Great art sometimes takes time. Great epic fantasy novels that are hundreds of pages take a lot of time. Some of the most talented authors in history have let decades pass between releasing new installments or simply have left their series unfinished. Whether the original authors lost interest, died before finishing, or still promise to work on the next installment, these five epic book series haven’t been wrapped up yet.
1. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
When the epic fantasy The Name of the Wind released in 2007, Rothfuss was rocketed into fame. The novel represented the first in The Kingkiller Chronicles, starring the protagonist Kvothe, a magical prodigy and warrior. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Rothfuss spent four years drafting the second installation of the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, which came out in 2011. His progress has exponentially slowed since, with over a decade passing without a rumor of a publication date for the final installation of the series.
Rothfuss has explained that he actually began writing the series over two decades ago; since its original conception, Rothfuss has improved characters and plots, leading to unforeseen inconsistencies between his original plan and his published content. Reconciling those inconsistencies has contributed to the long wait before the finale of the series, Doors of Stone.
2. The Parable Series by Octavia Butler
Butler’s speculative fiction, The Parable Series began in 1996 with the publication of The Parable of the Sower. Set in a realistic future of a rapidly destabilizing America, Butler’s series quickly gained traction and popularity. She completed and released the second novel of the series, The Parable of the Talents, in 1998.
For the third in the trilogy, Butler planned to venture deeper into the science fiction realm, taking her characters to another planet. However, depression and writer’s block led Butler to leave her dreams unfinished. She died in 2006 before completing the final installation, The Parable of the Trickster. No other author has been chosen to finish the series.
3. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
George R.R. Martin may just be the most infamous procrastinator of the epic fantasy genre. Over a decade has passed since Martin published a new installment in his saga A Song of Ice and Fire. Almost three decades since the pilot of the series, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996.
Martin began writing the highly-anticipated penultimate novel of the series, The Winds of Winter, back in 2010. Since then, rights to his epic series were bought by HBO, adapted to TV, and finished, all before he released a prospective publication date for his sixth novel. Even if Martin does find the time to finish The Winds of Winter, the A Song of Ice and Fire series will remain incomplete until the seventh and final book, A Dream of Spring hits shelves (if it ever does).
4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
Depending on who you ask, Frank Herbert’s The Dune Chronicles may be regarded as finished or unfinished. Herbert wrote six bestselling Dune novels in his lifetime, yet planned for several other follow-ups and prequels before his death in 1987. Thirteen years later, his son, Brian Herbert, along with science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson, wrote and published Hunters of Dune in 2006 and Sandworms of Dune in 2007, thereby completing the original series.
Some devoted Frank Herbert fans consider Brian Herbert’s contribution as a continuation or expansion of the Dune universe rather than canon. Stylistically, the series changes between the sixth and seventh books, leaving an opening for discussion about whether the series can be considered complete or unfinished.
5. The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson
Unlike most of the other authors listed here, Sanderson is prolific with half a dozen epic fantasy series to his name. But all those other series have slowed down progress on his 10-volume epic, The Stormlight Archives. Sanderson kicked the series off in 2010 with The Way of Kings, when he promised a Stormlight novel every two years. However, the second volume, Words of Radiance, did not hit shelves until early 2014, and the third volume Oathbringer, came out in 2017.
Before wrapping up the Stormlight series, Sanderson expects to continue releasing another half-dozen or so Mistborn novels, as well as other series and sequels to fill out and link together his bonafide multiverse, “The Cosmere.” Even if you do not see the end of The Stormlight Archive in your lifetime, at least you’ll have plenty of other works by Sanderson to read.
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