Towers of MidnightWednesday, November 9, 2011 19:35
Way back at the beginning of this year, I wrote a post on the first chapter of the Wheel of Time series that was handed off to Brandon Sanderson. Now as 2011 draws to a close, it’s time to do the same for the penultimate chapter of a saga that first started over twenty years ago. As usual for the series, this is a massive tome, with my paperback version clocking in at an incredible 1,200+ pages. I like to think that it’s so massive that even the printers have a hard time with these books, as a good portion of the pages from my copy have faded ink. Be warned that spoiler abound, in case you’re the type to get squeamish about such things.
As with The Gathering Storm, old plotlines are resolved at a furious pace. One of the main ones in particular dates all the way back to the very first book in the series, The Eye of the World, where Perrin Aybara killed two Children of the Light in a frenzy of bloodlust. Another deals with the nigh invulnerable gholam which has been hunting Mat Cauthon since book seven. For the fans, I believe this book also ends all of the will they or won’t they romantic threads left dangling. Just about every major character gets a romantic partner. This includes not just the long expected pairing of Egwene al’Vere and Gawyn Trakand, but also such characters as Morgase Trakand, Thom Merrilin and even Berelain of Mayene!
The titular towers refer not only to the obvious White Tower, following the reunification of the Aes Sedai and Egwene securing her position as the Amyrlin Seat, and the Black Tower, which finally gets some attention after being oddly neglected both by Rand al’Thor and the author Robert Jordan for so long. They refer of course also to the Tower of Ghenjei as Mat Cauthon finally embarks on his plan to rescue Moiraine Damodred. I was a bit surprised by how late in the book the expedition starts and how quickly the entire rescue is resolved. But that’s understandable. We have the Last Battle coming up and no pages to waste!
By the end of the book, there’s only one unresolved plotline left blocking the way to Tarmon Gai’don, though it’s a big one: the Seanchan. It’s a good bet that somehow pulling the Seanchan into Rand’s camp, probably with Mat’s help, will be the main business of the first half of A Memory of Light. Aviendha’s visions of the future of the Aiel at Rhuidean also offer numerous clues about what must be done.
One annoyance that I have with this book is that some of the events depicted here overlap with those in The Gathering Storm, when Rand is still in emo-rage dark mode. While it helpful to show why his friends and especially his lovers, who would be able to sense his emotions through the Warder-like bond they share, didn’t intervene directly, even when he was on the cusp of destroying all of reality, it still feels like retreading old ground. Another is that while the good guys at long last manage to meet up with one another and talk stuff over, they still don’t share everything, inadvertently causing each other unnecessary.
For example, Egwene seeing how Perrin’s skill in the World of Dreams far outmatches her own is a great moment, but why didn’t they try to set regular meetings from that point on to learn from each other? Why doesn’t Mat realize that his marriage to the Seanchan Empress could be key to ending this pointless war that is draining the resources of the Forces of Light? Why is Egwene so set on opposing Rand’s breaking of the remaining seals and why is Elayne so ready to back Egwene instead of Rand over this? The best example of this is Verin’s mysterious letter left to Mat. Hey, Egwene, maybe you should have let your closest and dearest allies in on what’s up with Verin and in so doing saved Caemlyn from an invasion?
Still, it’s good to see that Rand’s assimilation of Lews Therin Telamon sticks and we get to see some awesome scenes of pure good guy Dragon Reborn in full power mode. He’s basically God now and can make things happen just by willing it so. This would be bad if not for the fact that we’re at the end of the series anyway. Similarly enjoyable are scenes of Mat and Perrin catching up with each other and everyone’s realization that Morgase is still alive. One scene that all fans looked forward to is Moiraine catching up on what the teenagers she brought out from the Two Rivers so long ago are doing now but the one hint of that we see in this book is all too brief.
Overall, this is an excellent chapter in the series. The Forces of Light are gathered for war and we’re bound to see the Last Battle in the next and final book. Some of the scenes here are a bit too trite and too convenient, such as how the Whitecloaks are finally dealt with. But I guess that’s better than dragging things out for another book or two. Basically all the good guys are finally out of their emo funk, are at the height of their powers and have Shayol Ghul firmly in their sights. However much you’ve been aggravated by the series, you’d have to admit that it’s the perfect point at which to end the penultimate book.