The Longest Waits Between Fantasy Sequels

So I’ve been absent on the blog front for a while – what was meant to be a short break turned into something quite a bit longer! I’ll spare you the long (and boring) story and just say that other projects and work kept vying for my attention. Fortunately I’ve finally found time to get back to blogging, so I thought in the spirit of unforeseen long absences I’d kick things off again with a post on a related theme:

It’s a common enough phenomenon in the fantasy book world: the long-awaited sequel. I’ve heard plenty of frustrated readers complain about how long they’ve been waiting for the next instalment of a favourite series, and when books get made into hit TV shows like Game of Thrones the wait often makes headlines.

I must admit, since I started using Goodreads I haven’t experienced much impatience myself – perhaps because the long list of new books I want to try and series I want to continue distracts me sufficiently during the waiting period.

Things were different in my teens though. One series (The Obernewtyn Chronicles) had me constantly stopping at my local book store to ask when the next book would be out. I was promised release dates only to be disappointed each time. In the end, the next book took 9 years, and by that time I’d long given up asking.

A 9-year wait might feel long, but when you look at the genre’s history, there have been longer ones. So I thought I’d find some examples of the longest spans of time between the publication of books in a popular fantasy series (by the same author) and see how they compare.

Of course, sometimes there are unexpected additions to series – prequels or sequels that weren’t exactly being waited on, because the story was resolved in previous books. However, these sequels do continue the story and are often welcomed by fans, so I’ll be including them in the list below, and admittedly most fall into that category.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: 17 Years

Book Cover: The HobbitThe Hobbit was published in 1937, and while it was a fairly resolved tale, its popularity meant that people were keen for a sequel. One World War and 17 years later, they finally got one: The Fellowship of the Ring was published in 1954 (followed by the next two books in quick succession).

Tolkien took his time to craft the The Lord of the Rings and expand the mythos and world surrounding it… but I think most people would agree it was worth the wait.

His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust: 17 Years

Book Cover: The Northern LightsAs a teenager I adored Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – made up of The Golden Compass (aka The Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, the last of which was released in 2000. So when La Belle Sauvage came out in 2017 I was intrigued.

Admittedly it’s the beginning of a companion trilogy called The Book of Dust, rather than a direct continuation, though I hear it’s a kind of prequel. I haven’t read it yet, because I’m doing a His Dark Materials re-read first that I’m in the middle of now, but I will soon.

Earthsea Cycle: 18 Years

Book Cover: A Wizard of Earthsea18 years after Ursula Le Guin released the The Farthest Shore (1972)– the third book in her Earthsea Cycle – she added a fourth book, Tehanu (1990), to her incredibly popular series. The result is that I often see the series interchangeably referred to as a ‘trilogy’ and a ‘quartet’.

I’ve only read the first three books, but one day I’ll try Tehanu, because it features the main characters from my favourite book of the original trilogy – The Tombs of Atuan – all grown up, and I’m curious to see what that’s like.

Watership Down Series: 24 Years

Book Cover: Watership DownApparently Richard Adams’ 1996 sequel Tales From Watership Down is quite different in style and tone of his 1972 book Watership Down. It’s more of a collection of different stories, though these stories do relate to the original world and characters.

I was disturbed by the film rendition of Watership Down as a young child, but one day I do plan to read the book. I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel too.

Eastwick Series: 24 Years

Book Cover: The Witches of EastwickJohn Updike followed up his paranormal novel The Witches of Eastwick, published in 1984, 24 years later with The Widows of Eastwick (2008).

This is another case where the author has unexpectedly revisited an old work. It jumps forward in time to show the characters in old age. I haven’t read this one, but I know it’s been adapted into films and TV shows.

The Shining Series: 36 Years

Book Cover: The ShiningAdmittedly this is more horror than fantasy, but since it has paranormal elements I’m going to include it in my list anyway.

This is another book where readers didn’t necessarily expect a sequel, but were excited to get one. Stephen King’s The Shining was published in 1977. It’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, was published in 2013 and seems to have been enthusiastically embraced by fans.

Tales of Alderley Series: 49 Years

Book Cover: The Weirdstone of BrisingamenThis was one I stumbled across when I was looking into 1960s fantasy books: I saw that Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and The Moon of Gomrath (1963), both popular at the time, had been followed up by a sequel called Boneland in 2012.

Garner has written other books in the mean time, but still – I did the math and realised that was probably the longest break between two books in a series I had ever heard of!

