Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Sequel?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is What Makes A Good Sequel?

What do you like to see in sequels?

Sequels need to build upon the previous book, picking up the threads of the plot in such a way that it makes sense without too much effort, even if there happens to be a time jump between books. I appreciate it when the first few chapters of a sequel include enough information to remind me of what previously happened since I rarely have time to reread. It should also stay true to what the first or previous books have established as fact thus far.

More world-building and attention to detail is a must for sequels in my book, particularly if it is part of a larger series. At the same time, character development shouldn’t be neglected either, and I like to see significant growth in not only the arcs of the protagonists, but also the antagonists and if possible, the main secondary characters as well. If a story is long enough to merit a sequel, plot and characters definitely need to be balanced. I also do like to see the conflict evolve with each book, raising the stakes gradually. Finally, while this isn’t about the book itself, it’s nice when sequels release in a timely manner as it becomes very hard to remember and keep track of the story if there is too long of a gap.

Are there any sequels you liked more than the first book?

This happens quite often, and I take it as a good sign for the series as a whole if each installment improves upon the previous one. I could go on forever with this list, but most of my favourite series tend to fall into this category, and now I’ve come to expect that sequels be better than the book it follows. A few such notable sequels are:

A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas: I hardly think ACOMAF requires an explanation. ACOTAR was an ok read, a bit slow moving initially, but the ending largely made up for it. ACOMAF however, was just so perfect that I still haven’t been able to write a proper review that would do it justice even 3 re-reads later.
Crooked Kindgom – Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows was fantastic and a very tough act to follow, but Crooked Kingdom certainly managed to do that and more!
Throne of Glass series – Sarah J. Maas: This is one of my favourite series and with the story only got more exciting with each book. Of course, it did have a few hiccups, especially with Empire of Storms that seemed to crawl along and the late addition of Tower of Dawn which dumped an entire new plot and set of characters, but that aside, I consider Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows and Kingdom of Ash among the best sequels on my shelves.
One Dark Throne and Two Dark Reigns – Kendare Blake: Ignoring the huge letdown that was Five Dark Fates, the middle two books of the Three Dark Crowns series were miles better than the first book.
Now I Rise – Kiersten White: The second book of the Conqueror’s Saga is to date, one of the finest second books I’ve ever read. And I Darken was extremely plot heavy and I was starting to get bored by the end of it, but Now I Rise definitely made up for it with a roller coaster of a story that stretched on into the finale.
Shadowhunters Chronicles – Cassandra Clare: While this is technically made up of several series that interconnect and overlap over various time periods in the storyline, there is such a marked improvement in both writing and storytelling with each successive book that it’s impossible not to mention in such a list.

What makes some sequels disappointing?

Sequels, especially second books, also have a tendency to wander in terms of the plot and stray from the main goal far too easily. Middle books of a trilogy in particular, often make the mistake of dropping a major plot point or introducing a crucial character far too late in the book, completely changing the landscape of the finale. While I enjoy a good cliffhanger just as much as anyone else, it needs to be realistic and fit with the flow of the story and not feel like the plot is being yanked in a completely different direction just for the shock factor.

Out of character behaviour from the protagonists, unnecessary twists to make the plotline work or the stakes of the conflict not rising with each book are a few other things that could make for a disappointing sequel. This was a large part of why I didn’t like Mockingjay, because none of the main characters felt true to what they had been portrayed as so far, and that’s not even getting into the convoluted mess that was the plot. In the case of sequels that are also the concluding novels of the series, the use of a deus ex machina is something I really dislike seeing, because it’s saying that the plot wasn’t well developed enough to come to a fitting end without an eleventh hour intervention.

Do you feel like most sequels are worse than the original, or is that just an old wives tale? Do you get excited about sequels or do you prefer standalones?

Generally speaking, sequels tend to be better in my opinion. A large portion of the world building is already done, we know the characters, their motivations and their goals and have an idea of where the story is going, which leaves a sequel free to concentrate on the plot and character development entirely. Unless something goes really wrong like the instances I mentioned above, by and by large, sequels improve upon the original. The one major exception to this I’ve come across, is when the original wasn’t written with the intent of expanding the storyline further, or if the author comes back to a series years later. It’s very easy to spot these types of books and they rarely turn out well.

I do get really excited when sequels are announced if the previous book ended on a note that makes one viable and it’s not a spin-off or novella. Of course, since sequels are usually released a year apart, by the time I have the book in hand, I’ve forgotten most of what happened in the previous book and need to reread it first, but it’s always nice to hear that a story I liked is being continued in another installment. I enjoy standalone novels just as much as I do a series, but it largely depends on the genre. For example, I’ve always felt that the stories that fall into the fantasy genre tend to do much better as a series, or atleast a duology. There’s usually in depth world-building and a number of characters involved that makes it hard to do it justice in a single book. On the other hand genres like contemporary or retellings that work best as standalone novels.

What do you think makes a good sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

12 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Sequel?

  1. Kaya @ afictionalbookworm May 28, 2021 / 12:38 am

    this is a fantastic post! i adore books like crooked kingdom and the shadowhunter chronicles simply because they show such marked improvement in most aspects. the wicked king is probably my favorite sequel ever haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) May 29, 2021 / 5:59 pm

      Thanks! I agree, the best authors all improve with each book and it makes their works such a pleasure to read. The Folk of the Air is one series I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’ll definitely have to try it at some point!


  2. Jodie | That Happy Reader May 28, 2021 / 1:00 am

    I really can’t think of any sequels I’ve read that I enjoyed more than the original book, but I’ve certainly read several that were equally as good. This is an interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) May 29, 2021 / 6:00 pm

      Sequels do have a tendency to be hit or miss, but I agree, they usually turn out to be atleast as good. Thanks for reading!


  3. I'm All Booked Up YA May 28, 2021 / 9:31 am

    Really great post! We like when sequels give a short recap of the previous book because sometimes it can be a while in between reading them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. readandreviewit1 May 28, 2021 / 1:29 pm

    Lovely post! I don’t think I’ve ever read any books where I preferred the sequel, but I must admit I love a good sequel when it’s nicely done. As a rule, though, I do tend to stick to standalones – for some reason I just lose motivation when reading a whole series in one go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) May 29, 2021 / 6:05 pm

      Thank you! I agree, standalones are definitely more convenient, and it’s very easy to lose interest in a series since it often takes years for all the books to be released. A well written sequel is always great to read though!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. AmethystAP June 4, 2021 / 12:18 pm

    These are awesome points and I wholeheartedly agree. I tend to prefer standalones because I fear the sequel will mess up the quality of the first book. But I do enjoy a great series as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) June 5, 2021 / 8:59 pm

      I agree, when the first book of a series is really good, I’m always afraid to pick up the sequel because it might not live up to the same standard. Thanks for reading!


  6. Judith Barrow January 4, 2022 / 12:46 pm

    Interesting post. The first sequel I wrote, a rewrite of the first book, was, of course, returned by the publisher with a resounding “No”. LOL I learned my lesson, and have hopefully improved (well. some readers enjoyed the sequel more than the first of the trilogy) But I have read some wonderful sequels and series.

    Liked by 1 person

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