Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hope of Memory [Update 18] Wilders Cover

Wanted to quickly post the Wilders cover after putting it together this weekend.  What does the symbol stand for?  Well, if you've read The Distant, you'll know.


Wilders will be out in 2014 for sure, but I don't have any date set it stone.  It depends on how much of Rom Tar (Book 3) I need write before feeling comfortable finalizing Wilders.

Rom Tar is coming along, at around 40K words now, 9 chapters done.  Definitely a bit harder to write than the first two...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cut Stories - Version 1.1

My first update for BĂ©atrice Coron's Cut Stories went live today.  I updated it to Version 1.1.  The update process is just as simple as the submission process... Apple makes it fairly painless.

The update made it compatible with iOS 7.0, as well as changing the minimum required OS to 6.0.  Most people are on 6 or 7 at this point... no need to really support 5 anymore.

Also made a few tweaks to the logic, menu button updates and minor bug fixes. There's still a slight problem with stuttering for Retina iPads, and I have an update for landscape mode in the works.  It's been slow going since I've been so busy lately.  Hopefully I'll have it done soon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hope of Memory [Update 17] Rom Tar Progress

Behind on my blogging as usual... super busy with work and real life.  But I still make time to work on my various projects, one of which is the first draft of Rom Tar, Book 3 of The Hope of Memory.

It's coming along - I'm at about 30K words right now - but I'm finding this one fairly hard to write, because of the first half of the book.  Without spoiling anything, I have to essentially come up with another "civilization" and a whole new set of characters, and this book has more hard science in it than the other two, so I have to spend time researching and making sure I get the details right (as much as I can without letting it ruining the story).

So it's been a challenge but I'm working through it.  The first draft is all about getting it down on paper - it doesn't have to be the best writing, as long as I get the ideas and major plot points down.

I'm typing portions of it up as I go along, which has actually helped quite a bit as I can fill in details that I didn't think of the first time, but which pertain to the section I'm currently writing.

I've also been very aware of "show don't tell" for this one... as I write a first draft I tend to do a lot of "telling" to get the details down, then convert to "showing" as I type it up.  This book has a lot of telling up front - which I'll need to convert and deliver to the reader in a different way.  No one likes to read a lot of info dumps.  I try to avoid them, but occasionally I'll go with one if I feel it's the best way to tell the story.

Anyway, I don't believe The Distant has sold much, but that's because I haven't been advertising it much.  Hopefully that will ramp up once I get the rest of the trilogy out.  Wilders will be out next year for sure.

In the next update I'll post the cover for Wilders.  I also need to continue my David Eddings retrospective... thanks for reminding me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Hope of Memory [Update 16] The Distant Released!

After many years, I've finally released The Distant, Book 1 of The Hope of Memory.  Yay me!  It's now available in trade paperback and eBook formats.


The trade is through CreateSpace.  It's available both through the CreateSpace site and Amazon (US and many of their international sites).  I'll add international store links to the Novels page eventually, but for now, here are the US ones:

CreateSpace - Trade Paperback | $11.99
Amazon US - Trade Paperback | $11.99 (though they already dropped it to $11.40)
Amazon US - Kindle eBook | $2.99

You're probably wondering... why bother buying it through CreateSpace?  Amazon is better!

Yes, it's better in terms of what you can get, but I will make a higher royalty through CreateSpace.  So if you don't care about eBooks or Prime shipping, etc, then feel free to go that route if you wish.

For the Amazon version, I've enabled most of their features, because I can.  The book has:

Matchbook = If you buy the Trade paperback, you can get the Kindle eBook for FREE
Kindle Lending Library = If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow the eBook for FREE
Lending Enabled = You can lend your copy of the eBook to other users
KDP Select = Occasionally Amazon may offer the eBook for FREE for a limited time as part of a promotion
No DRM = I don't care about DRM anymore

To use some of these features I have to make the eBook exclusive to Amazon for at least 90 days.

The New Cover
You may have noticed the cover is slightly different than what I previously posted.  When designing the full wraparound cover for the paperback, the original format simply didn't work when it was right next to the spine.  It worked for an eBook, but not a physical book.

So I played around with it a bit and came up with a new version I'm happy with.  I also changed the background texture... I had to go out to the park and take some high resolution pictures of tree bark and stone that would fit the new size.


The Other Books
Update on the status of the other two books in the series.  As I've reported before, the initial draft of Book 2, Wilders, is complete.  Any further work on that has been put aside while I write the initial draft of Book 3, Rom Tar, which I started last month.

I haven't decided whether I'll do all of Rom Tar before going back to Wilders or not.  I really only need to first half written to feel comfortable finalizing Wilders.  We'll see.

For Rom Tar, I am trying something different when writing it.  I'm still writing longhand, but instead of waiting for that to be complete before typing it up, I'm typing it up after every chapter or so.  This makes me think about what I wrote and make any edits right away, rather than trying to figure that out with the whole book already written (which can be a pain, since changing something can have a domino effect... I had problems like that with The Distant).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Retrospective Conclusion - The Wheel of Time

This is the 19th and final part of my continuing series of blogs regarding what may possibly be my last re-read of The Wheel of Time, coinciding with the release of the final book in 2013. Please see this blog post for an overview of the re-read and why I am blogging about it. Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. The best way to approach this retrospective is via your own re-read. If you have not read the entire series yet, you may want to wait on reading this.




Retrospective Conclusion
So here we go, my first retrospective conclusion.  Took me over 2 years to get here, but I finally made it.  For these conclusions, I figured I'd do a few things.  First, I'll do a couple of lists.  These are always fun and ripe for discussion.  Then I'll provide some references around the web for all your Wheel of Time needs.  Finally, closing thoughts... of which I don't really have much, everything I had to say was said in the previous 20 (if you count the A Memory of Light reaction) blog posts on the series.

