A favorite series doesn’t always start with a knockout book. We all have the friend who recommends her favorite author with the caveat “just get past the first book.” And, well, we’re just not so sure.
There are series, particularly in series with paranormal elements, that need a first book to set the stage for the next book to really become unputdownable. Sometimes the second book is just better than the first.
The absolute best example of this is Karen Marie Moning’s Bloodfever.
I was late to the game with the Fever series. I’m thankful for that, though, because Moning makes use of some wicked cliffhangers in her series. Even waiting the year for the final book Shadowfever, after devouring the first four books, was straight up agony.
But after the hype I read online, I just wasn’t sure about the series. Everyone was talking about this Barrons guy. And how hot he was. And how amazing he and MacKayla were together. I picked up Darkfever expecting this paranormal romance with Barrons as a love interest. Instead, I found myself watching Mac rile Barrons in less than sexy ways. It was a good read, but setting the stage for understanding Mac’s abilities, the fae world and how everyone played into this made it a stage-setting book.
It did not blow me away. It was not the best book I have ever read. I continued, though, because it was interesting enough that I wanted to find out more. The second book Bloodfever had me addicted. The characters came to life, the stakes were raised. The tension and chemistry between hero and heroine elevated to a point I clutched my e-reader.
If not for Bloodfever, I wouldn’t have known just how amazing the Fever series could be. The second book in the series made me fall in love, helped me see the genius in Moning’s character development and was the start of my affair with Barrons. Now I’m the one telling everyone, “Once you read Bloodfever, you’ll buy the rest. And you will read them immediately.”
With the Fever series, it was the second book that hooked me, but sometimes the second book in a series is just the best of the group.
For example, the second Dark Swan novel by Richelle Mead is masterful. Thorn Queen lets us see the heroine grow dramatically, come into her own, consider love (and love interests), suffer pain and the plot forces multiple characters to show their true colors. It’s gripping and at times dark, and none of the subsequent Dark Swan books—though they were good—could measure up to the second novel.
With paranormal romance it can be even easier to fall for the second book if the same hero and heroine are featured. Watching a relationship develop, when handled well, can make a second book a standout. That’s the case for Jeaniene Frost’s One Foot in the Grave (plus, it has that Chapter 32 sex scene that is forever a favorite) and Elle Jasper’s Everdark. Watching the progression of a beginning relationship to a real couple dealing with each other’s lives can make the second book better than the first. This may be because we’re already invested in their lives.
Which second books are your favorites? Do you think it’s getting the world building out of the way in book one that makes the second so much stronger? Share your suggestions for must-read series with stellar sophomore titles in the comments. It’s always good to build your fellow H&H readers’ to-be-read piles.
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter - @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.