Kage Baker: Make a Satisfying Ending
by Stella Atrium 2/27/13
Genre writers are encouraged to build a brand by writing a series of
books instead of stand-alone books. The nature of cliff-hangers means
some characters have unresolved story lines at the end of Book I, like Darth Vadar who survives when the death star is destroyed. Why waste a well-drawn bad guy in a single catastrophe?
Today’s trend is to leave unresolved story lines over several books like GRR Martin’s Game of Thrones
that gives the reader episodic morsels following four related main
characters (after he killed off the hero types). I like to think writers
today are experimenting with stereotypes and resisting the expected
ending with surprises and anti-heroes.
series writers provide an ending twist where characters struggle
against the armies of the undead over 300-pages toward a deserted island, but come up
empty-handed for the needed talisman to save the empire, as in
Abercrombie’s Before They are Hanged. Somehow I felt betrayed. I had invested a whole afternoon but had no denouement for my time spent.
So when the story in The Anvil of the World
neatly tied up all concerns into a hopeful package at the end, I had
this odd sense of satisfaction, a feature that was once a prerequisite
to securing a publishing deal. Hurrah for self-publishing!
Baker’s story is targeted for younger readers and rides along on
jeopardy and humor while an unseen bad influence pursues the extended
family of Smiths. The caravan colleagues flee danger to open a hotel in a
seedy part of town while characters discover they are really blood
relatives. Even the demons are siblings. It seems that survivors of
armed conflicts from decades ago hid babies in brothels, only to find
the current kitchen waif is that very child grown into a malleable girl.
Vapors of Charles Dickens.
the third episode means the (now related) humans serve a squabble that
has erupted among the demons, and our hero Smith provides the key that
erases the troublesome human race, but refuses to use it, cutting off
his own arm. The friends (human and demon) repair back to the hotel
where, lo and behold, the kitchen waif gives birth to a child destined
to redeem the race.
If this storyline seems forced, it was. The
characters are well-drawn, though, with humor and surprise to provide
enough entertainment along the way that I can recommend Kage Baker’s story to the YA audience who aren’t as jaded on archetypal fantasy as this reader.