Ending a book well is hard, but it's perhaps the most important part of the writer's job. The reader has stayed with you through the thick and the thin, and at the end is where you deliver your pay off to them. Two books I finished this weekend didn't deliver, at least in my estimation. Both were pretty big sellers, and I've very much enjoyed previous works by both writers. This time I was disappointed. And here's why.
Book 1: The hero is cornered by the villain in a dark storm drain at the end. She/he has a gun and the drop. The villain has been well developed and is clearly vicious and ready to kill. The hero is a bit more bumbling but has shown amazing resourcefullness throughout. So how does the author resolve the apparent standoff? A wild animal attacks the villain from behind and kills her/him. Even though we have previously been introduced to the tracks of this wild animal, I felt badly let down by the ending and had to read it over a couple of times to make sure that, in fact, what I thought happened had really happened. Say what?
Book 2: The hero and his friends are pursued by a witch who is well developed as a powerful and savage antagonist. She has killed and "eaten" a child. She has transformed into an eagle, and a dragon. She has possessed souls left and right who now do her bidding. She faces the hero. He steps toward her, and with a single blow of his sword cuts off her head, freeing all the souls she's captured and finishing the final battle before it has properly begun. Yes, the hero is supposed to have supernatural powers, but that's why the villain is developed as having her own magic. The hero must face a worthy adversary. Er, or not. Say what?
How could these normally fine writers forget two simple rules of good endings.
1. The hero must resolve the conflict themselves and cannot be "rescued" by fate.
2. Defeating the villain must be "difficult."