The most shocking plot twists

I was just thinking about startling plot twists.

I don’t mean “and then she woke up” kinds of things. That is not a plot twist, it’s blatant cheating on the part of the author, which is why it’s universally hated by everyone who has ever been subjected to it. Probably by a good many people who have never seen that kind of ending, but can imagine how awful it is.

Nor do I mean “then the protagonist succeeds after all, against all odds” kinds of things. That’s not really a plot twist either, even if it’s super-clever and you didn’t see it coming. You knew all along the protagonist was going to succeed somehow. It’s interesting to see how, especially if the author does something clever that is not a deus ex cheat, but it’s not a twist.

I’m sure there are many many many wonderful, shocking plot twists out there, but I’ve thought of three. One is more, um, twisty, than the others, so from least shocking to most shocking:

1) Echo in Emerald. The plot twist is a small one, but it really made me sit up straight. I may have yelled out loud. You all might see it coming when you listen to or read this book, but I did not.

2) The Demon’s Surrender. This one kind of falls into the “protagonist succeeds in a surprising way” category, but it was so unanticipated that I’m going to count it anyway. The whole trilogy, which starts with The Demon’s Lexicon, has a lot of startling moments. Very intense trilogy. I truly must read something else by Sarah Rees Brennan this year.

3) And All the Stars. No one is EVER going to see THAT coming. I would put actual money on that bet. No one. Ever. Andrea K Höst has pulled off some startling plot twists here and there, but this one is unbeatable.

If you have a favorite shocking plot twist, drop it in the comments! If you’ve read And All the Stars, well, agree or disagree about this particular plot twist being absolutely at the top? Have you possibly got a contender that might beat it?

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7 thoughts on “The most shocking plot twists”

  1. I think my favorites are in:

    The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner
    Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
    A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray (not 100% sure which one in the series had the twist I’m thinking of)

    In all cases, I was surprised when I first read it, but found clear clues when I reread, which is the key to a memorable plot twist in my opinion

  2. Craig Neumeier

    Oooh, good choice Lise.

    Tim Powers’ THE ANUBIS GATES has some pretty impressive plot twists, though since time travel is involved he has advantages other writers don’t.

  3. The twist in And All The Stars made me sit back and go, “Whoa!” I like when an author does something like that and you look back through the book and the hints were there all along.
    Susanna Kearsley pulled off a neat twist at the end of The Rose Garden which made me flip the pages back and see “Oh yeah… why didn’t I see that?”
    Though the ultimate plot twist, to my mind, was Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

  4. I’m rereading the first Foreigner novel in between other books right now, partially because of that twist in Visitor which made me want to see if there were hints about it that I missed!

    Carol Berg is another author who’s quite good at twists, I never finished the Rai-Kirah series because the second book was so emotionally grueling but there were some really well-done unexpected reveals about the nature of magic in the world in it. She’s on my mind because I’ve just picked up her new book under the pen name Cate Glass which came out yesterday to try.

  5. Every time I reread And All the Stars I pause to savor that twist.

    N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season – is that a twist or directly adjacent? Either way, there’s a nice added depth to it.

    Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes, which makes so much painful sense.

  6. Jan the Alan Fan

    Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles / Galactic Milieu book series had a few plot twists that didn’t take any prisoners.

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