For the first time since Book 6, we get a new Wheel of Time book a year after the previous one. (I don't count the New Spring prequel that was released between Books 10 and 11 since it's not a main sequence novel. I'll cover New Spring in the next blog post since we still have around 9 months until A Memory of Light comes out.)
Before you continue:
- This is part 13 of my The Wheel of Time retrospective
- See this blog post for an overview of the retrospective
- These blogs are most effective with your own re-read of the series
- Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES
As usual, I took a few days off of work when the book came out and picked it up from my local Books-A-Million first thing in the morning. It was on a prominent display right at the entrance and when I brought it up to the counter, the lady there huffed and said, "I just finished setting that up!" I guess she was surprised someone came in first thing to buy it. Anyway, I continued on to the Silver Diner in Reston, VA for breakfast. Then it was back home to read. I read it straight through and finished it in two days.
I thought the book was awesome. Once again, the story moved along at a clip and many other storylines were getting resolved, fan theories years in the making were falling left and right, boring characters had become interesting again, and some of the last few Randland locations were finally being visited (Saldaea and Kandor... at this point Arafel and Mayene are the only major Randland nations we haven't actually visited in the main narrative). By the end, everyone is gathering for the meeting Rand has called at the Field of Merrilor, where he will tell them all what he plans to do at Shayol Ghul and essentially begin the Last Battle.
Overall, I feel Sanderson improved quite a bit with this novel, compared to The Gathering Storm. Mat read much better and sounded just like the Mat of old. He got all the characters right (in my opinion) and did justice to all the major characters. In this book you can definitely tell the difference between Sanderson and Jordan when it comes to WoT; Sanderson is a bit more action-oriented and his style is more urgent than Jordan's. I believe that more of Jordan's remaining material made it into The Gathering Storm than this volume, from what Sanderson has said.
Perrin Becomes Cool Again
Ever since Dumai's Wells in Book 6, Lord of Chaos, Perrin has been rather boring to me. Instead of embracing the leadership offered to him, he constantly pushed it away, and it got tiresome very quick. In this book, we can see why it happened that way and when he finally takes the mantle of leadership, it's a great relief, because after 7 books, it was old and I stopped enjoying his storylines because of it.
|Perrin the Badass|
Like some others, I felt the confrontation between Slayer and Perrin in Tel'aran'rhiod seemed too Matrix-like, but I'm not sure how else it could have been done. That's the nature of the dream world. It does make me wonder how Jordan would have handled it, because he and Sanderson write action scenes a lot differently, as I noted earlier.
Love is in the Air
One thing that stood out to me in this novel, and quite frankly bothered me a bit, was how everyone was suddenly getting married or bonded. Of course, there have been relations between these characters throughout the series, but now they all finally get together and commit. As if they don't think they'll survive the Last Battle, so what the hell let's get it on!
- Egwene and Gawyn
- Siuan and Gareth
- Morgase and Tallanvor
- Berelain and Galad
- Thom and Moiraine
Some of these we've been expecting, but all in the same book? It feels like too much and sticks out to me. At the end of the day, though, I have to trust that what's in the books is what Jordan intended, and Sanderson just made sure they happened somewhere, which happened to be in the same book.
After the "Veins of Gold" chapter in Book 12, The Gathering Storm, we've gone from hardcore Rand to a cooler, more zen-like Rand. He finally stops fighting his fate and everyone else, and begins to turn into the Messiah figure that most of us have expected. Given that I've been on Rand's side the entire series, and have been frustrated with the way others treat him—except for the second half of The Gathering Storm, when he went off the deep end—it was great to see him like this. He felt real again. And for the first time, it felt like he was really in charge.
