Friday, March 18, 2016

Defying SBS

We've all been there, right? We discover the first book in a trilogy or longer series, devour it, fall in love with the characters, world, and/or everything else about it, then rush to the library or bookstore to see if there's more. There is, and we grab the second book, eager for more amazingness . . . but what's this? The plot's stalling, meandering, or just isn't there? Characters spend more time angsting than anything else, make ridiculously stupid decisions, or lose half their development from book one? The requisite love triangle is played up for all it's worth? Everything just seems to be filler so the author can get to the good stuff in book three? The diagnose is obvious: the story's been hit with a serious (or series-ous . . . no? I'll stop now, sorry) case of Second Book Syndrome (SBS for short). It's terrifyingly common- so much so that it's easy to outright expect that the second book will be disappointing. A lot of very popular series (The Inheritance CyleThe Hunger GamesDivergentThe Selection, the list goes on . . .) fall prey to it- storms, even Mistborn falls prey to it in some respects. (By which I mean that certain characters overdosed on the angst, particularly the romantic angst.)

But some books don't. Some books defy Second Book Syndrome. And those are the books I'm talking about today.

1. The Errant King by Wayne Thomas Batson. Not only does The Errant King defy SBS, but I actually like it better than The Sword of the Stars. Part of that may be because it’s less of a “direct sequel” than some books; after all, it takes place twenty years after the first in the series and focuses on an entirely new main character. That alone doesn’t leave many openings for SBS. But reappearing characters are as awesome as they were before- or, in some cases, even better- and the conflicts are very real and very immediate.

2. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Scarlet introduces Wolf and Thorne, two of my favorite Lunar Chronicles characters, so let’s face it: SBS never had a chance in this book. But besides that, there’s no character regress, no characters being idiots in order to move the plot along, and the scope and impact of the story grows in leaps and bounds.

3. North! Or Be Eaten! by Andrew Peterson. I almost didn’t include this one, since it is actually my least favorite in the series (even though it contains one of my all-time favorite scenes), but upon further thought, I realized that the reasons I don’t like it have nothing to do with SBS and everything to do with defying SBS. Characters make mistakes, heartbreaking ones, but it’s not because they’ve regressed from the first book. It’s because that growth is continuing and sometimes character growth hurts- just as it does in real life.

4. The King’s Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight. We’ve already established that it’s rare for a second book to be better than a first book. What’s even is for a second book to make me fall in love with a series that I previously hadn’t been crazy for- but The King’s Scrolls did exactly that. (The introduction of dragons helped- but what I enjoyed even more was the increased focus on Kyrin’s family, particularly Marcus and Liam.)

5. Words of Radiance (Brandon Sanderson). I’m not sure if this one quite counts since it's technically in a ten-book series rather than a trilogy or other shorter series . . . but I’m counting it anyway because Words of Radiance doesn’t just defy Second Book Syndrome; it assassinates SBS with a single swipe of its Shardblade and dances on the grave of its vanquished foe. Nothing here is just filler; there’s no pointless angst (angst, yes; pointless, no) or awkward maneuvering-characters-into-position. The book takes what was established in Way of Kings, builds on it, and brings it up to eleven. (And if the second book’s that good . . . what can the third hold?)

What are some of your favorite SBS-defying books? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  


  1. Scarlet is definitely one of my picks for defying SBS. Also The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter, Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo, and Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen. I do disagree with you about Catching Fire, though. I love the entire trilogy, but I prefer Catching Fire and Mockingjay to The Hunger Games.

    1. Those are all pretty great choices, at least the ones I've read. TCoE especially. :D And Catching Fire didn't have as bad a case of SBS as some other books I could name, no, and it was actually better than Mockingjay IMO, but there are still some elements of it there. That's just my opinion, though.

  2. Prince Caspian defies SBS quite nicely by moving the whole series along. We see how Narnia has changed- and yet it is still Narnia; Peter and Susan move on- but Edmund and Lucy have the promise of more adventure. It does what a second book should do, linking old to new, and showing the development.

    I also like John W. Otte's Failstate: Legends. I think that is the one and only 'zombie story' I'm okay with. Again, it has a lot of growth for the characters. I'll admit there is some angst (sometimes angst is inevitable), but it seems to be there more for the sake of maturing the character more than for the sake of drama.

    Congratulations on guessing Emmarayn's riddle and winning her book, by the way!

    1. That is true about Prince Caspian- though I'm not sure if it's technically a second book? It depends what order you read the Chronicles in, I suppose. (I prefer chronological order over written order.)

      I haven't read the Failstate series, though it's been on my TBR for some time, and I think I might have the first book on Kindle . . . but yes, angst is not evil, only when it's overdone!

      Thank you! And thanks for stopping by!


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