Reaching the End

May 29th, 2008

I have been thinking about different kinds of endings, of books and series both, lately for the obvious reasons. Many fantasy books have some kind of Immense Dramatic Climax, after which the survivors go home. But in Deverry there is no Evil Overlord to be defeated, no one-size-ends-all wrap-up. What the book will have is a set of climaxes and a tying-off of themes and loose ends. I’m worrying that readers won’t find this very satisfying, but given the way the Deverry world and its tales go, there really isn’t much alternative. The stories are about individual people or small groups facing various kinds of adversity.

So I was wondering, what do you all want in an ending? What are some of your favorite endings to long books or series? Which ones annoyed the hell out of you or disappointed you? Any thoughts on why you had these reactions?

45 Responses to “Reaching the End”

  1. Anyaon 29 May 2008 at 4:41 am

    > What are some of your favorite endings to long books or series?

    Tolkien’s LoR of course, though it was a little sad (Frodo and all the elves leaving). Sad, but therefore fitting. Also, I did like that the hobbits, after defeating Sauron, still had to free their home shire — thus having to apply all their new-found skills and bravery in front of their own people. (Otherwise, none in Hobbington would even have known about any of it.)

    Otherwise, I have never finished a fantasy series in my life. Not even Harry Potter. I thought the 6th part was BORING. I couldn’t finish it. And hearing about all the characters who die in the seventh part does not encourage me to try again. My favorite character dies in 5 (for no reason at all), my second-favorite turns evil in 6, my third- to sixth-favorite die in 7. It’s like the author wanted to spoil the series for adults on purpose. Only the kids survive.

    With all the other series, the great BOREDOM hit around the fourth part. E.G. Wheel of Time (almost made it through the fourth, though boring…), Sword of Truth (couldn’t even start the fourth, after the third, which was my favorite part). But those series are all of the kind that lead up to one big showdown, and I get annoyed when it doesn’t get delivered.

    Take The Sword of Truth. In 1 Richard battles the evil, all-powerful mage-king forgot-his-name (Rahl?). In 2 he battles the lord of the underworld. In 3 an army of inquisitors. Part 3 heavily builds up on the story of the dream walker, and that there was a war against him centuries ago. Part 4 should have been all about fighting the dream walker! It should have been the grand finale! All the building up the author did, and what happened in 4? Richard battles the jealous, non-magic, mad, perverse brother-he-didn’t-know-he-had, who turns up out of nowhere (no building up, no prior hinting that he had a brother). What a let-down! Also, the thing about Richard not being able to marry Kahlan for this reason or other and her repeated almost-getting-raped was getting old and tired after three fat volumes!

    With The Wheel of Time, the problem was for me that starting with the fourth volume, the story became too much about other people when I was really only interested in the three main characters that appeared first (Mat, Rand, and Perrin). If only he could have finished with the fourth (or maybe fifth) part and started a new series with all the extra characters!

    The only two long series (nine+ parts) I did enjoy are The Vorkosigan Saga by McMaster Bujold and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and those are of the kind that don’t require an ending for the reader to be able to appreciate the other parts.

    I haven’t read your Deverry series, but if there isn’t the Evil Overlord to vanquish, then the problem I had with Sword of Truth and Wheel of Time can’t even arise — that the author shies away from the final battle volume after volume, afraid that if he delivers it, his story will end.

    So, strictly from a reader’s perspective, my advice would be: Don’t be afraid of the end/finale. Just deliver it before it’s too late!

  2. Randyon 29 May 2008 at 6:25 am

    Yea, the Sword of Truth series had kind of a REALLY BAD ENDING :( Don’t do that, Kit :)

  3. Nick Argallon 29 May 2008 at 8:02 am

    As a huge fan of the first 6 Deverry books (and if there have been more, I’m disappointed in myself for not knowing), I’d be disappointed if they were brought to a neat conclusion. I don’t want everything finalised, I like the way that everything loops back around and never really stops.

    I think the ending I would like most is to be taken back to the beginning, and shown that it’s not the place that I thought it was. (And, since I’m the first fan of the series to mention it in responding to this post, you are of course compelled to comply with my demands! *grin*)

    I really like one of the methods popular in Japanese storytelling, where the beginning of the story is a tightly-encoded version of the entire story, and the elaborations on the theme continue until there is a resolution. Watch Perfect Blue sometime and notice how the first few seconds of the movie communicate that ‘this story is not what it seems to be’. The rest of the movie is an elaborate variation on that theme.

    I was disappointed in the ending of Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy. The deus ex machina grated, and the neatness of it all offended me after such a complex story. I’m glad that his more recent work features better endings, less making everything all tidy and more acceptance that life goes on when the story ends.

    I was very pleased with the end of LE Modessit’s Recluse series. The series was pretty repetitive by the end of it all, but the different perspectives were valuable, and his demonstration that there are good guys on both sides of any given war was something good in itself. He was true to the series, and didn’t try to resolve everything, he just resolved one story in each volume, with the series as a whole presenting an interesting spectrum across order and chaos.

    Aha! I have a short version now!

    I think that the people who are intelligent and discerning enough to read Katherine Kerr are intelligent and discerning enough that they’d be disappointed if she tried to force a stock-standard ending. Give us the ending that is right for the story (which sounds like the ending you’re hinting at). Er… please?

  4. Stacyon 29 May 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve read all the Deverry books multiple times, and will many times more. You’ve had several great climaxes already in the serries – the end of The Dragon Revenant, Bellyra and the tower, and the end of The Fire Dragon. I can’t say too well what I want to see – other than “Do just like that again!” The only specific mystery I can think of I’d personally like addressed is to know Ebany’s past lives, as his past lifetimes are the only unknowns now.
    I can certainly think of things I don’t want to see ever again in any fantasy series . First and foremost, I hate it when the author “blows up the world” – destroys the magic, kills the gods, and basically makes everything special not special anymore. They’ve done this about ten times with the Dragonlance megaseries and it always sucks. I want to always be able to go back to that special place, and I’m a chronic re-reader with a good memory – if the last book destroys the world it ruins the re-read of the earlier volumes for me. I do believe I won’t have that issue with Deverry.
    Welching on the big sacrifice also is pretty terrible.

