Trilogy Bloat

When was the last time you read a YA trilogy with a really tightly-plotted, satisfying conclusion?

Go grab a trilogy. I’ll wait.

Okay. Now compare the length of the first volume to the length of the third one. I bet it’s a lot longer than the first one–and I bet you liked the first one better, didn’t you?

Take Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. A Great and Terrible Beauty: 403 pages. Rebel Angels: 548 pages. The Sweet Far Thing: 819 pages. And if you’ve read it, you know that she could have cut about 300 pages right out of the middle without changing the story’s outcome.

How about the Twilight saga? The third book is 26% longer than the first one, and if we go all the way to Breaking Dawn, it’s 50% longer than Twilight.

Why does this happen? Well, sometimes the author gets to the third book of the series and goes “Oh, poop, look at all of these loose ends! Now I must tie them all up!” Other times, the publisher doesn’t really bother with major edits. If there was a new Harry Potter book, you’d buy it whether it was 600 well-edited pages or 800 sloppy pages, right?

Here are a few trilogies that avoid the dreaded bloat. In each case, the third book is no more than 25% longer than the first book. (Middle books may vary.)

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy

  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Mockingjay weighs in at 390 pages, only 4% longer than Hunger Games at 374 pages. With a movie coming out in 2012 and copies still on hold at the library, you should definitely get your hands on this one.
  • The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. Goliath is 543 pages, or 23% longer than Leviathan. (This does not take the fantastic illustrations into account.)
  • Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. The Demon’s Surrender, at 387 pages, is 20% longer than The Demon’s Lexicon, the first book. (Oddly enough, the second book, The Demon’s Covenant, is 440 pages.)
  • Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain trilogy. The Eagle of the Ninth, which was made into the movie The Eagle, aka “that movie where Channing Tatum wanders around Roman Britain looking hot and occasionally emoting,” is 210 pages. The Lantern Bearers, the concluding book, is 219 pages, or about 4% longer.
  • The Grassland Trilogy by David Ward. Escape the Mask, the first book, comes in at 195 pages. The third book, Beyond the Mask, is only 227 pages, or 16% longer.
  • The grand prize in anti-trilogy-bloat goes to Julie Kagawa and her Iron Fey series. The first book, Iron King, is actually the longest book of the trilogy–by five whole pages. Talk about consistency!

And that’s it for now. Stay tuned for a Trilogy Edition of Rant ‘n Rave where I get even snarkier about the Gemma Doyle books!


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