Jul 18 2012 12:00pm

Stellar Sophomores: Karen Marie Moning, Richelle Mead, and More Series Authors with Great Second Installments

Bloodfever by Karen Marie MoningA 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.”

Thorn Queen by Richelle MeadWith 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.

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1. ConfusedMuse
I'm throwing Ilona Andrews into the ring here. Although Magic Bites was okay, the series really grew in Magic Burns. If I hadn't come across the second book by accident I probably wouldn't have continued reading. The Kate Daniels series is now one of my favourites. Can't wait for the next book!

I have to say Richelle Mead's first Vampire Academy series also falls into this category. Definitely improved with book two.
2. Ann @ Tea And Text
I'm 100% with you about KMM, my sister was all YOU HAVE TO READ THIS SERIES, and she gave me the first one, and I trudged through it. I was like BLEEEEEHHH I don't get why this is so amazing?! Then at the end I HAD to get the second one, and the third....and so on, and I blew through through each one in less than a day, and then I had to start the long wait for Shadowfever, but it was definitely all worth it!
3. Dbeautyangel
I agree. I love the Highander KMM books so the Fever series were a pleasent surprise. Lots of action and charecter develpment. and then when Mac and JZB finally get together. wow worth the wait. Love The Night Huntress Series too. ahhhh Bones.
4. AmandaB
I'm going with Nalini Singh's Archangel's Kiss. While I enjoyed the first book immensely, the second one just had more...oomph. Plot, action, romance...god, Raphael making Ellie wait, torturing her (and himself) until he thought she was strong enough to take him on? Hot. And I loved getting to know Ellie and Raphael better and watching them adjust to their new dynamic. Oh, and learning that the real danger is still to come...AWESOME.
5. DanielleC
Kim Harrisons Hollows series, I can't say 2 is my favorite but that may be because were going on 11 and they only get better but I trudged trough Dead Witch Walking propably re reading the fist 50 page 3 or 4 times cause I kept putting down for long periods of time.
Melanie Thomas
6. missmelthomas
@ ConfusedMuse I agree about the Kate Daniels series. My book buddies are all about this series but after reading Magic Bites (which was just so-so for me) I wasn't sure I wanted to read more. Magic Burns was much better and I've grown to like the series more with each book.

There are a couple of other series I felt had fairly strong first books but the second books were just better. Ink Exchange, the second book in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series is by far my favorite in the series. It is made of awesome. I liked Wicked Lovely but the second book made it a must read series for me and I'm not big on YA.

I am a HUGE fan of Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld and really liked the first book but the second book, The Darkest Kiss, hooked me. Lucian and Anya are amazing together and it's still one of my favorites in the series. There have been a few people who weren't impressed with the first book and I tell them to stick with it. The series is bad ass once you get past all the meet-and-greet and world building in The Darkest Night.
Lege Artis
7. LegeArtis
Oh, yes, I didn't like Mac in first book also, it has some YA feel to her voice which is just not my thing... But, book #2 hooked me up. When I read some reviews of first book, some of reviewes didn't like Barrons at all, couldn't think of him as love interest...hah, and what an icon he became. There are heroes and there is Barrons.
I agree with Kate Daniels series, second book was awesome. I'll add here Downside Ghosts series. First book was great, but second gave us more personal drama and infamous graveyard scene which was masterly written and it was very emotional and strong... I also liked Hell Fire, second book in Ann Aguirre's Corine Solomon series more than first one.
I think that first book in series, especially UF or PR has difficult task of introducing world setting to readers, not just main character. Second book can focus more on developing character and add more personal touches. That can be one of reasons for great second installments.
8. ChelseaMueller
@AmandaB - You're so right about the Guild Hunter series falling into this category, too!

@DanielleC - Now that you say that, you're right. I wasn't blown away by Dead Witch Walking, but am in love with The Hollows. Just took a little time to get its footing.

The series is bad ass once you get past all the meet-and-greet and world building in The Darkest Night.
I think that's the big part there. You've got to get past the "setting everything up" stage.
Pamela Webb-Elliott
9. Spaz
Yep! I am with y'all on these.
The Kate Daniels series is definitely one where I tell everyone to please stick with the first book, and read it fast so you can hurry to book 2, which is 1,000 times better :)
Same with Mac... It definitely took me til book 2 to gel with her voice.
I also have to add my vote for Ann Aguirre's Corinne Solomon series. The first book was good, but the series REALLY gets good in book 2 - Hell Fire is an awesome second book.
10. Tonya Burrows
I'm kind of surprised nobody's mentioned the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. While Wrath's book was good, it was Rhage's book that really hooked me into the series.
11. JAGL
Stepping away from PNR, I did not love Suzanne Brockmann's first Troubleshooters book, The Unsung Hero. However, the second one, The Definat Hero, where we get to watch the true start of Sam and Alyssa's journey (long and torturous as it was) towards their HEA, is what hooked me (as well as really enjoying Nils and Meg).
12. Crash
Wow!, I was just the same with the Fever series! I actually put the 1st book down-walked away and only came back when it was offered for free on my e-reader and I thought "what the hey, I've got a rainy day to kill". I was hooked and since I had also come to it late, I was able to download the other books as I read them one after another. I think I finished book 4 around 1am, and was suitably irate to learn that I would have to spend a year thinking that a certain someone was dead!! (I don't want to give it away if you haven't read it yet) I also love Jeaniene Frost's and J.R. Ward's works and agree to the slower start of my love affair with both. Another series I had to struggle with was the Otherworld Series by Kelley Armstrong. Her first book Bitten just didn't do it for me initially and I picked it up and put it down a few times. Now I can go back and zip through it with pleasure and know that the characters improve with each successive novel. Do give her a read, the main man Clayton is a dream (wet that is) ! Lol.....
13. tonidh69
Yay Tonya! I loved Rhage's book. Everyone else always talks about V, or Z, or how much they didn't like Phury's book, but I always loved Rhage. I liked Wrath's book, too, but Rhage's story really was a favorite for me.
I'm thinking about going back to the Hollows after reading the advice listed her. I read the first one and thought it was "ok", but decided not to continue. So maybe I'll give it another shot since I've heard such good things about it
14. tonidh69
P.S. You guys are making me want to reread the Fever Series!
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