  5. Katharine Kerron 29 May 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks to all commentors, this is the kind of stuff I need to read! Me and other writers, apparently. :-)

    Nick, there are 14 Deverry books out in all. I’m working on the 15th and last one.

  6. Sherwoodon 29 May 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I tend to drop out of series that have an ever-receding horizon, which is usually a big showdown with a big bad of some sort. I love what I think of as nested or chain stories–like the Deverry books. I don’t mind story arcs that continue over books, but at the end of a book I like some kind of resolution. Even if it’s just emotional resolution of an interpersonal problem, something that indicated growth, before the characters tackle the next set of stakes. But fighting monster after monster, or running about collecting plot objects while listening to Wise Old Somethings tell a story about the Olden Days and the Powerful Object gets me skimming, because I feel that the story has actually stopped so that the info, or the fight, can be put in.

    Big long fight scenes in movies usually have me going to get a cup of tea, if I’m watching at home.

  7. Vivian Francison 29 May 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I don’t think that big events are the only satisfying way to end a story. I’ve always loved how the challenges that the Deverry characters face seem to be the result of their true natures. For example, it was great seeing how Cullyn (and his previous lives) struggled against his internal “evil overlord.” The scene between him and Nevyn, when Cullyn admitted his weakness, was charged with energy. Knowing as we did just how strong a force Cullyn’s demon was to him, this action seemed much braver than more physical danger. And more emotionally satisfying than if he had beat an army.

  8. Lois Tiltonon 29 May 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Normally, one of my big hates is when the author, having killed off a character, decides this was a bad idea and brings that character back from the dead.

    In the case of Deverry, however, everyone is always coming back, so this is not a problem.

  9. Foz Meadowson 29 May 2008 at 6:45 pm

    The most disappointing series end for me was Sara Douglass’s wrap-up to the Wayfarer Redemption Trilogy, which I read in mid highschool. Basically, her first trilogy in that world – the Axis Trilogy – had the typical restore-the-good-old-ways, put-the-right-guy-in-charge theme. The Wayfarer books were set 40 years later (with many of the same characters), only now the world is being utterly ravaged by demons. Big theme jump all by itself, but the grand climax is – put bluntly – that the *whole continent* sinks into the ocean, the entire populace goes to heaven, we see all their lives wrapped up prettily (‘coz, you know, *heaven*), and then the two main characters, by now gods in their own right, leave heaven to go seed life on a new planet.

    Talk about your cathartic endings. It felt like the biggest gyp after six thick books, because the story just stopped. Of course, that didn’t stop her starting another series in the same world sometime last year, where one of her characters gets pulled back *out* of heaven to come help fight a war for the whole planet. Maybe it’ll end up falling into a black hole and everyone else can go to a different afterlife – who knows? Not me, because I stopped reading at that point. Once you read something like, ‘he was walking along the cliffs in heaven with his wife Azhure, when he was yanked back to reality,’ it’s pretty hard to continue.

    Anyway: my favourite thing about Deverry has always been the realism. Characters share names, because that’s what happens the world over. History hinges on people, their lives and feuds as much as big events. New threads ravel out from the old. Humans make the same mistakes over and over before finally learning from them. And so on. Point being, some big narrative catharsis wouldn’t suit Deverry, because Deverry, like Terry Pratchett said about Ankh-Morpork, is a world that keeps on working when the reader isn’t there, and in such real places, big narrative catharsis isn’t what happens. Even when the series is wrapped up, your readers will know that Deverry isn’t dead, because it exists as a functional place in its own right. And because we’ve seen countless generations of the same characters live and die through the whole Deverrian history, we know that somewhere behind the looking-glass, that cycle will continue even if it isn’t being written: that the heirs and reincarnations of Nevyn, Jill, Cullyn and the rest will live on, and that their actions will keep echoing long after anyone is around to notice.

    One of my favourite moments in Deverry sort of sums this up: when Dallandra gives Carramaena an old item that once belonged to Bellyra, and at this point, only Otho realises that she’s his Lady born again; and Carra holds it, and there’s this lovely sense of time, that important things can happen and end, leaving only little traces behind, but that those traces are still significant, even when they can’t possibly impart the fullness of what they once meant.

    So, yes. I should probably be quiet now.

  10. Carolon 29 May 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I agree with everyone, that part of the thing I love about Deverry is the fact that it (to me anyway!) is a real world that seems to go on living without me whe I am not reading it. A big climax just wouldn’t work, its not about what Deverry is about. I love delving into each new book (got back from urumchi and just bought Shadow Isle!) because its so familar to me I just feel so happy returning to a place which I love. Characters come and go, and the other thing I love is the whole reincarnation thing, and those small moments, such as Foz mentioned above with Carra and Bellyra and the gift from Otho, and especially with Cullyn and Rhodry and when they finally gain some peace re Jill, that was a HUGE moment, but it wasn’t some big over dramatic climax.

    I really think you won’t dissappoint any reading by just continuing your style. I do like the suggestion from Nick about going back to the very beginning, (not neccarsarily of the first book even, but some cyclic, twisting knot idea that the beginning and end are interwoven etc), so that maybe the end of your book is just that, the end of the book, but not the end of the world. So even if you don’t write any more deverry books, it still goes on existing for us in our minds.

