Every one of you has done it: fallen in love with an epic, fantasy series that goes on and on forever. The ones that begin so grandly then morph into multi-volume nightmares that never seem to end. Even the authors know they are bloated beasts, for example take Tad Williams, writer of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series, who labeled that trilogy “The Bloated Epic.”
Having gone through this horror myself more than once, I wondered what fantasy series in my life (I was born in 1970) were the longest and most bloated. Not “bloated” in the sense that they were terrible reads (though there are some that were horrid) but rather that the author had contracted “Herbert’s Syndrome”, in which he is overwhelmed by the temptation to keep expanding his popular universe. (I’ve read that the Fantasy Review came up with the label “Herbert’s Syndrome” when Dune creator Frank Herbert kept pumping out Dune books back in the 1980s.)
With this in mind, I did some research and came up with thirty of the “Longest Fantasy” series ever published. While I realize word count would be a more reliable measure of true length, I found it difficult to get (what I considered) reliable data regarding word count of all fantasy series, so I settled for number of pages in series, which seems to be a fairly accurate measure of total length.
After you read through the list, please nominate any others that you feel should be included. I do read the suggestions and modify this list from time to time.
Glen Cook has led this bunch of mercenaries across two continents and into a few different dimensions through nine books with 3808 pages. Two more books planned in the series.
David Gemmell was a master of heroic fantasy; none of his books more well known than this beloved series, which stretched to 11 novels with approximately 4432 pages.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s first series on the list with 10 books and around 4800 pages. At least one more novel planned, perhaps two.
Robert Lynn Aspirin’s humorous fantasy series has run for five decades and provided fans with 20 novels, sitting at approximately 4821 pages.
Martin’s saga is 5 books and basically 5000 pages long, and it is not close to being complete.
Kurtz began this in 1970 and has reached 16 books with over 5000 pages. Plus, there is so much more to write about in this world that I doubt we have seen the end of this long running series.
Eddings wrote two 5 book series and two histories: 5014 pages in all. See my review of Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in the series.
Elliot’s 7 book series with 5300 pages. Each book averaging a slim 750 pages.
The Unbeliever’s “believers” have purchased 10 books so far and devoured almost 5500 pages about their favorite leper. Supposedly, the series is over, but then again, I thought the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was the last. So stay tuned to this one.
Michael Moorcock has published dozens of eternal champion books, but I decided to use the White Wolf omnibus editions, which collected all the stories in one nice hardcover set. This White Wolf series stretches for 14 books with 6095 pages.
Urban fantasy poster boy has over 6200 pages through 15 books, and remember, he is still growing. See my review of Storm Front, the first book in the series.
Wurts has put out 9 books so far. Several more planned. Each novel is close to 700 pages, for a total of 6281 pages at present.
Jacqueline Carey’s series has been around for a while with 9 books, totaling 6535 pages.
Fifteen books with approximately 6912 pages from Katharine Kerr.
During Brian Jacques life, he penned 22 novels in his amazing world, and his fans will continue to cherish all 8645 pages.
Labeled scifi by some, these 26 books have always seemed more fantasy with just a touch of science fiction mixed in to liven things up a bit. But whether you agree with me or not about that, you will, no doubt, concede that the series is approximately 9000 pages and still growing.
Okay, I know some of you are saying this is a serialized world with numerous authors writing about different characters, and I totally agree, so I am only counting the novels authored or co-authored by Margaret Weis or Tracy Hickman. With this criteria used, the core Dragonlance novels came down to 21 novels with 9038 pages or there about.
Robin Hobb has written 15 novels in this universe so far with around 10000 pages. At least one more novel planned at this time.
Salvatore has given us a “legendary” run of 30 books with nearly 11500 pages. It appears the series may have come to an end for the foreseeable future, but don’t count Drizzt out: there are always more stories to tell. See my reviews of the most recent books in the series.
Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf Archmage Hero
Goodkind has published three series in his fantasy world of the Confessors: Sword of Truth, Richard and Kahlan, and The Legend of Magda Searus. These novels total 16 books so far with nearly 11000 pages. Each book averaging almost 700 pages.
Modesitt’s second series on our list with Recluce stretching out 18 novels with approximately 10740 pages. I believe more installments in the series are planned, but I could not find the source confirming that.
A series that has run 28 books with nearly 11800 pages. If you include four short stories and a graphic novel into the equation, then the series is at 33 published work with approximately 12200 pages, and it’s still getting bigger. See my reviews of the most recent Shannara novels.
The High Druid’s Blade The Darkling Child The Sorcerer’s Daughter.
Jordan and Sanderson’s 15 book epic. 12000 pages. Basically 800 pages per book!
A little over 13000 pages! 39 books! This series of cheesy fantasy jokes and fun puns is still going strong after all these years.
Feist strung this one out for 30 books and over 13100 pages. It is over finally – we think.
Lackey has penned 34 novels with 14000 pages. A big investment of time there.
Erickson and Esslemont’s series is now so long I’ve lost count of how many books there are in all the different series, but I believe we are up to 19 by the end of April 2016 with around 15000 pages. Each novel averages over 800 pages long. If you add in the five novellas, the series is now above 16000 pages long with 24 published works, and the latest novels arrived in April 2016 when Fall of Light (The Kharakanos Trilogy #2) and Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy Trilogy #1) hit shelves. Obviously, this series isn’t going to stop growing for quite some time, it seems.
During Terry Pratchett’s prolific writing career, he wrote 45 Discworld novels spreading across 15497 pages. And while this fantasy master has passed away, Discworld will always remain to pay homage to his greatness.
Now, to be honest, we all love for our favorite book series to go on and on. (I personally recall tearing up as a kid when Lord of the Rings ended.) And as long as the author can continue to churn out interesting new story ideas or plot lines, it isn’t a bad thing for anyone that a series goes “long.”
What inevitably seems to occur, however, is at some point new ideas stop coming and old ones start being rehashed, resulting in a great series turning into a never ending procession of the same formulaic story. “Bloat” sets in, if you will, and then it is up to the author to just stop. End it already, like Tolkien did by sending Frodo and Gandalf into the west at the end Lord of the Rings. Sure, I cried when I read it, but it was better than me giving up on the eighth LoTR sequel. You know, the one where Frodo is taking an enchanted sword to Mount Gundabad to destroy it so as to cast down the Ringwraith who survived Sauron’s destruction.
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