I’ve been noticing the topic of “middle books” being mentioned in a few reviews (both bookbloggers/BookTubers and professional reviewers). So, I decided to point out the ones which continues the excitement and the plot within the series. When a series is mentioned, there are concerns as to whether or not the “next book in the series,” which in the cases of trilogies, is the 2nd (or, middle) book, is just as “good” as the 1st book and as “exciting” as the (upcoming) final book (in the series). Yes, there continue to be cases where the middle book is the least popular within a series. Yet, there are still readers who hesitate to read the next book in a series because they are worried the next book (and the rest of the series) won’t live up to the first book.
This is a short list of my recommendations for excellent middle books. Please note, this is a SHORT list, so certain books may or may not be mentioned until a future blog post. In addition, if the middle book has not been released yet and/or I have not started the series yet, then those books (and series) will NOT be on this list (or, any future ones) until AFTER I read the books/series.
The Broken Earth Trilogy, #2: The Obelisk Gate (2016) by N.K. Jemisin
What can I say about this book (or, this entire series) that hasn’t been said already? Yes, this book won a Hugo Award (as did ALL 3 books in this trilogy in consecutive years)! But, what’s it about this story that kept readers wanting more by the end of it.
Without going into too many spoilers, readers figure out who each of the 3 protagonists are in the first book, The Fifth Season, and why their backstories are essential to the narrative. In this book, readers are reminded about the main conflict, a missing daughter and the mother’s quest to find her and to protect her (from her life experiences). Both the mother and the daughter experience hatred and oppression as the Fifth Season approaches. Can both of them survive while keeping their true identities secret from those who would kill them?
The Winternight Trilogy, #2: The Girl in the Tower (2017) by Katherine Arden
Now that winter is returning to the Northern Hemisphere, this trilogy will be read for the first time by those new to the series. The first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale, follows the protagonist throughout her childhood. The protagonist is a spirited young woman whose stepmother does everything in her power to “curb” her behavior (and her religious beliefs).
After a shocking ending that forces the protagonist to leave her home, the protagonist travels to Moscow to reunite with some of her siblings who are members of the Royal Court. Suddenly, the protagonist needs to disguise herself as a male while attempting to warn the Tsar of an invading army. When the protagonist’s (biological) sex and identity are revealed, she is attacked by human and mystical forces who threaten her family’s safety. The events that lead up to the ending are shocking with a few unanswered questions. And yes, one in particular does get answered at the beginning of Book 3.
A Chorus of Dragons, #3: The Memory of Souls (2020) by Jean Lyons
You will notice that this is the 3rd book. That’s not a mistype, this series has 5 books and the middle book is one worth reading, especially with the cliffhanger at the end of it. For those who have neither start this series, nor read past the first book, The Ruin of Kings, yes, you do have to read Book 2, The Name of All Things, before reading this book. That is because both books introduce ALL of the characters who will appear in the rest of the series. Not to mention, the continuing plot and conflict are consist throughout the series.
In this book, all of the protagonists and the other main characters consult with the gods before they are “sent” to do their bidding, which is saving the world. A question remains: what is it about these characters that the antagonist continues to show interest in them and trick them into doing what he wants done? As the narrative progresses, some of the characters start to get answers from “another source.” And, what they learn from that source makes them all realize that saving the world will be more difficult than they thought it would be.
This book is the climax of the series and the cliffhanger will convince you to finish reading this series as well.
The Nevernight Chronicle, #2: Godsgrave (2017) by Jay Kristoff
This is an interesting book because of its beginning. The protagonist is “captured” and “sold” to train and to participate in a tournament which is based on the gladiator games of Ancient Rome. This trained assassin now has to learn how to fight as a warrior. Can she do it?
After the events in Nevernight, the protagonist believes she’s closer to achieving her goals of avenging her family. That is until she’s given some intel that makes her question the assassins she’s associated herself with. The protagonist infiltrates a noble’s home as a slave and collects information that presents a new outlook on her parents and those who betrayed them. But, before she can continue her revenge, first she must survive the Games. Both the revelation and the twist will leave your mouth open in shock. And, Book 3 is just as bloody and as violent as the previous 2 books.
The Daevabad Trilogy, #2: The Kingdom of Copper (2019) by S.A. Chakraborty
This middle book is my favorite in this trilogy. The first book, The City of Brass, is an excellent series starter, but the amount of world-building and character development within the narrative did slow the pace down multiple times. That being said, this sequel picks up the pace within the opening chapters. After the events of the 1st book, the protagonists are left in precarious situations. On top of that, the narrative takes place 5 years later so all of the characters have had time to “grow” more into the individuals they’ll have to become between this book and the third one.
In this book, the stakes are higher, all 3 protagonists have a lot of enemies, and a rebellion threatens to break out. This book not only delivers on the narrative, but also presents an excellent setup for the third book in the series.
BONUS BOOK MENTION
Millennium, #2: The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (Translator, 2009)
As I continue to reiterate, I do read other genres of literature. Mysteries and thrillers are my (second) favorite genre following speculative fiction.
Throughout the 2010s, the Millennium Trilogy became an international best seller and not just because of the books (that’s for a future post). The “original” name of this series is “Men Who Hate Women,” and the first book in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was about a missing heiress and a journalist who is hired to investigate her disappearance. The journalist hires a private investigator and the two of them uncover clues to a serial killer.
In the second book, the 2 protagonists have gone their separate ways when the journalist is asked to investigate a sex-trafficking ring. When a person-of-interest is found dead, it is the private investigator who is accused of the crime. This book delves more into the backstories of both of the protagonists, the companies they work for, and the continued societal corruption that continues to plague their country. And yes, the cliffhanger in this book makes reading Book 3 more appealing.
Once again, this is a short list of book recommendations for those who wonder whether or not they should continue reading certain series. Right now, there are numerous middle books that have been released this year, or will be released very soon. I’m reading my way through some of those books. If I enjoy them as much as the first and the last books in the series, then they will be on a Part 2 list.
Which Middle Books did you enjoy reading?