Friday, January 25, 2013

...But It Was An Ending - Review of "A Memory of Light"

Title: A Memory of Light
Authors: Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: January 8, 2013

Synopsis (via Goodreads) -

Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty 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 # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, 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 readers.

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.

My Review:
Oh hey - I've got that cover image on two blog posts in a row. There aren't rules against that, are there?

Funny story - Two weeks ago when I was fangirl-gushing and keysmashing over "A Memory of Light" on Facebook and Twitter, a friend asked me if I was going to write up a review.  I said "Absolutely!" And then two seconds later, my brain caught up with my mouth and I thought "How in the Seven Hells am I going to do that?"

(oh crap, now I'm getting "A Song of Ice and Fire" into my "Wheel of Time" discussion. Wrong doorstopper fantasy series, dear!)

It's really hard to discuss "A Memory of Light" without getting in all the particulars of the entire "Wheel of Time" series.  And while I am a fan, I realize that my readers (all five of you) probably don't want to sit through a blow-by-blow description of what happens and why (and if you do want something like that, may I point you in the direction of the lovely and talented Leigh Butler and the Wheel of Time Re-Read).

My non-spoiler review is: I was satisfied.  I now want to read the entire series from beginning to end, just for the feeling of having done it.  Not everyone will love this (or has loved it), but I do.  And poo on them that don't *raspberry*

(I may be a legal adult, but deep down I'm still seven).

Okay, now I'm giving the big fat SPOILER warning.  You know me - I gush and I rant and I weep and I keysmash.  Beyond this point I have no filters, so proceed with caution.

One more thing, though - while I was re-reading the Wheel of Time last year, I also discovered The Piano Guys.  And somehow, the two have become connected in my head. In fact, if HBO or whoever decided to do a TV miniseries of The Wheel of Time, my vote would be for The Piano Guys to do the music (probably wouldn't happen, but I can dream).  I even think of their rendition of "Rolling in the Deep" as the theme for the Dragon Reborn (the character, not the book).  So, it would give me much joy and squee if you listened to it as you read my review - just because I'm strange like that.

To be honest, I have no illusions that passive readers will pick this book up on its own. When I tell people the series is 14 books long, they look at me like I'm batcrap insane (I mean, moreso than they usually do) and there is no way in frozen hell that they are going to read this series. And that's perfectly fine. It's not for you. This ending is purely for the fans (at least, the people who cared enough to stick around this long).

But this is what I will say - I was satisfied.  This series has spent 14 books and 20 years building up to the Last Battle and the (presumptive) end of the world and that's exactly what we got (except the world didn't quite end the way it was advertised - spoilers!)  If you don't know, the last three books - The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light - were initially meant to be one ginormous novel.  After Robert Jordan passed away and Brandon Sanderson was asked to complete the series, Sanderson decided that in order to do the ending justice, it needed to be split into three books.  So, you really have to think of these last three books as part of a bigger picture - which is why Mat's and Perrin's storylines in "Towers of Midnight" are so far behind Rand's and Egwene's in "The Gathering Storm."  But everyone's caught up to each other by the time they start gathering for the Great-Big-Hairy Showdown at the Fields of Merrilor and the Last Battle.

Just to illustrate just how Great-Big-Hairy this whole showdown is - the chapter entitled "The Last Battle" was nearly 200 pages. That's one chapter, kidlets.  One. Chapter. Two. Hundred. Pages.  That's the climax (more or less - it gets wrapped up in the concluding chapters).  But you know what? I think it's fitting.  I know people whine and complain about how long the books in this series are and maybe I'm showing my complete and abject weirdness by saying this, but I like books that are long and involved and take me forever to read (except I read "A Memory of Light" in a little over twelve hours, so much for that theory), especially if I like being in that fictional world.  And the Wheel of Time world is so intricate and detailed that I feel like I'm actually there - or that this is a place where I could go.  That's one of the ways I know I've read a wonderful book - I don't want to leave, even though I know I have to go do dishes

The narrative during the Last Battle jumps from character to character so we get to peek in on what the other characters are doing in their various locations.  I feel like they all got fairly equal representation, with two glaring exceptions.  Nynaeve and Moiraine are the two female channelers Rand asks to come with him to the Dark One's prison because those are the two he feels like he can trust the most to help him use Callandor.  I, for one, was looking forward to these two having to work together because they both had been at each other's throats since book 1 (except for the time Moiraine spent being not-dead - long story) and Nynaeve is easily my favorite Aes Sedai (hell, she's my favorite, period, end of story).  And... there wasn't much narrative given to their involvement in sealing away the Dark One (erm... again).  Moiraine did lend her voice to getting all the monarchs to quit squabbling because HELLO, IDIOTS! LAST BATTLE, END OF THE WORLD HERE! COULD YOU QUIT THROWING YOUR STUPID TWO-YEAR-OLD FITS AND GIVE THE DRAGON REBORN A LITTLE HELP HERE?? so, I'm more forgiving of any slight (perceived or otherwise) on her part.  Nynaeve... well... not so much.  I realize there was a ton to deal with elsewhere and it can't be easy to keep track of it all, but... she kind of felt M.I.A. for a while there.

