Bookish Musings: Consistency in Book Series


For anyone who doesn’t already know this about me, I am a series girl. I absolutely adore series and much prefer them to standalone books. There are so many reasons that I love series, but that’s not really what this post is about.

Instead, I want to talk about consistency among series because, well, it’s been a bit of a problem for me lately. And when I have a bookish problem, I bring it to you all! So let’s get discussin’!

Why Consistency in a Series is Important

When I find a first-in-series that I enjoy, it makes me really excited because it means that I will now have more books to read that are just like it!

So when the next book isn’t just like it, it turns out to be a major disappointment. I choose the read the second book (or the third, or the fourth) because I liked the genre, the mood, the writing style, the characters, etc. in the first/previous book, and I imagine most readers do the same. So it doesn’t make sense to then go and make the next book different from the previous ones because, as an author, you won’t have the right audience reading it. It’s like you just gained this whole audience with that first book… only to go and throw that away by making the second book something that doesn’t appeal to that audience.

But there are numerous ways in which a series can be inconsistent, so let’s chat a little bit about each other those…

Inconsistent Age/Maturity

I once read a book that was a very mature YA. It wasn’t particularly inappropriate, it just didn’t sound YA, and I loved that about it. But then, as the series went on, it just seemed to get younger and younger and more stereotypically YA, and my enjoyment decreased because I don’t like that stereotypical YA feel. It also doesn’t make sense to go backward in maturity since readers are only growing older as they read through the series. But it’s probably also not a good idea to do the opposite and jump from YA to adult since anyone reading YA is reading it for a reason.

Inconsistent Genre/Focus

One of the worst offenders of the genre switch though is when a series starts out as something “normal” only to suddenly turn paranormal. I don’t know about you, but that just feels like a cheap trick to me, an easy way to make weird stuff happen and then explain it away.

But I’ve read some series with more subtle changes too. For example, the first book in one series I read was in the paranormal genre but mostly focused on romance and character growth, but then the second one, while it was also paranormal, was more focused on a mystery. So I still enjoyed that second book, but mystery isn’t really my thing, which meant it wasn’t as good for me.

So although slight changes can work sometimes and possibly even introduce readers to a new genre or subgenre they didn’t know they liked, the changes can also cause a series to end up being disappointing.

Inconsistent Mood

My favorite type of book is very specific—I love books that are dark and emotional and intense. So when I find one, I get very excited and continue the series because I want more of that specific mood. Actually, I expect series to get even more emotional as I read them since I start getting more invested in the characters. So I definitely don’t want the next book to be less emotional or suddenly all happy and funny.

On the flip side, if I do find a light, funny series I enjoy, I’ll save the next book for a time when I need something light and funny and therefore won’t be happy if it ends up being depressing.

Inconsistent Writing Style

When I find an author whose writing style I like, that definitely factors into my enjoyment and is part of the reason I choose to keep reading the series, so that’s another thing I don’t want to change. If their first book has that beautiful, eloquent, metaphorical style I love, I might still enjoy the second book but not to the same extent if it doesn’t also have that beautiful style.

Inconsistent Characters

Now this could actually mean a number of things.

I know it’s a normal and fairly popular thing for series to feature different main characters in each book but just be set in the same world, but is that really a series? It’s just books set in the same world. One of the reasons I love series is that it takes me a while to really get into characters, and I love the opportunity series provide for me to really get to know the characters and get invested in their lives and delve deeper into their minds over the course of numerous books. So for me, it’s disappointing when the next book focuses on different characters, and I usually avoid these types of series.

Then there are books that focus on the same main character but most or all of the other characters are constantly changing. This is also frustrating for me for the same reason I mentioned above.

Then there’s inconsistent characters in the sense that the characters are the same, but they change too much in ways that don’t feel natural to the point that it seems like they’re not even themselves anymore. I think it’s obvious why this one is frustrating.

General Thoughts

I think I’ve made my opinion pretty clear: I like book series to be consistent. The reason I choose to continue a series after reading a book is because I like the genre, the mood, etc. how it is, and that’s what I’m expecting when I start the next book. Obviously I like there to be growth, and small fluctuations in things like emotion are necessary, and sometimes new characters will be introduced or one or two might leave, but that’s fine and all a natural part of series. But when those big things change or things change too much to the point of inconsistency, I just end up disappointed.