    There are so many bad, tragic endings out there too. I love each ending you do to a particular series. The end of Dragonspell was the saddest for me, (sad, but a brilliant ending! Lots of tears.) although of course I knew it was coming because that was one of the main purposes, to set Jill on the path of the Dweomer. Also lots of tears when Jill died at the end of book 8, another great ending.

    Another ending I love was Kate Elliot’s ending to the Crown of Stars, or Celcia Dart-Thornton’s ending to the Bitterbyrne (I think thats the name.). That was the only book that the last paragraph has ever made a huge difference, and it gave me such a great feeling inside. I won’t spoil for people!

    In short: just do what you think is right, I have no doubt that it will be the perfect ending for Deverry, and from what I have heard in your post it sounds the best idea!

  11. Sam Grahamon 29 May 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I was so glad to hear that The Shadow Isle isn’t the last Deverry book and that I have another to look forwards to.

    The Shadow Isle is sitting there waiting for me to read it while I finish the Crown of Stars series (*wave* to Kate Elliot, finally got around to buying those books because of this site btw), and I’ve been dreading seeing the end of Deverry, I’ve been reading them since Dawnspell came out in the UK, and each time a new book has come out I’ve faithfully started at the first book again to make sure I’m not missing any subtle connections between the incarnations.

    That said, all good things come to an end.

    In some ways though, unlike most books, Deverry has a constant slew of endings, every incarnation has an ending, so most Deverry novels have had 3 or 4 “endings” each, and each time the ending is in the context of “life goes on” for the other characters. Sometimes we even see “life going on” for those other characters if they have an incarnation story of their own.

    So, however the final book ends, I know it’ll have the feeling that “life goes on”, that Deverry still lives and breathes.

    Unless you do actually destroy the entire world, but the Lords of Wyrd will have you paying that off in the next hundred lives if you do. 😉

    Oh and I second the earlier poster who said don’t do a Peter F Hamilton Night’s Dawn trilogy ending: it’s a great way to ruin 3000 pages worth of otherwise excellent story.

  12. Maryon 29 May 2008 at 8:36 pm

    The ending has to resolve the question that was posed.

    There can be lots of issues unresolved about the edge — bigger issues than even the one that gets resolved — but the central question of the book has to get resolved.

  13. Sam Grahamon 29 May 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Oh, I completely forgot to include any endings from other books or series I liked, in no particular order:

    Steven Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates and again in Memories of Ice, and still again in The Bonehunters. That guy knows how to make you care, and then twist the knife. And then still make you care again in the next book even when you know he’s probably going to twist it again. Endings that leave you feeling you’ve been pummelled but still wanting more.

    Those endings make you feel like the when Jill and Yraen die in the Deverry novels – those characters could have gone on, you’d have happily read more stories with them in and you really feel their loss, yet the story does go on, and you keep reading and still enjoy it even with that bittersweet taste.

    Iain M Banks’ Consider Phlebas, another painful ending, but a great one.

    Pretty much any Steven Brust novel, the endings Just Work, you can’t fault his pacing or ability to tie up all the threads by the end of the story and leave you feeling it was at the right moment, without ever making a big deal of it or feeling he needs an overblown climax bigger and better than Anything Ever Before.

    ASH: A Secret History by Mary Gentle for showing that you can take a story off in a completely unexpected direction that seems radically out of character for what you thought was the story, and yet still make it work.

    Other than that, I can’t honestly think of many endings that really impressed me. Mostly I’m happy if an ending suffices and doesn’t suck.

  14. Ozzyon 29 May 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I tend to like an ending if all the characters to have achieved what they set out to do. They don’t necessarily need to be pleased with the results of their goals, and they don’t need to turn out exactly as planned, but at least they were a success. Every character doesn’t need to survive ‘til the last page, but pointless, ‘shock factor’ deaths annoy me to no end.

    I thought the Harry Potter series was a victim of this…I won’t give anything away. Something happened after book five that made the rest of the series seem rushed to me. It’s like the author lost interest and just wanted to finish the thing, which in turn, rubbed off on me as the reader and made me just want to finish the thing as well. That rushed feeling contributed to a disappointing ending. A series that I though had a good ending was Carol Berg’s Lighthouse Duet (and I’m not just saying that because she posts here!). I just finished those two a few weeks ago…again I won’t give anything away, but I was satisfied with the ending (great story by the way, Carol!).

    Something that bothers me personally about fantasy stories these days is that they tend to culminate in a giant battle scene. While not necessarily bad, it just seems typical. I prefer overall character development throughout the series instead of one huge battle at the end.

    Once it’s over, I like to think back to the beginning and sort of follow how the character or characters were at the story’s start compared to how they are now at the end. How would they react now at book’s end to certain events that happened to them in the opening scenes?

    I haven’t read any Deverry books (it looks like I’m one of the few, ha), but based on what Ms. Kerr says about the story focusing on individual people and groups it sounds like one huge end-all climax would be out of place. A series of large climax’s in one book would get cumbersome, but if the author has taken me on a good ride then I’ll accept it.

    Someone mentioned above that the created world is real enough for people to believe it could go on once the story ends. I agree with that as being a huge contributor to a good end for a story.

  15. Jack Oakleyon 30 May 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Well, you know, it’s nice to leave the good guys at peace with themselves…

    Or if that’s asking too much, maybe leave the rest of us with a modest intimation of immortality, a sense of boundless time, or the fleeting impression that there may after all be meaning to it all.

    Me, I’m happy to go where you lead and stop where you stop. It’s been a great journey.

  16. Brendan Podgeron 30 May 2008 at 4:31 pm

    When I first read LOTR it was in the single book version without the indexes and I hated the ending. Poor Sam being left behind on the shore as Frodo sailed away to the Undying Lands. How unfair!