The Lists

Book Rankings (Vol)
The Shadow Rising (4)
A Memory of Light (14)
The Dragon Reborn (3)
Lord of Chaos (6)
The Fires of Heaven (5)
Towers of Midnight (13)
The Eye of the World (1)
The Gathering Storm (12)
The Great Hunt (2)
Knife of Dreams (11)
The Path of Daggers (8)
A Crown of Swords (7)
Winter's Heart (9)
Crossroads of Twilight (10)

Analysis:

The Shadow Rising will always be my favorite.  As good as A Memory of Light was, it would have not dethroned TSR.  That book is where everything blows open wide, the story becomes very complex and our first real glimpses of the Age of Legends appear, illustrating the true scope of the story.  A Memory of Light gets second place because of its epicness.

Before the series finished, Books 1-6 were generally the best in the series for me.  Now that it has been completed, however, Books 12-14 have been inserted between them.  Sanderson did a great job and jumpstarted the flagging storyline, taking us into the last lap for a superb finish.

While I understand the purpose of Books 7-10 in the overall storyline, and Book 8 is pretty decent in retrospect, I feel Jordan let the story get away from him a bit and he lost his focus on the audience during that 4-book stretch.  It's one thing to tell the story the way you want to tell it, but it's another to tell it in a way that people will want to read.  There has to be a compromise there.  It's easier to deal with now that the series is complete, but back in the day, it was a hellish 9-year stretch of waiting and grumbling.


Favorite Scenes / Moments
In order of my most favorite.

- Dumai's Wells
- Demandred's reveal at the Last Battle
- Rand in the columns at Rhuidean
- Rescue of Moiraine from the Tower of Ghenjei
- Olver blowing the Horn of Valere
- Mat's first journey into the Tower of Ghenjei
- Nynaeve Heals stilling / gentling
- Seanchan attack on the White Tower
- Perrin forges Mah'alleinir
- Egwene's sacrifice at the Last Battle
- Aviendha's second trip through the columns at Rhuidean
- The Cleansing of saidin
- Rand taking Callandor
- Egwene defeating Mesaana 

Dumai's Wells gets the top spot because it was truly the first time the existing power in the land (Aes Sedai) were broken.  The White Tower had split, of course, and Rand had take the Stone of Tear and brought the Aiel into the land, but the Aes Sedai still tentatively maintained their power and authority all throughout that time, even with the split.  But with Dumai's Wells, the first Aes Sedai swear to the Dragon Reborn and as the end of the last chapter in Lord of Chaos says:
The first nine Aes Sedai swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn, and the world was changed forever.
One of my favorite lines in the entire series.  I get chills every time I read it.

For the other top ones:

Demandred's reveal is simply awesome.  As someone who didn't read many theories online in the last 10-15 years, it was a complete surprise to me.  Rand's trip through the columns at Rhuidean is arguably the best sequence in the entire series.  As mentioned in the post for The Shadow Rising, many (including myself) consider it Jordan's best work.

Moiraine's rescue is up there because it was an event we'd been waiting for for a long time, it didn't disappoint and there were some great moments (Noal's sacrifice, the secret of Mat's ashandarei).  And, of course, Olver blowing the Horn of Valere and the return of Noal as a Hero of the Horn brought tears to my eyes.  It was great to see that Olver made a difference in the end.

Character Groupings
There are only a handful of characters I dislike in the series... you'll find them at the bottom of my character "rankings," which instead of being numbered or ranked will simply be grouped into categories.

I will say that my favorite character is Lan.  If you've read the entire series yet don't understand why, then I don't know what to tell you.  Mat used to be my favorite, but his relationship with the Seanchan got a little too weird in the end for me.

So here are my groupings based on each character's overall arc and fate in the story, listed alphabetically in each group.  If a character isn't listed, I didn't care about them enough to bother grouping them.

Cool
- Asmodean
- Aviendha
- Birgitte Silverbow
- Demandred
- Egwene al'Vere
- Lan Mandragoran
- Loial
- Min Farshaw
- Moiraine Damodred
- Olver
- Rand al'Thor
- Thom Merrilin
- Verin Mathwin

Okay
- Faile Bashere
- Fain / Ordeith / Mordeth / Shaisam / too many names
- Galad Damodred
- Gareth Bryne
- Graendal
- Ishamael / Moridin
- Logain Ablar
- Mat Cauthon
- Mazrim Taim
- Nynaeve al'Meara
- Siuan Sanche
- Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag

Annoying
- Cadsuane Melaidhrin
- Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan
- Elayne Trakand
- Gawyn Trakand
- Lanfear
- Moghedien
- Perrin Aybara
- Slayer / Luc

The James O. Rigney Papers
After Jordan's death, Harriet McDougall (for the thousandth time, Jordan's widow and editor, stop asking!) donated his papers and various effects to the College of Charleston, where they will be processed and made available for students and researchers.  These include drafts of the WoT novels, along with notes and drafts / materials for the other novels he wrote prior to WoT.

As they are being processed, occasionally someone at the College will blog about a particular item, and most of them are quite fascinating.  You can visit the blog here.

There's one letter he wrote to Bantam, asking for a signed copy of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  Another letter asks Tom Doherty (President of Tor) not to force the title of "The Lord of Chaos" on the 6th book of WoT.

It's fascinating stuff, I only wish they would post more of it in the blog.  Maybe someday I can visit it after it's been processed.  Charleston is a city I've wanted to visit for a long time anyway.

