Death, Reversed?

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I have some serious issues with the trope of killing off major characters just to bring them back because it’s convenient.  It feels like a cheat, like a cheap way to get a rise out of the reader without actually having to deal with the consequences.  I’m finishing up rereading The Obsidian Trilogy, and towards the end, Lackey and Mallory seem to rely heavily on this crutch.  They dangle death in front of their main characers from time to time throughout the series, but it isn’t till the second half of When Darkness Falls(the third and final book) that they get a bit excessive with it.  First, Jermayan and Ancalandar sacrifice themselves to bring the army across the mountains, using all their magic (which should, by all accounts, kill them) to reunite the army.  Everybody thinks they are dead, until they come flying across the mountains, alive but with no additional magic to aid the army.  Fine.  What would be the point of calling The Starry Hunt if they weren’t going to do things like bring your dragon and Elven Knight back from the brink of death to continue aiding your army.  At least they lost their magic, essentially crippling them.  Until Idalia is killed, which someone recharges Ancalandar’s magic just in time for them to aid the Light’s victory over the Demons.  Cheap, but not as cheap as Idalia’s death itself.

From the end of The Outstretched Shadow (the first book of the series), the reader has been waiting for the Wild Magic to claim Idalia, as it promised to do.  It doesn’t come to fruition until the very end of When Darkness Falls, but it comes about in such a satisfying way—yes, it’s terrible that one of the main, and best beloved characters, must die, but she sacrifices herself for the good of the world, and with enough drama to befit the end of a trilogy.  Her death even allows Jermayan and Ancalandar to be useful to the army again, which, as I said, is sort of cheap, but I’ll allow it.  Then.  OH, THEN.  THEY BRING HER BACK.  AS AN ELVEN BABY.  AND EVERYONE RECOGNIZES HER.  AND ASSUMES THIS BABY WILL LOVE JERMAYAN AND THEY WILL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER IN PERFECT ELVEN BLISS ONCE SHE TURNS EIGHTEEN.  I’m not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that the last scene in this book actually makes me disgusted with the series as a whole, and is the reason why every time I read it I swear it will be the last time.  I can’t even express how cheap I find this ending.  Why would you even bother killing off a main character—in such an emotional way, no less—just to bring her back fifty or so pages later unless you blatantly want to manipulate the emotions of your reader?  It’s such a cheap trick.   I throw a flag.  Unnecessary sentimentality, fifty page penalty.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Death, Reversed?

  1. miq

    I wholeheartedly agree. It’s so gimicky as a writer. And unfulfilling as a reader.

  2. I agree – it feels cheap to me when any character is killed off, because it seems like it’s all for the effect and so then the writer is actually just toying with the reader.

  3. Kait

    I have never read these books, but I agree- that sounds awful. With exception to the “Supernatural” series (which is a television program so it doesn’t really count anyway) bringing dead character back alive is bad news. I think there are limitations to the amount of reality we can suspend…not even Rowling would consider bringing a dead character “back.”

    • Ulch, it’s terrible. The rest of the trilogy is really good in a semi-trashy kind of way, though, and I can’t just NOT read the last half of the final book just because they get real cheap and unnecessary on me!

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