The Twelve by Justin Cronin (2012)
The Passage, we rejoin survivors of an apocalyptic United States in which a virus has turned people into vampire-like creatures. Like its predecessor, The Twelve moves between Year Zero - immediately after the outbreak - to a time almost 100 years later. We meet some new characters, including one who was just briefly mentioned in the first book as "Last Stand in Denver." There is also the strange and traumatized Lila, who lives in her past, refusing to accept reality. April is a teenaged girl just trying to save her little brother. Guilder is one of the bureaucrats responsible for Project NOAH which created the whole problem in the first place. Very interesting characters added to the already complex mix, and some major plot developments that I won't go into at the risk of spoiling the fun.
It seems like so long ago that I read The Passage, and it was difficult to remember all of the plots and characters, and on top of that there were some new folks to add in. The day after the book was released I saw Justin Cronin speak (which was so awesome!) and he talked about how the second book in a trilogy tends to be the weak one and that he dealt with that by adding in all the new characters and slightly shifting the overall paradigm of the story. I would have to say that it worked.
I know I missed some things and I'm sure it would have been even better had I read both books in a row. Wikipedia helped. Bookmarking pages that seemed important and then referring to them later also helped. In my fantasy world, when the third book comes out I will read all three of them in a row so I won't have this problem at all. But I found The Twelve so compelling, and even when I was unsure about where I last saw a particular character or couldn't remember something important from the first book, I still couldn't help but keep going.
At this point I really want to share how ridiculous the criticisms of the book are in the reviews I've read, but I won't waste the space with my ranting. (Just like those reviewers didn't waste their time actually reading the book. I'll stop now.) I'll admit that I didn't love it as much as The Passage. The second book in a trilogy just can't be as good as the first - it's not possible. In the first book you're introduced to a new world and it's characters and by the second book that's not new and surprising anymore. But Cronin has done a great job of continuing that story and keeping it exciting. I can't wait to see how he's going to end this trilogy.