Let me talk about what I did like!

Mat. Mat getting to be Big Time General In Charge of the battles.  Which is funny, because it took me a loooooong time to hold any kind of love in my heart for Mat Cauthon (I always had a thing for Perrin - more on that later).  But for a guy who spent a good deal of the series trying to get out of fighting in the war, he didn't do so bad.  And he even threw some smarmy verbal swipes at the Seanchan bastards, which is never a bad thing.

Speaking of the bug-helmeted Bizarro World - how about Egwene dropping the hammer on Tuon over that whole enslaving women who can channel thing?  That Egwene once escaped Seanchan captivity was a big enough shakedown of the Empress's world (may she be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels), but that Egwene ALSO (and ABOUT DAMN TIME, I might add) let slip that women who could control damane had the ability to channel as well, thus (hopefully) shaking the Seanchan's faith in the one thing that keeps their civilization together.  Do I think that would totally take down Seanchan overnight? Hell no.  Do I think Seanchan will break down eventually. Yes, indeed.  And this was the beginning of it.

(I am fully aware that some Seanchan learned of the ability to channel in sul'dam before Egwene went toe-to-toe with Tuon.  I was just happy that it was Egwene who got to lay it out for the Empress, may the bird of paradise fly up her nose).

While we've got Mat and Egwene (and others, but mostly those two) running battle tactics and stuff in the real world, my favoritest dear friend Perrin gets to kick ass and take names in the dream world of Tel'aran'rhiod.  You know, I've had a soft spot for Perrin since book 1 that's never really gone away.  And if there is one thing that kind of miffs me about the internet fandom it's that Perrin never seems a get a fair shake from them and that annoys me.  But I'm not going to lay the smackdown on anyone for not liking my favorite characters - just making an observation.  If there is one littel complaint I have about the Wheel of Time series, it's that Perrin didn't get a whole lot of moments to shine in the middle books.  But his big moments in "Towers of Midnight" and "A Memory of Light" make up for it and that makes me happy.  Taking out Slayer (who turns out to be one of the Forsaken - which we more or less already knew) in the dream world with just himself and Gaul (and then Gaul gets left behind, which might make him a bit more badass) - yeah, that was just cool.

And I can't gush about Perrin without giving mad props to his wife, who deserves glowing praise in her own right.  At first, I thought Faile would just be relegated to tactical support while the main characters saved the day (and I couldn't really find fault with that, seeing as she wasn't exactly part of the first wave of Emond Fielders who started this whole thing and deserved most of the action - but still!)  But then her supply train accidentally ends up Traveling out to the Blight and we all go Oh. Shit.  And given how bad Perrin broke down was Faile was simply captured, I didn't see things turning out good for my top Superboy if Faile actually died (I was prepared to chuck the book out the window if that happened, by the way).  But no! Faile - who brought in the cavalry in the Two Rivers and who weaseled her way into the circle of that one-chick-who-tried-to-steal-Cairhien-from-Rand-and-I-can't-be-bothered-to-remember-her-name and who kept it together during her Shaido captivity - Faile gets out of the Blight, oh and she had the Horn of Valere which was needed to call the Heroes of the Age of Legends to the Last Battle - almost forgot that little detail! (Actually, I thought it was a nice callback to have Faile deliver the Horn of Valere to the Last Battle, seeing as she was first introduced as a Hunter for the Horn clear back in "The Dragon Reborn").

There's a lot more I could go on and on about (Bela's death - HOW COULD YOU? - Olver sounding the Horn, Egwene becoming the Flame of Tar Valon) - but really, this boils down to a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful story.  I wish more people would give it a chance, even pushing through the so-called "slow parts" in the middle books.  The build-up is worth the time and emotion and energy you invest in the story and there is no reason to be disappointed (though I guess I've spoiled everything if you've read this far. Oops).  I think I'll re-read the whole series this year, just to see what it feels like to read everything from teh beginning through to the end - and even imagine what happens after Our Heroes ride off into the sunset.

After all, there are no endings to the Wheel of Time.  This is just an ending.

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