Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.
It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.
My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.
What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.
With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.
Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel. Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.
So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.