order (Style 3). What do you all think?
Puppy update for those of you following along: still pregnant, no crises today, thank heaven.