Why I Didn’t Choose The “Bad Things Happen” Ending

(This is part 7 of an 8-part series on the ending of the Alex Verus novels.  The master post with links to all the other parts is here.)

Because it was just too damn depressing.  

Note that I said depressing, not bad.  Actually, in pure story terms, I think this ending works okay (it’s definitely not boring).  But let’s break it down into the same categories as before.  


In terms of consistency, this ending is . . . well, actually, it’s pretty good!  The characters all act in accordance with their natures, and everything that happens is a logical consequence of the events that have come before.  

Some people might be a bit shocked at just how far Anne goes off the deep end in this version, but to anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s always been very clear that Anne had the potential to end up like this (it was specifically highlighted in that prophecy of Variam’s).  Just because she’s one of the main cast doesn’t mean that she’s a good person, and just like Alex, the body count that she racks up by the end of Risen should really make you stop and ask some questions.  

So consistency-wise, I’d say this is fine.  


Here’s where the problems start.  With most of the cast ending up some combination of dead, miserable, or insane, this ending is pretty dark.  Now, I’m not inherently opposed to dark or at least ambivalent endings (as those who’ve read my novellas will know), but I do think that if you’re writing an unhappy ending, you should have a good reason for it.  And in the case of the Alex Verus series, that brings us to the overall message of the series.  With this ending, what does the arc of Alex’s story look like?  

Well, the short answer is that it’s a story of failure.  Alex struggles against the forces opposed against him, and to begin with he has some limited success, but in the final 3-4 books he takes on the task of trying to save Anne, and fails.  Yes, he technically preserves her life, but she ends up leading such a twisted and miserable existence that the end result’s probably worse than if he’d just let her die.  Ultimately, in this version, Alex would have been better off just writing off Anne as a lost cause and withdrawing from the whole battle sometime around book 10 . . . which, to me, feels rather unsatisfying.  It’s one thing to write a story of a heroic defeat, but a story that ends with “guess you should have just given up” doesn’t exactly make for inspiring reading.  

I also didn’t like the idea of the impact it’d have on my readers.  To me, one of the marks of a good story is that it leaves you glad to have read it.  It doesn’t necessarily have to leave you happy, but it does need to leave you satisfied;  if you close the book feeling worse than when you started it, something’s gone wrong.  My readers, by this point, had been following Alex’s story for twelve whole books.  That’s a big investment, and it shows a lot of trust.  I wanted them to come to the end feeling that it had been worth it.  

The final reason I didn’t like this ending is a weird one:  in an odd way, to me, it felt as though it turned the whole series into a prequel.  This sort of story would work fine as a prequel explaining how the next round of jinn wars came about.  (Why did the marid’s ring end up lost and forgotten in this trap-filled shadow realm?  Well, funny you should ask . . .)  But I didn’t want the entire Alex Verus series to become a prequel, particularly not a prequel to a story I didn’t have any intention of writing.  

So I just went with the standard ending.  Looking back, I don’t regret it.  

And that’s it for the alternate endings!  The final post will take a brief look at the ‘true’ ending, and wrap this mini-series up.

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7 Responses to Why I Didn’t Choose The “Bad Things Happen” Ending

  1. Celia says:

    Great point about the difference between being satisfied and being happy at the end of a series. I just finished reading a series recently where the ending made me wonder, “What was it all for?!?” I had really enjoyed reading the series, but after the ending, I was kind of thinking, “A lot of traumatic things happened here… and then it ends like THAT?” But those were the times we lived in. 😉

    I’m glad you took the time to nail the ending in Verus, and the extra time to be sure book 1 in your next series will be satisfying too. 🙂

  2. Matt says:

    I think especially on the prospect of Alex giving up on Anne, he already more or less did that, but with Rachel. It’d be concluding two different character arcs the exact same way. And imo, Rachel’s really works. You can’t people who don’t want to be helped, and you can’t keep lowering yourself for someone who will only drag them down with you.
    Doing that arc for Anne would have been less good though. She’s a lot more likeable lol.

  3. Dennis says:

    I once read a quote that every comedy is only a comedy because it ends before it turns into a tragedy. So if you watch any of Shakespeare’s comedies then think about what would happen to the characters if they just continued on for another week or month or year or so, you would end up with a train wreck. Maybe it isn’t the Author’s job to provide a nice future for his/her characters after the series end, otherwise every comedy author would be responsible for an off-screen train wreck.

  4. Mary Carter says:

    As incredible and plausible as the depressing ending is, I agree with B. I have been reading an exceptional series (one that I think Verus fans would like – very well written, complex and dark), but the most recent book had some things happen that absolutely gutted me. Don’t know if I can continue. So – I totally agree that this ending would have been way too hard on readers as the grand finale. (Even though it made total sense!!)

  5. N says:

    @Celia – I actually just started Priest of Crowns yesterday and now I’m worried…

  6. N says:

    For me, the point was definitely how the depressing ending made the whole series emotionally irrelevant. That when they heard the Dragon’s prophecy they should have just given up, and that doesn’t seem to fit with the feel of the series.

  7. Celia says:

    N, I know someone else who loved the ending though, so your mileage might vary! I just found some parts quite upsetting, like the scene underground at the House of Law, if you know what I mean. And if the author is going to put me through that kind of trauma, there better be a really big payoff at the end, imo.

    But going back to the Verus series, the use of the plural here, “novellas,” is definitely promising!!! 😉

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