This is the second time I reach the third book in a series (I like three - it's a nice, clean number. Must be my failed catholic upbringing). When I wrote Sorceress of Shadows, the final volume in my Heirs of a Broken Land series, I very much had the same experience I do now.
The first book is all about discovery. Discovering your world, your characters, your intrigues... It's a wild ride not to be taken lightly.
The second book, I find, is the highest pressure book. You don't want your series to slack off in the middle, so you have to keep things tense. The story can't just be filler. It has to have a reason and purpose for being, while leaving the readers wanting book 3.
The last book, however, is a whole other beast. This is probably your characters' final curtsy. This is your last chance to visit those hauntings, to give them the moments they've been waiting for (or not), and to let them breathe their last. Oh, I mean, they might live beyond the third book, but it'll be off page. A whole other experience.
The final book has to live beyond the pages in your readers' imaginations. It has to be a satisfying ending for them, too - the readers stuck with you this long, after all! And it has to remain true to the story, no matter how much you might want to end on a high note with sparkling unicorns and caffeinated rainbows. That's rarely the way to go (thankfully).
I'm reading a trilogy right now and I'm on book 3, the final book (at least so far). I whipped through books 2 and most of 3 in a few days, regardless of their impressive girth. But I'm slowing down, with less than 200 pages to go. I'm not sure why I slowed down, but I suspect that, at this point, I'm a bit scared. A few events in the last book made me feel like the author was doing this because it was her last chance to make the characters do something, even if it no longer fit the story. I might be wrong - I haven't finished the story, after all, but it was enough to make me worry.
I might also have slowed down because I know I only have a few pages left with these characters, and after investing so much into them, I'll miss them when they're gone.
I'm keeping all of this in mind as I write my own final book. I want it to answer questions while coming up with plausible resolutions for issues plaguing my characters, some since Destiny's Blood. It's a bit hard watching my characters take their final curtsy, too. I mean, it's hard letting go of characters from books you've read, but it's a lot harder letting go of ones you're writing.
The book is due this Thanksgiving at Dragon Moon Press, and I still have a lot of work to do. August is full of cons and outings, but I'm still confident I can get 'er done. I'll keep you up to date!
Onward to The End we go!