Happy Endings (or NOT)

When I first starting writing, I received wise advice: Read!

Unfortunately, reading was something I had few minutes to indulge in. I saved books for vacations, voraciously gobbling them down at the exclusion of other pastimes. That scrimping for minutes ended several years ago when I began writing fulltime. I tap out my own stories during the day and rabidly consume the books of others into the night’s wee hours.

I’ve been reading fantasy, my genre, and spoiling myself with completed series. I hate waiting years for the next book and, frankly, don’t have the memory for it. By the time George Martin comes out with the next installment of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, I’ll have forgotten all the details that thread through the story and make it a rich read. (And isn’t it interesting that the movie will finish the story before the books do?

Starting that series wasn’t the only mistake I’ve made. Patrick Rothfuss is killing me with his fabulous Kingkiller Chronicles. Never again, I say. It amounts to reader-torture. And, I’ll tell you, after this long wait, the story better end happily! Which brings me to the point of this post…

I just inhaled two trilogies, Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire series and Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy. I loved both and highly recommend them (lots of stars). However – slight spoiler alert here – neither series ends on what I’d call a happy note. A sense of peace, yes, but happy? Nope.

A friend told me that we endure a large dose of wrenching evil in the books we read because we get that incredible high when our protagonists prevail. We like the white hats to come out on top, their pain and sacrifice rewarded. We want to savor that last page and shout, “Yes!” not, “Oh, well.”

Perhaps it’s the blight of our times that we don’t expect happily-ever-after, can’t imagine it, even in our fantasies.

Lawrence’s and Hobb’s trilogies are beautifully written, compelling, and emotionally loaded, the characters richly textured and unforgettable. The reality of the human experience plays out in their lives, despite the fantasy worlds they inhabit. I love that, truly, but once in a while, I wouldn’t mind closing a book with a smile.