7 Sequels (Or Prequels) That Surprised Readers When They Were Released

by E. Ce Miller

As a serious book-lover, I know firsthand how hard it can be to leave characters behind at the end of a story. (I mean, not all characters. I was more than ready to send Humbert Humbert and Professor Dolores Umbridge packing long before their stories ended.) But if I’ve truly invested in a novel and the characters who populate it, no matter how skillfully an author wraps up the ending, sometimes I still want to know what happens to my beloved characters next — and next, and next, and next, and next. And that, fellow book-lovers, is the beauty of great book sequels; the story doesn’t immediately end when the book does.

But let’s be honest, not all sequels are created equal. Some book sequels take a lot longer to arrive than others: years, or even decades. The books on this list have seen generations pass between the original story and its sequel — keeping eager readers wondering if the rest of the story will ever come. (Yeah, George R. R. Martin, I’m looking at you.)

Here are seven book sequels that readers thought might never come — but we’re glad (for the most part) that they did!

'The Rules of Magic' by Alice Hoffman

Technically the first title on this list isn’t a sequel, but a prequel to Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic; but nonetheless, it’s a novel readers didn’t know they were waiting for until it arrived. Landing on bookstore shelves on October 10 — a full 22 years after readers first fell in love with the bewitching Owens sisters — The Rules of Magic tells the story of the early days of the Owens family: beginning with a curse in 1620s Massachusetts and landing in late-1950s New York City. Susanna Owens knows that her children are hauntingly unique, and she also knows that falling in love poses them huge risk. But when the three Owens children visit their aunt Isabelle in the small Massachusetts town where their family suffers a terrible legacy, the truth about their past and who they really are begins to reveal itself.

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'The Vengeance of Mothers' by Jim Fergus

For fans of Jim Fergus’s One Thousand White Women — a novel told through the fictionalized journal entries of a woman who married a Cheyenne Indian as part of a 1800s U.S. government program (one that was proposed in real life, but never developed) — comes the 20-years-in-the-making sequel: The Vengeance of Mothers. Published in September, The Vengeance of Mothers picks up where One Thousand White Women left off, telling a powerful and moving story of the very-real violence inflicted upon the Cheyenne by the United States government and western settlers, and the imagined women who stood by their sides through it all.

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'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien

On oldie but goodie, what contemporary readers of J.R.R. Tolkien might not know is that it took the writer 17 years after publishing The Hobbit to finish The Lord of the Rings — enough time for World War II to begin and end, and for an entire generation of young readers to come of age before their beloved story continued. Between 1937 and 1954, Tolkien was busy fully developing the landscape and residents of Middle Earth and completing the series that has become a classic of fantasy.

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'Imperial Bedrooms' by Bret Easton Ellis

Though 25 years passed between the publication of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero and the debut of its sequel, Imperial Bedrooms, Ellis’s antihero, Clay, hasn’t used that time for much personal growth. As much drug-and-alcohol-fueled misogynistic hedonism Clay and his peers indulged in in Less Than Zero, his character takes things to a whole new level in middle age. Think: physical and sexual violence, rape, murder… Yeah, Clay is the absolute worst — but at least now, after the vague sentimentality Less Than Zero left behind, we know where Clay ends up for sure.

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'Go Set A Watchman' by Harper Lee

Oh, Go Set A Watchman. The novel sequel that took bookstores by storm back in 2015, Harper Lee’s super-buzzed-about follow-up to To Kill A Mockingbird, perhaps unsurprisingly, couldn’t quite compare to the original classic. A whopping 55 years passed between the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird and the sequel that introduced readers to an adult Jean Louise Finch and her surprisingly close-minded, former justice-warrior father. Suffice it to say TKAM will never be replaced on my shelves.

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'Farewell Summer' by Ray Bradbury

Readers familiar with Ray Bradbury’s entire body of work will recognize the small-town Midwest setting of Green Town — an Illinois locale based on Bradbury’s own childhood hometown. Farewell Summer is the 49-years-in-the-making sequel to the Fahrenheit 451 writer’s Dandelion Wine; the first an autobiographically-inspired collection of linked short stories and the second a coming-of-age novel expanding upon Dandelion Wine. Both are about Green Town resident Douglas Spaulding, reportedly Bradbury’s fictional alter ego.

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'The Winds of Winter' by George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin might be the contemporary writer best known for leaving his readers waiting YEARS for sequels — though hardly taking as long as some of the other writers on this list to produce the next work in a series, for eager fans awaiting the next installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, five years might as well be fifty. And while Martin’s The Winds of Winter isn’t actually available to readers yet, the writer swears it’s coming soon. Just like winter.