CSFF Blog Tour: A Vote for Happiness

[Warning: Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers everywhere]

Do you know what irony is? Irony is a man wondering if he can find a new life, and then getting killed ten minutes later – due to past sins, no less.

I don’t know if Jeffrey Overstreet intended such a morose irony, though he did write it. That was the ending he dealt out to Ryllion, the repentant villain of The Ale Boy’s Feast. Cesylle – Ryllion’s partner in villainy and ex-villainy – received a similar fate. He said there was no way out of the hole he’d dug, and the book appeared to agree with him, squashing him like a bug five pages later.

Again, I don’t know what Overstreet intended. I could only speculate, and I really don’t care to. My point is how the story came off to me as I read it. Many readers, I am certain, did not mind Ryllion and Cesylle’s fates, and some surely saw meaning in it. But I was left puzzled by their brutal deaths and the apparent purposelessness of it.

The killings accomplished little in the overall plot. The only major ramification I can think of is that Emeriene, upon being widowed, headed off into the wilderness after another man. And she may have been planning to do that anyway. The story drew nothing great from those sacrifices, and neither did the characters. Cesyr and Channy were not at all comforted to see their father become a hero at last – and in truth.

Ryllion’s death had a near-miss with significance. When he joined Auralia and the others in the dungeon, I thought, “This is good; I can get behind this.” When it turned out he was really Pretor Xa, I thought, “I can still get behind this.” I assumed the story was headed to an epic showdown beyond the Forbidding Wall, but the Seer did … nothing. And the heroes – the same. Villain: 0. Heroes: 0. They kicked off and then canceled the game.

But beyond all this, I wished the whole book that Ryllion and Cesylle could have found the renewed lives they were looking for. After watching them run after grace, I wanted to see them walk in it. Some might say the way it actually ended is more realistic, and chances are they’re right. But if I wanted realism, I wouldn’t be reading a novel about killer sticks and water that raises the dead.

I realize that much of this is subjective; I am a sucker for happy endings, and a self-confessed softie. So let me cast the vote for once-villains not dying in sad fulfillment of their doubts and fears. I never expected Cesylle and Ryllion to get a group hug, but I thought they could have gotten a second chance.

7 thoughts on “CSFF Blog Tour: A Vote for Happiness

  1. I loved the book(s), but I was “pulled out of the book” when I read about so many coming back to life. I found that part a bit much. One or two people was believable. I commented on this in my post.

    I never thought about Ryllion, but now that you mention it, it did seem a bit abrupt…a tying off of loose ends. Believable, not necessarily nice, though. I like a bit of reality mixed in with my fiction, though. It makes the fantasy that much more believable and less happy-go-lucky.

  2. I was disappointed that Ryllion, and Cesylle, met such an end, too. There was a little note of earning redemption in the good and sacrificial deeds too. Not that I think this was a statement the author was making, but it struck me that way a little. Actually because action is the best way to know a character, their selfless ends made me sadder that they were indeed ending.

    I’m still trying to process what I think about this book. Thanks for your thoughtful views, Shannon.


  3. It’s good to see you again, Eve. I know a lot of this is based on personal tastes. I’m all for happy endings, but I know some people want more realism, or feel it cheapens the story if the price characters pay is too low. And then, of course, people have differing opinions of what is realistic and how high the price needs to be. I doubt there’s any way to satisfy everybody.

  4. It’s good to know I’m not the only one disappointed by that part of the story, Becky. I agree that there was some hint of redemption in their stories. But to have two characters set out on quests to find a better way and make amends, and have both wind up dead … it just didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth.

  5. This was probably the biggest weakness in the story for me, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with the challenges of managing such a large cast of characters. Several of what I’d call “middle-tier” characters, people who aren’t pivotal to the series but who have threads of their own, end up as throwaways in this book. Even some major characters get lost in the shuffle–Cyndere barely gets a mention, absorbed in running her clinic for recovering beastmen, and Scharr ben Fray, Cal-Raven’s mentor, takes an odd turn at the end of the story that seems more like an inconsistency or violation of his character than a plot twist.

  6. I’m sure you’re right about the challenges Jeffrey Overstreet faced, handling so many characters. He could have provided more satisfaction in ending some of their stories, though it would have required making the book longer and almost certainly more complicated.

    It’s funny that you mention Scharr ben Fray. I regretted that he ended the book on such a poor note. He was – to me, at least – the coolest character in the book, and whatever his philosophical failings, he was still the only mage who held on to his belief in positive goodness. I felt that, at the end, Overstreet declared, “By the way, he’s a jerk!” and then dashed off. But The Ale Boy’s Feast is the only book in the series I’ve read, and I thought that if I had read the others, maybe I would have seen Scharr’s “odd turn” coming. Interesting to hear what you thought of it.

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