You know those moments when you read a book and really like it? And then you get excited because it's the first in a series? And then you finally get your hands on Book 2, and even though you can't wait to dive in, there's a small part of you that's a bit nervous.
This is the thing about sequels: You're always more excited to read them, because you already know the characters and/or you're curious to learn more about the world, but they usually end up being not as good as their predecessors. There are several reasons for this. A big one is that, in debut series, the second novel is always the hardest, because it's the first one where the author has to deal with deadlines. Another reason is that some novels weren't meant to turn into series. If Book One is a complete, ends-tied story, then Book Two has to start from square one. That was the case with Red Seas Under Red Skies (sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora)--with some simple adjustment, it could have existed without Book One. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure.
What I can say is that the sequels that work best are the ones that don't come after standalone books. I'm talking about series like Otherland or A Song of Ice and Fire. The individual books in these series are essentially big chapters in one enormous book. When I read A Clash of Kings, I didn't feel like I needed to compare it to A Game of Thrones. Rather, I felt like I was right back in the first book.
That's not the case with the book I'm about to read: The Crown of Embers, the sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I really liked the style and worldbuilding in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and that was enough to make me want to read the sequel. But do I think it needed a sequel? Not exactly. It stood alone really well, and I would have been equally excited to pick up a book Rae Carson wrote that wasn't about Elisa. That doesn't mean I think this book will be bad, because I don't. (I think it sounds a lot more exciting than the first book, actually.) But that doesn't mean I'm not at least a little bit nervous.
So we'll see where this goes. Maybe I'll even like the sequel better. (After all, I always did prefer Lord Hector to Humberto. *wink*)