WoT Resources
If you've actually read through my blogs, you'll note that I reference many different sites throughout.  When the internet began to truly blossom in the late 90's, WoT fansites were popping up everywhere.  I don't know if this is true anymore, but at the time there were more fansites for WoT than any other fiction work (even LotR).  Many don't exist anymore (like Wotmania).  But quite a few still do.  Here's a list of the ones I find most useful today and feel are worth visiting:
  • Encyclopaedia WOT = This one is in need of a serious design overhaul, but it's my #1 go-to reference if I can't remember specific details or what happens when.  They are taking a while to get it updated for A Memory of Light, though.
  • Dragonmount = Clearly the biggest and most popular community.  Jordan essentially sanctioned it as the official site of the series when he put his blog on there.  If you want to chat about the series in a forum, this is probably the best place to do that.
  • Wheel of Time Wiki = A newer site in the popular wiki format you see on Wikipedia, etc.  Good resources for pictures / fan art.  Not entirely complete, but getting there.
  • Theoryland = A great resource for all interviews and Q&As with Jordan and Sanderson.  Also a lot of theories, which I didn't really read until after the series was over.
  • The Thirteenth Depository = An extremely insightful and detailed blog that analyzes every nook and cranny of the series.  Hardcore fans only.
  • Composite Glossary = All the entries from every book glossary combined in one place.
There are many more, of course... check here for a nice listing of additional sites.

The Official Encyclopedia
Now, technically this isn't all finished.  Harriet and Team Jordan are putting together an official, be-all-end-all encyclopedia for The Wheel of Time.  It's supposedly going to have everything we'd ever want to know about the world, drawn from Jordan's copious notes.

When that's coming out, I have no idea.  Last I heard it would be 2014 sometime.  Either way, I will buy it when it comes out.  And I'll most likely do a blog entry about it, to review it if nothing else.  So stay tuned.  But for now, this Retrospective is done.

So, once again: thank you, Robert Jordan, for creating this world.  It's been a fun ride.


Previous:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Hope of Memory [Update 15] The Distant Finalized

Alright, The Distant has been finalized.  I'm not making any more changes to it.  I managed to squeeze in two more drafts with another read through of the book during the last month and a half, so I'm ending with the Eighth Draft, around 168.6K words (which it's been hovering around since the Fourth Draft).

The eBook version is pretty much done, so now I need to format it for trade paperback, via CreateSpace.  This is a bit more work than I expected, as things have to be done in a certain order to publish the physical version.  So we're looking at a few more weeks at least before publication.  Either way, I'll be glad to move on, I want to get started on writing the third book, Rom Tar.

Oh, and in my last update, I was debating whether or not to have a preview of the second book, Wilders, at the end of The Distant.  I've decided not to do that... I'll let The Distant stand on its own.

After this post, the next The Hope of Memory update will be the publication announcement.  Yay!

CreateSpace
First, obviously, the text has to be complete.  Then I have to reformat the entire file with the page sizes, alternating margins, new fonts / layout for chapter headers, etc etc.  It can be a little tricky using MS Word, but if you know how to use the program it's not too bad.

So once that's finished, I make a pdf version which gives me my final page count - which I need in order to start on the cover.  Depending on the length of the book (looks like The Distant will be 500 pages or so), the spine width will vary and my wraparound cover image will need to be adjusted.  So I'll be creating a new cover for that - it will be the same as what I've already posted here on this site, but it may be slightly different (like the background image).

Lastly, I'll have to get proofs to make sure everything looks the way I want it.  Then the book will be done and ready for publication.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alex Beard Impossible Puzzles - Red Peacock

As I have mentioned in prior posts, my wife and I like to do puzzles, preferably interesting and unique ones.  A while ago we did one in a series called "Impossible Puzzles," based on the art of Alex Beard.  The one we got was called "Red Peacock."


Alex Beard
I had never heard of Alex Beard until we got this puzzle.  Born and raised in New York City, he eventually moved to New Orleans to pursue art, opening a studio there, etc etc.  After Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, he closed his studio and moved back to NYC, but has since return to the Big Easy, reopening his studio and spending time in both locations.

His art style is what he calls "Abstract Naturalism," which involves the use of the Golden Ratio in the abstract lines that form the base of the objects (usually animals) in his paintings.  It's an interesting style that directly influences his line of Impossible Puzzles (of which there seem to be 12).

Impossible?
Now, of course the puzzles are not "impossible."  They can be solved, though they are a bit harder than normal since the pieces don't interlock, aside from the border.  And speaking of the border, it was very cool how the inner edge is straight as well.  It's simply a frame for the main image, with a little bleed over to help you place the initial pieces.


It was tough at first, since the pieces didn't interlock.  We focused on the center peacock and worked from there.  It took a few sessions to put together... unfortunately this is not a good puzzle for a roll up puzzle mat.  Since they don't interlock, much of it shifted around when we stored it, so we lost time moving chunks back together after unrolling.

Not the hardest puzzle we've ever done... but definitely challenging and a nice change of pace.  Once we got a third of it together it grew much easier because we understood the pattern of the pieces (they are cut along the lines in the art).  We'll have to try a different one sometime, since all the others are more mosaic in design than the Red Peacock one.

For whatever reason, I don't have a picture of the finished puzzle.  Sorry.  But we did finish it, for real.

Endless
A feature of these puzzles touted everywhere is how you can create your own puzzle designs.  Or in other words, use the uniquely-shaped pieces to create new images and designs.  The way the pieces are painted allow you to do that, without it looking weird.

We played around with it a bit, after completing the puzzle.  We didn't make anything extravagant, but you can see from what we did below, how the art on the pieces can be part of your unique design.  It's definitely a great way to engage a child's creativity; you could not even bother with the actual puzzle, just let people play with the pieces and design.  I probably would have called them "Endless Puzzles" instead.


It says in the box that you can submit pics of your creations at Alex Beard's website, but I couldn't find where.  There's not even a section there specifically for the Impossible Puzzles - the unique alexbeardimpossiblepuzzles.com URL simply redirects to his main site - so I'm guessing whatever they had has been taken down.  And there haven't been many updates to the site in general over the last year or so.  I wonder what he's been up to?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wheel of Time [Story] River of Souls

This is Part 18 of my continuing series of blogs regarding what may possibly be my last re-read of The Wheel of Time, coinciding with the release of the final book in 2013. Please see this blog post for an overview of the re-read and why I am blogging about it. Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. The best way to approach this retrospective is via your own re-read. If you have not read the entire series yet, you may want to wait on reading this.




