I have killed a major character and some readers are angry about it.
So a little background - I am writing a light fantasy medieval novel (a 3-5 book series) with a current word count of 231K (I know, I need to do a lot of cutting). The last chapter ends with a major female character meeting her demise in a violent manner. I have a few developmental readers who are angry and upset that I killed off the character. The story is character driven and the readers become invested in some of the main characters. My purpose for killing the character is to be unpredictable. I don't want the protagonist arriving in the nick of time to save the fair maiden. In this case, he arrives too late, the town is in ashes, and the "fair maiden" is dead. Two developmental readers are both trying to talk me into saving her but I can't help notice that they are both woman and probably sympathize with the female character that I killed. Adding to it, I killed a few other relatable characters in the closing chapters and the book ends on a very sad note. BUT... I still have plenty of other characters living, including the main protagonist and antagonist along with another major strong female character.

What to do? It feels right killing the female character that the two readers complain about, but I don't want to leave it so that my readers are mad and don't want to continue reading. One reader told me that it took her four days to come to terms with the loss of the character I killed. She finally stated that she wants to know that good will rise in the end and wants to move forward with the second book (book 2 is still in concept stage - too busy working the edits on book 1).

Thoughts? I just don't want a cookie cutter - "happily ever after" ending to book 1, but I don't want to alienate readers either. I want to the read left with a sad feeling but still wishing to move on to the next book.