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  • The early Discworld books (at the latest, up to Small Gods) felt far different than their latter counterparts. Particularly glaring within the separate section of the Disc mythos: compare and contrast the Granny Weatherwax from Equal Rites to the one in Carpe Jugulum. Or the Lord Vetinari in The Colour of Magic (Word of God had to step in and confirm that it was the same Patrician, and not one of his thoroughly insane predecessors) to the Magnificent Bastard of the Moist Von Lipwig books.
    • Likewise, the first two Discworld books are straight parodies of Sword and Sorcery fantasy. The series began to grow its beard in Equal Rites and Mort, where it went from a parody of fantasy settings to using its fantasy setting to parody everything else.
  • The Dragonbone Chair, the first book in Tad Williams' Doorstopper fantasy series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, tends to drag on and doesn't introduce the main antagonist until several hundred pages in. Once the series gets going, it's very good, but you still have to get through much of the first book to get to the good stuff.
    • This seems to be the case with most of Tad Williams' doorstoppers. The protagonists only know that their lives are going to hell; they don't know why, there are webs within webs, etc. Awesome characters, storytelling, worldbuilding, and prose keep this from becoming the problem it would be in the hands of a less capable author. But it's a given that you will have no idea what's actually going on until the last five hundred pages or so.
    • Incidentally, the main hero grows a literal beard in the course of the story, symbolizing his significant maturation from a lazy kid into a worthy king. The cover art makes the difference especially striking.
  • Gardens of the Moon, the first book in Steven Erikson's gargantuan Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence, drops the reader in the middle of an ongoing war with little explanation of what is going on. The lack of scene-setting or explanations for concepts in the book have led many to give up on the novel, as acknowledged in later editions by the author. Fans suggest that the book doesn't settle down and become comprehensible until a good 150 pages in, and many suggest skipping it and starting with the more traditionally-structured second book, Deadhouse Gates (set on a different continent with different characters) instead.
  • David Brin's novel Sundiver, the first set in his Uplift Saga universe, is poor, and it is usually recommended that readers skip to the second, Startide Rising, instead. This is made easier by the second book being set 300 years after the first, featuring a totally different cast and having minimal references to the first book.
  • The Aubrey-Maturin series picks up considerably with 3rd and 4th books HMS Surprise and The Mauritius Command, after being given command of the titular Cool Ship and heavily reducing the land-based romantic storylines of the 2nd book Post Captain.
  • Robert Jordan's "The Eye of the World", the first in his Wheel of Time series, cops a lot of flak for its "borrowings" from Lord of the Rings. The second book, "The Great Hunt", takes the story in a completely different direction and is much better, and the beard is completely grown in the third book, "The Dragon Reborn". However as is common even when this trope shows up, a reader can't really skip the first book because it introduces so much of the setting and characterization.
    • Word of God stated the first book was written to intentionally resemble then-contemporary fantasy fare, which the series would then take into a new direction. The second direction is clearly better, even though the series has been running so long this no longer seems unique either.
    • The series may have the unusual distinction of growing the beard twice. After Jordan's death in 2007, young author Brandon Sanderson took up the reins using Jordan's notes, and his The Gathering Storm has another slightly different direction and is awesome in a refreshing new way.
    • Let's not forget Perrin. Not only did he literally do it, but it's only really after his beard that he gets awesome and more than That Guy Who Can Talk to Wolves.
  • Harry Potter did it with "The Prisoner of Azkaban", the third book of the series. The first two were fun, wonderfully-painted page turners with magnetic characters but didn't seem to be much more than that. Then book three's title character, who was mentioned very briefly at the start of book one, is brought into focus and it just builds from there, making it clear that this isn't just some fluffy kid/teen series but an incredibly intricately plotted seven part Myth Arc.
    • An even more noticeable instance of the trope is the fourth book, Goblet of Fire. Not only does it double the page count of the previous books, in fact tripling it over the first book, the climax is the turning point of the series. Up until then, it had been lighthearted and innocent for the most parts, but after this book, the series takes a swift turn into dark and grim territory, with a high body count, and adult themes and concepts introduced.
    • In this case, it is a metaphoric case of growing a beard. The first two books were written about a boy of 11 and 12 years old (pre-puberty). As Harry grows up (post-puberty), he sees the world through increasingly adult eyes, becoming more aware of the deep problems in the world and the flawed nature of many of the adults in it (his father was a jerk during most of his school days, his revered teacher messed up badly, etc.).
      • This was apparently intentional. JKR claims she wanted the character to grow up with the readers (especially the ones who were the same age as Harry.) Books 1 2- Harry was still a kid, so everything was awesome in his eyes (even being attacked by Magical Hitler). 3, 4, & 5- He's a teenager and has begun to see the world as such. 6- He's an adult (in some places), so now shit gets real (like his favorite teacher getting murdered in front of his eyes). 7- He's now completely an adult, and the story takes on an adult-like format. Suddenly, everyone is dying and the world is going to hell.
    • Harry Potter's continuous beard growth was highlighted by Order of the Phoenix, when Harry's character flaws lead to fatal consequences, and he finds out his father, who was thought to be a saint by Harry, was a vicious bully, completely arrogant of his flaws, and often rather cruel. Granted, his father also committed great acts of heroism, but humiliating the schools resident geek in front of the entire school and the person he loved most in the world was still a Kick the Dog moment. At the same time, of course, said resident geek was well on his way to joining the magical equivalent of the SS whose primary goal was the annihilation of the ethnic group his love was a member of. Nothing is cut-and-dry in this series.
