Jan 10 2012 10:30am

Concluding a Series with a Cliffhanger: Unanswered Questions in Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan Series

Shadow Heir by Richelle MeadOne hopes author Richelle Mead is not sensitive to negative reader reaction. If she is, this is not the week she wants to be on the internet.

Richelle Mead is an Urban Fantasy and YA writer with several series under her belt. Her latest release is the fourth and final book in her Dark Swan series, Shadow Heir.

And many fans are not happy with this book.

If you are a reader of the series but haven’t gotten here yet, I shall try to be as vague and spoiler-free as possible, but be warned...

There might be SPOILERS.

The problem many have with this book is that the end leaves some lingering questions. It does not read as though it is the last book of the series. One her blog, Richelle Mead offers insight into why she wrote the ending this way (as well as confirming that—at this time—there are no more books planned for this series.) She states that she enjoys not having every end tied up and leaving a little mystery at the end.

With all respect to the author…no. No, no, no. Is that clear enough?

This is The Sopranos going to black on those last frames. This is X-Files where at the end of the series we were just as confused as at the beginning. Giving an ending that is not an ending is a cheat.

The ending of a series is just as important—perhaps more so!—than the beginning. After we’ve journeyed with these characters and immersed ourselves in their mystery and their psyches, we have a lot invested with them. The payoff we receive with the ending is very important for us as we look back on these stories.

I really feel for writers in that position, those who’ve created a well-loved series where everyone is wondering how it is going to end. It can’t be comfortable to know that no matter what ending you create there will be a certain percentage who hates it, and that fans will be debating if the ending was a “good” ending or not for a long time.

Still, I would prefer an ending I hate versus not getting a true ending at all. I am counting on you, the writer, to finish the story for me. I have not stuck with you for years and years just to come to the end and have you tell me, “And what happens after this, I’ll have you decide.”

If that is what you give me, I can’t trust you. I can’t take another journey with you, because I’ll always be wondering if you’ll abandon me at a crossroad again.

I want every question answered. I don’t want any lingering mysteries. Maybe I won’t like the answer I receive but—darn it!—I don’t want to be forever wondering “What do you think happened with…?”

What about you? Are you with me in having your series tied up neatly, or do you enjoy some loose strings when all is said and done?


Danielle Monsch is a Romantic Geek Girl Writing in a Fantasy World. Besides torturing her poor, poor editor about her latest story, Dani likes to read manga and watch anime, debate the merits of DC vs. Marvel, and geek out over the latest and greatest romance novel offerings. Catch up with Dani on Twitter @DaniMonsch

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Pamela Webb-Elliott
1. Spaz
Great post!!! My disclaimer is I am not hard to please when it comes to books and if I don't like something I usually walk away from it and try to move on... But this book was a DOUBLE UGH for me. It wasn't even the lack of complete closure for me as it was having the heroine act so selfishly that the series ended with me thoroughly disliking her and not even caring if it was concluded. Eugenie was this amazing kickass heroine in the first 2 books, and this one she was just a self centered child. And her decision at the end had her making my LEAST FAVORITE heroine ever. This book was just not good and the heroine I have 0 respect for. I don't know what RM was thinking but this was such an F U to not only her own characters, but her fans as well. I'm having a hard time forgiving that when it comes to buying or reading future novelsby this author.
2. ChelseaMueller
I think the problem with Shadow Heir is that we finally saw Eugenie make character progression in the novel. She was making better decisions (no more Kiyo!) and dealing with trust issues with Dorian. Then the ending ripped all that away. She was no longer the Queen of Thorn and Rowan who had grown, but the same woman from Storm Born who didn't trust any gentry, even the one she loves. And that's unfair to the reader. It's unfair to Eugenie.

Up until the end, I really enjoyed Shadow Heir. (Far more than Iron Crowned, which I though was far too phoned in.) But breaking that bond with Eugenie at the end hurt readers.
Danielle Monsch
3. DanielleMonsch
I often wonder in these cases if the author has no more plans for anything else in the series but *just in case* they want to leave the book at a place that they can pick up story threads.

