Cliffhangers

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Laini Taylor’s new book Strange the Dreamer — right up to a few minutes ago. The writing is wonderful, the fantasy premise fresh and vivid, the characters both believable and memorable. But then … but then …

But then I get to the last chapter and it crashes in on me that this isn’t a free-standing novel. It’s the first book in a new series. A trilogy? An endless epic? Who knows?

The thing that chaps my butt is that the book cover DOES NOT TELL YOU YOU’RE READING BOOK ONE OF A FUCKING SERIES. The title page does not tell you. All the time you’re getting fascinated by the story, you DON’T KNOW.

In this book, along with a lot of other stuff that happens, Lazlo falls deeply in love with Sarai, and she with him. There’s more kissing and stroking than I really care for in a novel, so I skimmed those scenes, but it turns out they’re not just fodder for younger readers. There’s a plot reason for them. And now I’m going to spoil the story for you by telling you what the reason is.

At the end of the book, Sarai is dead. Dead. She falls out of this sort of floating palace that I’m not going to bother to describe for you, and her body is impaled on the spikes of a fence, and she’s dead. And that’s not the end of the story, because now she’s a ghost, and ghosts are controlled by Minya, who is evil. Lazlo is good, and has suddenly discovered that he has the powers of a god — but Minya is going to force him to do her evil bidding, because if he doesn’t, she’ll let Sarai’s ghost dissolve into nothingness. Lazlo has fallen so deeply in love with Sarai that he agrees to Minya’s evil bargain. After which, at the bottom of the last page, it says TO BE CONTINUED.

Neglecting to tell your readers that they’re reading Book One of a series isn’t just cruelty incarnate. It’s cheap and manipulative. Readers are suckered into buying the book now rather than wait until the whole series is published.

Yes, I ordered a copy. I got this one from the library. I managed to cancel my order, as it hadn’t shipped yet. I’ll probably get over my snit and order both it and the sequel, which I’m told is due out in October. I’ve also been told that Taylor makes no secret, on Twitter, of the fact that this is the first book in a duology. And of course authors who are being ground to a pulp by the New York publishing empire have zero control over their book covers. Really, I need to direct my wrath at Little, Brown. But I don’t know anybody there, and Taylor does. I think it’s time to send a polite email through her web page, assuming she has something as old-fashioned as a web page.

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