Do Story Trilogies Always End in War?

I just blazed through Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I neared the end, I noticed a trend in sequels, especially ones that lead to a trilogy: War.

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I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I read that the peculiars in the book were gearing up for a war against the hollows. (There’re plenty of other twists in the book that will keep you guessing). Now, I don’t know if the peculiar series will be a trilogy or keep going, but I do know they’re following a trilogy pattern set forth by many previous books.

Let’s face it. Sequels need to be more than their predecessor. Bigger. Flashier. With more risk. Some story trilogies handle this by piling on the villains. (Think about the orginal Batman movies. You have Joker in the first one. Then Penguin and Catwoman int he second. By the third, the landscape is littered with villains.)

The smarter story trilogies go for the “war” arc. In the first book, it’s only the protagonist up against the ropes. He or she has to face amazing odds. By the sequel, though, the landscape of conflict broadens. Often book two (or movie two) is a prelude to war. Characters are gearing up. The final payoff comes in the final installment where all hell breaks loose.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples.

Hunger Games: This one is almost the template for the war arc. Book one is only Katniss. By book two, she’s swept up in a conspiracy to use her as a leader for the resistance. Then book three is all about the war.

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Uglies: Still my favorite book series, it too follows the war arc, although a bit more slowly. In book two (Pretties), Tally leaves the rebellion to go “undercover” in the city. Yet it completes the cycle by making her a super-weapon to help fight the war in the third book (Specials).

Lord of the Rings: True, both the second and third books have wars, but the scope expands. Two Towers has Rohan fighting for survival and the force against them seems gargantuan. Yet this battle seems teeny when compared to the epic clash for Gondor in Return of the King. Think about it. This book series started with nine companions, yet broadened to take on the whole world of Middle Earth.

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Star Wars: I’m only going to look at the original movies (Episodes IV through VI), though I imagine this war arc would apply to the prequels. True, the rebellion attacks and destroys the Death Star in Episode IV. Yet this was just Lucus going for broke. Who knew if he’d ever get funding for the remaining movies. Then compare the rebel force from New Hope to the rebels at the end of Empire Strikes Back. A complete scale up. The rebels are preparing for a massive battle that happens, surprise, in the third movie (Return of the Jedi).

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Does this war arc hold true for any other books or films? You tell me. Comment below if you have any other stellar examples.

Tim Kane

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