Thursday, March 5, 2009

Befuddled at the Close

I believe endings are hard to write. You can have a great story idea, even an entire excellent novel, but when things come to the end it gets tricky. I often prefer stories that are a bit open-ended, so as to spur continuing thought and debate, as opposed to stories where all the ends tie up neatly and seem a bit forced. But sometimes an ending is just odd. In this case I'm referring to the finale of Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud. Stroud also wrote The Bartimeaus Trilogy; he writes Heroes like Bartimeaus: it's unique, it's witty and dark, and Stroud can really DO creepy. The scene in Westminster Abbey in the second Bartimeaus book is one of the eeriest scenes I've ever read.

Stroud does some good things in Heroes of the Valley. He creates a captivating mythology in an isolated valley reminiscent of medieval Scandinavia. The myths frame every chapter and are incorporated into the story well. There are tunneling-zombie-troll monsters that make my hair stand on end. As soon as the reader is convinced of the truth of these old tales, Stroud introduces cause for doubt, so the reader can hardly predict what will happen next. The characters are interesting yet flawed (as in Bartimeaus, the heroine is far more likable than the hero). But the ending, well, it was weird. I did not like it. I didn't hate it, I just didn't get it at all. It wasn't so much a weak conclusion as a strange one. I can't seem to put into words why it's so problematic. Nevertheless, the book was worth reading.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

You make me want to read it FOR the ending...