Yo whaaaaat, we got a top ten?? Look, I don’t put sequels on my general top ten reads because I like to only include books that are new to me, and I was going to do a top five for this list, but there were so many sequels this year that absolutely knocked it out of the park that I decided to do a top ten because they deserve it. As always, alphabetical order, they didn’t have to be published in 2020, and sim, I do have a favorite.
The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh is one of two books that cheats a little bit on this list because the first in the series is going to appear on my top ten (SPOILER ALERT), but The Wrath & the Dawn swept me off of my feet in ways I was not expecting, and its sequel was somehow even better. I was so excited when this arrived in the mail because I bought it from Waterstones so I could have matching covers, and I thought that it was going to take months to arrive given how the mail’s been, but then it came only a couple weeks later, and I just?? I was so excited. I’ve gotten into this wretched habit of not reading series all at once so that I can forget things in between, and I’m so glad that I’ve begun breaking that with this duology because damn, there was no chance that I could have waited to read this.
I think I might have started reading Sword in the Stars by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy the second it arrived at my house? I seriously did not waste anytime at all with this one because I was truly knocked off my feet by Once & Future, and I was so hyped to see where this story went. It was just as wild and ridiculous and outstanding as the first one, and it was such a fitting conclusion for this story. I’m so glad it wasn’t dragged out into a trilogy, though I would have loved if each book had about 100-150 pages more stacked onto them. This was everything my queer space-loving heart wanted, and I’m just so happy this book exists in the world.
I think pretty much everyone that I follow was anxiously awaiting The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty to release this year, and it was a real struggle for me not to do my usual “okay I have to be ready for it before I start reading it” vibe, which I hate myself for doing consistently with every new series release, and I’m so glad I didn’t put this off because damn. There was so much in here that I fervently hoped for, so much that I did not expect in the slightest, and so much that I didn’t even know I wanted. This was such an excellent, politically-charged, slow build to the end of this incredible trilogy, and I will forever read anything by Chakraborty now.
It’s been a hot minute since the last time I wept over Cyril & Aristide, olá! Wow, I am getting some serious nostalgia vibes from Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly right now even though I only read it earlier this year, so it really shouldn’t feel like a distant past to me, but time is out of control this year, so it feels like a different version of myself read this finale and slowly died with it. That ending? THAT ENDING? What a gift. We don’t deserve the beauty of that ending, but we got it anyway, and I’ll never get over that. This whole trilogy is right up there with some of my favorite books, and this ending was everything that I wanted and more.
Oh my goddddddds, I can’t even tell you how much I hope the finale to this trilogy ends up on next year’s sequels list because Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan was absolute madness, and I am ready for the finale to destroy me. There were so many times throughout this book that I just went, “Alright. This is what we’re doing. Bring it on, and make it bloody.” Like, utter madness. I’m so curious to see what else Duncan writes after this trilogy is over because this is forever going to be a staple in my mind when I think of Gothic grimdark fantasy. Like, this book is a lot, and I love it so much, and I was just truly astounded by the fact that it took the idea of middle book syndrome and just straight up cackled.
If we’re being honest here, Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody was my most hyped book of this year. I know it’s cheap to say it, but I truly cannot come up with the words to describe how much I adore this series, and how unbearably sad I was at the idea of it ending. And yet? Foody delivered on that ending in such a way that I can’t help but be thankful that it’s over because it was concluded in such a brilliant and outstanding way. This was, easily, the best sequel that I read in 2020, and I am so damn excited to see what Foody releases next.
Realistically, the first book in The Magic Misfits series should have made it onto my top ten, but alas, it didn’t quite make the cut, so here we are with The Fourth Suit by Neil Patrick Harris. This series took my heart, after it’d been broken by so many other amazing books this year, and quietly cradled it in wonder and magic. It was just the sweetest, most wholesome, beautifully written middle grade series ever, and I am forever going to hold it in my heart as something precious. This ending, too, was everything that I was hoping for. I think it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of ASOUE because it was just the same plot over and over for thirteen books straight before an absolute bullshit ending, and while NPH’s series had very similar vibes, it took that potential and raced to the sky with it. It was everything ASOUE tried to be, but 1000000% times better.
Middle books are hard. I feel like a lot of us go into them with big expectations, too, because they’re so rarely well done. Trilogies are hard, and I’ve found that it’s rare (despite having two others on this list) that a trilogy gets it right on the middle book, but Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan did exactly that. I would almost argue that this is one of my favorite examples of a perfectly executed sequel & middle book. There is a lot to love this in this book, and, with it, Ngan has ensured that I’m going to be reading anything and everything they publish after this. I’m so curious to see what happens in the third book, as well as absolutely terrified, and I’m going to be thinking about this outstanding middle book for a long, long time.
I know, I know, this is also cheating, as you’ll see next week, but I couldn’t not include The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen on a list of best sequels! I only discovered this duology this year, and, even then, I only read The Merciful Crow the month before its sequel was released, but it was just one of the best series I’ve read in pretty much ever, and I had to feature both of them because damn, that finale. There were some moments when I actually yelled out loud and threw the book, which I haven’t done in a long time. It was just so much more than I could have ever possibly hoped for, and I am so impressed with the way Owen shaped this world and the characters in it all while weaving lore and culture through it in a seamless and brilliant way.
Not gonna lie, I think this series is skyrocketing pretty quickly toward my favorite fantasies, and As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool gave it a solid boost toward that vibe. I already loved There Will Come a Darkness immensely, and I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to love its sequel, but it still managed to surprise me. I’ve become fairly wary of middle books, given that they’ve let me down a lot in recent memory, but this is definitely an exception to that rule. This proved that some series definitely belong as trilogies, and I am so curious to see where this story ends. Also, that romance? Yeah, I’m still not over it.
Oh, I lied! There are three cheating books on this list! And an extension past ten! I would be remiss if I didn’t include The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley, though, given how it made me ugly cry into my pillow at 1AM. The Amberlough Dossier really left a whole in my heart that I thought would never be filled, and then along came Thaniel & Mori. Although they’re very different than Cyril & Aristide, there was something beautifully familiar about each of the stories, and I’m so ready for the day when I’ve finally settled in my love for them enough that I want to go back and experience it all over again. What gets me, too, is how wildly intricate the plots are, how the characters are these people that I want to protect with my life, but, at the same time, how I can forget about them a little as I lose myself in the mechanics of the story. I am a very character-driven reader & writer, and the fact that Pulley was able to draw me away from that and care about the plot almost as much as the character was incredible.
I knowwwww, this is a top ten, and I’ve got twelve, OH WELL, I’M HERE TO SHOUT ABOUT EUGENIDES. For a lot of people, Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner was the end to a two decade series that many grew up with as children. For me, it was just something that tried to destroy my entire life in the space of a year, so similar vibes, just less time to slowly fall apart over the beauty that is Turner’s political romance. This was the perfect finale to The Queen’s Thief series, too, and nothing will ever warm my heart quite like that ending.