Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Memory of Light

The Wheel of Time is finished.

Just think about that for a minute. 23 years since The Eye of the World was first published. Nearly 6 years since Robert Jordan died and over 3 years since Brandon Sanderson took over and published his first volume in the concluding trilogy, The Gathering Storm. It’s done, we have our ending and now nobody can say they are waiting to start the Wheel of Time when it’s complete. The end is here.

The first thing to really take into account is Brandon Sanderson’s effort in completing this mammoth task. Yes, there have been hiccups on the way (and they are still evident in A Memory of Light) but all in all, Sanderson has done an admirable job in finishing the Wheel of Time with a concluding volume which is as action packed as we could expect from the long awaited Last Battle. I can’t even begin to comprehend the scale of taking on this job as Sanderson has.

A Memory of Light starts with a bang, and really it just goes from that bang to an even bigger bang (to lots of really whopping, explosive bangs). The book is mostly just one enormous battle, sometimes taking place on the same battlefield; sometimes not. Brandon Sanderson’s action scenes are really quite brilliant. Apparently he had a little advice from Bernard Cornwell, and it shows. The action never gets boring, which, for a novel 900 pages long and filled with fighting, is some achievement. The tactics on display are at times awe-inspiring – mostly involving some particularly creative methods of using Gateways. Prepare to laugh and cower, often on the same page.

Long running mysteries are solved and ancient prophecies are fulfilled, sometimes in fairly surprising ways. A few side characters come to the fore in this book for the first time and we get to see a few “on-screen” pairings which we’ve looked forward to for 14 books, as well as a few which are less expected, but just as entertaining. There are several endings – some of which are very satisfying, some not so much. A few threads are left dangling, most of which I didn’t really expect to be fully resolved by the end of the series anyway. The ending (both what I assume is Sanderson’s scenes and the epilogue, penned by RJ himself) really is as satisfying as I could realistically have expected.

The only problem I had with AMoL was something which I half-expected, and it’s really more of an issue with the series as a whole which was particularly noticeable in this book. Basically, some of the much promoted character deaths which happen in AMoL really didn’t hit me in the way I expect Sanderson/Jordan thought they would. Across the length of this series we’ve mostly never been given the impression that any of the major characters were in mortal danger. However, it’s always been said that there would be a high bodycount in AMoL. While this is true, it just never felt particularly emotional. Some of the deaths seemed thrown in for the sake of it. Only one or two seemed important, and even then I never felt the emotional response I imagine I was supposed to.

But the end is satisfying, and to me, cements the legacy of the Wheel of Time as one of the truly great fantasy epics. I envy the readers who have still to pick up The Eye of the World for the first time and read through to this ending - and really, that’s the best compliment I can give to Brandon Sanderson. He’s done Robert Jordan proud and given us all the ending the Wheel of Time deserved.

The Wheel turns. 


David Bridger said...

"I envy the readers who have still to pick up The Eye of the World for the first time and read through to this ending..."

That's me! I don't usually wait for a series to finish before I start reading (although there have been times when I wished I had) but when I became aware of The Wheel of Time is was already BIG so I decided to save it for the future. Guess what my wish list will be for next Christmas. :)

Thanks for an excellent review!

Douglas Smith said...

Well it's definitely well worth the effort - the series does have a big slump in the middle, unfortunately, but the last 4 books have really pulled it back to this excellent ending. Hope you enjoy it when next Christmas rolls around David!

Lisa Taylor said...

Like David, I have yet to read even The Eye of the World. But I've now bumped the series up quite a bit on my TBR list. It's daunting to start it, but it really helps to know that it has a great and satisfying ending.

Dominic Stevens said...

Thanks Doug. look forward to finishing this in the summer.