Monday, January 24, 2022

Would You Recommend a Work With a Disappointing Ending?

Over the weekend I read a childrens/young adult fantasy series by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora Segunda. I'm trying to decide if I would recommend the series to someone. On the plus side, the setting is really interesting and unique. It has:

  • Set in roughly 1880s California, with that level of tech
  • With interesting magic
  • The USA appears to have never formed
  • The Aztec Empire never fell, and is still full-on sacrificing people to its gods
  • California is a rebellious client-state of the Aztec Empire

The first two books are quite good. The third book, however, is deeply unsatisfying. The main character doesn't really accomplish anything. In fact it feels like she ended the book in a worse place than when she started it. Perhaps the author was hoping write more novels in the series, but never got the chance, so just labeled the book as the ending of the trilogy.

It got me thinking about whether I would recommend this series to someone else. On the one hand, I think you could say to read the first two books only and pretend the third doesn't exist.

But I don't know how that would work for other series. The canonical example in gaming is Mass Effect. I don't think I'd recommend only playing ME1 and ME2. Maybe one could say that you should play the series, even though the ending is very disappointing.

Television-wise, I understand Game of Thrones had a similar issue. I did not watch it, but many fans disliked the last season. Would you still recommend the show?

Endings are pretty important. I am more likely to recommend a series with a rough start but decent finish than the other way around.


  1. I'd probably pass on recommending a book and/or series with a disappointing ending. There are plenty of times where I don't want catharsis, I want a good ending. I mean, if I want disappointment, I'll watch the news.

  2. Great topic. I feel like lots of media gets ruined by later episodes/volumes/seasons. I can try to block out memory of the bad late stuff and try to just remember the early stuff I liked but it's hard to recommend something when you have tell someone to stop early.

  3. If it was a good series, I would probably suggest it, but I would caveat that it that people weren't happy with the ending. My intention would be to make them aware the ending could be problematic so that they knew what they could be getting into. I wouldn't want to be too strong about my dislike because they could enjoy the ending or that they could enjoy the journey enough that the ending didn't spoil the rest of the series for them.

    Much of how I talk about endings depends on if I know the other person is interested in that type of series or not. For example, if I knew someone was never going to play Mass Effect then I'd have no problem saying exactly why I disliked the original ending. But for something they might like I don't want to taint their perceptions about it.

  4. Ironically, I did only play Mass Effect 1 and 2. The franchise shifted to Origin thereafter and I was never motivated to end up with yet another account to yet another e-store.

    I don't see any issue with the recommendation in your post though. I know that you liked book 1 and 2, and disliked book 3.

    Based on that recommendation, I might give starting the series a try. If I liked book 1, I would read book 2. Then if I had enough, I would stop. Or if I was still intrigued, I would skim book 3 and decide if it was worth giving it a shot or if it really degraded as badly as others have said and not bother.