Short Story: River of Souls (2013)
As I've mentioned in the last few Wheel of Time blogs, a sequence from the final book, A Memory of Light, was cut.  This sequence concerned Demandred and some of what he was doing in Shara throughout the series.  It was cut for pacing reasons, and because Harriet McDougall (Jordan's widow and editor) thought it introduced too many new elements when things should be wrapping up.

Later, Sanderson was approached by Shawn Speakman to donate a story to his Unfettered anthology (to help pay for medical bills stemming from cancer), and was able to offer up the deleted Demandred scenes as River of Souls, a short story.

So here we have it, the last Wheel of Time story.

Mysterious Shara
The country / continent of Shara (I would say it's a continent) has been shrouded in mystery the entire series.  Jordan drops little tidbits and hints about it here and there throughout, we see a few Sharans (Graendal kept their rulers as pets for a while) and we definitely get more information once Noal Charin (Jain Farstrider) truly enters the story (in Book 9, Winter's Heart), but the continent is never seen on-screen and Jordan said it never would be at signings and Q&As.  It seemed fascinating and I always hoped Shara would be involved in the storyline somehow, like Seanchan is.  It's their world too.


After Book 13, Towers of Midnight, I despaired of anything Sharan being featured.  Then came Book 14, A Memory of Light... and a Sharan army, led by Demandred!  I've gone over this in the blogs for Book 14.  But I'll repeat, I loved the sudden reveal and inclusion at the end.

In River of Souls, we get more info on Shara than ever before.  However, given the introduction to the story by Sanderson, much of it (terms, names of places, etc) is from his own imagination and not Jordan's notes.  So as he says, the high-level events are canon, but the specifics are not.  Either way, it's a fun read, and everything he came up with fits into the little we know of the culture; nothing felt out of place to me.

The Grand Tapestry
What I liked is how differently the Sharans see the world that we're only familiar with from the viewpoint of the Randland / Seanchan continents.  Instead of the Pattern, they call it the Grand Tapestry.  Channelers are enslaved and kept separate from the rest of the population, tattooed in such a way that you'll always know who they are.

They also have their own prophecy, that of the Wyld, the Dragonslayer.  The Sharans believe this person will save them from the Dragon (Rand, of course).  Demandred essentially comes in and begins to fulfill their prophecies, freeing slaves (called The Freed) and rising in power, until he has to journey down into Angarai'la, the River of Souls (a gorge with a river leading to a "holy" cave), and return to become the Wyld.  He also knows that there is a male sa'angreal from the Age of Legends down there, which is what he is really searching for.

The Prophecies of the Wyld
From the story, it seems that Demandred fulfilling the prophecies of the Wyld was somewhat of a mistake at first.  His intention in freeing slaves and such was to create chaos (Book 6, Lord of Chaos, anyone?).  Later, he appears to fall in love with a Sharan (Shendla) and take the prophecies seriously, for it will bring him Sakarnen and an army of Sharans for the Last Battle.

Side note: In A Memory of Light the sa'angreal he finds is called Sakarnen.  Here in this story what he finds is a cup-like object called D'jedt, also known as the "Scepter" in the Age of Legends.  He combines it with some rod he already had, and I'm guessing this combo he named Sakarnen later.

I'm totally thinking Holy Grail when it comes to D'jedt / Sakarnen.
No surprise, when much of WoT references our myths and legends.
Credit Lairich Rig.

This whole storyline is fascinating.  Sanderson's intent was to make Demandred somewhat sympathetic, to show that he didn't have to be defined by his single flaw: absolute hatred of Lews Therin.  During his time in Shara, he could have had a different life with people who cared for him... but his hatred overrode all.

Sanderson notes in the introduction that there could have been an entire series focusing solely on Demandred's life in Shara, on how he rose to power and fulfilled their prophecies of the Wyld, just as Rand rose to power and fulfilled the prophecies of the Dragon on the main continent.  Now how awesome would that be?  Jordan talked about "outrigger" and prequel novels - things like the story of Tam al'Thor finding Rand on Dragonmount, or Mat and Tuon returning to Seanchan to restore the Empire - but something like this would have been much cooler to read, as opposed to the single taste that we did get (New Spring, which was mediocre).

To Hide or Not to Hide
As I mentioned in the second half of my blog for A Memory of Light, now that I've read this story, I'm a bit torn on Jordan's treatment of Demandred's storyline.

On one hand, it would have made for an awesome counterpoint to Rand's story throughout the series.  Learning about this other land along the way, anticipating the day when Demandred finally reveals himself...

On the other, though, part of the fun of reading the series is constant mystery and guessing when it came to unknown lands and the activities of the Forsaken.

I loved learning more about Shara in the last book and this story, but in the end, I have to concede Jordan made the right decision.  Wondering where Demandred has been the entire time was one of the great mysteries of the series.  It gives you something to talk about and getting readers to do that is a mark of a great writer.

However... Jordan could have maybe given us a little more on Shara during the main storyline.  Just a little.  That's my only gripe.  I want to know more!  That's another mark of a great writer, by the way.

Is It Worth Buying?
I will admit that I bought Unfettered solely for this story, because I'm that much of a WoT fan.  And I will, eventually, read all the stories in the anthology.  But if you're not a hardcore WoT fan, you're not missing much by skipping the story.  As I said before, it's fairly short (13 pages) and you can thoroughly enjoy A Memory of Light without it.

I personally wanted more views into Shara, so it was a no-brainer for me, hardcore fandom aside.  But I do find it interesting that I seem to have more to say about this story than the entire first book the series, The Eye of the World.

Either way, if you're interested in helping Speakman pay off his medical bills, or are a fan of short stories in general, it's worth buying.  There are a number of big names in here, with a variety of stories, so surely there will be a half-dozen or so you'll like.  And the book itself is well-crafted, one of the better-looking hardbacks I've bought in a while.  It's also available in a wide variety of eBook formats.

Purchasing options can be found on the Grim Oak Press website.

