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  • Karen Frost

The Ending of "Conspiracy," Explained

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

We're now four days away from the release of "Conspiracy of the Dark" and it has 7 ratings on Goodreads for an average score of 4.57 out of 5. Reviews are generally positive, but the primary complaint is that it finishes on a cliffhanger, which makes it deeply unsatisfying to readers who like their stories tied up in a neat bow. The secondary complaint is that there's no f/f relationship yet.

I get it.

Almost every book in a literary series presents a full and complete story even as it works with the other books in the series to tell a larger story. The mystery is solved, the jewel is stolen, the villain unmasked. That's good storytelling, right? Provide readers their desired payoff while still promising a larger narrative? It's true, "Conspiracy" fails to fulfill that particular covenant with readers. The circle is unfinished, the strings not yet tied, the mystery unresolved. Sorry. The truth is, it's a word count issue, plain and simple. For the YA genre, the ideal word count is between 55,000 and 80,000 words. In recent years, readers have assumed that the genre uses more words because of the success of huge tomes (Christopher Paolini's popular "Eragon," for example, is 157,000 words), but these are the exceptions, not the rule. Tamora Pierce's "Alanna: The First Adventure" is a mere 49,061words. Malinda Lo's "Ash" was about 67,000 while "Huntress" was about 87,000. As Lo writes on her website, a literary agent told her the "sweet spot" for YA fantasy is 65-85,000 words. I had a target to hit.

"Conspiracy of the Dark" is about 76,000 words. The second book, "The Darkness Rising," is about 71,000 words. Yes, if you combine them together it's still fewer words than "Eragon," but 147,000 words is double the sweet spot for the YA fantasy genre. Because of that, I submitted "Conspiracy of the Dark" and "The Darkness Rising" as a duology to Ylva Publishing and not a single, more completely satisfying work. Having read the draft, Ylva didn't push to have it be a single manuscript. We agreed that one book would be too long for readers to swallow.

So while any and all ire about the cliffhanger ending should be directed at me, I hope readers will forgive it once they've read the second book. To complaints that there's no love story in book one, I hope readers will have the patience to wait until book two. The two books together are yin and yang, and even though having to hunt down two copies of books rather than just one is an extra step of effort, I'd like to believe it's worth it. So have faith, readers. Your patience will be rewarded in the second book.

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