As a fellow writer, I get that. Some worlds are so big that you know even as the original story you thought of has ended, there is a chance they'll drag you back in and you'll want to create more stories within them. Because of that, you always want to leave yourself that opening.

But looking at it from the reader's perspective, it's just not fair for the writer to do that. That's why I fall on the side of when you end your series, you end it. Otherwise, I think you are mistreating your readers.
Lege Artis
4. Lege Artis
Oh, I think it's good that Dark Swan series ended, because it wasn't that good. It looks like RM didn't know what to do with her characters, heroine was unlikable and anoying. I hate unanswered questions in series and that is the only reason I read this book. It was awfull.And I still didn't get all the answers. I don't want to read anything from RM again.
Lege Artis
5. RebeLovesBooks
I hate cliffhangers. HATE THEM! But ending a series with a cliffhanger is a major deal-breaker for me. I won't even start a series if I know the author uses cliffhangers (Diana Gabaldon, anyone?). I don't want the author to tie up all the loose threads, but major plot lines have to answered, for pete's sake!
Lege Artis
6. ltwilliamson
Amanda Norris
7. sweettater
She messed up the ending to the VA series by focusing more on her spinoff person than the main characters and that has made me very wary of any ending book she writes. I love her succubus series but I've yet to read the final book in that series because of how she destroyed the VA series. Plus from the spoilers I've read on Succubus Revealed I already know it's a let down and I refuse to waste time or money on something I know will not be enjoyable.
Lege Artis
8. joanmarcia66
loved the series/didnt mind the ending until I read this was the last book!! what a let down. I am really dsappointed with this very weak and unsatisfactory ending--author did her readers a disservice on this one and as much as i'ave enjoyed her books, i will now hesitate to get into another series --color me pissed.
9. ChelseaMueller
@sweettater - The ending to SUCCUBUS REVEALED gave me closure. It was a good ending.

Then again, I didn't hate the VA ending the way you did. I didn't like the open-ended threads for Adrian, etc. but felt she treated Rose/Dimitri well.
Erma Jo Hewett
10. ermajo
I really was waiting for the next book in the series. It was not just a leave to make your own ending up but I truly hope she adds one more book to the series and ties up the loose ends. I hate books that end this way. It is like a TV series that just stops before it gets to the end. I love Richelle's books but please finish one more of the series. I agree Succubus Revealed gave us a good finish and so did The Vampire Diaries. I certainly hope Bloodlines does the same. I do not mind a new take off on the "Old" characters. That works for me.
Lege Artis
11. MayaInRed

I'm in shock. I finished the book with the complete certainty that there would be another one, cause Richelle finishes her books. Different from other people, I enjoyed the Succubus and VA's ending. And Bloodlines was really good. I was skeptical at first, cause Rose wasn't the main, but the more I read it, the more I enjoyed this spin off.

