There’s nothing better than getting sucked into a series where you just want to keep reading book after book. But for every series like Girl of Fire and Thorns, where I found the second book to be a huge improvement on the first, there is also a series where the quality dips after the first, or the story goes off in a completely different direction. I read a couple of books recently that, while perfectly fine books, did not live up to their predecessors in my mind.
By Elle Katharine White
For a series where the first entry adhered almost completely to the plot points of P&P, the second book takes a hard left and, aside from the characters of the previous book and an occasional “sir,” has no relation to Austen or the Regency whatsoever that I could tell. The closest connection I could make is Northanger Abbey, both involving a visit to a mysterious house of secrets, but since everything that Aliza imagines at Castle Selwyn is actually true, the lesson seems to have been lost.
As much as I wasn’t crazy about the slavish adherence to P&P in the first book, without the Austen connection the sequel lost one of the things that drew me to the series and became just a decent generic fantasy. (I did like that it incorporates further mythological creatures instead.) Another issue is that without the P&P backbone, this story is not as tightly plotted and seemed like it was stretched out to make a trilogy. It takes the entire first half of the book for Aliza and Alastair to get where they are going, which seemed like a very slow start to me.
But as a last note, it does take a serious and mature look at some difficult aspects of married life that I think is great for a YA novel to explore.
Suitors and Sabotage
By Cindy Anstey
This YA Regency intrigue was entertaining but kind of forgettable. I discovered the first two books when I was on a Regency romance kick, and really enjoyed them, but I didn’t really feel anything special about this one. Perhaps the formula is getting old for me? (Though these 3 books are similar, they are more companion novels than a series; there is no overlap in characters and no overarching plotline.)
I think the level of tension and drama was not quite up to the level of the first two books. For comparison, the first book Love, Lies, and Spies begins with the heroine hanging off a cliff; this one starts with a lovely picnic among some scenic ruins. It was also less epic in scope, nothing to do with international espionage or even kidnapping, just some vaguely threatening events.
Overall, I’d give these two sequels 3/5 stars, while I probably would have rated their predecessors around 4 stars. While I enjoyed reading them, I doubt I’ll continue with either series, or ever revisit them in the future. On to better books!