Talk to me!

Do you think consistency in books series is important?
Which aspect do you find most important to remain consistent (e.g. genre, mood, something else I didn't mention)?
If you've read any series that changed genres, did it disappoint you, or did you end up finding a new genre you liked?
Do you like series that switch characters, or do you prefer to stick with the same ones throughout?


Your Thoughts


45 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Consistency in Book Series

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  1. Christy LoveOfBooks

    Yeah, it’s weird how that happens sometimes. I can’t even remember the series now, but I loved the first book. It was so well written with awesome characters, and then the next book didn’t even seem like the same author wrote it. I had to step back and evaluate whether it was just me and maybe my mood or something changed during that year while waiting. But no, the main character was so inconstant from the first book. I wish I could remember the titles.

  2. Laura

    I’m a total series girl too, and for exactly the same reason as you – if I love a book I get really excited thinking that there is more to be read that are just like it! So inconsistency really annoys me, and I totally agree with everything you’ve said here.
    I especially don’t like when the tone changes dramatically between books, or when it’s a totally different set of characters in the second book. I get attached to the characters, and that’s one of the reasons I love series so much, so I like to stick with them all the way!
    For example, I remember reading Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman and absolutely loving it! However, when I started reading The Subtle Knife I was so disappointed because it had suddenly shifted from a fantasy world to the normal world, and although I’m pretty sure the main character Will was going to end up in the original fantasy world of Northern Lights at some point it was just too jarring and wasn’t like the same series at all, so I never finished it. And that’s a really popular, award-winning series, but I was just so put off by the sudden change between books.
    Great post! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay for us series girls! Lol.

      Seriously, the characters are the usually the reason I continue series, so it’s really frustrating to me that so many series switch to different characters and are more like a set of standalones. I get that lots of people do like that, but it still frustrates me.

      I haven’t read Northern Lights, but that does sound odd. I can see why that would feel like a completely different series.


  3. sjhigbee

    I take your point, Kristen. But wearing my author hat – and as an author who has written a couple of series – you find your characters in one particular place with a set of particular circumstances and as they move through a couple of books, you do find the dynamic often changes in ways you, the author, didn’t foresee. Obviously you try to keep a sense of consistency with your character voice and world – and I completely agree if the author doesn’t succeed with that, then she has dropped the ball. But I don’t necessarily agree that a series with different protagonists isn’t a series – Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, for instance, provides us with a range of women set in the world with overlapping storylines and the same characters appearing, sometimes in a supporting role and sometimes as main characters. It is always interesting to learn details about a much-loved character through another’s viewpoint and it can provide a layered, detailed world. This is an interesting topic and as an author, it’s always an ongoing issue as to how much to change and how much to keep the same.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love getting the opinions of authors too since it’s a different perspective from my own πŸ™‚ That’s fair, I do understand that series are going to fluctuate, the situations will change.

      I still feel, however, that maybe there should be a different name for those types of series with different characters because it’s completely different having a series in which each book focuses on different MCs and can be read as a standalone vs. a series in which all the books are about the same MCs and build up onto each other and can’t be read as standalones because they’re too interconnected. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those types of series. As I said, I know that many people do like them. But many people, like me, don’t like when the characters change. Having a different word to describe those might better help attract and find the *right* readers.

  4. Lola

    I can understand if authors want to try something new, but I usually think they can better write a new book or series than change things up too much in a series. That’s not to say changes in a series are bad, but inconsistencies like you mention here can definitely be a problem and might cause you to lose part of your audience as they liked the first books and not the changes later. Or you have to really market your book with this new inconsistency in mind. I think that’s probably most important if an author wants to go that route to make the change obvious in the blurb and such so readers know what to expect. I think even in a lesser degree between series this happens, that readers expect certain things from an author their books. And it probably explains why some authors make a pen name if they go into a different direction with their books.

    Concerning the age thing, I think you can better age up than age down within a series. Say for example Harry Potter goes form Middle Grade to basically YA in terms of age, but the topics also get a bit more serious and there’s a bit of romance in later books.

