This week the Top Ten Tuesday meme at The Broke and the Bookish allows for any past topic to be chosen. This is a perfect opportunity to go through their previous topics and pick out a cool one that I missed. “Top Ten Book Endings That Left Me With My Mouth Hanging Open” caught my eye, although only after I started writing up my list did I realize that I couldn’t actually think of ten books for this…
But the ones that I did think of are worth talking about, so I’m still doing the list.
Massive spoilers follow, due to the nature of the topic. Some spoilers are much more explicit than others. The first one is the most explicit of all.
1. Blood and Iron: I guess I just don’t expect my fae stories to end with the characters unleashing a dragon on the world in a plot to reveal the existence of the Otherworld to the human population. Or the main character giving up her soul. Or King Arthur dying.
2. A Storm of Swords: I should note that, no, I’m not going with A Game of Thrones. Maybe it was because back then, when I’d first read it, I hadn’t read enough fantasy to have a good reference point for which characters tend to live or die. Or maybe it was because I always thought of ASOIAF as having an ensemble cast.
But either way, Ned Stark didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the big event in the third book in the series, the RW. Those who’ve read the books will understand.
3. The Iron Knight: This was a YA novel, and the fourth in a series where I’d already read the first three books. So I wasn’t expecting it to delve into the issues that might face a fae who became human, especially when he did so to be with an immortal faery queen. I didn’t expect them to address how he might feel, being weaker than he was, or how his life might be like when he aged and his wife didn’t.
Of course, this was still a YA novel–none of it stuck. But just the fact that it was addressed in the first place was enough to surprise me, and the deep feeling of sacrifice permeating those passages definitely contributed to the story.
4. Feed: The possibility that this could have happened never even entered my mind. No Ned Stark-like situation here; the character in question was clearly the main character. She was the first person narrator.
This is a zombie novel, so I wouldn’t have been surprised at any other death. Except this one.
5. Acacia: It’s interesting how much this shocked me, since A Game of Thrones didn’t. My working theory is that Ned Stark didn’t have anything big in the works prior to his death that could change the game. The death in question here, however, absolutely shocked me.
For added pain, his character was just one step away changing everything for the better. I could literally picture how the world would have been, because he was that close. Instead, it all fell to pieces. Did not see that coming at all.
6. Ascendant: I was pretty surprised by some of the places that this book went. I mean, the first person narrator got brain damage. I’m sure it’s been done, but I’ve never seen it before, and certainly didn’t expect it in a YA urban fantasy.
Also, the book is about killer unicorns, which is completely irrelevant, but impossible not to mention. Unfortunately, there isn’t another book under contract, and this feels like it was meant to be the second book in a series, not the final book in a duology.
7. A Song of Arbonne: My reason for being surprised by it is a little different from the other entries on this list. I had previously read two Guy Gavriel Kay books (Tigana and Lions of al-Rassan).
This allowed me to develop a formula in my head for how I reacted to his books: I began reading them, got hooked, fell in love with the characters, only for something tragic and amazing to happen to tear my heart out and stomp on it. After getting over that last bit, I would come to accept that this book was one of the greatest I have ever read.
But as I was getting to the end of A Song of Arbonne, I started wondering why there was no heart-stomping happening. I even started to believe that it wouldn’t happen, that this book would refrain from a poignant, tragic moment. This false sense of security allowed the eventual poignant scene in question to conduct a sneak attack. I didn’t see it coming, because I’d decided the attack wasn’t going to happen after all. But it did, and it came in a form that I hadn’t even imagined might happen.