Are series that reach a “natural end”… disappointing?
You blaze through the pages, caught up in the adventure, reunited with your beloved characters, and you see them conquer those last battles to save the world (or whatever the story may be). You cheer, because good has triumphed over evil, and (hopefully) none of your babies died along the way. But… a few days after finishing… you ask yourself, “Was that the most creative possible ending? Or was it just a simpler choice to nicely tie up all the loose ends?”
Especially when it comes to fantasy series, where there are systems of magic or evil villains, you can usually get a sense of where a series is naturally going to go. If you understand what motivates the characters and what obstacles stand in their way, if you look hard enough you can probably see a kind of formula behind it all. That’s not to say that it’s a completely unoriginal piece of shit – no! Usually it just means that the author has crafted their story so well and so carefully that you have a full understanding of it. So it’s not a bad thing, but when that natural path has been established, it could potentially prevent a more complex ending from developing.
Honestly, I’ve been extremely confused about series endings like this this year. Two examples come to mind: the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo, and Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. I rated both final books in those series 4 oranges, but at the same time I’m not too confident about those ratings. Though the endings were (relatively) happy, and most loose strings were tied up, I don’t feel like either series really took that many risks in the last book – especially when compared to the previous books. It’s like you’re on a three-length journey, and the first two take the scenic, tourist route, with lots of twist and turns and dramatic views, but then on the third length, you just took the shortest, straightest route. It was still effective – you got to your destination and were happy to get there… but was it as great of an experience?
This can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways, for example:
- The antagonist, who seemed like he had a deeper motivation before, becomes rather one-dimensional – the evil baddie who must be stopped.
- The love triangle must be resolved, so one of the love interests is more or less removed as an option by death, character assassination, or anything other than the MC’s carefully weighed out choice.
- The more boring, expected love interest wins. (The darker, more dynamic, complicated one would just never work out.)
- Exciting battle/conflict seems like the end of the world, MC gets special powers/strength out of nowhere to finish it (Deus Ex Machina). Probably can be reasoned away because he/she is “the Chosen One”.
- No more character deaths, though earlier in the series that wasn’t unusual.
- Character appears to die, but then comes back to life.
- The ship ends up together and is then immediately “together forever”. (
Let’s Talk!This is a really hard feeling to put into words, and I feel like I’m just word vomiting all over my blog right now. But am I alone in this? Certainly I care as much or even more about the execution of an ending than the creativity/originality (and that’s why I still rated Ruin and Rising and Lion Heart so highly)… but as more time passes and I look back… I’m not quite sure I’m fully satisfied.
And does it bother you if it doesn’t?
Please try to keep your comments spoiler free!