Editor's Note: I missed a Martin Book, and I added a comparison of another set of books.
A title serves many functions. It names a book. It evokes a certain emotion or feeling about the book in the mind of the reader. Before the book is even opened, it sets a certain expectation for what lay within the covers. In a way, a title can see a book just as much as the cover art can. Titles are important.
Titles are hard to come up with for many people. I often go through five or ten different titles for one book before I settle on something that is good enough. I doubt I'll ever come up with a perfect title for my books.
I would like to draw your attention to a series of books. I don't love this books. I don't love the author's writing style. In fact, I'd say with ease and honesty that I absolutely abhor his writing style. But, I love his titles. I love the title of his series, and I love the rhythm of all of his titles.
So, for once (and quite possibly the last time), I'm pleased to bring to the table George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice. Here are their titles in sequence of release:
Book One: A Game of Thrones
Book Two: A Clash of Kings
Book Three: A Storm of Swords
Book Four: A Feast for Crows
Book Five: A Dance with Dragons
Upcoming: The Winds of Winter
Upcoming: A Dream of Spring
These titles use a formulaic layout. The layout is simple: A/The :: An Action or word evoking action :: Of/With :: a Thing
Each title uses strong words that evoke something, be it things of beauty, things of intrigue, things of danger, and wistful thinking. They match their books. I might not be a fan, but the titles and partnerships of titles are brilliant.
Hey, I can be reasonable sometimes, even when I do dislike a series for other reasons. The titles are wonderful.
Next up, I am going to discuss a series I reviewed the covers for. I didn't review the books. They didn't appeal to me, and the reviews of the book scared me off. I noticed this when I was reviewing the covers, but I didn't mention it, as I didn't want to take away from my commentary about the covers.
Enter Morgan Rice's The Sorcerer's Ring series. The release date was November 2012 with subsequent books releasing every 3 or so months after.
Book One: A Quest of Heroes
Book Two: A March of Kings
Book Three: A Feast of Dragons
Book Four: A Clash of Honor
Book Five: A Vow of Glory
Right about now, you're likely noticing some similarities. Let me take this a step further for you:
Book Two: A Clash of Kings vs Book Two: A March of Kings
Book Five: A Dance with Dragons vs Book Three: A Feast of Dragons vs Book Four: A Feast for Crows (This one has multiple layers!)
You get the point. Morgan Rice has done a tactic that sticks up my craw. Did it influence me when I decided against buying the books? No — the description and the reviews were enough to convince me I didn't want to invest in this series. Would it have, had I gotten past the description?
Possibly. There is nothing wrong with using this sort of titling scheme. That said, as I look at the covers, the descriptions, and the cover art, I can't shake the feeling that Morgan Rice was attempting to ride on Martin's tailcoats. I can't blame her there. The guy isn't just rich, he's filthy rich. Not only is he filthy rich, he's exceptionally popular.
Perhaps I'm sensitive to this in general, but what I love about shopping for books is finding cover art that appeals to me, and titles that grab my attention — and possibly my heart, too.
When I look at this, I can't help but think that Morgan Rice took the easy way out and named her books in a way that would immediately evoke Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice.
Personally? I'll steer clear of books — and authors — that can't come up with a title system that stands on its own two feet. There may be times where a title of a pair of books end up the same or similar. That's one thing.
But when an entire series is named in the same exact way as a bestselling series that everyone knows about, I can't help but wonder if the books have no hope of matching their titles. In a way, that makes me sad. I wonder what these books would have been called if they'd been allowed to have a life of their own, rather than sitting at the feet of another series.