Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Curse of the Sequel

I don't think I'm the only one out there who thinks second books (or, indeed, movies!) disappoint. Sometimes they even plain old suck. Obviously I don't mean an author's second book overall (these are often better!), just the second in a series. Trilogies seem to be the worst offenders. Book 2 often ends up being filler. Or it's a good book, but it has to work twice as hard, because Book 1 has the advantage of being exciting and new, while Book 3 has the advantage of being the epic end to it all.

So, really, sometimes you have to feel sorry for Book 2, the tragic middle child of the whole family.

And to make Book 2 feel better, I've been trying to think of examples where the second book (or movie) was just as good or better than the first. (That's right, tragic middle child! You're just as special!) And I don't count sequels that were simply tacked on because the first one was so successful. They have to be part of the original story.

...I have nothing. Nothing. Seriously. My brain has frozen over today.

Can you think of any great or better second books/installments?

PS. Don't forget I'm giving away a signed ARC of THE LOST GIRL in ten days! So if you haven't commented on my cover reveal already, go do it soon!


  1. I can't think of a sequel better than the original. Hmmm...yeah, that's a tough one.

  2. "It has to work twice as hard, because Book 1 has the advantage of being exciting and new, while Book 3 has the advantage of being the epic end to it all." >> You've summed up the exact problem very nicely here! Book 1 introduces the reader to the world, and Book 3 ties everything together, so poor Book 2 is left to hop around helplessly going, "I've got a couple new characters!"

    Most of the trilogies I can think of do, unfortunately, succumb to this, at least to a certain degree. The Hunger Games series is an exception — I think I actually prefer Catching Fire to the first book.

    And I always give the example of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series as a model for how a series can have both an overarching story arc that encompasses all of the books, and smaller internal story arcs for each book. That said, though, Pretties is probably my least favourite of the three.

  3. I'm working on the third in a trilogy, but it was never meant to be one, not even when I wrote the second book. The reviews for the second one have been better than the first, so hopefully I bucked that curse.
    As for seconds that were better, Empire Strikes Back was better than the others in the trilogy and Lethal Weapon II was better than the first one.

  4. I can't think of any "better second book". As you say, "trilogies seem to be the worst offenders". "Son of the Shadows" by Juliet Marillier (The Sevenwaters Trilogy) is a fantastic second book, but I don't think it is better than Daughter of the Forest.

  5. Speaking as a middle child, I feel the pain of the second novel, especially in the triology. Stuck there, in the middle, not the first and not the baby. Just there, playing the part of the middle.

    I feel your pain, yes I do :-)

  6. I see Alex has already mentioned Empire Strikes Back. I agree with pretty much everything you've said. I usually don't like the second book as much on a first read, but, there are some series that I love where at first I was unimpressed by the second novel but on further rereads I grew to love the skill that had crafted that novel. I just hadn't appreciated it.

  7. I have a five book YA series and can appreciate the middle-child syndrome. My second book was not as well-rated as the first (even though it won a FlamingNet Award) but it's still my personal favorite.

    I'm an Anne McCaffrey fan and I think Dragonquest was a little better than the first book of the series, Dragonflight. Of course, the third was the best of all.

  8. Orson Scott Card breaks that mold. He re-invents Ender each time in his books. If the author refuses to be bound by the prior works, they can create new, incredible worlds.

    A worst-offender I would rank with you is Terry Brooks. He recycled the twin-plot over and over and over.... yuk.

    - Eric

  9. Ahhhhh! I'm working on a sequel right now! Don't put thoughts in my head. :)

  10. Godfather I and II. Both were based on the one and only "The Godfather". But oh a sequel to savour!