    I think some small changes in focus or themes in a book in a series is okay, but not too much. And with every change there probably will be people who enjoy it and those who preferred things before the change.

    Same goes with mood and writing style. I think small changes are okay, like some books in a series being a bti darker or lighter than others. But like you I usually pick up books based on my mood and when I pick up a second book in a series thinking it’s as light as the first book and it isn’t it can really effect my enjoyment of the book.

    From these inconsistencies genre changes probably bother me the least as I read almost every genre and probably wouldn’t mind a second book in a series including a mystery while the first book hadn’t. Although it can mess with your expectations and enjoyment of the book sometimes.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I don’t feel that authors should force themselves to only write in one genre or mood or never try anything new. I just think it’s best if they start a new series if they’re going to change anything big, like switching to a new genre, or going from writing dark stuff to happy, light stuff. Or like you mentioned about marketing, maybe they could just market the series right from the start to reflect the way it’s going to change later on. Or at the very least express in the blurb for the second book that things are going to be different (but even that’s a bit late since I would’ve already read the first book thinking the whole series was going to be similar). I think readers do expect certain things sometimes from authors in general, but I try to always base my decision for books based on the individual books rather than expecting the author to write in a similar way. As I said, I’m all for authors wanting to try new things as long as they make it clear and make it a separate series.

      I also agree that aging up can work well in series, especially for anyone reading it while the series is still being released. You mentioned HP, I started that series when I was maybe 8-years-old and finished it when I was 17. So the aging up worked well in my case. The same thing happened in another series I read while growing up. But aging down doesn’t really make sense.

      Yeah, small changes are ok, it’s just big ones that have the potential to disappoint readers.

      I’m not someone who reads almost every genre, so I don’t like that to change too much. But of course it depends on exactly how it changes.

  5. Ailyn Koay

    nothing annoys me more than inconsistent characters, especially when they contradict each other. Other inconsistencies I can live with, but if you do not understand your characters and I cannot relate to them. It is a DNF for me

    1. Kristen Burns

      Huh, this ended up in my spam folder and I don’t know why, but I almost didn’t see it :-/ But yes, since characters are the most important thing to me, it’s definitely aggravating if they’re not consistent. And it does make it seem like the author doesn’t quite understand the character or is forcing them to do things just for the sake of the plot.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s so frustrating finding a series you like only to have it turn inconsistent. Though I usually tend to just power through, crossing my fingers that it’ll get better or something lol.

  6. Keionda @Keionda Hearts Books

    I SO know what you mean about with books and them starting consistent. Like, it throws me off when the book cover for a series that i LOVE, dramatically changes. And then, to me it feels like the writing is different as well. I have a book series that I LOVED as a teen that I still haven’t continued just because the covers have changed. πŸ™ TIS SO SAD. But I know EXACTLY what you mean! πŸ™

  7. Greg

    I don’t like it it (generally) when series switch characters. I want that consistency, that growth, to continue to get to know those characters , not to have to start over. You’re invested in a character or characters and then they switch to someone else. Um, no. the other thing is your genre focus. I mean, I like genre- bending to a certain extent, but not too much deviation or yeah, you’re losing (or pissing off) the readership you got in the first book! I read a first book recently that I really liked, but I’m struggling with book two (actually, officially stalled) because it brings in this twist out of nowhere which doesn’t seem to fit, and I’m like $%^& it because it’s not what book one was about, you know?

    Characters have to remain consistent, sure they’re going to grow and change but they should follow a logical progression and not just suddenly become different characters.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! When it’s different characters, we’re just starting over. To me the point of reading series is to jump right back in and get straight back into the character growth. And yeah, slight genre-bending is one thing and is generally ok, but switching too much does run the chance of aggravating people and losing readers. I completely agree because that was what happened with the Nocte Trilogy for me. The twist thing just took all the stuff that supposed to be real and was like, “Haha, nope, it’s paranormal,” or something like that.

