Good morning, friends! I hope you’re all doing well. As always, Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Today’s topic is: What Makes a Good Sequel? (suggested by M.T. Wilson @ The Last Book on the Left)
I’d like to take a moment and appreciate M.T. She’s been participating in LTB for a long time, and I’m always so happy to see her wonderful suggestions. Thank you so much for being a part of the LTB family!
Considering that I tend to read a lot of series or books with a sequel, I do have certain expectations for what should happen in the next book. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
A good sequel is one that expands on the plot and characters that are introduced in the first book. There has to be a plausible continuation of the plot and some character growth which helps make the story feel like it’s moving forward.
This applies mostly to books that are the sequel of one that ended in a cliffhanger, since some sequels happen in the same world with the same characters, but with a different plot the second time around. And that’s fine, I still enjoy reading those kinds of sequels as well. The only difference is that plot continuation doesn’t really happen in the second type of sequel, but character growth should always happen regardless of the type. Things have changed since the original story, so the character should have learned from whatever obstacle they had to overcome in the first book and have a different struggle in the next one.
For sequels that aren’t a continuation of the original plot, I think that the new plot could also be more complex/intriguing than the one in the original book just so it doesn’t feel like a formula that’s being reused. It’s a problem with long series such as Nancy Drew where you can almost guess accurately exactly how everything is going to unfold in the latest book because the same formula for the plot has been used over and over again.
A good sequel is one that is better than the first book. This is by having plot and character growth as I’ve already mentioned, and by having a better story all around. More defined worldbuilding, a more distinct writing style, and little things like that make a big difference in my opinion. It’s like the first book introduced an idea, and the second book is the chance for the author to properly define every aspect of that idea.
The way I see it, the first book can be just okay, while subsequent books need to be better because the author should’ve learned from the mistakes they made in the first book. So, the author should also be having a “writer growth” at the same time and becoming a better more confident writer. Which in turn results in a better written sequel.
Personally, I tend to love sequels a lot more than I love the first book for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned. One of my favorite series full of amazing sequels is the An Ember in the Ashes series.
I three-starred the first book because I didn’t really like one of the main characters, named Laia, and I felt like the plot was okay. It just wasn’t really mind blowing.
Then I read the second book and gave that 4.5 stars because it was really great. Laia grew as a character (though I didn’t come to love her just yet), and the plot became more complex and compelling. There were also a lot of side characters and a third MC who I came to absolutely love so that made things much more interesting.
Then came the third book which I gave 5 stars. The plot continued to grow in the third book, paving the way for a magnificent ending. Everything was tense, all the characters were reaching their peak and becoming who they were meant to be, and it was just really nerve-wracking because I couldn’t image how it would all end happily. That is something that made the third book an even better sequel to the second, because it kept my emotions sky high which helped me stay invested in the story.
And then the fourth and final book happened (another 5 star read), wrapping up a plot that had not grown old or boring even though it had stretched into four books. Everything came together and ended beautifully yet heartbreakingly. All what I wrote on my GR review of this was “I am still so hurt. This book”. It was everything that I needed from the series and I really loved how it ended it all.
So, you can see that each sequel in this series moved forward plot wise and in character growth. The backstory that caused the whole mess, the villains, the good guys, and the worldbuilding itself were all so intricately designed, and the author did a phenomenal job adding more layers and depth with each book that passed.
And that’s the whole essence of what makes a good sequel to me.
What makes some sequels disappointing? Do you feel like most sequels are worse than the original, or is that just an old wives tale?
I’ll answer the second question first: no I don’t think most sequels are worse than the original. If it becomes a series that’s more than 3 books, then yeah, I think it does start to grow stale at that point but usually, the second book is the same or even better than the original.
For sequels that are worse than the original, I think I’ve seen this more in movies than in books. For instance, Cars 2 is one of my all time favorite movies because it was so much cooler and awesome than the original Cars movie. Because of that, I was very excited for Cars 3, but it was honestly a lot more tame compared to my expectations. It just didn’t have the same appeal or excitement that Cars 2 had.
Similarly, the third How to Train Your Dragon movie was very annoying compared to the second one. I loved the second movie a lot, it was amazing for Hiccup’s character growth and it was just so emotional and fantastic. Yes there was character growth for him in the third movie too, but it was more about Toothless which I didn’t really like (sorry Toothless!). So, compared to my expectations, the third movie really fell short.
I’ve decided to be excited for any second sequels of movies I liked, and to seriously drop my expectations if there’s a third one after that.
And that also kind of answers the first question of what makes them disappointing: if they’re just meh or okay compared to the book/movie before it, then I get really disappointed because I expected more.
Do you get excited about sequels or do you prefer standalones?
Truthfully, I think I get more excited by standalones than I do by sequels. And that’s because I’m so tired of having to read several books just to get a resolution of the big bad evil that’s introduced in the first book.
Fantasy seems to be the world of sequels though, as I’ve only read two books that I can say are standalones out of the many many fantasies that I’ve read. And you know what, it’s okay, because usually I love the characters enough that multiple books doesn’t bother me too much. It’s just really inconvenient when I want to know how it all ends right away.
And that’s my two cents on sequels for today.
Be sure to visit Dani’s post to add your LTB to the linkup!!
Some questions for you:
- What makes a great sequel in your opinion?
- Do you prefer standalones to sequels?
- Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? Have you watched Cars or HTTYD? What did you think?
- Do you think fantasy books have too many series and not enough standalones?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!