Let’s Talk Bookish: Reviewing Sequels

I’ve been seeing Let’s Talk Bookish posts around a lot over the past couple of months and for a few weeks now I’ve been wanting to join the discussions but have mostly remembered too late to post on Fridays. I know I can post on a different day but let’s just pretend that’s not me avoiding and procrastinating, right? 😉 Now the day has finally come and I’ll hopefully be joining in on the discussion posts every week moving forward! But first, a short introduction on what this is all about.

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @Eternity Books  & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we get to discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts! I’ve listed the upcoming topics in brief at the end of my post, but check out these pages for more information on October 2020 prompts & a list of past prompts!

Now without further ado… This week’s topic asks us:

SHOULD YOU REVIEW A SEQUEL, WITHOUT READING THE FIRST BOOK?

Examples: When selecting ARCs do you ever choose sequels where you haven’t read the first book in a series? Do you think it’s fair to review a sequel without the context of the first entry in a series? Do you take someone’s review seriously if they mention they haven’t read the preceding books? Should reviewers even be allowed to do this?

An interesting question that I never really thought about because I normally don’t read or review sequels if I haven’t already read the previous book(s)–and that goes for ARCs and books on my existing TBR! I also personally don’t think it’s fair to review a sequel if they haven’t already read the previous book(s). As much as it might be tempting to request a sequel, especially if the hype around said book or series is huge, I think it’s important to read the previous book(s) because there’s always so much information established at the beginning that is key to understanding the story moving forward.

there’s plenty you’d miss…

First books are where the world building is established and the basic elements that you need to know about the setting of the story is laid out. You’ll be introduced to the world’s history, politics, geography, and societal structure, and if it’s fantasy, it’s where you’ll learn about the magic system. Even though these elements will probably be further developed in the sequels, the “meat” of it will be found at the start.

While you might not be introduced to everyone that’ll appear in the series, you will meet the core cast of characters in the first book. Same with the world building, you’ll learn about their histories and get to know the basics of what makes them tick. It’s in the first meetings that you’ll also probably form attachments to characters, and as someone who finds it super important to connect to or feel something for characters in order to enjoy a story, getting all the backstory is key!

Not only that, and to state the very obvious, but without reading the previous book(s) you miss huge chunks of the plot when you start with the sequel. Think of all the exciting revelations or crazy plot twists that you miss by skipping out!

Are there exceptions?

I do think there are some exceptions but I usually find it depends on the genre. For example, a lot of romance series can be read as standalones as the stories are completely unrelated to the previous ones. The setting will probably be the same and you’ll meet characters from the previous book(s) but it’s not crucial that you read them to understand the characters and story you’re reading about.


some examples of books that are part of series but can be read as standalones

I think this also applies to some mysteries/thrillers where the cases are different in each book. However, if a story focuses on a specific detective or team, you’d probably end up missing out on their backstory, and other references from previous cases. For example, I’ve tried reading the ninth book in a crime series that the author said could be read as a standalone but it just didn’t work because there were too many characters with confusing dynamics which weren’t properly explained because they had already been established in the previous books.

to read/review or not to read/review?

So should reviewers even be allowed to read sequels without having first read the previous book(s)? Well, I don’t know about should but I think it would be unfair, especially to the author, if someone didn’t read the previous book(s) and then gave the sequel a low rating or bad review because they were confused by the story and couldn’t connect to the characters. Unless a reviewer was commenting on the writing style or some other technical aspect, I probably wouldn’t take that review seriously.

When it comes to ARCs, I think it would also be unfair to readers who have read the previous book(s) as they could end up missing out on reading an ARC (because of limited copies) and wouldn’t be able to give the book the proper review (and praise) it deserves.

Sorry for rambling, friends! I hope I made sense 😅

What do you think? Should you review a sequel if you haven’t read the first or previous books? Would you take a review of a sequel seriously if the reviewer said they hadn’t read the first book(s)?