Some Borderland and Shadowspawn Love
As I mentioned earlier, the Borderlands get some love this volume, though you might not call hordes of Shadowspawn descending on the various nations "love." You know what I mean, though. The Borderlands, the Blight and Shadowspawn in general have been fairly lacking for many volumes, though it hasn't been as bad as the disappearance of Padan Fain. All these elements were introduced right away in Book 1, The Eye of the World, but they get short shrift as the series progresses and expands to other areas. Now they are back in force. Except for Fain, who only has a brief cameo here.
|Lan = Aragorn, Tarwin's Gap = Black Gate|
Considering all the LotR references and homages in WoT, it would not surprise me if that was deliberate on Jordan's part. But then, considering how timelines have shifted around between POVs throughout the last few volumes, this could be something that happens after the Field of Merrilor and all that. I'm especially curious to see where it fits into everything else. My guess is we might have many battles against Shadowspawn around Randland to take care of before Tarmon Gai'don itself, based on the end of this book, with Shadowspawn in Caemlyn and the Borderlands.
A Decent Cover
It's fitting that Darrell K. Sweet's last published cover for the series (before he died in December 2011) is a good one. At least the proper scene for the cover was chosen. Once they knew the Tower of Ghenjei would be in the book, how could they not choose something related to it for the cover?
Of course, there are always those little details of characters we've known for so many years that Sweet still manages to get wrong, but I won't complain about them anymore. Noal looks good, pretty much as I imagined him. All in all, a decent effort and I don't find it embarrassing to carry around a book featuring this cover. And better yet, no human trollocs on the back!
The Tower of Ghenjei
Now to discuss the cover scene itself. The crown jewel of Towers of Midnight, it's the last major scene, when Mat finally enters the Tower of Ghenjei to rescue Moiraine and outwit the Aelfinn and Eelfinn one more time. Mat killing the gholam was nice and all, but Ghenjei is the pinnacle of Mat's storyline so far. As I mentioned in a previous blog, it had been hinted at for a number books, then confirmed in Book 11, Knife of Dreams, when we finally get to read the letter Moiraine left for Thom before she disappeared into the red ter'angreal doorframe in Cairhien way back in Book 5.
|The Snakes and Foxes chapter |
icon, by Matthew C. Nielsen
For me, it lived up to the hype and more. It was wonderfully written and I don't particularly care how much is Jordan or Sanderson. To finally read this sequence, one which we've been waiting forever for, was amazing. The secret of the ashandarei I did not see coming at all and it stunned me, was one of those shocking moments that very few books or movies have been able to deliver for me. I couldn't stop laughing—it was amazingly clever and it surprised me that no one ever thought the ashandarei might have some other greater purpose.
The Future of Randland
Aviendha's second trip through the columns in Rhuidean, where she sees a possible future after Tarmon Gai'don, was not something I was expecting. Jordan had stated before that there would be many loose ends when the series concluded, and that there wouldn't be this happy ending with everybody happy and peaceful. The Dragon would break the world again and shatter nations. There has been this ominous feeling for a while now, that after Rand did his duty at Tarmon Gai'don, people would just go back to their petty ways, fighting amongst themselves once again. It's pretty much confirmed, based on the fact that Rand has to force many of them to do his bidding.
A Double Signing
Going to Sanderson's signing this time around was a last minute decision. I had already met him on the tour for The Gathering Storm. He was coming back to the same bookstore, a Borders in Bailey's Crossroads, VA, and I didn't really want to go there, because it was a hassle to get to compared to where I lived in Reston. But at the last minute I decided to go, mainly because Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's widow, was going to be there.
Harriet did a reading from Towers of Midnight, then they both answered a number of questions. One that stood out was why they didn't release the ebook version on the same day as the hardback (lots of grumbling about this online when the book came out). Harriet said it was because the bestseller lists don't count ebooks in the sales figures (obviously, since it's a hardback list). They basically wanted to ensure it was a bestseller (though I doubted they needed to do that, given that the books have consistently been #1 since Book 8).
It was a pleasure to meet Harriet McDougal, and not knowing what else to say, I merely thanked her for continuing her husband's legacy and seeing that the series is finished. She signed the copyright page of my book, which marks the first time I've had an editor sign one of my books.
Prequel – New Spring
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