    Later when I read the indexes I found the story didn’t end there. Later Sam went back to the Grey Havens and boarded his own boat, Aragon died and was layed in state(with Merry & Pippin?), and lastly for the main characters, Legolas & Gimly together built a boat and made their own voyage to the Undying Lands.

    One of the major themes in Tolkien’s work was the never ending story, (The road goes on forever, etc.) and Katherine’s work fits that mould.

    Another thought is to book-end the opening sequence(in Dragonspell) with a complementary one in the last book. Readers will know that because of the reincarnation of souls that takes place during the series that there could be more, but for this soul, this writer, the story has ended.

  17. Kate Elliotton 30 May 2008 at 5:07 pm

    All the smart answers above pretty much cover what I would say.

    You will write the ending that fits the series because you can’t do otherwise. Does that help?

  18. Claire de Traffordon 31 May 2008 at 9:05 am

    I think that I’m going to find it hard to be disappointed with whatever ending because a) it is ending – and while that is really sad it is great to have some closure with a long running fantasy saga; and b)we’ve had lots of little endings throughout which I’ve found very satisfying. I trust Kit to provide the right ending so no stress on her there then.

    What I would like to see is the return of Cadda Cerrmor – I’ve always had the impression that the earlier books at least were written in a kind of 21st C version of Deverry, with comments like ‘in those days Cerrmor was …’ – and the conclusion of the long running dispute over Elven linguistic transcription! May the professor have to settle out of court for huge damages and a grovelling apology is what I say.

    I’m happy for people to die if it is right for them and the plot – I loved Greg Keyes’ Thorn and Bone but felt that too many people survived – but I do also like to find out what happened ever after to the characters. Kate Elliott did this in a great way with Crown of Stars whereby we got a later perspective on the characters. My favourite series ending however Julian May’s Saga of Exiles and later the Millieu Trilogy, whereby everything dovetailed together with a bit of a slushy ending thrown in. Basically, as has been said, just finishing is great (George Martin stand up!), so good luck and don’t try to please us too much; we’ll love it anyway (and those who don’t are wrong, wrong, wrong).

  19. Ariaon 31 May 2008 at 11:00 am

    I haven’t read Shadow Isle yet (I’m making myself wait until my birthday Monday as a gift to myself — yes I know, I’m strange) so I dont know what happens in there. One ending of a long book seires that was a disappointment to me was Harry Potter. While I absolutely loved the seventh book I hated, despised, detested the epilogue which I thought sounded like it was written as fanfiction.
    But I havent finished any really long book series though, I’m in the middle of R.A. Salvatores Drizzt series, and that and Deverry are the only thing that have managed to hold my interest long enough (I never even finished the last book of the Wheel of Time). I think the closest thing would be Tamora Pierce’s books, but they’re all quartets and not always related, but I usually loved those endings.
    In Deverry, one of my favorite things is seeing the different reincarnations interact with eachother and the elves too. I think if the loose ends were all just tied up, that would be enough in itself, because it’s been a long time coming, and it would be something that would just make the reader put the book down and sigh contently and go “finally” (but in a good way, you know? Like, “all is well at last”).
    But that’s just my opinion, at least.
    Also, my absolute favorite ending of Deverry was the last two pages of the Gold Falcon. I think it’s the emotion in there combined with realization dawning on Branna.
    Anyway, good luck tying it all together!!

  20. Constance Ashon 31 May 2008 at 6:43 pm

    “Shane! Come back, Shane!”

    The hero(ine) rides off into the sunset.

    While the continuity of the story — before, present and after — is clearly indicated because there is someone and something from the before that is going into the after, the future.

    In some genres it can be family and community via internal history-storytelling. Louisa May Alcott does this marvelously in both her Old Fashioned Girl and Eight Cousins; we learn so much about family and personal and national history from the incidents of their lives recalled with such pleasure by elderly characters, as they tell them to their young descendants.

    These are exactly my own experiences with my great-grandmothers and grandmothers — and when my mother had fewer children and more time, when I chivied her into telling me about ‘when you were a little girl.” When she was dying of her long lingering cancer, telling me these memories were so obviously one of the few lights remaining in her life, I felt so grateful to be still a part of a chain, a chain that is essentially broken now forever, but then, well, it was still otherwise.

    Love, C.

  21. Nicole Lon 31 May 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I want to mention something about endings I hate: when the ending is inconsistent with everything that went before and untrue to the characters. Probably it’s possible to have a sad ending that isn’t a sell out (as I think sad endings often are in so-called “literature”; if it has a happily ever after then it must be genre, right? I’m thinking Pay It Forward — the movie– where I was sooo mad that it had made me cry) but it does go against the general trend of SciFi/Fantasy, where we expect good to triumph over evil, or least smack it down for a while. (Maybe the second Golden witchbreed book by Gentle? I’m still ambivalent about that.)

    This happened to me when reading Jan Siegel’s Prospero’s Children trilogy and I threw the last book across the room and said, I’m never reading her again! It was sad, but more importantly it was so inconsistent and completely full of holes. It just didn’t work.

    But I don’t think this is going to be a problem for Katherine Kerr, as I’ve never seen a hint of this kind of cop-out in her work. As Kate Elliott said, you’ll write the ending that works, the ones the characters give you, and demand.

  22. rothecheon 01 Jun 2008 at 12:10 am

    One of my favourite endings is actually the way Stephen King wrapped up the Dark Tower series (and, some days, I really feel like the only person in the whole world who liked the way he did that). It fit – I don’t know how much I can say without spoiling the whole thing for folks who haven’t read it yet but, to me, it was the only way the series could have ended and been true to what had gone before.

  23. Daniel Woodson 02 Jun 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I think for me, the best endings are the ones that aren’t really ‘the end’ of the story. The main issues of the story are, in one way or another, dealt with, but in such a way that you know there’s more to come (even if it never gets written as another series / novel). Endings that are too neat and tidy (every subplot carefully resolved) can annoy me.

