5.10.2019

Writers, Stop Killing Pets

I recently finished the second of a six-volume epic fantasy series. I'm not going to tell you the name of the series in case you haven't read it. And no, it's not about games and thrones. One of the protagonists of the series is a young mystic whose companion is a wolf. The two are inseparable. I like the wolf. It's my favorite character. As I read toward the climax of the first volume, I had the sense the writer was setting up the story for the wolf's death. I considered putting the book away if the wolf died. But, surprise, surprise, the wolf survives.

After finishing volume one, I wrote to the author on Goodreads to tell him how much I enjoyed the story. The wolf is my favorite character, I wrote, and I was impressed that he avoided the temptation to kill it. The author thought it was interesting I experienced such a strong connection to the wolf's character. He asked me to write again after finishing volume two. I should have seen what was coming.

In volume two, the wolf dies. Twice! Yes, twice the loyal, faithful wolf with its fighting and sniffing skills is sacrificed. In the first instance, the party is trapped deep in the bowels of a mountain and under attack from a demon. The mystic might be able to defeat it but needs a massive surge of power. The mystic's mentor offers herself as a sacrifice to create the power. The mentor at this point is three-quarters dead already. The idea is the mystic has to kill someone close and dear to her. The mystic decides she cannot kill her mentor, so she kills her wolf instead and transforms the wolf's spirit into a sort of dragon which battles the demon until they figure out how to dispatch it.

It's kind of neat that the wolf has upgraded to a wolf-dragon who is still intensely loyal to the mystic. And yes, I understand the need for the sacrifice. But, the wolf's character lives on in a new form and won't it be neat for the mystic to have a wolf-dragon as a companion? Think of the damage a wolf-dragon could do to a horde of enemies? As they are leaving the bowels of the mountain, the mystic is abducted by a nasty creature. The other members of the party are powerless to save her until the wolf-dragon shows up and puts an end to the creature.

At this point the wolf-dragon has prevented the demon from killing all of them and single-handedly saved the mystic. The mentor is now comatose and nine-tenths dead. None of the humans in the party have died. Due to some restrictions in the spell used to create the wolf-dragon, it cannot leave the mountain. Bummer! But, it could still live on as a friendly force for good inside the mountain. There are still many nasty creatures living down there. The mystic refuses to leave the wolf-dragon. The pair settle on the floor together like she and her wolf used to do.

Meanwhile, the party of humans struggle to negotiate an exit from the city. The ungrateful mayor won't allow them to leave even though the demon has been destroyed. What does the leader of the party do? Yes, you guessed it. She offers to kill the wolf-dragon in exchange for free passage home. Really? This is how you reward loyal service? The poor mystic must again kill her friend to save the party's sorry butts. There appears to be no coming back this time, which is probably a good thing. They would just kill it again.

Seriously, can't writers think of something better to do than killing off pets? We've all seen Old Yeller. We've been there, done that.

Image Attribution: Detail from an image by Stéfan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.