11 June 2010

The E Word

A word of warning. I am about to discuss a topic that results in wailing and the gnashing of teeth by even the most mild-mannered of readers. Yes, I'm talking about the....the E word... *looks left and right* *whispers* Epilogue. There, I said it. I know that for most of you epilogues are evil incarnate. Books should finish, not dribble on and on and on, yes? Well...it depends. I know you're all probably groaning right now, but I'm a fence sitter, what can I say *grin*

At the end of last week I finished reading Shalador's Lady (Anne Bishop), and it was lovely! One of the things I enjoyed about both The Shadow Queen and Shalador's Lady was the rebuilding aspect. A quick recap (and spoilers ahoy for those of you who have not read the Black Jewels series). At the end of Queen of Darkness (the third book in the Black Jewels trilogy) the war among the Blood was decisively ended. But...did the story end there? The author chose not too (end it there), and has instead written a number of follow-up books, including The Shadow Queen and Shalador's Lady, both of which deal with the rebuilding of Blood society.

Maybe it's just me, but I find that the majority of fantasy novels deal only with destruction. What I mean is - enter the villain stage left, who decides to rule the worldTM and in doing so destroys society. Enter the hero and his/her various sidekicks stage right, who fight the villain (and...come to think of it...the villain is usually male...the only exception I can think of ATM are the uber villains in the Black Jewel trilogy). By the end of the book the hero wins, the villain loses. The end. Except...it isn't. What's left is a power vacuum. And who steps in to fill that vacuum? What happens to the broken society? And that's what I find interesting, and what I love about the direction Anne Bishop has taken with the Black Jewel series. The books after Queen of Darkness are in a way epilogues, but...they have a purpose... Because it's easy to destroy something, but harder to rebuild it.

And, yes, in fantasy novels such epilogues make more sense...but to relate it back to romance, it's the work involved in a relationship, keeping it strong and fluid, that's just as interesting to me and how the couple got to that point. One may be able to fall in love, but can one stay in love?

I know, lots of rambling *grin* But, what's your opinion on epilogues? Do they work for one genre but not another? And would you rather see the building but not the maintenance?


  1. "It depends" re: epilogues. I think they can work in any genre if done appropriately. But I think we see them too often as a way to rush a tidy ending onto a story.

  2. A sequel as an epilogue?

    Hmmm... that's some food for thought, certainly.

    However, traditional epilogues, the kind where there's the wedding (or the babies, or some other magnificent milestone) as the "be all, end all" of the story tend to put me off.

    I can think of a few that work wonderfully--right now I'm thinking of the last chapter of Suzanne Brockmann's Heartthrob (which I won't spoil in case you haven't read it) because it's about looking forward, continuing to strive and reach for goals.

  3. First of all I'm an epilogue junkie it must be my deep seeded need for closure ;)

    I will say that epilogues, for me, tend to work more in romance than sci-fi/fantasy.

  4. I'm a very picky epilogue reader. They have to particularly good and, more importantly, add something to the story - and not necessarily the typical tidy ending - for me to appreciate them.

    I tend to despise the ones used in romance because I think most of them are utterly pointless and, yes, I know I'm speaking in generalities. Epilogues in other genres work much better for me.

  5. I'm with Kris, epilogues need to add something. Sometimes they work for me, sometimes they don't. I just read a book last week, Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone, that had an epilogue that wasn't included in the book, but available at the author's website. So, those who needed a typical tidy ending could get it there, those who didn't, could leave it be. I must say, my curiousity made me read it after all, but it didn't add anything imo.

  6. I love epilogues; especially if I love the characters. Anything to extend my time with some fantastic characters is always a plus. I especially like when the author has short stories they offer between books to keep up the interest. It's always nice to drop in and see what's going on in that world.

  7. Chris - please join me on the fence :) It's big enough for two. And I brought a picnic *grin* Chicken? And I agree - often they can be rushed and you're left either wanting it to disappear or wanting more...much more.

    azteclady - Heartthrob is on my TBR list (I remember you recommending it :) And I will get to it. I was thinking last night that maybe I misrepresented the Black Jewel books somewhat. There not so much epilogues as continuations of the story...well thought out continuations, whereas, like Chris said, epilogues are usually rushed. And I agree, the more traditional epilogues have these milestones but they aren't the 'be all, end all', and yet they are made out to be.

    Smokinhotbooks - *whispers* I'm an epilogue junkie too. To be fair, I don't usually see epilogues in fantasy...although I just read one in Magic Bleeds, which was interesting.

  8. Kris - epilogues definitely need to add something and you're right, most don't. It's like they are ticking the (to borrow a word from azteclady) milestones boxes, which is so annoying. I did love the epilogue in Tigers & Devils though...but any more time with the boys is good in my book :)

    Janna - *nods* Oh, and I've got Sinful on my TBR list. Was it good?

    Mariana - definitely :) That's why I loved the epilogue in Tigers & Devils. And yes WRT the short stories. Or...getting little snippets into the lives of various couples if they are part of a series. Nalini Singh does that very well with the Psy-Changeling couples IMHO.

  9. Yep, Sinful was very good! Although I'm not a big historical romance reader I gave it 5 stars. It's very well written. :)

  10. I actually have no problems with epilogues. What I do have a problem with is PROlogues. I NEVER read prologues. As soon as I see one, my opinion of the book starts falling right then and there. If you're going to tell a story, start it at the beginning and don't torture me with unnecessary backstory.

    Another thing that annoys me about prologues is, sometimes there is pertinent information in them. Gah! Just call it chapter one then, n00b.

  11. Janna - I'm looking forward to reading it even more now :)

    heidenkind - LOL. It is rather perplexing why prologues exist...which leads to a whole other question (and I sense another post) - info dumping! GRRRR!

  12. I was really impressed by the rebuilding/recovering theme in Shalador's Lady and the Shadow Queen, for pretty much the same reason. (You don't often have that appearing as a theme in fantasy.) I also felt that they were more tightly written and more care was taken with the world building. (I have some issues with the first trilogy along those lines.)

  13. Rena - welcome :) And exactly. The rebuilding/recovering theme is so often absent in fantasy. It's like, the majority of books stop where the rebuilding is meant to start. And I like the rebuilding theme. It's...interesting. But then I kind of like making order from chaos :)

  14. I think the books after the original trilogy that are set in that world but have those characters in them (peripherally) are wonderful. It's nice to see what's going on around the land - especially in Bishop's world.

    Now epilogues in books that are only about 10 pages or less - those I can live without. I think I'd rather have the author work the info into the story rather than dump it in one chapter.

  15. Tracy - I agree. And yes, seeing the changes post-war are great. And yes, little epilogues drive me batty too. Give me LOTS of information, not just snippets. I'm left wanting more :)