High profile prequels of 2020

Erin Kodicek on August 13, 2020

High Profile Prequels of 2020

When fall of 2020 comes to a close, we will look back and say, this year has seen quite a pattern of…prequels (what did you think I was going to write?). It started with Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, featuring an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, prepping a dark horse for the 10th Hunger Games. But 2020 also heralds the release of the prequels to Ken Follett’s juggernaut Kingsbridge series, and Alice Hoffman’s beloved Practical Magic.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the origins of these popular series, or to start them anew.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Set a decade after the war between the Districts and the Capitol, the Hunger Games are happening but not finding a hungry audience. To shake things up, The Head Gamemaker enlists mentors from the Academy, an opportunity 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow seizes to restore his family’s flailing reputation. “Nearly impossible to put down,” Senior Editor Seira Wilson also said: “Simply put, [The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes] is one of the best books I've read all year.”

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Ken Follett’s inaugural book in the Kingsbridge series, The Pillars of the Earth, has sold over 27 million copies worldwide. So, no pressure when it comes to penning the prequel (ahem). Luckily, The Evening and the Morning (September 15) lives up to the hype. Set at the tail end of the Dark Ages when England was being constantly battered by the Vikings, it’s essentially a star-crossed love story, but also another sly critique of the so-called pious. And as treacherous as these times are now, the rich historical detail that is a signature of Follett's work will make you glad you didn’t live in the 10th century, especially if you're a woman.   

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

The book that spawned a cult classic movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic found two sisters with supernatural powers fighting a family curse that puts any man they fall in love with in peril. Magic Lessons (October 6) looks back at the Owens’ family lineage, where readers will learn the origins of the hex that will haunt them for generations to come. Of the series, Hoffman told the Library Journal: “These novels are an exploration of the nature of love. The Owens family is cursed in love, but the curse is not so far from what anyone who loves may suffer, including loss, grief and betrayal. Heartbreak is a part of being human, and that’s what the characters in these novels learn.”

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson continues her much lauded series, set in a fictional Iowa town, with Jack (September 29). Technically Jack is not a prequel, but I’m giving it an honorary mention because it provides the backstory for two characters Robinson introduced in the Pulitzer Prize winner Gilead. In that novel, John Ames Boughton ("Jack") returns to Gilead to see if he and his common law wife, a Black woman, can raise their child there (this is the 1950s, and pearl-clutching ensues). Jack covers he and Della Miles' complicated courtship. Asked by Deborah Treisman in the New Yorker why Robinson wanted to thresh out their story, particularly Jack's, she said: “His voice was in my head.”

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