• Carmen Milligan

When a series fizzles.

It is time that I look in the reading mirror and admit a truth to myself: I am not much of a series girl.


Some series ... wait, no. A very few series catch my attention and hold it until I have read them all. I look forward to the progression of the story and lives of the characters. But, for the most part, I stop giving a damn somewhere in the second book, and almost assured by the middle of the third. Hell, I stopped reading the Harry Potter series half way through book 4, and never looked back. Didn't miss it. Didn't care what happened to the characters or how the story arcs would resolve themselves. Still am not ashamed that I didn't finish the series.

The reason I bring this up is because I am reading the second in a series now. I read "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" by V. E. Schwab and was struck by her writing style, her construction of sentences, and the way she deftly handled a number of moving pieces. I had never read anything else by her, and so I went to the library online catalog to see my options.


I decided on "A Darker Shade of Magic", the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy. I loved the first book, and read it in one sitting. Since the next one was available from the library, I started it right away. I am about 20% in and ... meh. It does have the two main characters, and has introduced a few others, as well as a new storyline. It has all of the makings of a solid sequel. But I am not drawn to it like I was to the first one. Why?


To figure this out, I need to look at the series that HAVE hooked me from beginning to end.


First is the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. Flavia is an 11-year-old British girl who lives with her widowed father and two older sisters, in a crumbling estate that they can't afford to maintain, and, hysterically, has an unusual penchant for chemistry, and in particular, poisons. She has named her bicycle Gladys, and seems to be uncannily drawn to murder victims. It is too good NOT to love.


Another series that I mourned when I finished it was the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz. The protagonist here is 28-year-old Izzy Spellman, of her family's PI firm, Spellman Investigations. Izzy is addicted to Get Smart reruns, compiles Suspicious Behavior profiles on her family members, enters and exits her home through windows instead of doors, and her mother blackmailed her with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. How can you NOT love a series with fun and quirky characters like this?


Then there is the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith. Set in Botswana, Africa, the main character is Precious Ramotswe, owner of, well, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Her love for her homeland is obvious, as is her devotion to family and close friends. Mma Ramotswe is a "traditionally built woman" who has a knack for seeing the small things, reading between the lines, and solving cases that others either won't take or can't handle. Again, a treat to read!


The commonality to these series is not simply a strong female lead, but a quirkiness that is a major thread throughout the action. I am drawn to the quirkiness. More "Tank Girl" than "Lara Croft".


Let me know what some of your favorite series are.

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