  8. verushka

    I think consistency in plot and worldbuilding is essential to a series. Those are some of the basic building blocks for a series, I think, because the other elements need to be able to change and grow as the series does. In terms of switching characters, I think that depends on the writer — Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid series is brilliantly funny and switches to a main character’s brother for the third book and I don’t mind that. But I have never been able to get into her OCtober Daye series. From what I recall, the worldbuilding and the characters just didn’t grab me. Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, I adore, but Paige is hands down my favourite character. i’ve skipped some of her stories with Elena, the werewolf because she bored me and the love triangles drove me nuts. So, I guess what this all means is… I don’t know lol! There are some basics that need to work for me, but it also depends on the writers and the tone of the book. Humour is my weakness. If an author can hit the right note, I’m sold!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree that certain types of changes are acceptable and even important because you want the characters to grow, maybe the stakes to get higher, etc. But the switching characters thing, I think it also depends on a few things. For example, in one series I’m reading, the next book is going to be about a different character, but he happens to be my favorite, so I’m ok with that one lol. But some people prefer standalones or at least don’t mind them and therefore like those series with different characters.

      Ah, humor is another thing that should be consistent! I also love it when I find a book that perfectly suits my sense of humor and can crack me up! Even better when it’s part of a series and the humor stays the same throughout πŸ™‚

  9. Karen Blue

    I agree that consistency is important. I don;t think I would enjoy a series where the characters seem younger as the series goes on. I like the opposite though, that seems more natural. I do like a series set in the place, but different characters. I like when we get different perspectives of familiar characters. Great topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I really didn’t like how the series kept feeling younger. It is ok though if the series matures as it goes on, as long as it doesn’t go from middle grade to adult or something extreme like that.

      I know lots of people do enjoy those types of series with different characters. I can understand enjoying seeing different perspectives of familiar characters, it’s just generally not my preference unless maybe I happen to love the new character! Thanks πŸ™‚

  10. Eva @ All Books Considered

    Great discussion and I so agree! Those series that I haven’t finished have been because the characters and/or writing are so inconsistent. It just really can ruin a series if you have accepted certain premises and/or come to expect something and then that is thrown off! It takes planning, too — I am frustrated when authors don’t plan a series and just do what they want!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, when you come to expect something from the series, it’s a disappointment when it doesn’t deliver that. And I agree! I like when all the things in the series come together in the end and you can tell the author really knew what they were doing versus those books when you can tell they basically pantsed and there are random unconnected things and all that.

  11. Ashley G.

    Very interesting! I’ve seen books where characters seem to do things that were inconsistent with their characters. It is rather frustrating.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s definitely frustrating when a character acts, well, out of character lol. Especially since it’s the characters I care about the most, and it makes them unrealistic when they start acting strange.

  12. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    Consistency is probably the most important thing in book series, honestly! I can totally understand how frustrated you’d be, if you started off reading a contemporary book, and then in the next book of the series, it changes to a paranormal one! I’ve never encountered that myself – but I know that the slightest changes in characters can get me really annoyed – for example, if the first book built up a character, and then the second book completely smashes that character development, I get super frustrated :/
    I also kinda don’t like reading series with different characters as protagonists? Because you’re completely right – the reason we (or at least I) keep reading books in a series is if we want more of that genre, that mood, and for me especially, those characters.
    Honestly, this was such a wonderful post – thank you for posting it! <3

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ugh yes, it started as contemporary/psychological for the first book, then the second book got weirder, then the third was like, “Nope, it’s actually just mystical and paranormal so there are no real explanations to anything!” Very rage-inducing lol. But yeah, it would definitely also be frustrating to have the second book in a series ruin the character development from the first. And yes, exactly, the characters are the most important thing to me in a book or a series, so if I find ones I like, I want to stay with those! Having different characters is like starting all over for me. Thanks, I’m glad you liked it!!!

  13. Annemieke

    I dislike it when the next book has an added point of view in first person when the first book only had one character we followed. It just changes the feel of a book for me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I didn’t even think of that. That usually bothers me too because yeah, it’s just inconsistent and throws me off and usually isn’t necessary. I can only think of one series in which I actually liked that a POV was added later in the series.

