More often than not, the first book in the series is so good that subsequent books do not live up to its greatness. But that’s all right. The Second Book Syndrome (wherein Book 2 is not as good or better than Book 1) is more often expected at this day and age.
Besides, Book 2 of a trilogy often ends on a low and very depressing note for the hero. All to set the stage for the hero to rise up anew (stronger and faster) on Book 3. The only case of a trilogy wherein I loved the 2nd Book more than Book 1 and 3 is The Hunger Games Series. I can tell you why I thought Catching Fire was infinity times better than Hunger Games and Mockingjay. But then I’d be straying from the purpose of this article. LOL
In the case of a duology, I stand by my earlier experience. The first book is often always better than the final book. For great duologies, the gap between first and final books are not that great. You can even say it’s minimal (eg. The Monsters of Verity Series by Victoria Schwab and The Wrath & The Dawn Series by Renee Ahdieh). But sadly, the majority of the duologies I’ve read fall short due to the Second Book Syndrome. And also because for some reason, attempts to tie up loose ends by the second book seem rushed and unsatisfactory IMO.
The same goes for the not-so-great trilogies that I will soon list down below. Unlike other 3-book series that manage to salvage the flag of the second book, the following series just disappointed me. I spent time, money and effort on the following based on the strength of the 1st Book. And it really saddens me that the subsequent books to the duology or trilogy did not live up the 1st Book.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t give these books a try. The 1st Books of the following series are a delight (IMHO). And I truly loved and enjoyed them. Thus, in my opinion, the 1st books still deserve to be recommended to eager readers.
But it does lead me to ask: “What happened, Author?”
It just really saddens me that the sequels make the authors seem like they lost interest in their own works. Reading the 2nd (and even the 3rd) book of the following series gave the impression that the authors wrote the sequels for the sake of finishing the series without much thought for fans of the 1st book. Or alternatively, it gave the impression that the author did not have any idea where the series was to go and was simply forced to write something for the sake of writing a sequel.
The Kricket Series by Amy A Bartol
Why I loved Under Different Stars: Strong female main character! Very independent and strong willed. Kricket Hollowell is basically a girl who’s been in the foster system almost her whole life. And then one day, a couple of men suddenly want to take her “home.” And by “home,” they mean a completely different planet. And she finds out she’s right in the middle of a custody battle because her mom and dad are apparently from two different “country/ethnicity/race” who are at war with each other. Of course, Kricket (being who she is) will not allow anyone else to have a say on her own fate. So she takes initiative to the best of her considerable smarts and abilities to control her own fate
Unfortunately, the second book was nothing more than one chase scene after another IMO which adds little to the series as a whole. And the third book (while not as bad as the second book) just rushed the ending while leaving LOTS of loose ends.
After reading Book 3, I was left feeling that the author just lost interest in her own series. It was as if the author was eager to put an end to this series and move on to other things. Of course, this is just my own conjecture. But given Books 2&3, that’s the impression I got
Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee
Why I loved Angelfall: It’s an angel apocalypse starring a strong, gutsy young girl named Penryn on a road trip with a de-winged angel named Raffe. I always like stories wherein two people from opposing sides are forced to work and travel together. Considering it deals with the time after the end of the world as people know it, Angelfall manages to make me laugh. And since we are dealing with angels and romance, there’s the inevitable discussion of Nephilim which I think makes things even more interesting for this book.
However, I don’t know. Book 2 & 3 failed to live up to Book 1. While yes, it’s usual. I guess I just expected more from this series. Considering that I had to hunt for the sequels after I find out my usual bookstore doesn’t have Books 2 & 3 on stock, I guess it sort of exacerbated my disappointment. After all the time and effort to get my hands on the sequels, I was saddened by how it fell so far from my expectations.
The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel
Why I loved The Book of Ivy: Well, it’s an arranged marriage story with a dystopian background wherein people from one side of the dystopian city have to marry the government mandated match from the other side of the city. I thought that it was a pretty clever way to instill peace to ensure that no more civil war within the city happens. But of course, Ivy shows how even the cleverest of endeavors have down sides. The main draw to this book would be the romance between Ivy and Bishop. And the book really delivers on the romance side that I expected it to focus more on the looming civil war by Book 2.
Unfortunately, my expectations for Book 2 fell short. There was no epic revolution happening on Book 2. And a great series that I expected to end with a BANG simply ended with a whimper (IMO).
Uninvited Series by Sophie Jordan
Why I love Uninvited: In this book, the government is now able to identify the gene for killers. Unfortunately, Davy (straight-A student on her way to a great college) has this gene. And once this is revealed, she becomes an outcast to those who she once thought were her friends. And she was even uninvited from her spot in said college. Things get worse when a couple of people with the killer gene go on some sort of a murder spree, which lead to the government issuing orders for people like Davy to be taken to prison camps. A saving grace arrives in the form of a special government program for high-achieving people with the killer gene. Unfortunately, Davy learns too late what this entails
Book 1 really showed a lot of promise. The series looked like it was going somewhere EPIC. But then Book 2 came in. And it left the impression that the author didn’t know where the series was to really go and just decided to put a quick and easy end to the series
Death Sworn Series by Leah Cypess
Why I love Death Sworn: Ileni is losing her magic. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Her people had tests to find out if children were to keep their magic permanently or to slowly lose it. But someone obviously made a mistake. And now she is lost. She loses everything she thought she should expect. It is at this point that she accepts an assignment to teach a secret group of assassins even though the last two magic tutors died under very suspicious circumstances. Woah! This book was pretty much gold. Being in the middle of a bunch of guys who can kill you but don’t because they are bound to respect you as a teacher or at least pretend to respect you. And I love the reveal to the mystery. Most of all I love the romance in this book.
And the ending of Book 1 left me really hungering for Book 2 toute suite. Unfortunately, again, Book 2 wasn’t readily available. I had to buy it from Amazon. So imagine my utter horror when the sequel did not deliver. None of the things I loved in Book 1 was in Book 2. And that was what made the sequel flounder in my opinion
Magonia Series by Maria Dahvana Headley
Why I loved Magonia: I thought the fantasy aspect was unique. A breath of fresh air. I also love the bond between Aza Ray and her best friend Jason. The main character Aza Ray has been sick for most of her life. Her parents (especially her mom) has done everything in their power to keep her alive until the day Aza actually dies. Only thing is, Aza didn’t die. The thing that “died” is actually a shell that made her seem human. Aza Ray finds out that she isn’t human at all. The reason she’s been sick was that she can’t breathe properly in the human world. She is in fact a creature of Magonia.
Book 1 was a magical experience. Unfortunately, Book 2 didn’t add much to the first book.