    I also love poignant endings, I must admit.

    Examples of endings I liked (and why):

    Jonathan Stroud’s ‘Bartimaeus Trillogy’. Good example of a poignant ending, this one (i.e. Nathaniel and Bartimaeus… trying not to give spoilers, here), but also one where there’s plenty of stuff left to happen after it’s all over. There’s plenty for Kitty to do, for example – she has quite a life left to lead. Same kind of thing with Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ – poignant, tied up, but everyone will carry on, forever changed by their experiences.

    Maybe it’s just because reaching the end of a series that you really like is always a bittersweet moment, but I like endings best when there’s plenty of scope for more. It’s the continuity that’s the important bit, not really whether it’s happy or sad.

    Examples of endings I wasn’t so fond of:

    Trudi Canavan’s ‘Black Magician Trilogy’. It’s not that a certain character died – indeed, character deaths can really enrich a plot sometimes – it’s that he died utterly pointlessly. It was a completely avoidable death. It’s like she killed him off for shock value, and for a convenient plot twist. I felt a bit cheated.
    Canavan’s ‘Age of Five Trilogy’. Great series, right up until the very very end. I’m talking the last few pages. It’s such an anti-climax. Everyone quite literally gives up and goes home. The end. I’m not saying that anti-climax is always a bad thing, but finishing a series with it… it’s a risk. And besides, it just didn’t ring true – [spoiler] two peoples who are about to destroy each other (indeed, whose armies are facing each other across the battlefield) do not simply shrug their collective shoulders and march the long march back home on a technicality.

    Robin Hobb’s ‘Soldier Son Trilogy’. Not even close to her best work, which doesn’t help, but the ending is infuriating. With one tiny little poke in the right direction, everything is solved. Everything. I think I was supposed to think ‘OOooooh, I see, it all seems so simple now’, but personally, I just felt exasperated. Why did I let myself get emotionally involved in this story and these characters when it all might as well not have happened?

    I guess, for me, a bad ending is one that negates the rest of the story, one that is overly convenient or final, one that doesn’t stay true to the plot, or one that feels rushed and slapdash.

    * * *

    Those are just my thoughts, anyway – hope they help.

  24. Katharine Kerron 02 Jun 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Brendan, you must be psychic. :-) Seriously, though, I wrote the epilog last year, and you’ll be pleased to know that it includes a note from Cadda Cerrmor herself.

    Many thanks for all the comments! I am much reassured.

    My least favorite ending comes from a short book, oddly enough, an SF novel. The central problem of the novel concerns interplanetary colonists who are wrecking the ecology of their new home by insisting on building an enormous dam. The fellow sent to deal with the problem gets nowhere with argument, reason, appeals to laws, etc. So everything leads up to him blowing the dam up. The climax builds to this point and makes it clear that if he does go to blow it, he’ll be in grave danger — and then suddenly we are on a boat in the flood caused by the blowing-up without ever having seen the actual act, the dangers, the moral crisis, etc etc.

    This book was published back when “short and compressed” was in fashion. Briefly. But it’s a big mistake to leave out what dramatists refer to as an “obligatory scene.”

  25. Harmonyon 03 Jun 2008 at 5:43 pm

    As long as its not “Rocks Fall, They All Die”

    Seriously, you have always wrapped up your books so well that… a series wrap up shouldn’t be much different. I need some conclusions reached, the most current or pressing problems solved, I’m happy. I don’t need a bright shiny bow at the end, life isn’t like that

  26. Foz Meadowson 03 Jun 2008 at 7:24 pm


    Snaps for the Something Positive reference! :)

  27. Heather Smithon 04 Jun 2008 at 1:27 am

    I see you’ve gotten some really wonderful replies, but I thought I’d add mine anyway. First, I can’t express how much I have loved your books. I discovered the first book the summer before I started high school and have been reading them ever since for the past nine years. As I grow up, I make new connections with the characters that I couldn’t make until I had lived a little more.

    I know I will always come back to this serries, and for that reason, I’d like to know, at the end, that there is life beyond the final book. I don’t want or need to know specific details about any of the characters, but a subtle hint that everyone continues to evolve as they have done throughout the whole serries will make rereading the books more enjoyable down the road when there are no more new books to look forward to.

    Thank you for sharing this story with us.

  28. Alan Kelloggon 10 Jun 2008 at 12:40 am

    I’m way behind on my reading, and my current goal is to finish Jim Butcher’s Cursor’s Fury. After which I’ve got a pile of books to choose from until his Captain’s Fury comes out in paper back.

    Now, I’m not the type of person who insists that his fantasies have to have happy endings. Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think has a dark ending indeed. Thomas Harlan’s Oath of Empire is another meant to end badly for the world. On the other hand, David Gerrold’s series on life from a more, shall we say, competitive environment (and I can’t remember the dang name for the life of me) was supposed to end on an up note, but David soon realized it couldn’t because he’d written Terrestrial life into a corner.

    What I do ask is that the ending come naturally from the story. No DXMs (deus ex machinas) in other words. If Prince Maxian (Oath of Empire) is to succeed in his goal by becoming an even greater evil than the evil he faces, then give me a good reason for it. Don’t have the good guys win because they’re the good guys.

    Scenario: Sauron himself shows up at Rivendell while the conference is going on. He announces that he’s been given the opportunity to pay penance for all he’s down, and that as soon as he’s taken care of one matter, he’ll be returning to Eru to start his servitude. The matter involving getting elves and ents to take in and rehabilitate the orcs and trolls.

    Scenario: A wise, angelic power learns that the Dark Lord® can be overthrown, and how it can be done. The one person who can do this is … the Dark Lord®.

