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Enough With the Damned Cliffhangers Already!

My Thoughts by Tom A. Wright

Annoying cliffhanger in book

 Update Below

I’ve been reading a series of books by Andy McDermott. (Spoiler Alert. Don’t read this article if you don’t want to know what happens at the end of Empire Of Gold.) The series follows Archeologist Nina Wilde and her protector, then boyfriend, then husband, ex-SAS Eddie Chase. The books are almost a modern-day Indiana Jones. The writer knows how to do action sequences, and he created very engaging characters. The books are fun to read, despite the repetitiveness of over-used story-telling tricks. (C’mon, now. How many times can our heroes be captured, manage a daring escape, get captured again, and escape again, multiple times in multiple books?)

The latest of his books I’ve read is Empire of Gold. It started off great, where you learn about Eddie’s past, involving one of this books primary villains. The book delved deeper into Eddie’s dark side, and a fundamental difference in attitude between him and Nina. By the time the final climax of the book, you can see how this difference, and the dark events that preceded it were taking its toll on our heroes’ relationship. The story had me hooked, eagerly awaiting the conclusion. But the conclusion never came. In fact, the bad guy gets away, along with a villain thought dead from previous books. On top of that, Nina sees Eddie kill a traitor in self-defense, but only sees enough to believe he killed the man only out of anger. With Nina believing Eddie a murderer, he runs away, planning to find a way to prove his innocence. A cliffhanger.

Needless to say, I wanted to throw the book across the room when I finished it. I was emotionally invested in the story, in Eddie and Nina’s relationship, and being left where it did made me feel cheated. This is especially frustrating because of how long I’ll have to wait to read the next one.

Some analytical soul reading this will say that the ending had the desired affect. That I will anxiously buy the new book once it comes out. The soul(s) who believe that are missing an important fact in their reasoning. The emotional levels that keep me (and others) reading the book, and caring for the characters, are high as a build up of the story. Those emotions fade with time. What keeps me coming back book after book in a series is the amount of satisfaction I received reading the stories before. What I’ll remember when the next book in the series comes out is not how I felt during my previous reading experience, but how angry, used and manipulated I felt once I finished reading it.
This isn’t the only book series I’ve read that has done this. The way Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince ended left me feeling somewhat similar when Dumbledore died in the end. If it wasn’t for knowing the next Potter book would conclude the series, and the vested interest I had in the other HP characters, I might not have read the last. Many of the other authors I’ve read who’ve done this lost me as a reader. And don’t get me started on TV series that do this. End of the season cliffhangers can be just as frustrating, but can ruin the entire series if the episode and/or story arc are not resolved and the series is canceled. (The 4400 is a prime example of this.)

As a writer, I will never, ever do this to my readers. First and foremost, I will always make sure the story I’m telling will be complete by the end. This doesn’t mean I’ll never do a series. I already have a series with Distant Ties and the sequel Broken Ties. And, sometime in the future, I plan to write a third, called Ancient Ties. Each of these books can be read by themselves, and still be enjoyed, leaving a feeling of story closure. Also, A book I write may not end in a way that people expect, but will bring closure in a way that compels your imagination to see how the story resolves.

So, will I buy and read the next Nina and Eddie novel when it comes out? Probably, but writer Andy McDermott will have to re-earn my trust. If he pulls another cliffhanger, that will be the last book I read from him.


Have read the next book, Return to Atlantis (UK version named Temple of the Gods) and am quite pleased. No additional cliffhangers, fun read and the story is wrapped up. I'll just hope he doesn't try a cliffhanger again.

March, 2013

Tom A. Wright
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