There's something that I've been thinking about for a while, probably since I read WINTER, the last book in the Lunar Chronicles, almost two years ago. (Or, more accurately, the last novel - there have been a few add-ons since then.) I love the whole series, and I gave all of them five stars, but there was something about that last book that just didn't quite live up to the other three for me.
After that, I started thinking about it more generally. In so many cases, no matter how much I like it, the last book in a series is my least favorite. The Firebird trilogy. The Infernal Devices. The Hunger Games. The Wrath & the Dawn. Wolf by Wolf. Graceling. For some reason, it just doesn't measure up to the rest.
But why? Are series finales really so consistently different from the other books in a series? I think they might be, simply because they have to wrap everything up. In so many cases, this makes the book pretty different than its predecessors. Sometimes, your favorite parts of the previous book(s) just don't fit into what's needed for a finale.
Or maybe it's the pacing. In pretty much any plot - standalone or series - wrapping things up can take a while. The more there is, the longer it will take, and the more important the balance between keeping things exciting and not rushing through them is. There are certainly series that do this well. However, I can think of others where the end seemed to take place with 70 pages to go, or, on the other side of things, I was left thinking: that's it?
On the other hand, maybe my expectations are just too high. Maybe the momentum of an amazing series just tends to set me up for a bit of disappointment. Maybe that necessary change in series finales that I seem to see just happens to be to a kind of book that I don't like quite as much.
Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions. Sometimes it's another book in the series that lets me down. Harry Potter. The Darkest Minds. The Grisha trilogy. But these exceptions are outnumbered, and the only series finale I can think of that I liked the best is WHERE SHE WENT from the If I Stay duology (unpopular opinion, I know). So maybe this opinion isn't super consistent, but it's most definitely a trend, and it's one that I'm really not too happy about finding in my reading. I guess I'll just keep a hopeful eye out for these exceptions.
What do you think of series finales? What are your favorites and least favorites? Do they tend to be your favorite books in a series, your least favorites, or somewhere in between? Is there another book in the series sequence that tends to let you down? Let me know in the comments!