The Second One

I probably should have waited to write about this while reading my planned glut of “Book 2″s but oh well. It applies more to movies, anyway. Also, spoilers for The Hunger Games series. I think most people have read it, since I was one of the last hold-outs.

When I was growing up, we had a fair amount of trilogies. (nothing remotely like today) While talking about Star Wars and a few others, we realised that the second one is either darker than the other two, or the worst of the three. Sometimes both, especially if you think dark is bad.

The first posit makes sense. The first film is usually establishing and tends to end on a happy note.

  • A New Hope establishes the characters, world, and conflict, and ends with a needed victory.
  • The Hunger Games establishes Katniss, the games, and ends with her winning. In the latter case, the victory is tainted by problems that were expanded on in later books, but it’s still a sunnier ending than the second book.

The second film builds tension and is usually the hotbed for character death and failure.

  • Empire Strikes Back furthers character development and ends with one hero removed, one injured, and the others badly shaken.
  • Catching Fire pretty much repeats the first book with a more dismal tone, and ends with Katniss half-dead and Peeta probably dead and definitely captured.

And the third, final film resolves the conflict and usually ends happily. No examples, I’ve made my point.

Since that makes sense, what about the second one often being the worst in regards to quality? Some series even degrade the further they get from the first instalment. (Assassin’s Creed *cough*)

As most writers will tell you, writing the second book is not easier than the first. Often, it’s harder. Unless you planned the series out at the beginning, and managed to easily accommodate any major changes made while writing the first book, it may even seem impossible to start. Of course, a task’s difficulty is not a license to half-ass things. But it’s at least understandable.

This doesn’t always happen, of course. Sometimes the second book is better. Sometimes none of the books are any good. But there are so many trilogies around that it bears thinking about.

Not long ago, I read the second book of The Chattan Curse series first, and today I started reading the first. It took me a second to realise how the books would tie together, and I was glad to know I wouldn’t be reading the failed romance that started the curse. That is a prologue, really. The premise. I wonder if all books that can be read in any order are more or less exempt from the second book being darkest or worst?


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