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In contrast to the above, the waits some fans are currently enduring (e.g. 7 going on 8 years so far for George R.R. Martin’s Winds of Winter) don’t seem quite as long… that said, most of the series I’ve listed had resolutions in the previous book, so readers weren’t really kept waiting for an ending – and probably would have been very annoyed if they had been! However, I did look at the publication dates of a few other fantasy series that were not yet resolved, and 5 or 6-year waits between books, while definitely not the norm, were not all that uncommon. It’s at about the 10 year mark that they get much rarer.

The reasons for the delays in sequels are myriad: sometimes the author has health issues or a nervous breakdown, or things happen in their life that keep them from writing. Sometimes they are perfectionists who take a long time to ensure the book and world-building are perfect. Sometimes, I suspect, they simply lose passion or inspiration for the series, or feel overwhelmed or even put-off by the pressure. And of course occasionally, as in many of the cases above, an author decides to return to a beloved series years after everyone thought it was finished.

Unfortunately, pleas to hurry sequels along never seem to have much success, so all we readers can really do is try to find something else to read in the mean time… and hope that once that next book finally arrives it’ll have been worth the wait.

Have you waited a long time for a fantasy sequel, or are you still eagerly waiting on one? Or do you know of any other record-breaking breaks between books in series? Let me know in the comments.

23 thoughts on “The Longest Waits Between Fantasy Sequels

  1. I think there’s an “effective” wait and a wait that you hear about. All the examples are things we’ve heard about while the wait for Patrick Rothfass’ last book in his trilogy…

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    • Yes I also wouldn’t say really long waits are “effective”. I’ve given up on series because of waiting too-long (and if I did pick up the book when it came out I didn’t come to it with the same enthusiasm I would have a few years earlier). Also if an author has a reputation for starting lots of series and never finishing them I’ll be wary to start any new series of theirs. So I don’t think long waits do readers or authors any favours! At the same time, they seem to happen regardless of how much pressure there is, and with some authors I can understand why they have trouble finishing them, so I guess now I am just kind of resigned to them when they happen, even if I find them annoying.

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      • Game of Thrones must be the most be the most annoying effective wait, when you see the tv show cruise passed it while the next book is nowhere to be seen after five or six years? You’d only read the book to see if there are any major divergences.

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        • Yes I wonder if it would be more or less annoying without the TV series… it does give people something to watch in the mean time but if you prefer to read the books first it’d be extra annoying.

          And actually seeing how the story diverges is the main reason I’m curious to read the books one day (so far I’ve only read the first) though I think I’ll wait till they’re all finished before I start 🙂

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  2. What I dislike more than a “long wait” is when an author kind of just…disappears. I like to believe that most people are reasonable, and will be understanding if an author announces that they’ve had something happen in their life (etc etc) and that the next book will be not be out when planned or will be on hold indefinitely. But it can be quite annoying when no such announcement is made and the wait just drags on and on and there is just radio silence on the author’s part 😥

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    • Yes I think how the author responds or keeps people updated makes a big difference to how readers feel about it. I agree that most people (not all, but most!) are probably understanding if an author announces and apologises for a delay and gives an idea of what to expect moving forward, but if they are just silent (or respond dismissively) I think that’s when people get most annoyed, which I can understand. If I’m waiting on a book I always appreciate seeing an update so I can adjust my expectations of when (or even if!) it’ll come out.

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  3. Glad to have you back! 😀
    So far, I haven’t had to wait very long for a series to be published, but I think that’s because I seriously started reading fantasy novels a few years ago and so far, for me, fantasy is the genre that usually has series and long waits between books. I guess the Song of Ice and Fire series could count for me, but I still have one more book to go before I join the waiting game.

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    • Thanks, it’s good to be back!
      Yes fantasy definitely has a reputation for series with long waits. It sound like you have an advantage in coming late to some though in skipping a lot of the waiting. I’ve had the same experience with a few series where I discovered them late (though now with many of them I’ve caught up with everyone else).

      Believe it or not I haven’t read Song of Ice and Fire yet (only half of the first book – I found it too hard to do the TV show and books at the same time) so maybe one day when the show is over and it’s finished I’ll binge read it 🙂

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      • Lol I can believe it n agree that it’s hard to do both the TV and book at the same time. I read the book, but have yet to make it past season 1 of the TV show. It gets a bit confusing doing both at once.

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        • Interesting you had a similar experience but the other way around! I nearly gave up after the first few episodes of the TV show, but once I got past where I was up to in the book I started liking it… not sure why! But yes both at once could get confusing – I find the TV show on its own confusing enough sometimes 🙂

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  4. 12 months is an INCREDIBLY short wait! Given how long it takes to get a book edited and published, that would have to mean the author basically had the next installment done already around the time the first installment was being released.

    Sorry, got distracted by that last comment.