    A pair of suggestions for providing a different sort of fantasy tale than what most expect. Have fun with them. I provide them for the purpose of encouraging people to wonder how this kind of story can be told. :)

  29. Imogenon 11 Jun 2008 at 12:27 am

    I must admit that the endings to each mini-series in the Deverry books have always been extremely satisfying – especially the first. I think the first was the most satisfying because it did tie up most of the loose ends that had been established during that series. I feel a little lost at this juncture, however, as there are so many loose ends to tie up! The only ending that I’m absolutely craving is some sort of resolution for Rhodry – everything else is just a bonus.

    As far as the best endings for novels I have read I find Neil Gaiman does an excellent job for most of his novels – especially Neverwhere and American Gods – you feel as though there has been a resolution, but you don’t feel as though life has stopped for the characters. Many fantasy novels leave me with the feeling that nothing interesting is ever going to happen to these people again – I like to think that the end of the novel is not the end of the potential of those characters to be entertaining!

  30. Carolon 11 Jun 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Imogen, I was thinking exactly the same thing about Rhodry! I haven’y finished Shadow Isle yet (saving it for my work trip to Hanoi next week, so I don’t know what happens yet), but one thing I was thinking that I should have posted earlier was that it would be great to see some sort of resolution for Rhodry. He has had kind of a hard Wyrd, been caught in the middle of so many things. Also he is one of my favourite characters too.

    But I know that whatever you do, it will be for a reason.

    One ended I was thouroughly disappointed in was Fiona MacIntosh’s Perchanon (sp?) series. The first two book were great, nice easy read, but the last book it felt rushed and different from the rest of the story and that she killed off some characters ‘just because’.

    Okay, I’ll leave you alone now!

  31. Cainon 09 Jul 2008 at 12:25 am

    There are many things that can be said about there novels awe inspiring would be one of them, the only thing i could add to the other comments is that in the end you the author must be happy with your ending. And just because the series comes to an end doesn’t mean that Deverry wouldn’t have other Tales to tell. The spin off may work as there are still lands in the world of Deverry that may have a lot of potential.
    Ether way you choose to end it i can definitely, that your Deverry books have always been a favorite in my collection.

  32. Janon 22 Jul 2008 at 2:56 am

    You will write the ending the story deserves and not everyone will be happy with it. The important thing is that you are happy with it – then it will be the right ending.

    I think the only bad ending is that which is rushed and doesn’t ring true with the rest of the story. Why spend so much of oneself in creating a well crafted story only to rush the ending….is it sometimes to do with publisher’s deadlines?

    More that bad endings, I don’t understand why an author restarts a story that has reached its logical conclusion. For example I really enjoyed Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Chronicles which was a great read – great time and place and character development and (I thought) a satisfying completion. The author’s decision to recently revisit this saga has puzzled me.

  33. Karinaon 29 Aug 2008 at 1:23 am

    Sorry to come into this thread so late – I only just discovered the site. I agree with many others – I like an ending to feel like the characters continue to live on the one hand, whilst the story arcs are somewhat resolved (but they don’t have to be packed up neatly and tied up within an inch of their lives). I absolutely love the series, and one of the many things I love about it is how the characters continue to grow and develop even if they die. Life continues on, and we feel we will always be able to come back to Deverry and people will still be learning and growing (perhaps I am just wishing hopefully that this business you speak of in Britain doesn’t take you away from us forever – hehehehe. But seriously – I am sure there are many more stories to be told in Deverry – depending on whether you have had enough I guess). My point is – your concern about not having a one size fits all major wrap up, but rather a series of smaller resolutions is not at all a problem. We read your work because of this. We love the complexity rather than being a simplistic story arc which finishes with a war after which everyone goes home having suffered losses but happy it is over. (More on this below).

    One of the things I LOVE is that your characters are complex and multi-faceted and they go on journeys (something that happens not enough for my liking in fantasy). One of the things that makes them so, is that you don’t decide in the beginning who is good and who is evil, and then we spend the rest of the series waiting for the payoffs – the good to be rewarded or die heroes, and the bad to get their comupence (sp?) Blah, blah, blah – that is such a boring story arc, and you don’t approach things that way – thank heaven! I love how characters have the opportunity to grow and change and find redemption. And they may not all do it, but they have the opportunity. I just finished reading The Shadow Isle (more like gobbling it up – it is fabulous of course). SPOILER: I love how Laz Moj goes on an inner journey where he gets to make decisions (as foretold by Manmara) that could alter his hitheto evil flow of lives. These pivotal decisions and growth people make are far more interesting to me than everything being black and white, good and bad. I love how Neb nearly goes off the rails and then finds his way again – it really makes sense that someone with the power of Nevyn might possibly forget Nevyns wisdom and humility after a rebirth and just remember the power. Of course we would have been devistated if he had stayed off the rails, but it was good to see him go through that emotional journey, and that it isn’t decided what a person is going to be at the beginning, and they stay that way all the way through. There are always surprises and things to learn about your characters.

    The reason I mention all this (apart from that my post didn’t upload properly and I am trying to remember what my point was as I retype it – sorry) that I don’t feel the need for a catastrophic bells and whistles ending. In fact – they rarely work – unless the tone of the book early on was in that vain, and in that case I may not have been reading the book. I love Tolkein, but in my heathen opinion I far more enjoyed The Hobbit than LOR. Mostly because I get really sick of books where they are all heading towards – ‘doom is coming, oh the big evil guy is really evil, oh so very evil, how many ways can I describe how bad it all is and how very evil’. Enough already. I love the characters and the world of Tolkein, but the storytelling of The Hobbit didn’t have all that repetitive – yes I get – he’s evil, things don’t look good story arc. One of the fabulous things about The Deverry series is that there are many stories intertwined, lots of journeying and growth, and we aren’t relying on the big good vs evil clash of the titans same as every other ending explosion at the end. So I guess I am saying – I think it is wonderful that you are looking at your ending being a tying up of a combination of personal internal journeys, relationships and mysteries, as well as leaving the characters with a life after the book. That is why we love it! And yes there can be a bit of war and a few big dramas, but we know that won’t be the only thing – because there is always so much more to tell in your books.

