In my wanders around the book review blogosphere, I discovered a fun little activity hosted by The Broke and the Bookish: Tuesday Top Tens! Every week the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish come up with a different list for bloggers to think about and answer, and this week it’s the ten best and worst series enders.
Best Series Enders
1. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay is a controversial book, and a fair number of fans and reviewers absolutely loathe it. I, on the other hand, adore this novel. It wasn’t a dynamic climax where the good guys won. In fact, our main character was struggling with severe PTSD and depression, could barely function throughout the plot, and saw the remaining good in her life completely dismantled and killed. It was a dystopia that wasn’t afraid to be a dystopia. Not to say that the book was not without its problems and poor writing choices, but I liked the dark ending and the fact that Katniss didn’t turn out to be a shining, heroic figure. I thought that this very real ending was a brave choice for a YA novel.
2. The Sandman Volume 10: The Wake – Neil Gaiman
The Sandman is a series that ended without the main character succeeding in the traditional sense. In fact, the Dream that we know throughout the series ceases to be, and The Wake is how the other characters (and readers) mourn and say goodbye. Too many books rush through their denouement and don’t allow time for the story to decompress and for the events of the climax to sink in. The Wake, on the other hand, took its time to end the story, and gave us all a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful series.
3. Shades of Earth – Beth Revis
The Across the Universe series is a fun set of YA books that I discovered quite by surprise. The first two books tell the story of Amy, a girl who was cryogenically frozen on Earth to become a colonist on a new planet, but who is woken up early to face turmoil on the ship. Shades of Earth, however, takes the story in a completely different direction. The characters have reached the new planet, all of the colonists are awake, and the conflicts are scarier and more dangerous. While sometimes dramatic changes are too jarring for a series ender (see The Shade of the Moon below), this one did everything it needed to do to bring the series to an exciting climax and end it at an appropriate and satisfying spot
4. How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny
Admittedly, I might be calling this a series ender when it is not, but the book wrapped up the ongoing plot line running through the Inspector Gamache series, so I’m going to list it here and hope that I am proven wrong. As I mentioned in my review for this novel, I loved every bit of this story. After nine books, the slowly developed, overarching plot that has been percolating since book one of the series is resolved in a fulfilling and emotionally satisfying manner. My favourite characters emerged from their darkest days intact, and it had a happy ending that gave me the deepest warm and fuzzy feelings.
5. Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy) – Mira Grant
The Newsflesh series is one that I never anticipated reading. A very zealous bookstore clerk talked me into buying the first volume, and I was back the next day for books two and three because I was just enthralled. Grant managed to write a trilogy where every book is exciting and offers something new and interesting for the reader (no middle book syndrome here!). Blackout wrapped up the thrilling plot that started in Feed, and in the end, our main characters were united and got to ride off to the Canadian wilderness for their quiet, happy ending (where no one except zombies wanted to kill them).
Worst Series Enders
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling
Never have I been so disappointed with a book series than I was with Harry Potter. Like many, I followed JK Rowling’s work for years, and my expectations kept getting higher and higher. However, once I got to the epilogue in book seven where all the kids were adults with their own, fan-fiction named kids, I was torn between crying and throwing the book out the nearest window. I could have handled the fact that Harry and his friends were all implausibly married to their high school sweethearts if the book hadn’t glossed over all of the interesting and difficult work that should have happened after Voldemort was defeated. The series had brought up all of these intriguing questions about power, communities, compassion, and oppression, but almost none of them were actually addressed in the ending. Readers were expected to believe that the wizarding world was largely back to normal after it had been torn apart at its very foundations, and my suspension of belief just isn’t that strong. Harry and co’s happy ending felt meaningless to me because I didn’t feel like they all quite deserved one yet. Too much work was left to be done at the end of book seven for me to be satisfied with this conclusion. Oh well, there’s always fanfiction, right?
2. Have Robot, Will Travel – Alex Irvine
Have Robot, Will Travel lands on my worst series enders list because it didn’t really give the series an ending. Perhaps this was a case of a planned continuation being cancelled, but I came out of the book with more questions than answers, and the characters didn’t receive very much resolution. It did tell an entertaining story, but it failed because I was left wanting more when there was no more plot to be devoured!
3. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
Mostly Harmless is an example of a book that I didn’t dislike as a story, but one that I did not appreciate as the ending to a series. I really enjoyed the humour of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and you can tell that Adams was not feeling at his most hopeful during the time that he wrote his last book. The story was a great deal darker and more depressing than the other installments, and I finished it feeling sad and a bit distraught. Adams himself never intended to leave the series on such a dour note, and eventually I’ll have to read Colfer’s sixth book to see if it gives me the closure that I need.
4. Shadow of the Giant (Ender’s Shadow) – Orson Scott Card
At one point in time in my life, Ender’s Game would have been at the top of my list of favourite books. I followed the entire series almost religiously, and recommended it to all of my friends. As the series progressed, however, Card’s personal beliefs about how life should be lived started to get more and more obvious. I found myself enjoying his books less and less as they felt more like an opportunity for him to preach about how to live a “good” (Mormon) life. The characters suffered a lot in this final volume from this increased moralising, and this final book of the series (or subsection of the series) soured the rest of the Ender novels for me.
5. The Shade of the Moon (Last Survivors) – Susan Beth Pieffer
This last book is a bit of a cheat since I haven’t actually read it myself. In fact, I refuse to read this book because of how much it has changed the story and themes from the original novel in the series. Life as We Know It is a disaster/survival story following a single family’s reaction to the drastic climate changes brought about by a shift in the moon’s orbit. The Shade of the Moon, however, is a dystopia about the rise of a new society from the remnants of this almost destroyed world. The main character has changed, and everything that the first few books focused on is tossed aside for these new ideas. Since I haven’t read it myself, I can’t comment on whether the book is any good or not, but I do know that I am really not fond of a series who tosses aside several main characters at the end of its run without giving them a satisfying resolution. If the author really wanted to shift things up so drastically, why not just start another series?