A Novel Idea: Substandard sequel syndrome

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“Crooked Kingdom” serves as a perfect example of a sequel not reaching its fullest potential. Despite “Six of Crows” being an incredible book, it’s follow-up left something to be desired.  Photo via amazon.com

“Crooked Kingdom” serves as a perfect example of a sequel not reaching its fullest potential. Despite “Six of Crows” being an incredible book, it’s follow-up left something to be desired. Photo via amazon.com

It’s the moment — or rather, book — you’ve waited months, or more realistically, years for. The follow-up to that book that you’ve been raving about is finally here. But how will it measure up? From writing consistency to plotting to characterization, there is an abundance of factors that go into that much-awaited book.

Unlike the film industry, which suffers from the consumerism of producing movies at breakneck speed for a voracious audience, it’s plausible that the book industry is driven by less superficial expectations. However, with predetermined contracts and a more independent creator, there is a bounty of conflicting components that go into releasing installments of our favorite series. I’ve been disillusioned by lackluster sequels and finales before; however, there are series out there that are worth reading the whole way through.

Take “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo, for example. (A Leigh Bardugo book mentioned? Are we surprised?) I’ll keep it short; however, after my mixed feelings about her finale to “The Grisha Trilogy” and my intense love for “Six of Crows,” I was apprehensive to set any expectations for this sequel. With everything that Bardugo had in play in the initial book, from the various character dynamics and backstories to juggling plotlines, I wouldn’t be surprised if something slipped along the way.

However, any previous standards I could have set would have been moot in the face of the final product. Not only was her writing consistent, it felt even more polished and improved in terms of prose and plotting, as well as delving more into the worldbuilding and character backstories. It felt like a direct continuation of the first book taken to the next level.

As the first books in series set up the conflicts and players, sequels often make or break the integrity of the plot. If the overall story is strong enough, then the sequel will expand on the parts of the first book that were successful and won’t flounder around from lack of content or feel disconnected, as some do. They shouldn’t be exact replicas of what was so great in the first book, just as artists’ new music shouldn’t imitate their earlier songs.

On the flip side, there are finales that definitely take the series a different route, and not in a good way. In the midst of the dystopian genre phase, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth took the world by storm, and fans waited in anticipation for the latest installments. But with most works, pressure and expectations often do more harm than help. As a typical teenager, I prided myself on being a “true” fan and forgave the second book for some of its technical faults, such as the more complex plot, saying that just because it wasn’t necessarily as action-packed as the first novel didn’t mean it was inferior. However, the finale only exacerbated the flaws of the sequel. With a weak plot that felt too far-fetched and decisions and actions that seemed like development in “Insurgent” but turned out to be poor characterization, “Allegiant” suffered. It tried to do too much at once and might have seemed fleshed out, but in all the wrong ways. It’s so disheartening to make it all the way to the end of a series after years of being invested, only to be disappointed, but at least I know I’m not the only one who was let down.

If you want some other series that got better over time, check out “The Winner’s Curse” trilogy, the “Harry Potter” series (except “The Cursed Child,” which doesn’t count), “Vicious” and “Vengeful,” “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” “The Naturals” series and the “Legend” trilogy.

Thumbnail photo via amazon.com

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Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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