The author who writes a trilogy is a lot like a juggler, but instead of bowling pins being kept aloft, she or he must keep the variety of storylines and characters created constantly in motion. The key to being a successful juggler is to never look directly at what you’re tossing, but at some middle distance where the object in motion will end up.
A good juggler is able to keep all of her objects in motion at an equal speed without any discernible effort. No running around under them in a desperate effort to keep them all airborne for the professional – just a seemingly seamless circle of moving objects without a beginning or an end. Suddenly the action stops and all the objects come to rest simultaneously and in the hands of the one responsible for their being set in motion in the first place.
Needless to say the more objects that come into play increases the level of difficulty, while at the same time making the final result that much more impressive. The juggler who is able to incorporate items that are of differing size and weight increases the level of difficulty involved in keeping the desired uniformity and also increases the chances of a sloppy ending.
Knowing when to stop adding to the mix and simply focusing on maintaining what’s been started is the key to being a successful juggler. Sometimes it can be more impressive to have three highly disparate objects in play than twenty similar ones flying around your head. Being able to add a twist into a familiar pattern, eating the apple you’re juggling but not the eggs, is a good one, makes for an interesting diversion while the routine is in play; but everything still must come down to how well it all ends up fitting together.
By the time the third book of a trilogy rolls around the author has been keeping her objects in motion for some time now, and has to begin the process of winding the action down until it reaches a conclusion. Final judgement on how successful his project has been rests on her ability to come to the same seamless finale that her counterpart juggler strives for.
Is there a mad scramble at the end in a bid to resolve everything that had been put in motion, or do all the elements come to rest with the same certainty they showed upon being set into motion? If the author has managed to keep her focus on the neutral ground of the ending there should be no problem. But if he has become more immersed in the play of the individual items than the overall picture, it can lead to the sensation that the story was rushed to an end for the sake of having a conclusion.
Not only does this make for unsatisfying storytelling but it usually leaves far too many unresolved and partially resolved issues. Except in the cases where this is a deliberate effort on the part of the author, and made abundantly clear that it was the intent, books that end like that look sloppy and diminish whatever fine work may or may not have preceded it.
A sure sign that an author has let things go to long before starting the resolution, is when events start to be influenced by elements that had no previous mention in the story. The introduction of new characters at the last moment, unpredicted natural disasters, or any other “hand of God” device is a sure sign that the author hasn’t given enough thought to what to do with each element.
Jude Fisher’s Rose Of The World, book three of her Fools Gold series, could be a primer on how to do things properly. In fact the whole trilogy could be a template for novice authors to follow in terms of structure and pacing. Books one and two, Sorcery Rising and Wild Magic respectively, have set the stage through their development of characters and plot to ensure that the author only need tie all the ends together to finish off the story.
One of the really nice techniques she uses is to incorporate elements from one story line into another in order to ensure that circumstances play out the way she wants, without looking like she is forcing the issue. In order for Aron Aronson to be able to set out on his journey to Sanctuary in Wild Magic he had kidnapped the finest shipwright in Eyran.
When the Istria decide to invade Eyran they need a shipwright because they have not the knowledge to build the ships that can survive an ocean voyage. When it is discovered that the best one in Eyran is at Aron’s settlement, with only women to protect him, a raider party sets out to kidnap him, and take as many women prisoner as they can to sell at the slave markets. This is how at the beginning of The Rose Of The World we find Aron’s daughter Katla being shipped to Istria, where she is needed for the continuation of the story. It is just one example of how every step of the way Ms. Fisher is not only juggling her separate plot lines successfully but managing to ensure that all elements for the ending end up in place seamlessly.
Whether it’s reuniting characters who have not seen each other since Sorcery Rising in order for them to garner much needed information, or the bringing together of those who had not previously met, but need to for the final resolution to occur, there is never the feeling of an issue being forced. Although there is an occasional stretching of credibility (the strange old hermit woman in Katla’s home village just happening to be the wife of the Wizard who resides in Sanctuary) these instances can be forgiven because the character in that circumstance is very believable.
Sometimes the crazy old hermit woman that all the children refer to as a witch really is one, and that’s the case in this instance. By utilizing that old familiar concept of the scary old woman on the edge of town, Ms. Fisher is able to offset any awkwardness that could cause enough disbelief to send her juggling balls off course.
As The Rose Of The World progresses, bits and pieces of information that have come out in the prior two books are explained and made clear to both us and the characters in the book. Instead of an event in book three looking like it sprang out of nowhere, it can be traced back along a trail of information to a point in Sorcery Rising.
When we first met all of our characters they were all converging at the site of the Allfair in Istria. Here it was that Katla ran afoul of the authorities for being in a place where women were not allowed. Aron Aronson had purchased the map that would lead him to Sanctuary from the former wizard’s apprentice Virelai.
Saro Vingo had innocently wandered into the Nomad’s encampment of the fair and stumbled upon the items that would govern his life and received his first glimpse of Katla. It is at the fair that Rosa Eldi makes her escape from Virelai and, using her power, bewitches the King of Eyran into selecting her as his wife, inciting the passions that recreate the enmity that has only lain dormant between the peoples of Eyran and Isria, which in turn is the cause of all the ensuing destruction over the course of the trilogy.
Through adept juggling Ms. Fisher is able to come full circle and bring her entire cast of characters back to where everything began and bring the series to its conclusion. Any of the strings that she leaves untied are ones that are suitable in character for those involved. Katla has all along claimed she will not take a wife, so to have no resolution in sight as far as her relationship with Saro goes, makes perfect sense.
The Rose Of The World is a successful conclusion to a well-structured and crafted trilogy that shows off the author’s ability to juggle the myriad of elements that allow for maximum reader enjoyment. While never overly complex, she manages to introduce enough elements to keep interest alive throughout the three novels.
There is nothing earth-shattering about these books; by no means are they high art or feats of intellectual derring-do. But you’re not going to be reading the majority of fantasy literature for those reasons anyway. This is a well-written and interesting story by a skilled craftsperson that knows all the tricks of her trade. It’s nice to know that there are still authors out there who care enough to have made the effort to learn how to juggle properly.