BUT WTF? I'm sorry, but that was NOT an ending. Is one thing to finish a series when the main plot and the side plots are done and answered and THEN the characters move on with their lives. It's a whole other thing to just DON'T FINISH THE BOOK! It just can't be that she would do that, it makes no sense since her other series had a pretty complete beginning-middle-ending and it all seemed organized and thought out from the start. I'm thinking that since in the book it says Eugenie will wait till the kids are teens to tell Dorian, maybe it'll be another spin-off, with their kids being the main characters? I just can't believe Richelle would make an ending like this, it's not her style. It doesn't make sense at all.
Lege Artis
12. Joely
I finished this book and threw it across the room!!! I was so mad, to make her a person that i did not like at the end of this book was sad, this book was amazing, til you get to the last chapter and then your like NO!!!! Are you serious?? NO!!! For her to do what she is doing to her childern and to Dorian!! WE needed closure with the final book and all she did was create more questions and made me dislike the main character!! I love her books but this one was one of the worst books i have ever read:/ I am a very disappointed fan..
Lege Artis
13. WTF??
Shame on you, Richelle Mead! Should have at least brought the twins home to Dorian. Loved the series, but with the way the last one ended, I actually thought there would be a fifth book. Extremely disappointed is an understatement.
Lege Artis
14. This Is Just Wrong!
I was doubly shocked as I was listening to this book on audio and had no warning of the abrupt end! I am so upset...the one thing Dorian would have loved the most and even after how amazing a man he had been, Richelle deprived us of reading about his joy upon finding out he had fathered not one, but two children! There is so much left unfinished. What about those two beautiful cribs he had made for the children, what about the Willow Queen's lack of punishment....what about Jasmine....how about an other-worldly grand wedding, etc., etc.? I waited through two books just hoping she would find out the children belonged to Dorian....then this is the ending I get?! I expected the prophecy to go away, the children to be raised in both worlds, something...ANYTHING!!! I am finding that I am always a bit disappointed with the Richelle Mead's book endings, with the exception of Succubus (the Vampire Academy was a bit disconcerting for me too) and I am thinking of banning her from "My Favorite Authors" list! I haven't been this upset since Gone With the Wind!...In my mind, this is what happens....Eugenie uses the Iron Crown to punish Maiwenn, giving the Willow Land to Jasmine to rule, she marries Dorian, they merge kingdoms, she brings the children to Dorian, while keeping in touch with the Reed family, Jasmine and Evan (the Reeds' nephew) fall in love and also have children, Eugenie gives her small home in Tucson to Tim (who finds out he is, in fact, Native American) and Lara who also marry, she builds a new one to accommodate herself, her two children and Dorian when they visit her world, everyone is happy....THE END!!!
Lege Artis
15. Bella F.
I just finished the book and I'm seriously mad! Even more than just mad but I'm going to try to keep my language clean. I completely agree and the worse part is I read the Vampire Academy series and she does the same thing. I hate to say it but I'm also hooked on the other series of hers. It is a shame when great authors try to satisfy everyone because it usually doesn't. If I wanted to come up with my own ending I would write my own book. Okay I'm done ranting but this was a great article and I hope current and future authors read it and take it in to consideration next time they're writing.
Lege Artis
17. Allisongm
I actually got here by googling "Dark Swan book 5". I have read (and reread) the four and love them. Unfortunately I did not realize that the fourth was the last. It sure didn't read that way. Now I am very disappointed in the ending, in what I kind of feel like is time wasted due to no real closure and most of all in the author. I do not intend to begin any of her other series if this is the payoff I get for being a fan and patron of her work. Thanks for the enlightening article. I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Lege Artis
Same thing happened to me! I was googling book 5 and found this! I mean ETC RM!?! I loved the VA series and the new bloodlines books but I swear if you don't give me closure I will boycott ALL of you future books!!
Lege Artis
19. stormie
Omg, I just finished these 4 books in about a week on top of a 44 hour work schedule, Im sick over this "Cliffhanger" I know there are other authors out there that wouldnt dream about doung this!!! I think I will stick with them. I was going to start another series but after that I dont think I can, what a let down!!!
Lege Artis
20. Joy Skully
This was not an ending. If this was an ending there would be a conlcusion and there was none. How do you take a character then change it to have everyone hate her? The ending made zero sense to the whole story line. The author hints that in the far future she will write another one to wrap it up correctly. Maybe this is her acknowlidging her screw up? If I had read this series first, versus the succubus one, I would never have further read any of the others books. She really messed this one up.
Lege Artis
21. Yadi
You spoke the words right out of my mouth!!! This series disappointed me greatly, I don't even want to read any more of her series after this.!!!
Lege Artis
22. Cica
I too arrived at this article by googling a fifth book in the Dark Swan series. I was shocked and disheartened to discover that Richelle Mead intended to conclude this series on the fourth book, Shadow Heir. I certainly would have read the book differently knowing this ahead of time, (my own fault for not checking, but who wants to read spoilers before actually reading a book). Looking back, I was giving Eugenie far too much leniency, figuring the author would correct some of her major character flaws, or at least provide more context, to overcome the initial reactions many people appear to have had to the final chapter of the book. Regrettably, it appears that is not to be.

