E is for Endings. All good things must end, even our favourite books. (Though, thankfully, the ones that are part of a series only end temporarily….) Just like it is said that a fighter is only as good as his last fight, readers’ opinions about a book are often heavily influenced by the way it ends. A very good ending can salvage what may have seemed like an average-quality book when you realise that plot threads that didn’t make all that much sense at the time were just expertly woven into an intricate ending. Conversely, a book that was a great read but has a disappointing ending will leave you with that bitter feeling of disappointment as the last impression.
There are many ways stories can end, from Hollywood-type happy endings to ones that destroy all the hopes the author made the reader build up for the main character(s). Books can end in a manner that makes it clear that this end was as final as it can be, or they can leave the details of what happens next up to the reader’s imagination in an open ending, or they can hint at a continuation in a sequel. Short stories typically have a twist of some sort at the end, all the better to the reader if she didn’t see them coming. Endings can be bittersweet; they can leave the reader wishing for a happier ending while understanding that it was perhaps more realistic the way it was.
(Aside: speaking of endings, have you discovered the End of the Internet yet?)
Which type of ending do you prefer as a reader? Would you rather weep with joy at a happy ending after the main character has been put through the wringer, or have a gritty, realistic ending, no matter the cost to the character? Do you like open endings, final endings, or “temporary” endings? If you’re a writer, do you want the best for your characters, or do you enjoy shocking your readers with their misfortune, or something in between? Let me know in the comments.
Book One – more than anything else, that is what I look for when I’m at the bookstore searching for the next great read to sink my teeth into. I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for series. A book that ends after a few hundred pages without hope of ever encountering its characters again? Hmm, if it’s really well-written, great, I might read it. Personally, though, I’d be much more reluctant to invest my emotions in it than if I knew it’s just the start of a series.
There’s a reason that, these days, a larger and larger section of the Blu-ray and DVD shelves is dedicated to TV series. And even when it comes to films, many studios see the allure of producing sequels. In my genre of choice – fantasy – what are the great films people know, what are the best-selling books? Feel free to give counter-examples in the comments if you disagree, but to my mind, they mostly consist of multiple parts. From Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time to Robin Hobb’s series to George R. R. Martin to Patrick Rothfuss. Too many more to name.
Maybe it’s a bit too melodramatic if I say something like, “A truly great story doesn’t fit in one book.” Some really great ones are very short. Nevertheless, I enjoy intricate character development, following a character’s convoluted trains of thought without being rushed from action scene to action scene like a tourist on a bus tour. “Got a photo of that building? And that tower? Good, let’s go, we’re on a tight schedule, people!” Life moves pretty fast, but (thankfully) it isn’t like that.
What about you? Do you prefer epic series of doorstopper-sized books like me, or shorter, more succinct, more poignant, stories? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
A is for Assassin’s Apprentice. During my first A to Z challenge post, I might as well reveal that “Amos M. Carpenter” is the third pen name of the author also publishing as “Megan Lindholm” and “Robin Hobb“. So, it should come as no surprise that I’ll shamelessly plug the first book I published as Robin Hobb back in 1995: Assassin’s Apprentice, Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy.
Before you go running off to tell anyone about this revealed identity, may I kindly (and with my tongue firmly in my cheek) point you at today’s date. April Fool’s! (Sorry, couldn’t resist – of course I’m not really Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm. I wish….)
Assassin’s Apprentice begins slowly. Robin Hobb manages to draw the reader into the well-crafted world with rare skill, setting the scene and developing unique characters. The initially nameless character, dubbed “Fitz” because he is a royal bastard, tells his story in the first person from when he was a bright six-year-old until he is a young man by the end of Book One. Along the way, he discovers that his affinity for animals, which he always thought normal, is due to a magic called “the Wit”, despised and misunderstood by most. He also tries to learn the “royal” magic called “the Skill”, but his illegitimacy causes some to consider him to be dangerous to the throne (or to those who aspire to sit on it) and that he should be eliminated, while others believe that he is a tool that should be trained and used for the good of the crown. Thus, he learns to read and write, courtly manners, and, secretly, the fine art of assassination.
I wish I had more time to delve into the intricate details of the plot, the depth of each and every character, whose ideas and ambitions are incredibly believable within the context of the world, but I’m afraid I’ll have to keep this post relatively short. Let me just say, though, that Assassin’s Apprentice is not only an awesome book (whether you’re a fan of fantasy fiction or not, I’m sure you’ll love it), it is also the introduction to Robin Hobb’s “Realm of the Elderlings”, in which three partially interconnected trilogies are set, plus another tetralogy, plus the next series fans are eagerly anticipating:
- The Farseer Trilogy
- Assassin’s Apprentice
- Royal Assassin
- Assassin’s Quest
- The Liveship Traders Trilogy
- Ship of Magic
- The Mad Ship
- Ship of Destiny
- The Tawny Man Trilogy
- Fool’s Errand
- The Golden Fool
- Fool’s Fate
- The Rain Wilds Chronicles
- Dragon Keeper
- Dragon Haven
- City of Dragons
- Blood of Dragons
- The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy (yet to be released)
- The Fool’s Assassin (due August 2014)
Warning: do NOT begin reading Assassin’s Apprentice if you do not have much time to spare. You will want to pick up Book Two, and Book Three afterwards, and although they will not leave you wanting, they will leave you wanting more.