As you all know, I get so sad when I come to the end of a series. Truly, I dread the time when I know I have nothing left to read in a particular set of books because I’ve spent so much time with the characters and become so invested in their stories that I just don’t want the party to end. But end it does, as my wishes rarely have a terribly significant impact on reality, which is a shame. Anyway—the end of a series leaves me with two choices—spend some time researching a new author and a new cast of characters in a fantasy world I’d want to inhabit for a time, or go back to an old favorite and console myself with the comfort of familiarity and proven enjoyment as I recover from the end of a beautiful relationship.
I’ve been known to do both, in fact, and it occurs to me that my habits are not so far off from what happens in real life when a love relationship ends. How many of us have scrolled through our contacts (back in my day it was an address book, but same concept) looking for someone we can call for some uncomplicated love? I know I’ve been guilty of that more than once (before my marriage, of course). When a relationship ends, it sometimes seems like too much trouble to get to know someone new. It’s a daunting task to endure the inevitable awkwardness and uncertainty of “will it work or not” that occurs when we audition a new prospect for the role of dream lover or even potential life partner –or both- if we’re very, very lucky. Sometimes the thought of starting all over again seems like losing those last ten pounds, climbing Mt. Everest and getting a 1600 on the SATs all at the same time. No can do. At least not when I’m still raw from the end of a particularly wonderful series.
And that’s when a retread is just the thing. It’s familiar. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable and comforting. At least in terms of revisiting books. Because if we take my analogy a bit further, it doesn’t hold up so well in the real world. In the real world, moving backwards and rekindling old flames can sometimes mean opening a can of exceptionally unpleasant worms. For example, we might know that a toddle down memory lane with an old lover is an extremely bad idea, but how many of us actually listen to that insistent little voice in our heads saying “Danger, Will Robinson”? Not me, I’ll tell you. Nah, I used to barrel forward heedless of the danger, knowing that the old familiar road seemed a lot less scary than forging a new path. Sometimes, the road less traveled just looks isolated and foreboding and definitely best avoided. After all, I’m from New York where I learned that if a neighborhood park or street is deserted, then what the hell are you thinking by being there? Asking for big trouble, that’s what.
And who wants big trouble, right? But that’s the fear talking, not the part of us that embraces new experiences, trusting that expanding our horizons is (almost) always for the good and an endeavor to be pursued. So, the good news is that after a few repeat performances with someone we’ve danced with before, and the realization that it doesn’t work any better now than it did then, we feel ready to move onto new adventures.
Luckily for me –and for you, too, there is significantly less angst involved in transitioning between fantasy novels than there is in romantic relationships. The really good news in that there’s always a lot less baggage and fewer bad memories associated with revisiting a particular fantasy series that we’ve loved and lost. We we reread books, there’s no resentment or anger or heartache (unless you are one of the folks who’s still mad at Charlaine Harris for how she ended the Sookie Stackhouse series—come on, guys, she foreshadowed that particular plot twist beginning in the very first book and then kept dropping hints like bread crumbs for Hansel and Gretel to follow! Get over it, already!). Oops, did I digress again?
Back to the issue at hand, revisiting well-loved books or even whole series. Personally, I reread Sookie’s story at least once a year, and also the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I pick up Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison when nothing and no one else can elevate my mood from the pits of despair, just cause I love it so much. I frolic with G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin when I want to smile, and laugh out loud with MaryJanice Davidson’s Queen Betsy when I really need a belly-full.
And the best part is that there’s absolutely no downside to indulging in my desire to make everything old new again with my reading and plumb the depths of these beautiful books to get a new insight or remind myself of a profound truth. Rereading books is nothing, in fact, like revisiting an old lover who might have picked up something nasty since the last interlude. So, stick with books for your retreads rather than last year’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Because we can’t find truth in fantasy everywhere, just between the pages of our beloved books. And after we've finished revisiting books we've read before, we can move on to something new and marvelous.