So thank you, Shawn Speakman, for giving us one more glimpse into the world of The Wheel of Time.


Cover and interior illustration art (the icon for this blog) is copyright Todd Lockwood.

Next: 

Retrospective Conclusion


Previous:


Book 14 – A Memory of Light – Part 2
Book 14 – A Memory of Light – Part 1
The Wheel of Time is Complete
Reference  The Big White Book
Prequel – New Spring
Book 13 – Towers of Midnight

Book 12 – The Gathering Storm
Book 11 – Knife of Dreams
Book 10 – Crossroads of Twilight
Book 9 – Winter's Heart
Book 8 – The Path of Daggers
Book 7 – A Crown of Swords
Book 6 – Lord of Chaos
Book 5 – The Fires of Heaven
Book 4 – The Shadow Rising
Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn
Book 2 – The Great Hunt
Book 1 – The Eye of the World

Retrospective Overview

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wheel of Time [14] A Memory of Light - Part 2

This is Part 17 of my continuing series of blogs regarding what may possibly be my last re-read of The Wheel of Time, coinciding with the release of the final book in 2013. Please see this blog post for an overview of the re-read and why I am blogging about it. Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. The best way to approach this retrospective is via your own re-read. If you have not read the entire series yet, you may want to wait on reading this.



Book 14: A Memory of Light (2013) - Part 2
Now we get into the meat of the book.  The Last Battle.  Imagine my surprise when I realized the chapter entitled "The Last Battle" was actually 190 pages long.  It's a novella in itself.  Bravo to Brandon Sanderson for deciding to do it that way... perfectly fitting in terms of epicness (is that a word?).  He wanted to make it feel like you couldn't put the book down during the battle, and it does feel that way.

There's even a quote at the beginning of the chapter, something we never see in Wheel of Time.  Sanderson does it in his work, though (see The Way of Kings), so it wasn't surprising that he squeezed one in there somewhere, and the importance of the chapter does call for it.

The Last Battle
When I first looked at the Table of Contents, I noticed there was a map for the Field of Merrilor later on in the book.  At the end of the previous book, Towers of Midnight, Rand is preparing to meet the leaders of the "world" there to discuss the Last Battle, etc.  I thought that would happen right at the beginning.  Surely that wouldn't be delayed until then?  Not to worry... turns out the Field of Merrilor also ends up being the location of the Last Battle.

Hinderstap
My opinion of the strange, almost out-of-place Hinderstap storyline in Book 12, The Gathering Storm, is revised after this.  The way Mat used them was pretty awesome.  I didn't catch the hints about them the first time I read the book, so when they came back to life to take down the Dreadlords and Trollocs at the dam, I was pleasantly surprised.  The setup was much clearer on my re-read.

Quick Character Cameos
I'm a bit torn on these.  During the Last Battle, the action will cut to a character we haven't seen or heard from in a long time... characters whose stories you thought were pretty much complete and didn't expect to reappear.  I understand the purpose: to let you know that everyone, high and low, is fighting against the Shadow.  But some almost take you out of the action, because they abruptly appear and are abruptly gone.

The ones that stand out are:

Ila = The Tinker married to Raen, grandmother of Aram (the Tinker who took up a sword, died in Book 11, Knife of Dreams).  She hadn't been seen since Book 4, The Shadow Rising.  I don't mind her appearance too much, her and the other Tinkers checking the battlefield for wounded that can be Healed; it shows how every type of people are helping at the Last Battle somehow.

Juilin Sandar = Had been with Mat for a long time, doing nothing important, went to Tar Valon before Last Battle.  He hadn't done anything impactful since Book 9, Winter's Heart.  I don't like his abrupt appearance in the Battle, especially when you never learn if he lives or dies.  Better to have left him out, in my opinion.

Hurin = Featured character in Book 2, The Great Hunt, but he had pretty much been gone since then, only briefly reappearing in Book 12, The Gathering Storm, as part of the Borderlander army.  Not a fan of his brief appearance either... at least you find out that he dies later, when Rand sees what has happened to his friends on the battlefield.

Androl Stealing the Seals
I don't know about you, but this seemed a bit unrealistic.  Taim has the 3 remaining seals on the Dark One's prison - the real ones.  They had been stolen from Rand's hiding place at some point in the past.  Androl disguises himself as one of the Dreadlord Asha'man using a Mask of Mirrors to get close to Taim on the battlefield, and proceeds to steal the seals by bumping into Taim and filching them from the pouch at his belt in the few seconds they are in contact.  Taim is completely unaware they are stolen.  Really?  By far the most unbelievable portion of the book.  It would almost have been better had the seals not been stolen.

Credit Todd Cameron Hamilton

Abrupt, Off-screen Deaths
There are a couple of these.  And it sucks that you don't realize that a long-running character has died until after the fact, when someone's telling someone else.  I know it's war and this happen abruptly like that, and I can understand that sometimes it doesn't make narrative sense to break away for a quick death... but in the case of Gareth Bryne, I feel Sanderson should have.  Bryne and Siuan have been around since the first and second books, respectively - they deserved a little more than that.  At least cut away to show Bryne going mad after Siuan dies.  I was disappointed in how that was handled.

Demandred and Shara
I thought this was the coolest part of the entire book.  It was a huge plot twist that I honestly did not expect.  As I mentioned in the blog for Book 6, Lord of Chaos, I've always thought the mystery of Demandred's whereabouts and disguise was more interesting and important than that of the biggest mystery (Who Killed Asmodean?).

The first theories thought he was Mazrim Taim in the Black Tower, which seemed obvious until Jordan denied it.  Others thought it was King Roedran of Murandy, which I never bought into (Sanderson kills this theory right at the beginning of A Memory of Light, when Rand first meets Roedran at Merrilor; it's an amusing moment and I felt like Sanderson specifically put this in there to kill the theory without question).  Not epic or important enough.  So where was he?  There were subtle mentions about how he had an army ready, but we never got anything concrete.