    I would actually love the drama war bit to be The non-Alshandra Gel de Thae being led by Gallezar, Sidro, Pir, and a Laz Moj (who has had to reconcile himself to losing Sidro and come to terms with the evil he has perpetrated in the past – that discussion which he has yet to have with Rhodry and he hopefully does, and find some redemption without losing his cheekiness) take on The Horsekin. Of course they will need the backing of all the rest of the crew, but it would be good if they have their moment to ‘deal with their own’ so to speak. And of course some moment where the Westfolk get to have some resolution of the fact that The Horsekin destroyed their cities, but without necessarily destroying The Horsekin – there should be the opportunity for their redemption as well as everyone elses – whether they choose to take it is another thing. Something about how a large group of people would deal with the realisation that their Goddess is not real – as Sidro had to do. And the seperation out of those who were in it because they believed, and those who were in it for power and control. And it would be one way to bring Alshandra and Evander back into it withoout bring them back. That doesn’t mean that those who were in it for belief all get redemption of course – life is messy and we don’t always get to find our way back from bad decisions. But perhaps some of them could and become part of a city led by Gallezar with Sidro as her right-hand woman.

    Some resolution of the loss of the Westfolk cities and the lore – by beginning the rebuilding cities and continuing the rebuiliding of the lore would be wonderful, because it would leave us imaging so many more stories ahead of them. And some further journeying of the story of The Ancients, and how that relates to who they are today.

    I would love some resolution for Rhodry as would everyone, and to know more about Ebany – such wonderful characters. I would love to see another series based around Ebany, but I won’t beg. : ) Neb, Branna and Dalla have many more stories to tell I am sure, and we have only just started with the characters of Haen Marn. I can see why this might be a long book as you say : )

    I also would love to see a synopsis of previous books (a couple of paragraphs on each book) at the beginning of the book. From memory Tad Williams did this at the beginning of each book of his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, and it really helped, and meant I didn’t have to go and read the last book again before reading the next one. I especially hope George RR Martin does that before his next Song of Ice and Fire book (as the last one was 2005). It really helps you to pick up the important threads again and therefore get more out of the book. Of course I could go back and re-read the last one, but if I were to do that, I would prefer to read the series again from the start, which with Deverry is a major undertaking, and I would prefer to do that at the right time, rather than on a fact-finding mission which would take some of the leisure and enjoyment out of it. The reason for a couple of paragraphs on each book, is that there have been so many that the new book would be really enhanced if we could in our heads pick up the threads of where the story has taken us so far. There is much to remember in this wonderful huge series, and really getting it straight in my head before I start the next one would be wonderful.

    Anyway – I know this wasn’t supposed to be a wish-list thread, and whatever happens I know I will be happy, because we are in the hands of such a fabulous master storyteller. Please reassure us that this won’t be the last book we ever see from you.

    Thanks x 10000000000000

  34. Faremyron 25 Nov 2008 at 10:57 am

    I finally got my hands on The Shadow Isle and now I _know_ that there is an ending to the story… And NO, I don’t want it to end! Oh, the horror of it!
    You see, I started to read this, uhm, saga at the tender age of 16, and now I’m 29 years old. And somehow I find myself protesting against the very idea of reading _the last word/the ending_ of the Deverry series.

    I’m one of those people who will read every book in a serie if the writer is good enough/bloody great. I’ll read them and will wait for the last “chapter”. And, believe me, I can wait for a looong time, but sometimes they just overdo it (Jordan) or they neglect it (various authors). Sometimes they never end it (Pratchet) and then it’s OK, but only with a few, well known writers (Charles de Lint, Neal Gaiman). Sometimes the ending breaks your heart (The Riddle-Master: The complete trilogy, Praticia A. McPhillip) or fill it with bittersweet joy (Paul Kearney, The way to Babylon).

    The end of a story is allways filled with sorrow, or hope. Sometimes it’s happiness (or glee). A few times it’s filled with the strangest feeling of longing. Katharine Kerr called that one “hiraedd” (hiraeth, as my grandfather says).
    And now my favourite author asks about what makes an ending worth wainting for.
    But you se, dearest writer… I think that you all ready brought us that. Of course, I also think that we’ll crave The greatest Ending Of All Times.
    Simply put: the ending of a story should be as excellent as the rest of your work, if not greater.

    But, I’m not worried at all. You are amongst the greatest.

  35. Sarahon 30 Nov 2008 at 2:31 am

    I agree – the idea of an ending to a much-loved series is rather depressing :) Worlds shouldn’t come to an end! One of my favourite endings is Maurice Gee’s ending to his O series – he remains genuinely true to the principles of his writing (especially pacifism). While the ending is climactic, he does it in a truly original way and I really admire the way he achieved a pacific ending. How you end a book premised on the interrelated nature of time is a really interesting question – I look forward to it!!!

  36. Maureenon 14 Mar 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Hey guys,

    I can’t believe it took me this long to find such an awesome fantasy site.

    I’m not sure if Katherine Kerr is still reading this thread but if you are I’ve loved your books since I got them in yr 7 for a birthday present 😛 They are the only books that have made me cry!!!

    As everyone else has said you don’t need a big dramatic cimax because the Deverry saga isn’t that type of series. However, I would like Rhodry’s storyline to get resolved. out of all the many characters in this series, he’s the one I always felt got the worst end of the stick in every way possible.

    bta I love your books so much I don’t think I’ll end up faulting the ending whatever you choose.

