Once again, my very limited number of completed series puts a serious damper on my ability to answer the question. As I discovered the other week when we were asked for series that got better as they went on, I have not completed very many series. To be fair, there are quite a few where I have read the first two books but I find it difficult to say that the second book is best when I don’t know yet what is coming next. I may need to revisit this topic at some point in the future when I have read more series! Instead of choosing series where the second was the best, I’m going to talk about 5 series which I thought had very strong second books.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This may be a controversial choice since this book is viewed as both the first and second book in the series, depending who you ask. It was the first to be published, and the first that most people read, but in terms of when the events take place chronologically, it should be second. It may be cheating a bit to select this one, but given the limited amount of series I have read, I’m making an exception for this one. I have not completed the whole Narnia series, but this is by far the strongest and most memorable of all the ones I have read. This book is one of my all-time favourites!
2) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
It is practically impossible for me to choose a favourite Harry Potter book, but I still remember being blown away by this one when I first read it. As much as I loved The Philosopher’s Stone, I enjoyed this book a lot more. I think the real brilliance of this book is how it is actually part of a much larger plotline throughout the later series, but works just as well as a standalone. This book also introduced Dobby, and led to many of the funniest moments in the series! I have no idea why, but I’ve always found Ron’s line “Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get the one that hits back!” hilarious. This book was the perfect blend of creepy mystery, fantasy, and even a great story of the relationships between Harry and the people around him. I’m not sure if it is the strongest in the series, but it is definitely a very strong second book!
3) The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this series! The Bad Beginning was an amazing introduction, and I thought The Reptile Room was just as strong. This book is a great follow-up, with the Baudelaire children moving in with their eccentric Uncle Monty, a herpetologist with a room full of reptiles to study. I thought this book did a great job of establishing the children as self-sufficient and compelling characters, especially given their horrible circumstances. This was also our first introduction to Count Olaf’s many disguises and plots to capture the children away from their well-meaning relatives. It was a very strong addition to the series.
4) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Again, I’m not 100% sure this is my favourite book in the series, but I thought it was a very strong follow-up to The Hunger Games. I loved how Katniss and Peeta had to try and keep up the charade they started in the first book, and this is a book that introduced some of my favourite characters (Finnick, for example). I was a bit worried when I first learned this book threw Katniss back into the arena, but I loved how it managed to create a different Hunger Games competition that was unique and just as compelling as the first. I was equally invested in this story as I was in Katniss’ fate in the first book. I often find the middle book in a trilogy is too much of a transitional book without much really going on, but that was definitely not the case in this series. All three books were equally strong for me.
5) The Lost City of Faar by DJ MacHale (Pendragon series)
Full disclosure: This was a 4-star book for me, and not my favourite in the series, but I still think it is a very strong book from an extremely underrated series. In this book, Bobby Pendragon visits a world called Cloral which is predominantly made of water, which has different islands responsible for different things to benefit the community. Like the other books in the series, this one does a great job of presenting real moral and ethical issues in the context of a fantasy world. In this case, the main issue had to do with food supply and crop contamination. Later books in the series deal with animal rights, overuse of technology, drought, etc. Although I have never found this book the most interesting or memorable of the series, it is still quite a strong addition and I think the series in general deserves more attention.