Monday, September 16, 2013

Cliffhangers that made you throw the book across the room

 I encountered a cliff-hanger like that once, and that’s not hyperbole. It’s at the end of Barbara Hambly’s Silent Tower, and on finishing the book—for the first and only time in my life—I stood up and hurled the book across the room. It hit my bedroom door, but any noise it made was lost in the sound of me swearing.

And I was justified! The bad guy had done a wonderful job of framing the hero for his own crimes. (Antryg Windrose is one of my favorite heroes, too.) And the heroine, who has brains as well as guts, has made the horribly hard but (given the evidence) right choice, and turned Antryg over to the forces of law and order—who are going to execute him. And then she finds new evidence, and realizes that he was telling the truth all along. He’s innocent, the bad guy has now won. And she’s trapped in our world with the bad guy, and has no way to get back to Antryg’s world to save him…and the book freaking ends!!!

Even typing this years after the fact, I still find that utterly outrageous…as a reader. As an author, I remember that I waited on tenterhooks for the next book to come out, bought it the instant it did, and devoured it. So do I want to do that to my own readers? In fairness to Barbara Hambly she doesn’t do this often, and with these two books (the next is Silicon Mage) it was the most logical place to break them. But how often can an author hit you with cliffhangers before the reader decides the suspense is too much, and they’ll wait till the second book comes out so they can read the whole thing? I’ve been known to do that, too.

Lisa Gail Green says: Catching Fire made me want to throw the book against the wall because Mockingjay had not come out yet. I was so mad! I preordered the last book, received it the day it came out and proceeded to pretty much lock myself in my room until 2 AM when I finished. That's probably only reinforcing the idea that you SHOULD leave books with cliffhangers, but I would argue that it's because it's the Hunger Games, so…

Erin Cashman says: I LOVED Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys, but at the end of the book the vision from the beginning of the book has not yet come to pass -- so I don't know what happens to Gansey! Now I'm waiting impatiently for The Dream Thieves to come out in a few weeks to see if he lives or dies. If done right, I don't mind a cliff hanger at all. Enough other elements have to have a satisfactory resolution for a cliff hanger to work and not be annoying. I especially don't mind them if I don't have to wait too long for the sequel!

As a reader, do you love cliffhangers or hate them? What cliffhangers made you throw a book across the room, or at least want to? And do you think it’s a good idea for an author to use them?


  1. I hate cliffhangers with a passion. So much so that I made a pact with myself years ago. May mean that I am years behind the rest of the world in reading popular books but when I buy books, I buy the entire series at one time.

    Only time I break my self promise is if I am given, win or are loaned a book with a review request attached. Fortunately, that doesn't happen all that often. Which is a good thing. My pets tend to play least in sight for days after one of those book throwing sessions...

    Personally, I do not think they are necessary. If I loved book one, I am confident I will love book 2 and I'll be all over it on release day.

    I don't see where it is any different from buying an author's next series. If I loved one series by author X I will definitely want to read another and there are no cliffhangers driving that decision.

    May also have something to do with the fact that I have atleast 2 series sitting on my bookshelves that will never be completed. In both cases the author has vanished, poof, gone. I'll never know how the stories were supposed to end and that is a heartbreak I have no desire to put myself through ever again.

  2. The end of THE GOLDEN COMPASS/NORTHERN LIGHTS by Philip Pullman is almost literally a cliffhanger--well, maybe you'd call it a "stairhanger": characters you care immensely about walk up into the sky and POOF! Book over!

    I didn't throw the book across the room, but I did whimper aloud.

    I certainly see the reasons for cliffhanger endings--you want people to be waiting in lines outside the bookstore for Volume 2! Of course!

    But that leaves me in a quandary: as a reader, I really like stories to come to some kind of end. When I started writing books, I was determined to respect the wishes of my readerself by giving every story its own conclusion--even if a Volume 2 lurked in the wings.

    As a writer, however, I see that maybe that's a little counter-productive! If Volume 1 comes to a satisfying conclusion, who will even suspect there IS a Volume 2? :)

  3. Not a big fan of hanging off the cliff. Fortunately, I'm always behind the times and tend to get around to series long after they're complete. So after Pullman had them walk into the sky, I merely reached over and grabbed the next book. My own tween fantasy e-book series is more Oz-like, each story complete in itself and taking place on the same world with some familiar characters.

  4. If I LOVE the book, cliffhangers tortue me but insure I'm going to buy the next. If I'm sorta 'meh' about the characters a cliffhanger then just serves to mildly annoy me. =)


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