  37. tom ap watsonon 17 Apr 2009 at 7:56 am


    Like Maureen mentioned, i’m not sure whether Katharine Kerr or anyone is still reading this thread, but still i feel the need to comment having read the Deverry series for 10 good years and never having been disappointed with the excellent style of writing.
    Firstly i have to agree with some of the earlier posts referring to an ending that could loop round in some way to interconnect with the beginning somehow, yet this comment may have come too late considering my local bookseller told me the last book should be out next month (they always seem to tell porkies though).
    Secondly I also agree that no dramatic climax is needed and like Maureen, i feel that how ever you decide to end the series, it won’t be disappointing.
    Thirdly and lastly (sorry if this sounds a little kiss-arsey, but i speak only the truth) Katharine Kerr is definitely my favourite author by far, like many other fans i find her books so readable that i lost count of the amount of times i’ve reread them years ago. This last book that will be coming out will be like the end of an era to me. I hope we can expect some more of the quality reading that Katharine Kerr has been churning out over the years, as Rhodry said to Yraen “Well done”.

  38. Maureenon 03 May 2009 at 5:11 am

    Tom I’m the same as you. i’ve compulsively read katherine kerr between all my other books because i love them so much to the stage where my mum groans at me “not that book… again!’ The Deverry Saga is definitely my fave series and only the great Philip Pullman can compete with Katherine Kerr’s writing style

  39. tom ap watsonon 01 Jul 2009 at 10:22 am

    Looks like we’re the only two writing in this thread. A few of my Kerr books are first editions and are so old they’ve gone yellow and tattered (through much use). I just can’t seem to get into a new set of books until i have Kerr’s last one and have proceeded to read it several times. Although i must agree with you, Pullman’s books are very good, but in my opinion no-one is on par with Kerr for me. It’s nice to see people like you, Maureen, who have the same fanatical obsession about Kerr’s books as i have. Keep it up! For me, I’ll keep riding the long road until the gods of wyrd wish me to stop (hehe).

  40. maureenon 03 Jul 2009 at 4:59 am

    haha I know eh.

    I actually like the Sally Lockhart novels better than Pullman’s His Dark Materials

    but i agree- Katherine Kerr is my favourtie author- if only for making me cry, get emotional numerous times when reading

    every time i read a time of exile i get mad at dallandra all over again :(

  41. Ira Naymanon 04 Jul 2009 at 2:02 am

    Not being a fantasy reader, I felt a little like a voyeur reading this thread. The book has likely already been written at this point, so I’m offering the following ideas as more of a general statement on endings.

    As I often tell my students, the two most important parts of any work of narrative art are the beginning and the end. The first few minutes of a film or television series or the first few pages of a story should set up expectation that the viewer/reader will get excited about seeing fulfilled. Conversely, a bad beginning will turn off the auditor; the writer will then have a very difficult time getting their interest back.

    The ending of a work is important because it is what will be uppermost in the mind of the auditor, and will, therefore, to a large extent determine his opinion of the overall work.

    A good ending gives the auditor a sense of closure, which means that the journey has ended. Where the conflict is external (antagonist versus protagonist), the final battle between the forces that have been set against each other usually ends the story one way or the other.

    If the conflict has been largely internal, movement by the character who has been conflicted can provide a satisfactory ending. My second favourite movie of all time, O, Lucky Man has just this kind of ending. Although the main character, Mick Travis, has traveled through a variety of British institutions, his journey has actually been from an attitude of obedience to authority to the point where he can actually question the commands other people give him. Given the picaresque nature of the film, this ending does give a kind of closure.

    One final thought: I always advise my students to determine, in broad strokes, the beginning and the ending of their stories before they start creating them. (That’s the way I write; the discovery comes in the process of filling in the path.) I understand that this is impractical for a series that stretches over many books. Nonetheless, it does make it easier to develop story and character arcs.

  42. Nardaon 08 Jul 2009 at 10:28 am

    Woo-Hoo! Just got an ad from Amazon for reserving a copy of The Silver Mage!!
    Like many readers, I’ve reread all the Deverry books over and over, greedy for these stories that interlock like “real life” does. The most recent reading, I kept a record of who was in what clan, at what year, etc. One question I have–the Red Wyvern was chosen as Prince Maryn’s symbol, yet years later, the Gold Wyvern was the standard of the decendants of Maryn. When/why/how did that particular change take place?
    And yes, Katharine, you could write in this series until the end of time, and we would all buy every book! LIFE goes on, waiting for NO ONE (hehe) and there’s another story to be told. And another, and another. This series is timeless, I will continue to read and enjoy it. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

  43. Siânon 31 Aug 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I’m certain that what ever ending you choose will be the correct one; I have read the Deverry series so many times and have never been disappointed yet. My brother, my best friend (since we were 4 years old; we are now 50 in a months time!) and I have our own mini book club where we swap books and discuss them in detail. I have read (and re-read and re-read) your books since the first was published in England and from the first line, I was hooked. After recommending your saga, my bro and buddy are also hooked! Why am I not surprised?

    To be frank, I don’t want it to end, but if it must I want to know that the characters continue to be born and reborn. I don’t think ‘an ending’ as such can apply to this series; it’s all about continuity and I’d like to see that reflected in the ending… know that life goes on, one way or another.

    I have written stories all my life and for over twenty years now your writing has been a source of inspiration to me.

    Thank you Katherine for writing my most favourite books.

    May Good Health and Happiness follow you endlessly,


  44. Siânon 31 Aug 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Brilliant, I have just found out that my Amazon pre-order for the Silver Mage is due on my 50th birthday….what a present!

  45. maureenon 31 Aug 2009 at 10:42 pm


    My brother and I read the Katherine Kerr books together too :) We have discussions about where the plots going all the time… we’re convinced the dark dweomer will make one last appearance aided and abetted by the boars… but only time will tell

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