We’ve all run into this problem, and it’s also something the author always fears will happen after writing their second book, whether it be second in the series or of their publishing career.
The “Middle Book Syndrome”, sometimes referred to as “Second Book Syndrome”, is what happens when the second book is a HUGE disappointment compared to the amazingness of the first book. Here are a few books, some books from my favorite series, that just have unfortunately fallen victim to this terrible event.
Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) – James S.A. Corey
Following up a masterpiece like Leviathan Wakes must’ve been hard, but I was seriously disappointed with this one! I was hoping it would follow up with the protomolecule and everything that had happened before, but I ended up being disappointed with the difference in plot. I was also disappointed because they added more characters and took away some of my favorites, and I really couldn’t get over that. Thankfully, the other books got better, and The Expanse remains one of my favorite series!
Forever Odd (Odd Thomas #2) – Dean Koontz
Odd Thomas, the first book in the series, is really what hooked me on Dean Koontz’s books. I read a few between the first and second, but when I finally got to this one . . . it was painful. Nothing really made sense, considering that Koontz had established Odd’s position in the community fairly early in Odd Thomas, and then conveniently forgot to mention someone Odd considered a close friend. This entire second book was everywhere and nowhere, and nothing that furthered Odd’s story happened in this book.
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) – George R.R. Martin
After having my mind blown by A Game of Thrones, I immediately jumped on A Clash of Kings. But compared to the first book, it felt like nothing really happened in this book. The majority of it felt like it was politics, instead of the intrigue and interest of the first book. (And, after this book with A Storm of Swords, this one didn’t really feel necessary. As much as I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series, there were a lot of flaws. Especially with the way he split it in the last two books, which just confused the series and made the fourth, A Feast for Crows, much slower.)
Empire of Night (Age of Legends #2) – Kelley Armstrong
I had the first book come highly recommended by a friend of mine. The first one was okay, but seriously? This one was a full-on trainwreck. I haven’t even bothered reading the third one yet, although I am a little interested in seeing how the series ended. However, I just really didn’t like Empire of Night at all, and it seemed all over the place, like the author didn’t plan to get this far in the series. You can also tell that they’re not much used to writing YA novels with how they executed all of the characters-they were all too immature, while also being portrayed as grown adults. It just didn’t sit well with me.
This Shattered World (Starbound #2) – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
While These Broken Stars isn’t my favorite, I thought it was still a fairly decent YA read. However, getting to this one just felt so weird? It had very little correlation with the TBS, except for the very short, very unnecessary inclusion of Lilac and Tarver. Sure, I was glad that they were included, but they ended up not doing anything. I just felt that this book, and it’s characters, were unnecessary, and it’s drawn me away from ever reading the final book, Their Fractured Light.
The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years #2) – John Flanagan
John Flanagan’s books are what interested me in reading and writing. I was ecstatic when I heard he was writing The Early Years trilogy, and even more excited after reading the first one, The Tournament at Gorlan. However, this one was so different from the first, and everything, from counting characters to remembering basic facts from the first book, was so off, that it was the second most disappointing read of Flanagan’s books. Don’t get me started on my first most disappointing.
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) – Ransom Riggs
I loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and was pretty happy when I finally got my hands on the next book. But, just like a lot of other books on this list, this one just felt everywhere, like Riggs didn’t know where he had planned to go after the first book. It felt like the characters were running place after place with no real thought as to where they were going. I still haven’t read Library of Souls, and have frankly lost interest in the whole series. Quite a few aspects are underdeveloped, so why waste the time?
Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations #2) – Michael J. Sullivan
The Riyria Revelations are some of my most favorite high fantasy books ever. Rise of Empire wasn’t so much as a disappointment, but it seriously didn’t compare to the rest of the series. There was a lot of rising action in this book, compared to the amazing introductions and conflicts in the first and the stunning conclusion and heartbreak in the last. I love all of these books, but I do have to admit: Rise of Empire could have been more.
5 thoughts on “The Worst Middle/Second-Book Syndrome Victims”
Yeah A Clash of Kings was definitely the weakest of the ASOIAF books!
I also thought the second book in the Mistborn trilogy was slower than the first. While I don’t mind slow books, I was not expecting this!
But I’ve encountered way more “Wow this is even BETTER” or “Wow this is AS GOOD” than disappointments, thankfully!
Lucky you! For me, the second books are almost ALWAYS weaker. I’m also glad I wasn’t the only one disappointed with A Clash of Kings. All of the action was in A Game of Thrones or A Storm of Swords!
Also, thanks for the heads up on Mistborn. I’ve had those books sitting on my shelves and was eyeing them up recently. Good to know it might be slower than anticipated.
HOLLOW CITY IS SO BAD! I’m glad I’m not the only one. Like everyone who saw me reading the first was like “oh yeah this one is kind of tedious but the second is where it picks up!” and it’s like……half the book could have been cut down and it would have been better. So much unnecessary in it. I’m off and on reading the third and so far more action but also more of the same of the second (and I’m 31% through it). But like my completionist nature won’t let me just not since I own the book and will stare at it until I do.
I didn’t have as many problems with Forever Odd but yeah I can see where you’re coming from with that.
The second Hood Rat book from K’wan is definitely on my list of worst second books considering I keep picking it up and keep DNF’ing it (which sucks because he’s a favourite author of mine). But that’s the only one I can think of right now. That isn’t an entire series.
I haven’t even bothered to pick of Library of Souls, even though I love the title! With Koontz’s Odd series, Forever Odd and Odd Apocalypse were my disappointments. Never heard of Hood Rat, though.
K’wan is a black author of adult fiction. Lots of sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like. As well as violence. Almost all of his books I’ve read have to do with gangs in some way or another (someone getting out of one, someone being in one, etc). But he’s a good author I enjoy reading. On good mental health days. Some days the violence in the books gets to me (violence against men, violence against women, violence against self).
Saint Odd was almost borderline disappointment for me.
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