Guest Post – Alyssa Carlier
It’s so awkward whenever people get excited about a sequel to a book I’ve never heard of. What’s even worse? When there’s a super-hyped sequel
Awkward or not, these moments always make me think: should we give book series a second chance?
Giving an author a second chance has been discussed before — after all, writing styles change over time, plotlines differ completely between series, and maybe, just maybe, an author has realized how important it is to include quotes worthy of a Tumblr edit. 5-star book right there.
But books in the same series are in the same genre, share the same characters and plotline … could we possibly give them another chance if we hated the first book?
Here are a few first books*, and why I personally did or didn’t continue the series.
*We need to come up with a snappy name for these, like “sequels” for second books. Erm … I got nothing. Moving along!
A GAME OF THRONES: I gave it a second chance, didn’t regret it (at first) …
Let me be clear, A Game of Thrones has great writing and world-building.
But the pacing was awful. Too many things were happening, with overly confusing PoVs, and even though I could keep track of everything, I only cared about two out of the million characters. And it’s an incomplete series. Considering the state of my TBR, I rarely subject myself to potential cliffhangers.
But I decided to read the rest of this series because I NEEDED MORE DRAGONS AND ICE ZOMBIES. (I’m … sorta still waiting for the ice zombies.) And I was invested enough in a few of the storylines to read on.
Thank goodness I did, since the series is genuinely very well written and most of my favourite characters are from later books.
A few years after finishing the last available book, though, I almost regret giving it a second chance — over-the-top violence and misogyny are used as plot devices, and I honestly feel it wasn’t necessary at least 90% of the time. There’s better dark fantasy out there.
*runs and hides from Internet mobs*
THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Didn’t think I’d pick up the sequel, but book Twitter made me change my mind.
And again, let me be clear, The Wrath and the Dawn has amazingly lush prose and worldbuilding.But IMO, it was mostly romance with a pinch of fantasy. Sure, there were quotable lines, and Shazi is 120% BAMF, but the politics plotline was tepid and poorly paced. It just wasn’t compelling for me. So I hadn’t planned on picking up the sequel.
SHADOW AND BONE: Didn’t give the sequel a second chance, but …
I was fairly late to the Leigh Bardugo hype, I’ll admit, so I think all three books were out before I finally tried Shadow and Bone. With that cover, I was expecting a enthralling, dark fantasy (yes, I’m a shallow person, deal with it); and instead, I spent half of the book with a girl who … can’t use her magic powers. And is sort of attracted to an obviously evil guy.
But I actually still identified with Alina, even if Mal wasn’t my fav sidekick. Until Alina won through the power of … kindness. Kindness?? I mean, here I was, expecting GoT-levels of cynicism and ending up with a Cinderella Aesop. The main issue here, I think, was that I expected something entirely different from what is, to other people I’m sure, a fabulous book.
So I refused and refused and refused to give the series a second chance, even though everyone gushed over Leigh Bardugo … and then Six of Crows happened.
Six of Crows isn’t technically part of the same series, but it is in the Grisha verse. So I sort of gave the series a second chance, and tried out Six of Crows. And I was blown away completely. If I read it immediately after Shadow and Bone, I wouldn’t have believed they were in any way connected because Six of Crows was the perfect dark fantasy for me.
THE WINNER’S CURSE: Didn’t give the series a second chance.
We’ve had three series I gave second chances to, however, reluctantly, so let’s look at why I didn’t give The Winner’s Trilogy a second chance.
Kestrel’s strategic skills in The Winner’s Curse really impressed me, and she’s such a compelling character. I’m on the fence with Arin, but I’m not entirely apathetic to the Kestrel/Arin ship (which is impressive for me!). The plot was tight and thrilling, the writing style was beautifully evocative, and it had a fabulous cover. (Still being shallow!)
But I loved the ending too much. It was bittersweet without compromising the tone of the book or the characters’ motivations, it fulfilled the characters’ dreams in the worst way possible without being a complete downer ending. And I could perfectly envision this status quo as the characters’ ever after, even if there is no happily. In other words, I could put the book down and waltz away without regrets.
(I’m aware, though, that some people found it an agonizing cliffhanger, so I suppose that really goes to show how different bookish tastes can be.)
As you can see, there’s plenty of grey area in whether to give a series a second chance!
My personal motto is to follow my instinct … and err on the side of not giving series a second chance. After all, there are so many books out there, you might as well take a chance on something new instead of risking frustration with the sequels.
Besides, leaving series unfinished seemed odd when I first tried it, but it’s allowed me to read more widely. Which is fantastic, because I get cookies for extra fandoms!
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Alyssa Carlier writes (and more often rewrites) novels about girls in worlds of magic, madness and murder. Sometimes she remembers to blog about books and shares her best book blogging tips with other booklings. Alyssa hasn’t noticed Jedi mind tricks work better in second person than third.