I am notoriously tough on second books. Especially if I love a first book in a series, the second one is rarely as enjoyable. If the characters or scope change so much that the first book can no longer be appreciated on its own, I feel cheated. All too often, if the second book cannot stand on its own, the rest of the series continues to decline. I am only partially ashamed to admit that a few times I have skipped the final book in a trilogy altogether and just read a summary online to find relative closure. That said, a really wonderful surprise is finding that the third book is not only fabulous but redeems the second book as well. Here are 3 third books that made me love the series again:
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling will always be my favorite of the series. I still remember where I was when I was reading the confrontation between Remus and Sirius. (I was sitting backstage at Nutcracker practice, reading as quickly as I could in an attempt to figure out the puzzle before it was my turn on stage.) This is a third book that propelled a series from something I was screening for my mom’s classroom to something I needed to keep reading because I loved it. And while The Chamber of Secrets will never be my favorite of the series, I appreciate it much more for the sake of what comes next.
- Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. A week after Froi of the Exiles (the sequel to my favorite book of all time) was released, I dragged my kids on a two-mile walk to the bookstore so I could purchase a hardcover copy. (This from the queen of library loans and used paperbacks.) I was so angry with the second book, though, that I almost didn’t read the third. I am so glad that I did. Quintana of Charyn was so wonderful that I have since read Froi of the Exiles two more times and liked it more each time. The way the series resolves makes the second book important in its own right.
- Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater was another third book I almost didn’t read. I was so uninspired by The Dream Thieves that I forgot I was supposed to be waiting for the next book in the series. When I stumbled upon Blue Lily, Lily Blue just a couple months ago (over a year after it was published), I couldn’t put it down. It even tied the action of the second book to the series in an important way, making each book in the series worth reading. I’m hoping to make my way through the whole series again in time to read the fourth book when it comes out at the end of April.
It took me years to appreciate The Empire Strikes Back as anything other than that movie stuck between the other more interesting ones, so it’s very likely that the problem lies with me more than with second installments as a whole. Still, it is always a pleasant surprise to have my mind changed completely when I read the third book anyway.