Like it seems to have with most bookish topics my opinions on Second Book Syndrome have changed a lot since I started blogging. While I do still think it exists with certain books and/or series I’ve come to realise it isn’t as common as I once thought it was.
Second book syndrome is something we’ve all probably experienced at one point or another. When a series starts off amazing you’re left hyping up the next book, desperate to find out what happens next in this series you love, but when you finally get your hands on book number two you’re left disappointed by what you’ve read.
Does “Second Book Syndrome” Exist?
If you’ve been following my blog for a while then chances are you’ve noticed two things about my reviews; number one is that I primarily read and love fantasy books, and number two is that I read a lot of series. Looking back through the books I’ve reviewed on my blog so far one of the things I’ve noticed is that I say, more often than not, ‘This is a series that keeps on getting better and better with each book!’. And for the most part I think that’s true.
In a first book the author has to set up the world, the characters, and the main plot arc that will develop over three or more books. It takes a lot of development work to make it stand on its own and still create an interesting story to keep reader engaged. In the second book however most of that foundation work has been done and it leaves the author more space to add action and twists in the plot, to add more tension to the relationships between different characters. More often than not this means that I end up enjoying second books more than first ones.
Case in point is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. This was on my to-read list for ages simply because I’d seen a lot of negative reviews for the first book, and despite plenty of people telling me the series would get better I kept putting it off. No surprise when I did get around to this book the second one was better. While I feel part of that was maybe because of the addition to the foundation she had already created in the first book I think a larger part was she was becoming a more experienced author. It’s the same with her A Court of Thorns and Roses series, I really enjoyed the first book but the second is so much better.
As an author writes more I do think they get more experienced when it comes to writing; more experienced in their own writing styles, and in developing their series, characters and books. And if that’s the case shouldn’t that mean that second book syndrome doesn’t exist?
On the other hand, and though I do think this is rare, there are occasions when second book syndrome does strike a series you love. Maybe it’s nothing more than reading a book with the same characters, the same world, and the same kind of story that just doesn’t interest you as much as it did in the first book when everything was brand new.
Case in point when I read the Splintered trilogy by A.G. Howard I fell in love with her first book set in a slightly darker Wonderland, years after the original Alice had come and gone. Obviously I was incredibly excited to get started on Unhinged when it was released, but upon reading the book I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did Splintered.
Part of this was because of the setting. The reason I picked this series up in the first place was because it was a retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a story I love, but in the second book we stay in the real world. Although we do get a few glimpses of some of Wonderland’s residents there was nothing more about that world in Unhinged, and as a result I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book.
You may completely disagree with my two examples; you may have found Crown of Midnight suffered from second book syndrome you could couldn’t get through it, or you may have enjoyed Unhinged more than Splintered. I guess when it comes down to it second book syndrome really comes down to the book and the reader.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of this Post:
Have you come across more books that you think suffer from Second Book Syndrome, what were they and why do you think they suffered?
Do you agree with my assessments of both Throne of Glass/Crown of Midnight and Splintered/Unhinged, if you’ve read them what did you think of them?
Or is Second Book Syndrome something you’ve heard of but rarely encounter in series?
Let me know in the comments below.