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  15. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    Yes! So much yes! I do need there to be some consistency in a series, too, if not, I feel like I’ve been cheated. And some of my favorite series ended up being completely different (and very disappointing) by the time they actually reached an ending.
    I don’t really mind following different characters in each book in a series, though, especially if the main characters in one book are important side characters in another. But the ones where the main characters are the same through a whole series are made of awesome, because those characters become my friends. Kate Daniels and The Hollows are great examples of this – and they both have such amazing story arcs that really show how important the plot in book one can be in book five, too.
    Great topic this week, Kristen πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, it does feel we’ve been cheated when a series gets inconsistent! And it’s almost always disappointing.

      I understand why some people like series with different MCs, it’s just not my thing. And seriously! The Thieves series by Lexi Blake is one of my favorites, and it’s now in a spin-off series, so the MC is different, but the ones from the original still have a huge part, and I swear I feel like I’m part of their family at this point, haha. I’ll have to check out the ones you mentioned.


      1. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

        Well, for example Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series has some core characters, and Raphael and Elena are important in all the books, even those where they are not the main characters. They are, however, the main characters in several books – and this series is one of my all time favorite UF/PNR series. For real! From the first book, there are interesting side characters, so when I get to a book with one of them as the main characters, it’s a real treat.
        You should check out the Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha & Omega series as well – they have the same main characters in the whole series.
        And now, I need to check out The Thieves… I can’t believe I haven’t heard of that one before.

        1. Kristen Burns

          I mean, I still prefer sticking with the same characters for the whole series and then maybe doing a spin-off series with other characters or having an extra book from another character’s POV or something. I’m a little more lenient if I just so happen to love the side character who’s POV/story we’re getting lol, but I still like sticking with the same characters for a while so that I can get to know them super well.

          I do want to try the Alpha & Omega and the Mercy Thompson series actually! They’re just too expensive for me right now.

          Yes, you have to look up Thieves! I feel like you’d probably like it. I think it really is my favorite series at this point.

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  18. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I definitely agree with you. It’s really frustrating when you read the first book in a series and then the next book feels completely different. I haven’t had this happen often – the only case I can really think of is when I read a YA book where the books got progressively more adult. Like you say, this might not be TOO horrible, but it did have me scratching my head a little because readers of the earlier books in the series might be very surprised when they got to later books.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like it has happened to me quite a bit lately. Not that the series changed DRASTICALLY, but they changed just enough that I didn’t love them quite the same as they went on as I did in the beginning. But I think books getting older can work ok as long they don’t make too big of a leap.

  19. Got My Book

    I recent read the sequel to an MG fantasy, and the sequel was all romantic angst and rapid aging. I was very disappointed. I think for me it is most important that it stay in the same general genre, although gradual addition of elements or gradual aging of characters is fine.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree, natural growth of characters and storylines, gradually changing certain things, adding/removing characters, etc. is one thing. But completely changing genre or focus is something else entirely! And that’s where it gets frustrating.

  20. AngelErin

    Fabulous discussion as always!! I totally agree with what you are saying. I think the worst for me is mood and character changes. Have you ever read any of Laurell k Hamilton’s Anita Blake series? That one to me is the WORST offender. As the books go on Anita’s character changes so much (and not growing as a character, but she became almost completely different) and it became all about sex. Which is not a bad thing, just not what I signed in for in the first 10 or so books. :/ I read more books in that series than I should because I was hoping it would get better, but it only got worse. πŸ™

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! Yes, mood changes I think tend to bother me possibly the most. I’m a mood reader, so sometimes I pick books based on whether they’ll be light or dark or atmospheric or funny. If the next book ends up being completely different than the first, then it won’t be what I’m in the mood for. Plus it’s hard for me to find truly dark and emotional books, so it’s just plain disappointing to find one only to have the next be lighter. I haven’t read the Anita Blake series, but now I now to stay away from it lol. Isn’t is like super long? The author probably just ran out of plot and decided to fill it up with sex instead. I don’t like SUPER long, neverending series.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Yeah… I wouldn’t want to read a series like that because I like series that have individual goals for each book but also one big series goal/arc that everything is building up to, and those have a smaller, more finite number. Plus there’s definitely such thing as a series just going on for too long and getting old.