Oh, the sequel: in a way, this word can mean life or death to a series. Of course, if a book or a movie is wonderful, people want another one because they wish to hear more or see more of the story. This is wonderful and allows writers and directors to create more for the audience to enjoy. However, if the sequel is not as good as the first, whether it is for a popular movie franchise, book series, music album, etc., it is rare for people (excluding diehard fans of a series) to return back for a third course. Not all sequels are bad, though, and some can even be said to be near to or better than their predecessors. Chad Morris proves this with the second book in his Cragbridge Hall trilogy, The Avatar Battle.
When it comes to series for younger readers (especially in the ten/ eleven to twelve/ thirteen age group), writers can fall into a cliché trap: kids in school get better though they were awful in the first one; the kids go on the same adventure, except with a few different characters and some new names of new places; the characters do not show much growth or too much; etc. The Avatar Battle seems to start out this way, with Abby and Derick starting out quickly by stopping the villain, Charles Muns, from changing time like he nearly did in The Inventor’s Secret. However, this seemingly cliché plot takes a quick turn into the more original.
Beginning with characters, Abby is actually doing quite terrible in the school and is nearly at the brink of getting kicked out of Cragbridge Hall. Derick is still struggling with letting his friends and family down after one failure in the first book and must overcome his doubts. The twin’s grandfather is in this story more, which is nice because he is a very likeable character. Even Carol, Abby’s best friend and roommate, has some character growth, though she is still as talkative as ever. Readers are also introduced to new professors as well as new classes like math and engineering and music. This helps to broaden curiosity. Honestly, what child (or even adult) would not be curious about what The Bridge can do in various subjects?
Aside from the characters, the story itself is quite refreshing. In most books, when the characters are in school, the next book will usually start in the next school year (like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series), but Morris decided his next book would take place only four months after the events of the first book and begin at the start of the second semester. Morris wrote The Avatar Battle in a way where he would go into detail about certain characters and certain events in the first few chapters to remind readers about what and who they were from the first book and this is nice for readers who have not read the first in a while. A new element of danger is also added, which is exciting, and this practically forces the children to mature and find bravery deep within themselves if they wish to survive everything that is to happen to them as the story progresses.
Morris still focuses on time travel and the consequences of changing the past, but he adds a new level of meaning to what he discussed in The Inventor’s Secret. If people stopped past tragedies from happening, the people meant to die would not and this, in turn, could cause people of future times to not even be born. Not to mention without these terrible events, heroes would not exist, for heroes are born from tragedy. Imagine: without calamity, the everyday heroes people know and look to may not be around. Firefighters, police officers, those who fight for this country from various military branches, all of them may not exist. Even the fictional superheroes many have come to know and look up to: they would definitely not exist.
With so much character and plot development, not to mention many fun scenes with the avatars (as the book’s title clearly expresses), Morris’ second book of his Cragbridge Hall trilogy proves to be just as good as his first. The new twists and turns The Avatar Battle takes makes readers unsure of which characters to trust and unsure, even for the adult readers, as to what will happen next. Readers both young and old will enjoy this story and will find the familiar themes stressing the importance of family along with the new theme of looking deep inside oneself to find the inner hero that is lurking deep within the human spirit. With two of the three books connecting so nicely together, one wonders if the last, The Impossible Race, will come out the victor as the best in the trilogy.