I am not adverse to cliffhangers, as many of the comments have refferenced. However, what Shadow Heir concluded on was not a cliffhanger, as that would imply there was in fact an actual conclusion with elements of uncerntainty leaving the reader in suspense. There was in fact no conclusion at all. Major overarching plot lines were abandoned halfway through. Had she concluded those threads, and left herself with another entry into the series, (by that I mean a new dilemma facing Eugenie, and concluded on that note), Richelle Mead would have accomplished her desire to "have the readers decide what happens after this" (a paraphrased butchering of the quotation I am sure).

As it stands, more than essentially maligning her fanbase, she has harmed her own credibility. It was a cop-out, an attempt to appease the majority requiring little creative work on the part of the author herself to devise such a conclusion. Had I read this series first, I never would have read her Succubus series. Which truly would have been a shame, as I am a huge fan of it. Unfortunately, I would never have read another book she wrote after reading Shadow Heir only to discover it was a concluding piece to a thusfar successful series. Doubtless, there are others who are in agreement. I have always regarded her as one of my favorite authors, (all time favorite authors for the paranormal romance genre). Unfortunately, if others are to be believed, (refferencing some of the comments about the Vampire Academy series and it's ending, as I have not actually read it beyond the second book), Richelle Mead appears to have a propensity for ruining successful series by not wanting to provide a propper conclusion (fearing the displeasure of her readers). If she cannot respect her fans, then I personally feel no need to continue supporting her work. In and of itself, that may mean little, but it goes against everything I believe in to support someone who does that, when there are so many others out there dying for the opportunity to please readers with their work.
Elisabeth Olsen
23. Ellsab
Oh, I loved the books. I swallowed it in merely a couple of days. I loved the plot and the heroine, who was maybe to a degree quite selfish, but hey they can't always be perfect! The plot surprised me, and the end was not where I had predicted it to be. Both in who the firstborn grandson was and what happened to her other lover, obviously he was a scumbag who didn't care about her, and lied to her and played her all the way through. At first I saw him as loyal and kind and that he only wanted the best for E, but when I got the truth, I can honestly say that it broke me a little, eventhough it wasn't him I cheered on, as I practicully begged E to leave him.

As much as I loved the books, I can't get myself to care for the end. E should have started to trust the relationship, and I hate that he didn't get the truth, as I cheered on him all the way. I loved the way E strenght built, loving that she become as strong as she did.

