One of my biggest pet-peeves, especially about epic fantasies, is when a book ends with the death of the evil force; not with the conclusion of the story. There are many excellent examples of this (Avatar: The Last Airbender, even LOTR) – they are incredibly well-crafted stories, but they don’t go on to answer the reader’s questions about what happens after the fall of the empire. It is impossible to imagine that the transitions happen peacefully and without adventure, so why doesn’t the reader get to experience them? The destruction of evil is fantasy’s ‘happily ever after’ marriage ending: just like in romance, the interesting stuff always comes later. It seems that very few fantasy authors realize this, but Brandon Sanderson does.
The Well of Ascension is all about what happens after the Lord Ruler is killed. It turns out that being able to destroy an oppressive god does not automatically give a character the power to rule a kingdom. Each of the characters has a lot of growing to do, and Sanderson gives them the chance to do it in this sequel. The tone of the second book is very different from the first, as we get more politics, more amorphous worry, and more mature characters, but it is obviously an integral part of the story arch. Though I don’t usually finish trilogies once I start them, this one is definitely worth continuing.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 796 pgs
Ending: Not a stand-alone book, definitely feeds into the third book
Further Reading: If you share my pet-peeve about happily ever after fantasy novels, I would recommend Graceling and its companion book: Bitterblue. Though the first does end with the death of the tyrant king, Bitterblue goes on to describe what happens with his kingdom and how long it really takes to undermine the tyrant’s lasting influence.