When he appears on the battlefield with a massive army of Sharan warriors and channelers, I was completely stunned.  Sure, people theorized that he was in Shara, but the way Shara was essentially ignored and how Jordan intimated that nothing would take place in Shara, I figured it would continue to be ignored.

Not this time.  My basic reaction to Demandred and Shara's appearance was "Fuck Yeah."  Keeping it secret all this time made his reveal that much more effective and awesome, though it might have been useful to put a few more obvious hints about it throughout the series, to keep it from the realms of deus ex machina.  Because it was very close to being that, and I know many readers felt it came out of left field.

Either way, we finally get to learn a substantial bit more about this culture that has been shrouded in secrecy the entire series.  Channelers are tattooed all over and rank is determined by how few tattoos you have.  So as Egwene astutely notes, you can fall down, but you can't rise back up.

But since Demandred and his time in Shara are covered in the short story "River of Souls," which was released in the Unfettered anthology (see below), I'll talk about it more in the blog for that.  After reading that, I'm a bit torn on Jordan's treatment of the storyline.

Demandred and the Three Champions
Demandred turns out to be a total badass in this book, and I loved how the Light essentially sent three champions out to try and take him down in single combat.  Now Logain did try to battle Demandred with the One Power, but that was a silly notion on Logain's part, and he got his ass whooped.  It's not worth recounting here.

Gawyn
This battle is only made interesting because of Gawyn's use of the Bloodknife rings.  He would have never stood a chance on his own.  It was a good fight, but you knew hands-down that Demandred was going to win.  No contest.

Galad
I actually thought Galad would win.  The foxhead medallion was a great twist, because it rendered Demandred's channeling relatively useless.  It seemed like the perfect scenario to take him down and I kept thinking about that prophecy that says the royal line of Andor would be the key to the Last Battle.  That can be interpreted in different ways, to refer to both Rand and Gawyn/Galad/Elayne, but it's obvious by this point that all of them were important to battle in their own way.  Still, it was too early for Demandred to die and in the end he was much too skilled in the sword, even for Galad.

Lan
What else can be said about this, other than it was completely awesome?  Lan practices what he preaches and essentially won his self-proclaimed war against the Shadow by knocking out their general.  Waaaay back in Book 2, The Great Hunt, he mentions "Sheathing the Sword" to Rand:
"I said listen sheepherder," the warder growled. "There will come a time when you must achieve a goal at all costs. It may come in attack or defense. And the only way will be to allow the sword to be sheathed in your own body."  
"You will know when it comes, sheepherder, when the price is worth the gain, and there is no other choice left to you. That is called Sheathing the Sword. Remember it." 
Now, Rand uses this at the end of that book, when he battles Ishamael in the sky and receives the first of his never-going-to-heal wounds.  So to see it used again, by Lan himself, was awesome.  It was by far the most important battle of Lan's life, and he knew it.  I also loved how Demandred was defeated during a simple swordfight, rather than by a massive channeling battle.

From the WoT Wikia

The Other Ta'veren
In Part 1 of this blog, I talked a bit about Mat and how he ends up the general at the Last Battle, so I won't go over that again.  I was satisfied with his story and Sanderson did a good job with Mat in the last book (in my opinion), though his whole affiliation with the Seanchan is weird.  Will he really stay with them after Tarmon Gai'don?  I think he would, for a while... then eventually leave.  I can't imagine him staying within the Seanchan Empire and under Tuon's heel for the rest of his life.

As for Perrin... well, his sections grew a bit tiresome.  It was the same stuff that happened in the previous volume, Towers of Midnight, more Matrix-style fighting against Slayer in the Wolf Dream, dreamspikes, etc etc.  His Towers of Midnight arc was great and he became cool for me again, but only for one book.  In this one he went back to being boring.  I always thought he was going to lead the beasts to the Last Battle, but that didn't happen (Elyas did).  He simply watched Rand's back while he fought the Dark One.

And what about his new hammer, Mah'alleinir?  After that great forging scene... nada.  Virtually irrelevant in the Last Battle.  His skill in Tel'aran'rhiod killed Slayer and his hands killed Lanfear.  Disappointing, to say the least.

Speaking of Slayer... that whole deal I've never liked.  Like Fain, he's a confusing character who ends up an amalgam of multiple people, and really doesn't make sense to me in the overall arc of the story.  It's like Jordan got lost along the way and didn't know what to do with either of the characters in the second half of the series.  They essentially end up being Mat's and Perrin's nemeses, but aren't really that important in the grand scheme of things.

Olver and the Horn
What happens to Olver during the Last Battle became one of the most memorable moments in the series for me.  Olver is the only true child character we have in this series, so his journey is a lot different than all the others we've been following.  It's a nice change of pace whenever we get to see things through his eyes, because he has a completely different perspective on the world than the adults do.

The Horn of Valere was found in Book 2, The Great Hunt, and was blown by Mat.  The entire series we figured Mat would still blow it at the end while commanding the armies of Light, despite the fact that he had seemingly died twice and may have lost his link (once in Book 4, The Shadow Rising, getting hanged in Rhuidean and saved by Rand; twice in Book 5, The Fires of Heaven, when Rahvin killed him in Caemlyn, but Rand brought him back by using balefire to kill Rahvin).  Jordan already confirmed that he did not die at Rhuidean.  Now, given the fact that Olver blows the Horn at the Last Battle, we learn that the Caemlyn death did indeed sever his tie to the Horn.  It's one of those things that is ambiguous and is not fully explained, and could be considered a plot hole.  Apparently his death and his link to the Horn are separate things, and balefire only repaired his existence, not his bond to the Horn, and I'm fine with that.

From the WoT Wikia

So... the sequence of bringing the Horn to Mat was very well done.  It was quite ironic that Faile, who starts out the series as a Hunter for the Horn, ends up being the one to bring it to the Last Battle.

And Noal (Jain Farstrider) returning as a Hero of the Horn to save Olver?  Brought tears to my eyes.  Very well done sequence.  Birgitte coming back for Elayne was cool too, but not even close to the Noal return.