All in all, I loved the book eventhough a lot of you complained, still hate the cliffhanger!!
Lege Artis
24. Jaisential
RM...u have no idea what you did to me with this book until you fix it and let loose a book 5 i am not touching a single book of yours again. i mean i was so excited after the WTFery i got in book 3 and book 4 was like a fan fic with everything every body was hoping for happening...yay Dorian is the father moment... then out of nowhere she's like screw it i'll do my own thing now...and BAM!!!!... an entire series goes down the drain.i already didnt like eugenie my only reason for sticking it out was for Dorian..i mean who didnt love the man and hopefully seeing Kiyo get his ass handed to him... and then to add insult to injury u end with a cliff hanger?!... YOU DO NOT END A SERIES WITH A CLIFFHANGER!!!! i dont care if you like to do it that way or if you plan on making up for it later... when later has no set date...well you're just messing with me... NO NO NO NO NO... its been a while now n i keep checking in to see if she's doing anything about it and all i get is "i'm busy with my other books so this will have to wait till whenever i feel ready"... smh this is so wrong on so many levels... i can't, don't, will not try to understand this...sigh...
Lege Artis
25. Velvet
Yes I really hate the ending for the dark swan series. I really love her bloodline series and this series is actually as good as that, but argh, Ms Richelle Mead, please finish the series with one more adventure and a more complete kind of ending for Eugenie! We want to know that our female protagonist and her love life is ok! Not to mention that the issue with the prophecy hasn't been quite solved!
Lege Artis
26. Dark Swan Fan
Please please Richelle, write a 5th book and make all your readers happy with a well deserved ending for Dorian and Eugenie. I know you have other books you are concentrating on and I love those as well, but I will appeal to your sense of finance and encourage you to write the 5th book in a hardback and charge top dollar for it. I will buy it! Merry Christmas, Hapy New Year and best wishes for your creative writting juices to flow and put out a new book in time for Easter :)
Lege Artis
27. Bev Garrett
I just happened upon this author and series and was immediately enthralled...I read and read and thoroughly enjoyed the story...UNTIL...the author blaseted me with the selfish and self-centered ending of Shadow Heir....WTH is she writing for.....herself? If so..then why have it published? As readers, as fans...investing time and money into this author's creation I feel completely short-changed. From this article and other comments, looks like almost 3 years have passed and NOTHING!!! Well that's what this authoir will get from me too...NOTHING. She has failed thevery people who were supporting her...I will NOT look for a conclusion, nor will I ever WASTE my time on ANYTHING else this author writes. She is a cheat and I will pass the word along, let her books, stories, plots and characters BLOW in the wind...or collect dust...as she has done to her readers!!!!
Lege Artis
28. Aries
I can't believe I didn't sleep for two days just to read this. I've read it before years back and spent time searching for it only to be so disappointed.
I didn't understand Eugenie. It was like she came straight out of a cliche shoujo manga. I couldn't understand how she could just jump in the bed of two men depending on which one's thougt appealed to her most.
I hated Kiyo. One moment acting all macho and the next becoming some kind of masochist. I mean, taking on a girlfriend when he knows his pregnant ex would take uphis time.
I loved Dorian who was like a puppy so eager to please Eugenie. Who, even when kicked would still go back by her side. I hated the fact that she kept on second guessing Dorian and couldn't even logic and math that she took the antibiotic the same day she went to Dorian's bed.
I wanted more depth on the Oak King and hated how ridiculous it was to suddenly just reveal sweet Pagiel as the grandson. I even expected Eugenie to let Vulusian kill her when she's old to satisfy the guy.
This was such a waste of time.
Lege Artis
29. Andrea Ballard
It's 2016 and I've just finished this "series". I found this by googling the 5th book and was upset at the knowledge that there won't be one. I love what you said about not trusting her and how she's now left us wondering if she'll leave us hanging again. So so bummed at the way it ended.
Lege Artis
30. Nala Nightblade
Ok. First, RM is one of my favorite writers. I have read VA, Bloodlines, Succubus, and Dark Swan. Even waiting to pick up Age of X. But after reading DS and finishing the book today... shame on you, RM. You call yourself a writer yet do this to us? I have been in love with the worlds you create, the stories I read, and even (dare I say?) The men within them. Dorian was amazing. Everything about him. Kiyo I liked in the beginning... til he tried to kill E and the twins (WHO HE KNEW WEREN'T HIS BUT DIDNT SAY A DAMN THING!!) I was moderately happy with the ending but very disappointed. I found this by looking on Google for book 5 as well. And I'm disappointed in you, Richelle. I would NEVER do this to my fans. NEVER. You are causing yourself to lose credibility and a mass amount of fans by leaving the plot ends untied. You let Maiwenn get away with killing poor Paigel, E keep the secret from Dorian (killed me over that), let the prophecy hang in the air, left the twins where they DONT belong, and so much more. E was my favorite and I begged for her to be with Dorian. Hes so amazing! But your ending was not. From writer to writer, I'd say make the final book soon lest you lose the rest of your fan base. I wont be touching ANY of your other books until you do. I don't care if the ending you make sucks. Just GIVE US CLOSURE!!!
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