In our “Reading Recs for…” series we’ll recommend reads for certain topics that we run into often.
Here at Writer’s Block Party, we love a good series! Why read one book when you can write two or three or four all set in the same world with the same characters?
But there’s nothing worse than an AMAZING first book, only to find that the follow-up book is a big letdown. Luckily, that’s not the case at ALL with these books! I grilled WBP about sequels that are just as good (maybe even better!) than the first book in the series. Here’s what we said:
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Why we rec: I absolutely fell in love with the breathtaking prose and complicated characters of A Winner’s Curse–but I worried that the second book wouldn’t live up to the first. Not only was I completely wrong, I think I loved A Winner’s Crime even more than the first book in the series. It had all the complex moral dilemmas of book one, with more political intrigue and a bigger cast of characters to fall in love with. One of my favorite second books of all time!
Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
- The Queen of Attolia by Meghan Whalen Turner
Why we rec: I only recently started reading this series (thank you, Axie!) and absolutely LOVED The Thief, with its too-clever-for-his-own-good protagonist Gen and the truly enchanting mythology of the world. The followup book was not at all what I expected–in the best possible way! Focusing on a character who was in many ways the villain of book 1, The Queen of Attolia brought more political intrigue, more cleverness, and the kind of romance that sneaks up on you and steals your heart away.
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes’s Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered…she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.
…at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago…
- A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Why we rec: An Ember in the Ashes was an utterly captivating, heart-pounding debut–but the second book in the series completely blew me away. With a wider world, a third POV character, and a deeper sense of magic and myth, Torch is in many ways a masterclass in how to write a sequel. The stakes are raised, the world gets bigger, and every hope and fear you have for the protagonists Elias and Laia gets more desperate. (Psst — the third book, A Reaper at the Gates, comes out in just two months!)
Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
- Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Why we rec: Anyone who knows me knows that this series owns my entire heart and soul. But one of the things that astounds me the most about this alternate historical trilogy is how carefully it’s structured. Book one is all about introducing us to this world, the the childhoods of the main characters Lada and Radu and their lives growing up together in the heart of the Ottoman Empire. And book two is all about how they grow apart, making choices that will define their paths. While I loved And I Darken immensely, Now I Rise completely set me on fire.
She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.
After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.
- Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Why we rec: Six of Crows was a bullseye in terms of amazing world-building, ingenious heists, and characters you would gladly follow into the depths of Hellgate prison. Yes somehow, Crooked Kingdom outdoes it. With breakneck action, deepening character relationships, and international stakes, Crooked Kingdom proves that heist sequels are not all doomed to go the way of Ocean’s 12 (listen, we all wanted that movie to be great, but we can all be adults and admit it was garbage). The only bad thing about Crooked Kingdom is that it’s the last book in the series.
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
What are some of your favorite sequels? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet @WritersParty!