Padan Fain
There weren't too many disappointments in the final book for me, but this is by far the biggest one.  I knew that Jordan didn't intend for everything to be resolved or explained sufficiently, and I'm okay with that, but the resolution on Padan Fain seemed carelessly tossed in there.  I asked Sanderson about this at the signing I went to and he said that it was a matter of "Jordan says Padan Fain meets this fate, so I made it happen."  He said there was nothing else left to him in the notes for Fain to do.

There might have been more that Sanderson could have done with the character, but it would have been complete conjecture / invention on his part, and I understand the decision.  So I have to place the blame for this squarely on Jordan, who built up this character as important during the first half of the series, then completely ignored him.  He explained Fain as a "rogue," operating outside of the Shadow's plans, and like I said earlier, it feels like Jordan didn't know exactly where he was going with him... and throwing the death into the end like this left a bitter taste in my mouth.

If he wasn't going to be important or worth writing about later, just kill him earlier.  After injuring Rand in Book 7, A Crown of Swords, he served no purpose.  Fain is nothing more than a victim of the sheer scope of the series.  There was no place for him later on, and it showed with the way he was disposed of here.

My favorite picture of Fain.
From the WoT Wikia.

Moiraine
I have to say that this was another disappointment for me, though very minor.  All the build up to free Moiraine... and she really did not do much.

She did convince the rulers of the world to sign the Dragon's Peace, so that was important, but in terms of Rand's fight against the Dark One... well, any Aes Sedai could probably have done that.  Though I guess the point was that she and Nynaeve were the only Aes Sedai that Rand trusted enough to take with him to Shayol Ghul and perhaps put his life in their hands.

So on one hand, she probably should have remained dead, but on the other, without her survival we wouldn't have such awesome storylines as the Tower of Ghenjei sequence from Towers of Midnight and the return of Noal as a Hero of the Horn.

On the other, Sanderson has said that her purpose was to prevent Rand and Egwene from going to the Last Battle separately.  They had to be united and in agreement.  Which she did, at the meeting at Merrilor.

Rand vs. The Dark One
This was slightly underwhelming the first time I read it.  Since time works differently near the Bore, days can pass on the battlefield while it's only minutes for Rand.  So what's a relatively short confrontation with the Dark One is stretched across half of the book, in small bits and pieces.

In retrospect, and after a second read of the book, the confrontation makes sense.  At least it wasn't a cliched sword fight, right?  Though it started out as one, with Rand and Moridin (effectively the avatars of the Creator and the Dark One) dueling it out.  But this is thankfully interrupted for the real battle, and Rand and the Dark One simply take turns showing each other the realities they would make if they were to win, while pointing out the flaws in each reality.  Eventually Rand scraps his plan to destroy the Dark One or create a world without Shadow, because there has to be some sort of balance.  You cannot have Light without Dark.  The common duality you find in a lot of fantasy work.

Rand also learns to "let go," and let others fight their own battles, die on their own terms, be heroes on their own.  All throughout the series he assumes he has to do all of it for them, which he finally realizes was selfish of him.  He has his battle, they have theirs.

And so everything goes according to plan.  The surprise is that Callandor is actually a sa'angreal for the True Source and has a flaw that allows females to take control of the male wielding it.  So they essentially trick Moridin into drawing the True Power through Callandor, then Moiraine and Nynaeve seize control of him.  From there it's a simple matter to patch the Dark One's prison after Logain breaks the remaining seals (part of the "glory" Min saw for him many books ago).

Callandor, aka The Sword in the Stone, from
the cover of Book 3, The Dragon Reborn

Finally, People Die
This has been something people have criticized Jordan for in the past: his main characters never die.  Even Moiraine, who we thought was dead, comes back 8 books later.  Half of the Forsaken are resurrected and put into new bodies through the course of the series.  It does bother me on some level, but it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the series.  This time around, however, we have the Last Battle and all bets are off.


I will say that having them around for so long does make their eventual deaths more emotional - when they are given the attention they deserve, at least.  I'll just give my thoughts on each major death.

Gawyn Trakand
At least he went out trying to make a difference.  He's always been an okay character for me; I neither hate nor love him.  He was a good choice to die.

Egwene al'Vere
This was a surprise, but in retrospect it makes sense.  I cried when she died, it was a very powerful scene - one of the most powerful in the series for me.  She definitely went out in a blaze of glory and took out a big chunk of the Shadow: M'Hael (Taim) and many other channelers.  Her death also trapped Sakarnen, the male sa'angreal of Demandred's that he gave to M'Hael to use, and prevented it from being retrieved from someone else.

Bela
I wish she hadn't died.  I liked how this one horse was featured throughout the series, all the way from the Two Rivers to the Last Battle.  In the end she dies doing something important.  Every creature has a purpose it seems, and that was hers.  We do know that Harriet mandated her death, so if you're upset about it, blame her.


Siuan Sanche
This one surprised me.  Once Min said that her viewing about staying close to Gareth Bryne had not actually come true, I was like, "Oh no you didn't!"  That was a great reveal.  Jordan was very clever with his prophecies and foretellings and visions, etc... and this added a new layer to it.  You know immediately that something bad was going happen after Min's reveal, but when she did die... it was a bummer.  I had grown to like the post-Amyrlin-post-Healed-now-married Siuan.

Gareth Bryne
After Siuan dies you know Gareth will.  His death scene getting cut was a disappointment for me.  I've already discussed that so I'll just move on.

Birgitte
Not a true death since she comes back as a Hero, but the way she went out was brutal.  Beheaded by Doilin Mellar, who then plans to cut Elayne's babies from her womb.  At least now we know that Birgitte would have come back as  Hero, had Elayne not bonded her to save her life back in Book 5, The Fires of Heaven.

Davram Bashere 
Another abrupt, off-screen death.  I've never been a huge Bashere fan, so eh.

