Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, listeners have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over 40 million copies in over 32 languages. When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were number-one New York Times hardcover best sellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind. Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of listeners. The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, May yet fall under the Shadow. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
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“Loial son of Arent son of Halen, had secretly always wanted to be hasty.”
As a hasty human, I listened to this book almost non-stop, narrator on 2X (3X for the slow parts) so that I could get to the end. Waiting almost 2 decades for Tarmon Gai’don made me impatient. I’ll certainly listen to it again, this time on normal speed, but wanted to jot down a few things in a spoiler-free review for my fellow impatient humans before I start over and savor it more slowly.
I feel that I should warn people that A Memory of Light is one of the most exhausting books I’ve ever read. Half-way through and I was already battle weary. Three quarters through and I felt that the whole thing was hopeless. None of the preceding books have come close to approaching the intensity of this final volume. It truly felt like the end of all things. It was glorious. It was heartbreaking. It was so many things but, like most WoT books, it wasn’t perfect.
First, a few of the good things. There are so many surprises that I never felt that I could anticipate what was going to happen next. Many threads are tied up, most in a satisfactory manner. Talmanes gets more screen time (I’ve always love Talmanes). You really get the feeling that the entire world is at war, and it’s done in a way that is believable.
The Pervara and Androl storyline almost stole the show. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I’d love to see a follow-up short story about these two in a fantasy anthology like the Legends series.
Good people die. GASP! Oh yes, while Team Jordan doesn’t exactly go about it George R.R. Martin-style, they definitely make up for lost time in weeding down the character list. Some of the deaths are meaningless, some are tide-turners and not all of them were as touching as they could have been. The death of a few of my favorite characters left me feeling oddly detached, while the death of another character had me bawling more than I did for Dumbledor.
Now for the not so good. There are a few deus ex machina contrivances that grated on me, but the worst was about Perrin. Perrin’s special abilities have never been particularly spectacular and it really feels like they got amped up so that he wouldn’t be overshadowed by the other two ta’veren boys. I’ve never been a huge fan of Perrin’s storyline once he married Faile, so maybe it’s just me.
Mat, one of my favorite characters, has deteriorated into not much more than a clown. I didn’t mind his comic relief bits so much in the last two novels, but he’s a pivotal character in this novel and has become almost a parody of Mat.
Everything Padan Fain. Sad waste of a potentially great villain. I really haven’t cared about him since he left the Whitecloaks and here it almost seemed like he was thrown in as an afterthought. I wish they would have just left him out of it. Terrible.
Another reviewer stated that some of the accents for characters have changed, and I have to agree. I’ve just spent 3 months listening to the 14 previous books and there are several minor differences in the ‘voice’ of some characters in this final novel. It was mildly distracting in the beginning, but nowhere near as the egregious differences in Roy Dotrice’s erratic narrations of the first/last Song of Ice and Fire novels.
Unlike Tolkein’s Return of the King, we don’t get a lot of wrap up. If I had to summarize the flow of the novel, it goes something like this, maneuver, maneuver, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, reposition your troops, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, end. Sure, it’s Tarmon Gai’don, but I guess I’m one of those people that prefer a bit more exposition about what happens afterward. These are our friends, some of whom we know better than our own family members, and I would have preferred to know more about what happens to them when the dust settles as we’ve been assured that there won’t be any sequels or prequels.
As far as my rating, I take away ½ star for pacing, ½ star for annoying plot devices, ½ star for missed opportunities, which leaves 3 ½ stars. I’ll round that up to 4 because, though it often infuriates me, The Wheel of Time is an old friend and I love it despite it’s flaws.