11 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Reviewing Sequels

  1. I love that you joined in on Let’s Talk Bookish! Someday I want to, too. I completely agree with you. I did, however, just read The Darkest Evening, which is the ninth book in the Vera Stanhope mystery series. I’ve never read any of the others, but I read through reviews and comments on Goodreads and felt assured that I wouldn’t be lost, because readers assured they could be read as standalones. I was pleasantly surprised that I never felt lost. But I think that also points to a great author and editor, too. 🙂 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, I hope you join in one day too, Dedra 🙂
      Ooh, that sounds like an interesting book! Will you be reading the other books in the series now that you’ve tried a book and enjoyed it? I definitely think that reading sequels in mysteries and romances, when the main plot isn’t the same as previous books, is fine. I just think it doesn’t work for a series where the main plot is the same throughout the books, you know?

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  2. I have accidently accepted ARCs without realizing they are from a series and then feel obligated to read and review. Often not realizing until I’m reading the book and feel I’m “missing” something. I hate reading a series from the middle! I wish all publishers would be very clear when a book isn’t a standalone or first in a series. I try to be very careful about accepting books written by author I’m not familiar with to be sure I’m not getting a sequel. I mostly read romance and, even though it’s not as big of a deal as other genres as you said, I often pick up on small wholes that would have been filled if I’d read the first book in the series. While I want to support lesser known authors and help amplify their voices, I can’t do that effectively without all of the information.

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    • Oh, I’ve for sure done it by accident as well because it’s not mentioned in the synopsis or in the title when requesting. It made me feel SO lost because all these characters were named like we should be familiar with them and I’m like “noo, what’s going on here?!” I also hate starting in the middle of a series (even if by accident)! Good point about double-checking books and I agree that publishers should specifically state it in the description at least! Although I also want to support lesser-known authors, I’m definitely wary of accepting sequels–unless the author also offers a copy of the previous book, but even then I have to make sure it’s 100% something I want to read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cheri! 😊

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  3. I try to avoid reading books without having read the prior books in the series, but it has happened to me before (I try not read to much of the description of books since it often gives away so much of the story).

    Personally, I feel like a book should be able to stand at least a little bit on its own as well. Of course, you will have missed some of the context/character development and overarching plot lines, and it is far from ideal, but it can give you at least some information on the writing and whether you would like to check out the earlier books.

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    • I think series that don’t have inter-connecting plots are definitely okay to read out of context and they should definitely be able to stand on its own. But a lot of fantasy series have one connecting plot that runs through until the end and I think those are the ones that readers shouldn’t read/review before reading the preceding books. I agree that reading books from standalone series is a good way to find out if the author and story are to your taste! I’ve done that a lot when it comes to romances and mysteries! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

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  4. I’ve reviewed a couple of sequels without reading book 1 first, by accident, it’s not always clearly stated on netgalley! LOL
    I didn’t find any major issues doing this though, even though one was part of a fantasy trilogy! So, kudos to the author for that.

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  5. I’m so happy you joined Let’s Talk Bookish discussion posts, Dini! I’ve been seeing more and more posts and I’m kind of tempted to join too but I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do it every week.
    I agree with all that you said.
    Unfortunately, at times sequels aren’t at all identified as sequels by the publishers (it happens a lot on NetGalley for example). That can lead to people requesting the book without realizing it. When it comes to Fantasy or Sci Fi, that’s definitely a major problem. I usually go check the book on Goodreads just to make sure it’s not a sequel. Recently I was interested in a book on NetGalley and when I went to check it out on Goodreads, I noticed it was the second book in a series, the funny thing was I realized that I had the first book on my physical TBR… LOL So, I knew I didn’t have the time to read both so I ended up not requesting it. It doesn’t make any sense that publishers don’t make the effort to put that information up. I stay away from all sequels if I haven’t read the previous books except when it comes to romance series that feature different couples as main characters through the series.
    When it comes to some romance series, like you said, it’s mostly ok because several of them can be read as standalones. But I wonder, mainly when I read an entire romance series, about the details you end up missing when you only read the third or the fourth book. Because sometimes there’s a set up for the romance between the main characters in previous books, there are series I’ve read in which that “set up” or slow burn lasts through 2 or 3 books. I just wonder if sometimes those books are marketed as “can be read as a standalone” because they sell easier if they’re marketed like that, you know? Oh God, I think I’m way too chatty today and I’m definitely overthinking! 😂
    Great post, Dini! 💛

    Liked by 1 person

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