Rhuarc
This one was a bit sad.  Rhuarc was such a strong man, so to see him reduced to one of Graendal's pets was sad.  It's actually a good thing he died, it was pretty much over once Graendal got a hold of him.

Forsaken
I thought they were all going to die, so I was slightly disappointed there.  The ones that did survive, though (Hessalam/Graendal and Moghedien), got their just desserts.  For the others, it was time for them to die.  Finally.  None would serve a purpose after the Dark One had been defeated and the Bore sealed, and the Dark One would not have the power to bring any of them back, since he would be shut away from the Pattern again.

Rand's Resurrection
And so in the aftermath, Rand survives the Last Battle.  Did not surprise me.  We all knew it was coming.  He somehow swaps bodies with Moridin (this is left unexplained).  His previous body is burned on a pyre and most believe he is dead.  Except...

...for his three lovers.  His bond to Elayne, Min and Aviendha remains.  So they know what is up and don't act very sad at Rand's funeral.  There is no explanation as to how the bond remained after he switched bodies, which I thought was lame.  How much better would it have been had everyone truly thought he died?  Rand could have gone out into the world a free man, no more ties, no one else to be responsible for.

Instead, he rides off into the sunset with a few knowing he still lives, which I'm not thrilled with... but what can you do, it's not my story.  Still, it's quite bittersweet and I like how he's rewarded with a new life and a clean slate.  I keep thinking, what would he do?  He's been virtually everywhere already.  If you had spent two years traveling the world and saving a generally ungrateful humankind, what would you do?  Things that make you go hmmm...

Credit Duncan Lilly

Who Wrote What?
A topic that has come up many times since the first book of the "Sanderson Trilogy" (as I call it), The Gathering Storm, was released, was "who wrote what?"  Which parts were Jordan, which Sanderson?

Personally, I don't really care, as for the most part Sanderson did a fine job of melding his style to Jordan's writing and WoT, but since A Memory of Light has been published, Sanderson has elaborated a bit on who did what.  He doesn't go into detailed specifics, since that would distract from the story - and I agree with him.

If you're curious, here's what we do know:

  • The Gathering Storm = Egwene is more Jordan, Rand is more Sanderson
  • Towers of Midnight = Mat is more Jordan, Perrin is more Sanderson
  • A Memory of Light = Ending is Jordan
  • Prologues across all 3 books = Mostly Jordan

So as you can see, there was a ton of filling-in-the-blanks that Sanderson had to do.  He's also mentioned that many times people think he wrote a part, when actually Jordan did.

Also, it has been noted that two deaths were added by Harriet McDougall (Jordan's widow / editor) and Sanderson.  Harriet said Bela should die.  Sanderson was responsible for one of the major deaths, but refuses to specify which.  It's not Egwene, I know that, since that came from Jordan's notes.

Chapter Names
A brief note on something that I probably should have included in Part 1 of this blog, rather than Part 2.  Chapter Names.  It's known that Harriet came up with most of the chapter names.  She even thought up and assigned the chapter icons and most of the book titles, after each manuscript was complete.  I find this interesting, because I like to come up with chapter names while I write.  Of course, for the book titles, it makes sense since Jordan had no idea how many books the series would take or what exactly would be in each book.

From the WoT Wikia

But I digress.  What I wanted to mention was that I was actually disappointed with the chapter names in this book.  I felt they should have been more epic and interesting, without giving too much away.  You should be able to read through the list, be intrigued by the chapter names, and also be eager to read if you're familiar with the series - it should give hints of things to come.

This is the most epic book of the series, yet we have titles like "A Smile," "Too Many Men," "A Practiced Grin," "A Knack"... etc etc.  I know for some of the chapters, there's not much to go on, and I know how that is (in coming up with chapter names for my current work, The Hope of Memory), but still... they aren't very exciting to me.  Oh well.  I suppose it doesn't matter, they don't really need to entice readers with chapter names in the 14th book of a series.

The End?
As Darth Vader famously said in Star Wars, the circle is now complete.  The Wheel of Time is over and after 20 years I finally got to read the end of the story.  It was very emotional for me.  I never thought it would come.  It was an odd feeling - for the first time, I was able to finish a WoT book feeling content.  But I can say that I was completely happy with the ending despite a few minor disappointments; it was appropriate, and I was satisfied.

There's still one more piece left, though.  A section was cut from A Memory of Light, entitled "River of Souls."  It was cut for pacing reasons and because it introduced too much new information when things should be wrapping up.  This section is included in the Unfettered charity anthology as a "Wheel of Time tale."  The story is from the POV of Demandred, detailing some of what he was doing in Shara while Rand and Co. were having their adventures in Randland.


I finally received this book in the mail while writing these blogs for A Memory of Light (it was supposed to released in May, was pushed back to July).  So that will be the next entry.  After that I'll do a conclusion post and finally wrap up this Retrospective after 2+ years.  There are a few more things to talk about, but after Unfettered and the eventual Official Encyclopedia that Harriet has mentioned, there will be no more Wheel of Time stories.

Depending on what kind of content the Official Encyclopedia contains, I'll do a blog post for that.  We'll see.  I will buy it, regardless.

Usually I end each blog entry in my WoT Retrospective with thanks... since I've thanked everyone already, I'll just thank myself for sticking with the Retrospective and actually getting it done!

Next: 

Short Story  River of Souls

Previous:


Book 14 – A Memory of Light – Part 1
The Wheel of Time is Complete
Reference  The Big White Book
Prequel – New Spring
Book 13 – Towers of Midnight

Book 12 – The Gathering Storm
Book 11 – Knife of Dreams
Book 10 – Crossroads of Twilight
Book 9 – Winter's Heart
Book 8 – The Path of Daggers
Book 7 – A Crown of Swords
Book 6 – Lord of Chaos
Book 5 – The Fires of Heaven
Book 4 – The Shadow Rising
Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn
Book 2 – The Great Hunt
Book 1 – The Eye of the World

Retrospective Overview