Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hanging Off A Cliff

I know everyone has mixed feelings on cliffhangers. Some people despise them, others appreciate them. I tend to fall in the latter category. Why? Because if a book engages me enough to make my jaw drop with a fantastic cliffhanger, it is already a hit. Whether that book ended that way or not, the chances of me picking up the next one are already strong. If I didn’t like the book, it doesn’t really matter how cliffhangery the ending is—I probably won't be picking up the next one. By the time it would even come out, my desire to know would be gone anyhow.

The books that have the most outstanding cliffhangers for me are the ones that I don’t need to reread the last several pages to tell you exactly what happened. In fact, I often tend to remember even more about the book as a whole when it ends on a cliffhanger that really grabs me. Not to mention the fact that while there are more than one kind of cliffhanger, I think the ones that many people dislike are the super abrupt ending ones. But think about this way—would you rather the story be ended a little earlier, without as much tying over to the next book, or would you want to pick up right into the action in the next book?

So… because I’ve been thinking about this lately, in part because of some talks I’ve had with a few other bloggers and some reviews I’ve skimmed where people actually gave the book a lower rating because they didn’t like that it had a cliffhanger ending… this post is dedicated to some of my favorite cliffhangers.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: This one is, in my opinion, the best kind of cliffhanger. It isn’t just trying to force you to read the next book, but rather, this one ties everything up… and then throws a twist. Sure, my jaw dropped and a few choice words might have gone through my head (okay, four choice words did go through my head), but Hawkins pretty much had her own burst of brilliance with this. She easily could have waited, and thrown that at us at the beginning of book two. Instead, she’s given us all a taste of what is to come, while still leaving it impossible to predict specifics.

Firelight by Sophie Jordan: This is one of the more, ends abruptly kind of cliffhangers, but still ties up the majority of the plot for this book. The way I view the ending to Firelight is that it’s a good stopping point before book two. Things are about to really amp up from what I can tell based on that ending, and I personally would rather have an entire book devoted to that. This is part of the art of cliffhangers- where to stop and how. And this one nailed it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: If you think Firelight had an abrupt ending, it’s nothing compared to this one. This is a mix of the kind of cliffie in Hex Hall and the Firelight one. It throws a whole new twist, while still cutting off all the events of book one. But then when you read book two, you realize that was the needed and perfect stopping point. And I can even quote exactly what the final line is in both books one and two because they stood out to me that much.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead: Each book ends on a cliffhanger, growing more shocking as the series continues. Honestly, though, in a series like this, there’s no way around it. When there are several long running plots between the books, can there be anything but a cliffhanger when it’s impossible to wrap everything up at the end of each book? Nope. And honestly? It’s how impressively Mead handles all the long running arcs, while adding in new things to every book that astounds me. Sure, I curse and pout at the end of each book, mostly because I am so invested I want more. Is it the ending itself that ticks me off? No. I think they are about twelve Einstein’s worth of brilliant.

There you have it. My take on cliffhangers. I don’t think they are there just to sucker you in to having to keep reading even if you hate it, nor do I think authors are jerks for including them. I fully appreciate their purpose and their applications.


  1. I love cliffhangers if the story is well written. I just finished one that there is no plans for a sequel, yet she left a cliffhanger of sorts. She didn't tie up alot of loose ends and left a lot of questions. We have to use our imagination and guess if they will ever meet again or if they never did. The mystery was never solved, just glossed over.

    Now author Rachel Caine and her Morganville series---that author knows how to leave you with cliffhangers and throwing the book in frustration because you know you will be waiting FOREVER to find out what happens for the next book!!

  2. I agree with you about the good cliffhangers like firelight. But there are times when there are books that should have finished a long time ago but the author is milking it for more money.(i'm not going to say which one's should have ended because that's my opinion and not always what others agree with )


  3. I am with you!!! And I totally agree with you on VA...Blood Promise is one of my all time favorite books!!!

  4. I love cliffhangers! The anticipation for the next book is part of the fun.

    I agree with Firelight. I just finished it and thought the ending was perfect. It leaves you really wanting to know what happens, but not absolutely dying from 1,000 unanswered loose ends.

    Great post!

  5. I have a love/hate relationship with cliffhangers. I like cliffhangers, the good ones, they leave you wanting for more, and sometimes they give you more, but you'll have to wait for soooo long for them! I hate waiting, I'm impatient. It's the waiting, not knowing and curiousity burning part that I hate.

    otherwise, I'm fine with cliffhangers.

  6. Like Fi-chan, I have a love/hate relationship as well. What I mostly hate is when the book's ending captivates me when the rest of the book didn't. It tears me apart trying to figure out whether I should read the next one.

  7. I too have a love/hate feeling when it comes to cliffhangers. First of all, probably 85% of the books I read are series books. I love a good series. I like knowing the world and rules in it. But I have a tendency o read them in batches of 3 or 4 at a time as I hate the wait between books. So cliffhangers don't bother me one way or the other although I do like to have some questions unanswered as this keeps the book in the back of my mind much longer.

  8. i love the vampire academy clifhangers although the fifth books cliffhanger did wrench my gut a little bit

    i like cliffhangers that tie things up but give you that little hook for the next book...i think that makes a good series

    the all time worst clifhanger in history is the clifhanger at the end of burned by pc and kristen cast...that was REALLY bad and it was so obviously done