With sequels, you either love them or hate them. It’s always scary when it comes to making the decision of writing a sequel for a book, movie, or game. There’s a lot of pressure to make the sequel as good as or better than the first. It’s not always successful. Sometimes it flops completely, other times the hype is good but the delivery is awful, and occasionally it comes out perfect. This doesn’t just apply to sequels, but to all games in a series because the pressure keeps building up either for redemption or continual success. Two great book series to talk about sequel success are the Hazelwood High series by Sharon Draper and the Princess series by Jim C. Hines (who is a resident writer). Both of these series are at a young adult reading level, but are definitely great reads for anyone.
The series by Draper starts with the first book Tears of a Tiger which focuses on the life and reaction of a high school basketball player after his best friend is killed in a car accident. While reading this book, you feel what he feels. Everything is from his point of view, so you hear the thoughts that linger in his head, you feel the anxiety and guilt growing in his heart, and you feel the genuine pain from the loss. This book works in every way to bring the reader into the story and connect them with him. Forged by Fire, the second book in the series, is from the point of view of one of the main characters’ best friends from the first book. It is a completely different story line but the enticing works just the same. In this book, you get the home life of this character and his little sister. You also get to see the other things he’s dealing with at the same time as trying to balance school and be a protector for his sister. This book, and the third one in the series Darkness Before Dawn, live up to the greatness that the first book creates. In a way, they build upon one another and you can’t have the full story without the second and third books. This helped prepare the success of the series.
The series by Hines is one of my favorites simply because he breaks and recreates the traditional princess story that Disney creates. He breaks cliches and brings the story of the princesses back to the original fairy tale story that was written. In the first book, The Stepsister Scheme, the author has to build up the knowledge of his readers, so there is a lot more history that has to be explained. Not only is he having to redefine the history that people know about these princesses, but as well as set up his own story line as well. For these reasons, this book is critiqued as being slow and not as “good” as the sequel. In some ways, this prepared the sequel for success. However, for me, I always love the books with back story, it helps me grasp a well rounded history of what I’m reading. The sequel had more action and “drama” so to speak, and was received better than the first. In this case, the sequel built on the foundation of the first book and excelled past it.
This can be seen in video games and movies as well. From video games, the Assassin’s Creed series is a great discussion. Since I’ve already discussed them here, I won’t go into much depth about the story line. The sequel to the first game (Assassin’s Creed II) was received amazingly, as well as the game after that (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood). The problem that formed was, how long can this stamina of great games last? After Brotherhood, the games slowly started going downhill. Assassin’s Creed III (in my opinion, you do not have to agree) was not a good game. The story seemed incomplete, the acting in the game was not well, it just was not as good as what was previously released. Assassin’s Creed IV, though a great pirate game, was NOT a good Assassin’s Creed game at all. The story completely departed from the main focus of an assassin.
So, though sequels can be great and, occasionally outshine their predecessor (like Aliens, the sequel to Alien), it can also support, build upon, and develop the original story. The other possibility is that it lets the series down completely. It’s always a gamble.