Is knowing how many books are in a series a spoiler? Guest blog post from Tej Turner

Back in 2020, when Elsewhen Press were about to announce the forthcoming publication of Bloodsworn – the first instalment of my Avatars of Ruin series – I had a sudden stroke of inspiration whilst reviewing the press release they had prepared. I decided to email them with an idea that had been playing in the back of my mind for a while, as I realised that it was now or never.

See, in the original version of the press release they had referred to Bloodsworn as ‘Book 1 of the Avatars of Ruin’ followed by a word that I asked for them to redact and replace with a more ambiguous one; ‘series’.

Now that I have told you this I am guessing the first suspicion that has popped into many of your minds is that I was worried this series might befall the fate of others and birth more sequels than originally intended, but no. That wasn’t the reason. I am – mostly – a planner, and do have a good grasp on the overall arc this series will take. When I first submitted Bloodsworn to Elsewhen Press back in 2019 I told them precisely how many more there were to come, and it was something they considered when they committed to publishing it.

There are a few reasons for I decided to make this suggestion to them. Some of them are specific to the arc it takes, so I won’t – for the sake of spoilers – go into them here, but one of them is a more general point I would like to discuss.

For me, knowing how many books are in the series that you are reading can often feel like a bit of a spoiler, especially when it comes to genres such as epic fantasy, and its various cousins such as grimdark. For example; if you know that the book you are reading is the finale in a trilogy, quartet, pentalogy, etc, the reader will feel some form of reassurance that, no matter how high you up the stakes in that climatic battle, there is a good chance that something will happen to give this book the closure that they have been waiting for. Whether that be a hearty resolution, something bittersweet, or the death of your villain-protagonist and restoration of a bleak status quo, will likely depend on what kind of vibe the series has taken, of course. There are various ways that one can still surprise people with a twist at the end, but most books will have some kind of closure that fits its particular subgenre and for good reason. To not have this will often be a disservice to the narrative, its characters, and leave readers feeling cheated.

Elsewhen did accept my proposal, and the reaction so far has been quite mixed. This series has done fairly well for one published by an independent press. It does not automatically make it onto all the high-street stores nor have all the publicity that comes with one of the bigger houses, of course, but some good reviews and a bit of luck have drawn a bit more attention to this series than my previous urban fantasy duology that didn’t get as much attention than I would have liked. I am certainly more on the map now but far from being a household name, and I am not the kind of author where this experiment has drawn enough attention to be scrutinised much online. I have noticed – on a few occasions – people referring to my series as a ‘trilogy’, but that is an assumption they have made based on its genre. I have not gone out of my way to correct people when this happens – as to confirm or deny either way would be revealing – but neither have I told any lies. Some reviewers (and even, on a few occasions, readers) have reached out to me and asked for clarification, and, whenever this has happened, I have always been honest and told them that this is something that myself and Elsewhen Press are choosing not to disclose for now. I haven’t had any negative reactions to this so far. Some have commented that they find this approach intriguing.

I feel that it will be in the coming months that I will finally find out how successful this little experiment has been. The third instalment – Blood War – is to be released on the 2nd of February. Its name and the blurb do hint at a climactic battle, and I certainly don’t think it will disappoint in that regard. But whether this battle ends up being the closure to a trilogy or the instigator for more volumes to come is something my readers are yet to discover. The only thing that I am certain about is that many people have made assumptions either way so there are going to be at least some who will be surprised, and it will be interesting to see what their reactions will be.

Tej Turner is an SFF author and travel-blogger. His debut novel The Janus Cycle was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and its sequel Dinnusos Rises was released in 2017. Both are hard to classify within typical genres but were contemporary and semi-biographical with elements of surrealism. He has since branched off into writing epic fantasy and has an ongoing series called the Avatars of Ruin. The first instalment – Bloodsworn – was released in 2021, and its sequel Blood Legacy in 2022. The third – Blood War –is due to be published in early 2024.

He does not have any particular place he would say he is ‘from’, as his family moved between various parts of England during his childhood. He eventually settled in Wales, where he studied Creative Writing and Film at Trinity College in Carmarthen, followed by a master’s degree at The University of Wales Lampeter.

Since then, Tej has mostly resided in Cardiff, where he works as a chef by day and writes by moonlight. His childhood on the move seems to have rubbed off on him because when he is not in Cardiff, it is usually because he has strapped on a backpack and flown off to another part of the world to go on an adventure.

He has so far clocked two years in Asia and two years in South America, and when he travels he takes a particular interest in historic sites, jungles, wildlife, native cultures, and mountains. He also spent some time volunteering at the Merazonia Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Ecuador.

Firsthand accounts of Tej’s adventures abroad can be found on his travel blog.

For links to his website and travel blog, social media etc –

Author: Juliet

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. Loving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels so far. Her debut, The Thief’s Gamble, began The Tales of Einarinn in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. The Green Man’s Heir was her first modern fantasy inspired by British folklore in 2018, and The Green Man’s Quarry in 2023 is the sixth title in this ongoing series. Her 2023 novel The Cleaving is a female-centred retelling of the story of King Arthur, while her shorter stories include forays into dark fantasy, steampunk and science fiction. She promotes SF&Fantasy by reviewing, by blogging on book trade issues, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. She has served as a judge for major genre awards. As J M Alvey, she has written historical murder mysteries set in ancient Greece.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.