When reading the first book in a new series that is absolutely stellar, you more or less expect the next book(s) to be just as good, leading up to an epic finale. That’s how it should be, right?
Well, unfortunately it doesn’t always play out like that.
I am no stranger to the concept of Second Book Syndrome—where the author somehow loses momentum in their writing and their second book of a series, regardless of genre, is an obvious downgrade from its predecessor. Sometimes this happens because the second book is more of a filler book, bringing in a lot of information that is thought to be necessary and focuses on info dumping rather than actually moving the plot along. Or sometimes it means that the author got all the plot resolved in the first book but has to come up with something new to keep the story going for the rest of the series, therefore not having it really add up at all. And sometimes, ever so rarely, the sequel is just plain bad.
These following seven books are not only examples of the dreaded Second Book Syndrome, but for me personally, they were so bad (subjective to my own taste, of course) that I lost any and all interest in the series. Except for one, but we’ll get there.
1. The Damned by Renee Ahdieh
Having already reviewed this book, this should come as no surprise. This book was simply bad. Everything I came to love about the first book, The Beautiful, was taken from me, thrown in a dumpster, and lit on fire. The plot? Nonexistent. The characters? One dimensional. The writing? Utter nonsense. What upsets me most is how much I adored Ahdieh’s writing prior and this is not a showcase of her capabilities. I’m hoping it can be chalked up to a terrible editing team but who knows. All I know is I’m no longer completing the series.
2. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
Similar to The Damned, Children of Virtue and Vengeance really just fell flat with both characters and plot. Not enough to piss me off like before, but it felt like there was a lot of cooks in the kitchen but no one could come up with something edible. You know? I think the problem with this one was both weak writing as well as a back and forth plot that had no drive or momentum, as well as weak characters you couldn’t root for. I’m not sure what Adeyemi intends to do with the rest of the story but I won’t be there to find out.
3. A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Can someone explain to me why authors continually ruin character development in their second books? Because I’m genuinely curious. Honestly, this book wasn’t necessary. All the things loved from the first book were turned and stretched into a negative light, the characters are all pitted against one another for no reason, and what was once a great fairytale retelling is now another boring, generic YA fantasy. If you liked it, cool, but it’s not for me.
4. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
I don’t have as many complaints and qualms as I do with the previous books on this list, but to me, this book was simply boring. I felt like the plot was still relatively fine but with the introduction of so many new characters and muddled POV narratives, it was straying away from what made the series interesting to me. I guess the book lacked momentum more than anything, really. I’m still not sure how this series ended but I’m ok with that.
5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Plot wise, this totally lost me. As we know, I’m not a fan of Maas in any capacity and this kind of solidified that opinion. When reading this particular book, I ended up skipping an entirely new POV narrative that was introduced here because I just didn’t care. I couldn’t be bothered to be thrown into what felt like a tertiary plot line that had little to do with what I’d previously read. I mean, this is where the series simply became bad and where I started to draw the line, but I ultimately called it quits after book four. To me, this book screams “simply cannot be bothered.”
6. Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
To be fair, this book did not prevent me from finishing out the series but it gave me doubts. With the first two books in the series being so strong and well thought out, this one felt like it was out of a different series entirely. I didn’t like the idea of a pseudo-love triangle nor did I find the murder plot to be all that interesting. Additionally, Houdini was rather useless in this book so why the title alludes to him being a troublesome character like Jack the Ripper and Dracula is something I still can’t figure out. So I personally like to pretend this book doesn’t exist and all is well.
7. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
Yeah…I couldn’t even get past 30 pages of this; it was that bad. Long story short: Jay Kristoff is not the author for me and he is more than welcome to keep his pretentious writing to himself. That’ll teach me for trying to give male authors a shot. Never again.
For all intents and purposes, these opinions are all suited to my own personal taste. While I dislike a book for one reason, another person might love for that same reason. I mean no harm or offence to anyone who enjoys any book on this list.