Over the years, I’ve read many books. As I mentioned last time, I tend to read a lot of fantasy. And fantasy tends to have long series that never seem to end (I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time). But as I also mentioned last time, I prefer shorter stories made up of standalone novels or trilogies (for the record, I have not read through the entire Wheel of Time series; I only read book one). But does that mean I have never read longer, multi-book series? No it does not. I’ve read several over the years, with some ongoing to this day.
When I was first contemplating what the longest series I have read is, Everworld by KA Applegate came to mind. Everworld is a twelve-volume juvenile/young adult story about five teenagers who are transported to a magical land half the time, and have to live their normal lives during the other half. While twelve books sounds like a lot, in actuality it really isn’t; the books are around the 150-200 page mark each. And as I mentioned, they’re written for a younger audience, which makes them super easy to read quickly (there are less words per page than on something like any of the books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series). And honestly, twelve books of this size is nothing, even within my personal reading history. I made it through about 25 of the Animorphs books when I was younger (at a quick guesstimate, I think they averaged about 150 pages each). And about 30 of the Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister books before that (which averaged about 100 pages each). I stopped reading both series when I realized I could polish one off in an hour.
Also, to put those books into context, even though 30 books sounds impressive, at a rough guesstimate we’re talking about 3000 very easy to read pages in the case of the Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister books. If you look at something like George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the first two books total about 1,802 pages. The Song of Ice and Fire pages are also much denser, with many more words per page. A Game of Thrones took me about a month to get through. While I can’t give an accurate estimate of how many hours it took, I know it was more than thirty between the two books. So even though I read more books in the Animorphs and Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister series, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings together were a bigger series based on sheer size.
So obviously, something more adult is going to be the longest series I’ve ever read. The six books of Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid Chronicles would be the next obvious contender. But at approximately 320 pages each, these total only 100 words more than the two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire that I read in their entirety. So that’s not as impressive.
Oh yeah, and the books in the Iron Druid Chronicles took me on average a day or two to read. So we’re talking about half a month to read six books, vs one month to read one. Once again, A Song of Ice and Fire seems to be in the lead.
So what other contenders can challenge the combined might that is A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings? Only the books of my favourite two authors of course! First up is Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. This is a loose series which spans generations of mainly the Ohmsford and Leah families. I say mostly because Brooks also linked the Word and Void series into Shannara, which took place long before the Shannara family line existed, never mind split off into the Ohmsfords. That series is currently made up of 27 books with one forthcoming this summer; I’ve read 22 of those (and have the remaining five ready to go when I get around to it).
The other serious contender is Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series. Like the Shannara series, the Heralds of Valdemar series is made up of mainly smaller trilogies that all take place in the same world; like the Shannara series, these smaller trilogies take place over a large time scale. The Heralds of Valdemar series is currently made up of 34 books (plus 9 anthologies); I’ve read 26 of those (plus 1.5 anthologies).
So how do these compare to A Song of Ice and Fire? The Shannara series is a bit harder to guesstimate page numbers because the original books were much longer than his newer books. At a guess, after The Wishsong of Shannara, his books tend to be approximately 350-450 pages each. Lackey’s books are a little more standard, approximately 350-400 pages each. So at a very rough estimate, I’ve read 9,300 pages worth of Shannara and 9,750 pages worth of Valdemar. Even if my guesstimates are off, that puts both of these series well ahead of the 1,802 pages of A Song of Ice and Fire.
It also means that in theory I’ve read more Valdemar books than Shannara. But my math on those two was really sketchy, so I’m not sure which one is the clear winner. But I do know that even if Valdemar is currently winning, I’ve got a Shannara trilogy I’m planning on reading in the very near future, so Shannara will either be tied or ahead of Valdemar soon!
This Tuesday’s Talk topic came from the Tuesday Talks Goodreads group.