Okay, so this kind of goes with the recent post in which I pointed to a Quora question about books with bad, unsatisfying endings.
Obviously I must have done posts on this topic before, but it’s so parallel with the recent post. Therefore: What are some books or series with particularly great endings? I have four candidates.
1) The Phoenix Feather quadrilogy by Sherwood Smith.
Here we have the phoenix feather itself, a plot element in the background through the whole quadrilogy. Who is destined to take the feather and be great? Mouse? Seems like it should be Mouse. Her older brother? That’s her assumption, but then Mouse herself obviously heads toward greatness. But maybe someone else?
So, … spoiler warning! … but to me this is a delightful spoiler that would make me anticipate the ending even more. Still, here comes a spoiler! Scroll down to the next book cover image if you want to skip it.
It’s not ONE person who gets the feather, it’s all of them! It’s everyone! That phoenix feather gets passed from hand to hand through the climactic chapters, everyone using its power to accomplish their own part of the action and then handing it on. This is BRILLIANT. It’s an enormously satisfying method of winding up four books’ worth of building the story.
I don’t think this is a flawless series — very good, but not flawless — but I do think it’s a practically flawless ending.
What other books or series do a particularly great job with the ending?
2) The Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novik.
I raved about this one, as I’m sure you all remember. Wow, what a tremendously elegant and satisfying ending. All the pieces of the worldbuilding and plotting click into place AND we have a redemption subplot for the whole school, practically all the students rescued in that last scramble at the end of the second book, plus various other elements that seemed quite awful were suddenly reinterpreted, and it’s all perfectly believable.
That’s such a great ending. And in this case, the whole series is indeed practically flawless straight through from beginning to end.
3) The Ancillary Justice trilogy by Ann Leckie, and my goodness, who decided to put these new covers on the trilogy? Wow, not great.
What in the world? I mean, it’s Bright Red, so if that was what the publisher wanted, good job. But … what? Pointless geometric shapes? What?
Regardless, this is such a great series, and the ending is super neat, and one of the super neat things about it is this: In order to work, Breq must be unaware of her — its — own motivations and pretty much unaware of its own plans. This would NEVER have worked in most books, but in this trilogy, Breq is genuinely unaware of many of its own motivations right from the beginning. The READER is pretty clear on those motivations, but Breq, not so much, and so this important and strange element of the protagonist’s character leads directly to the ending. This is SO COOL.
I know this is putting myself in high-level company, but:
4) The Tuyo main trilogy: Tuyo, Tarashana, Tasmakat.
I was actually fairly intimidated by the idea of this book. I knew what I wanted to do with it, but I was worried I might not be able to pull it off. But once I moved forward with it, I didn’t find the most important elements nearly as difficult as I’d feared. It did take time to build to the climax, but that’s fine, I don’t think anyone will feel that the story drags significantly.
I’m very happy with how it came out, and genuinely confident that almost all readers are going to love those crucial plot elements, including the ending. I mean, there’s always variation and no doubt someone somewhere will dislike the ending, but that’s hard for me to actually imagine because I personally think the ending came out beautifully.
When I sent Tano to first readers, I was like, “Gosh, I hope everyone likes this story!” [Spoiler: they did.] But when I sent Tasmakat out to first readers, I was much more confident and in fact gleeful about it, like, “Oh, I can’t WAIT till they hit the part where ____.” Some elements concerned me, but not the ending.
Okay! If you’ve got a book or series — I notice all these are series — with a particularly well-done, successful, satisfying ending, please drop it in the comments!