I happened to see a comment, in a review of PURE MAGIC, about how the reader didn’t have to worry about anybody important dying in this book, but probably someone would die in Book III.
Hmm, I said to myself. Actually, it’s true, isn’t it, that the body count was a lot higher in BLACK DOG than in PURE MAGIC. I’m not sure whether it’s really *so* plain that no one is at risk in PURE MAGIC . . . I would hope that the reader entertains some doubts about that from time to time, in fact. But the truth is, I’m not sure whether or not I’m going to kill anybody important in Book III, either.
Of course, I’m not envisioning this as a trilogy, but as a five-book series with short stories in between each pair of novels. So to me, Book III has never felt like the ending. I am practically certain one important character is going to die in the 4th or 5th book. I really don’t know myself whether some of the other characters will die. Maybe, maybe not. That’s the kind of thing that I only know for sure when I get there.
At the moment, I must say, I really don’t *want* to kill anybody. I really like the whole cast! If, as the plot unscrolls, it becomes reasonable not to kill anybody, then I won’t force it.
To me, sometimes it looks an awful lot like an important character dies because the author is determined to kill them, not because the plot leads to or through a necessary death.
I’m not talking here about the GAME OF THRONES kind of thing, where the body count is so very very very high and practically no one is safe. I’m talking about the author deliberately reaching into the plot and stabbing an important secondary protagonist in the back, so to speak, in order to manipulate the reader’s experience. IMO, if you can spot the author’s hand holding the knife, it’s a serious failing.
I stopped reading Stephen King novels because at some point in his career, it became clear that King was deliberately inserting The Nice Character in order to kill her. I say her because The Nice Character seems to be, usually (always?) female and usually (always?) she is someone the other characters particularly want to protect. We saw that in CELL, if I remember correctly, and even more blatantly in DUMA KEY. Once you see the author doing this, you can’t unsee it. Then the death of the character becomes so obviously manipulative it’s almost offensive.
For me . . . and by now everyone’s read THE HUNGER GAMES, right? Because here comes a spoiler:
. . . the death of Prim at the end of MOCKINGJAY also feels blatantly manipulative and seems to oppose the natural shape of the plot. I realize other readers may not feel that way. Opinions about this series are highly variable. But some deaths grow naturally out of the plot and this one did not feel that way to me. It felt like the author reaching in and using Prim to stab Katniss in the back.
To take one obvious counterexample, this is not the case at all with Aral Vorkosigan’s death, which was actually necessary to the shape of the Vorkosigan series. That is what I mean by the death of an important character arising from the plot. It would have felt quite different if Bujold had let, say, Bel Thorne die.
In contrast, it was awfully convenient that Ekaterin’s first husband died. I really didn’t think he was going to; I thought Bujold would do something else, something less obvious, to get him out of the way. Of course that’s not a death to manipulate the reader; it’s a death to clear the way for your protagonists. That doesn’t feel offensive to me, just a bit pat.
Anyway. As I said, I’m almost certain that at least one important character in the Black Dog series is going to die, though probably not for a while. I really don’t know about some of the others. It’s a dangerous universe and the challenges everyone’s going to face in Book III are pretty serious. But I hope that whoever dies, their death will feel like a natural part of the plot rather than something imposed from the outside, as it were.