    As a yet-unpublished author, it’s tempting to go off on a rant about the ingratitude of authors who keep readers waiting. I only wish I had readers begging for the next book in my series!

    That said, I can think of many reasons why an author might find it hard to crank out a sequel.
    Probably they are working on other series, and other worlds, at the same time. Maybe they are off in one of those, and find it hard to switch back and forth between worlds.
    Maybe a completely new world/character has suddenly popped up and demanded their attention.
    Also, they need to think of another plot in the same universe that preserves the spirit of, but isn’t just a tired (or amped-up) rehash of, the first book.
    Also, they want to be faithful to the characters. If we are dealing with a second generation, or we are revisiting a beloved character who is now ten years older and has a completely different set of concerns, that might take some careful digging to do it right.
    Those last two are less of a problem for authors whose “series” is really just one giant work broken up. (I’m looking at you, Tolkien.)

    Other than that, thanks for all the recommendations here. I have not read all the series mentioned. I am one who almost always gets into series late, so my only problem is tracking down copies of them in the right order.

    BTW, though I did not know it had a sequel, I LOVE Watership Down. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did … and then post about it so we can discuss it.

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    • Yes considering how long it takes to write a book and how slowly the publishing industry moves 12 months is very short – but from the perspective of a waiting reader it can still feel long! (I know I get impatient with TV shows when I have to wait a year… even though I know the insane amount of work and people power that goes into making them I still wish they would do them faster 🙂 )

      I completely get that, as an also as-yet-unpublished author I think if I had readers begging I wouldn’t make them wait so long either! But I can see why it happens. I wrote a book that was planned as the first in a trilogy and then decided to leave it in the bottom drawer for the moment (for various reasons), and started writing something else. If someone told me to go back to write the sequel to that first book now that I’m so involved in the new world and story it would definitely be tough!! (I feel like I’d still do it if I had readers asking, but it wouldn’t be easy).

      Haha yes I will be sure to mention Watership Down in a post once I’ve finally read it – I’m very keen to, especially after hearing you enjoyed it so much!

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    • Oh have you read Moon of Gomrath? I haven’t (I just saw it mentioned online) but am excited to hear from someone who has!! What did you think of it? Also do you think you’ll read the sequel?
      And yes I’ll definitely read Watership Down – will be great to finally know the original and not just adaptations of it.

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  5. Yeah I rarely get hungup on how long I have to wait for sequels- especially cos my tbr is so long anyway (there are a couple of exceptions to that though)
    It’s really cool to look at this in the grand scheme of things as well.
    Although, couldn’t you say sometimes it’s just that we didn’t know we needed a sequel until we got one? Especially in the case of the hobbit, cos it wasn’t planned as a series. That’s definitely how I feel about book of dust anyway. It surprises me there’s a sequel to the shining- I didn’t know that.
    And yes, I’m still waiting for the last in kingkiller chronicles and of course winds of winter! Oh the agony! (especially cos for me GOT is the first series I ever really have had to wait for- I came to the series late, when the fifth book had just come out, whizzed through it and then went to look up when the next one was due out… and was shocked when I read about the waits between books and the delays that there usually is between series. The thing that always gets me a bit more with that series isn’t just the long waits, or even the continued promise of it coming out “this year”, it’s how often new books *in that world* that I- and a lot of people I know- aren’t interested in, keep coming out. Obviously this is no disrespect to GRRM and he’s totally free to do what he likes- and I don’t support all the people that send hate his way cos that’s totally wrong- but I will admit privately that I get frustrated sometimes)

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    • Yes definitely, I think for almost all of these it was a case of getting the sequel we didn’t know we needed! I didn’t realise the hobbit wasn’t planned as a series though. It feels very much set up to be one – but that might just be because of his detailed world-building.

      I’m wondering if GOT will end up breaking records for the sequel we DID know we needed! And I totally understand your feelings about it. A few times I’ve done a double-take seeing that Martin has a new book out only to realise it’s not actually the sequel. I haven’t read the series so I’m not personally waiting, but if I were that kind of thing would annoy me too. In fact one of the things that was hardest about that series I waited 10 years for (that I mentioned in the post) was that the author kept bringing out different books and series. She’s perfectly free to do that of course, and I also definitely don’t support sending hate any authors way, but it was personally quite frustrating as someone waiting for the continuation of the original series.

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      • I’m pretty sure on that (though he did the world building) but don’t quote me on that 😉 (I don’t have a source written down for where I heard that)

        hahahah quite possibly!! And yeah- it happens so often- especially cos it feels like publishers are teasing me with *new game of thrones related book*… and it’s never winds of winter. And that’s fair. Oh yeah, I really hear you there- it’s incredibly frustrating when that happens.

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