An alternative to having the hero perish is killing one of his close friends, allies, or mentors - perhaps even all three. This also creates the desired emotion we want at the end of a book, but the protagonist we know and love is still alive to adventure longer in our imaginations.
Another reason I love a book in which the hero dies is the picture of sacrifice. The hero loves someone else so much that he would give his very life and being to save them. The hero might not even know the person he dies to save, but we see who he truly is when he dives under a train to save an infant who hasn’t had the chance to live. Even though we regret the death of the hero, we have a high regard of him because he did the right thing. He made the sacrifice. In Venom and Song by Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson, we can see that Jett does the right thing by sacrificing himself for the weaker Kiri Lee. Even though we all loved Jett, we now know the person he truly was.
In some books, death is not the end for the hero. Wayne Thomas Batson’s The Final Storm shows Aidan leaving his family to go to the Sacred Realm, where the real adventure begins. Fantasy readers have probably read or at least heard about The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. At the end of The Return of the King, even the toughest reader feels sad when Frodo leaves his friends and family and heads off for the Grey Havens. In a sense, Frodo dies, but in another way, it is almost better than his death. He is choosing to leave his friends and go to a new life. Mr. Tolkien did one of the best jobs I have ever seen of ridding the book of it’s hero.
The hero’s death is the best and worst thing authors can do in their books. It makes us sad, but when done right it has us coming back for more.