    • Dumbledore lampshades this in the sixth movie.

  Dumbledore: You need a shave, my friend.

  • The Eyre Affair, the first book of the Thursday Next series, isn't bad, per se, but features disappointingly little use of the series' central gimmick of the title character being able to enter works of fiction and a comparatively conventional "stopping the bad guy" plot. Starting with book two, Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde really went to town with the concept with nods to all kinds of different literature. Also, while some important plot threads are introduced in book one, the second really begins the series' fascinating juggling act between all its different subplots that frequently collide or call back to events several books previous in unexpected ways.
  • Animorphs at first did it with the third book in the series; while the first two had helped to establish the core plot and the setting, the third book took a more unique turn, centering around Tobias, the most mysterious member of the group who in the previous books had been trapped in the form of a hawk. Other points later in the series' 54 book run could also be considered growing the beard, depending who you ask. Perhaps when Marco's mother is revealed to be Visser One, when the conflict escalates to a full scale war in the later books, and more gradual as the characters grow more mature over time. There is also a very notable beard-growing for the companion books such as the Andalite Chronicles and Hork Bajir chronicles, with much more mature and engaging storylines following on characters on exotic alien worlds. On the other hand, some fans argue that the later books in the core series saw a decline in quality, where Applegate had many of the books ghostwritten (though she heavily edited them to fit), and in the climax of the series where some were upset at Rachel and Ax's deaths.
    • It's telling that the only book in the mid-to-late range that is generally well-received by fans is a take on "The Enemy Within" which is also the only book not ghostwritten until the final two.
  • A surprising leap in style occurred between books six and seven of Ranger's Apprentice, with more originality, humour, and maturity in the following stories.
  • Ian Rankin, acclaimed Scottish author of the Inspector Rebus novels, started out the series with quite straight forward serial killer and murderer hunts. The fourth novel, Strip Jack, had a change in tone in dealing instead with the sordid life of a (fictional) British politician. Afterwards, the series began to focus more on the morally gray world of big business and British politics, and the relationships between the two. The series was much better for it.
  • In Terry Brooks' Shannara series, the second book Elfstones of Shannara is often cited as the best starting point, due to the first book, Sword of Shannara, being very very similar, and even downright identical in places to a certain other fantasy series.
  • Lord Foul's Bane, the first book in Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, isn't very good. The series improves dramatically in the second book, titled The Illearth War, and stays that way.
  • The first couple of Dresden Files books are pretty good, but not amazing; it's only really during the third that it picks up, beginning the tradition of totally over the top levels of awesomeness that would later become one of the series' hallmarks and starting Harry down the road to woobiefication and Character Development with Susan's being half-turned by the Red Court. It improves even further around Dead Beat, with the introductions of Cowl and Lash, Harry joining the Wardens, and the reveal of a traitor on the White Council.
    • According to Jim Butcher the first book was written to show a creative writing teacher how bad her method of writing was.
  • A moment like this for The Lord of the Rings appears in The History Of The Lord of The Rings. We see several early drafts of the beginning of the book that would become The Fellowship of The Ring. They are all very similar, in construction and tone, to The Hobbit. The original villain of the piece was always intended to be the Necromancer mentioned in The Hobbit. However Tolkien's original interpretation made him a fairly light-hearted, almost mischievous villain. However, somewhere along the line (in a moment which, sadly, Christopher Tolkien could find no record of) Tolkien changed it so that the Lord of The Rings was actually Sauron, the villain from his Numenor legend. Tolkien then saw that the legend of the rings could be used as a way to explain how Sauron survived the destruction of Numenor. With the Smaug-like villain replaced by a character who was, for all intents and purposes, Satan, the book became more grounded and the story got much, much darker; growing into the legendary saga we have today.
  • By book five in the Lemony Snicket series, the formula has started to feel a bit tired. While the characters remain strong and the events remain unfortunate, the end of The Austere Academy is the first time we hear the letters "V.F.D.". From there it escalates from a Deconstruction of children's adventure novels to "My Very First Dostoevsky".
  • The first two Sherlock Holmes novels were huge hits in their time but many Holmesians agree that the Holmes and Watson that everybody remembers fondly didn't appear until "A Scandal in Bohemia", the first in a series of 56 short stories.
  • The first Rod Albright Alien Adventures book, Aliens Ate my Homework is a fun story about a boy dealing with a spaceship full of two-inch high aliens, hiding them from his parents and teachers by pretending they're toys and so on. The second book, I Left my Sneakers in Dimension X shifts the action from a generic small town to another dimension, revealing just how inventive Bruce Coville can be with aliens and settings, and that the plot of the first book wasn't so neatly wrapped up as it seemed. The final chapter reveals that Rod's father is apparently an alien and a former member of the Galactic Patrol. This leads to major Fridge Brilliance with regards to the first book - the aliens crashing through Rod's window was no accident, and their making him a deputy them may well have been down to his father having been 'one of the best'.
  • The Uncle John's Bathroom Reader trivia book series, beginning with volume 8 (Uncle John's Ultimate Bathroom Reader). This volume was was bigger than the last two volumes combined, and it started the gradual shift towards a more in-depth writing style. The evolution has continued in subsequent volumes, which now feature multi-part stories and an "extended sitting" section with even longer material. While the first few books had about 200 pages, the last few volumes have pushed 600.
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