This past week I read not one, but two, sequels which were both so terrific I can’t wait to tell you about them. Here’s further proof that the second installment in a series really can be just as mesmerizing as the first, with the added pleasure of meeting up with familiar and beloved characters.
John Scalzi’s novel, The Consuming Fire, is every bit as madcap an adventure as its predecessor, The Collapsing Empire. I particularly appreciated the author’s adroitness in including the backstory from the first book without it sounding like, hey! here’s a chunk of exposition for you, the reader! At the beginning of the sequel we learn that the Flow, the energy which allows relatively quick and easy interplanetary travel, continues to diminish. Cardenia, Marce, and Kiva, all of whom we fondly remember from the first book, must work within the framework of a society that maybe doesn’t want to either acknowledge or address the real-world implications of what happens when contact between planets is disrupted. It’s great to find out new things about all three of them, watch their relationships change and grow, and see them take action in response to the events that are troubling the Interdependency. There’s some new science, as well, which serves to drive the plot forward, as well it should in any self-respecting science fiction novel. Mr. Scalzi’s language is fresh and immediate, and his zany sense of humor is infused throughout the story.
The second installment in Jennifer Ashley’s Below Stairs mystery series, set in the Victorian era, is called Scandal Above Stairs. In the first in the series, Death Below Stairs, we met Kat Holloway, a cook who tells her own story about taking a new position in Lord Rankin’s town house in London. At the start of this second book, Mrs. Holloway remains in Lord Rankin’s employ, and is struggling with a dearth of household staff as a result of certain events such as, oh, I don’t know, murder, that happened in the first book. Her friend-maybe-love-interest, Daniel McAdam, recommends young Tess for the position of cook’s assistant. Tess is a bright, lively girl with a dark past and her boundless energy and cheeky comments add a lot to the verve of the story. Lady Cynthia brings Mrs. Holloway news of paintings being stolen from another fine house, and then it is discovered that thievery of Greek antiquities is on the rise. The plot becomes more complicated as more crimes are revealed. I especially enjoyed Mrs. Holloway’s voice and the historical details, with an honorable mention for all the delicious-sounding food. Looking forward to the next!
It’s a joy to be well-launched into an excellent science fiction series. It’s a delight to be well-launched into a first-rate mystery series. You have the happy consciousness of enjoyable books in your past, and more to look forward to! Happy Reading!