May 2, 2012

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Review Time]

In the prologue of the last of the currently available Wheel of Time books, Jordanderson show that they can make things happen in a mere 20 pages. They move plots. They develop characters. They twist, turn and shock. The only problem is that this novel is one thousand two hundred and eighteen fricking pages in the American paperback edition. That's like The Lord of the Rings plus The Hobbit. If you've hung in for this long and read up to book 13, then it's worth it to wade through the sea of this book, against the current at times, just to get to this prologue where things actually change, but you have to go through about 1200 pages to get there. It's insanely long, but what have we come to expect from Robert Jordan, and did you really think Brandon Sanderson could change anything? Naive.

I thought The Gathering Storm was incredible, and had high hopes that Sanderson would be able to keep the old bard (may he rest in peace) in check, but he clearly did not. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed everything that happened, I just think it could have happened a lot faster.

Many characters in this novel have to deal with their pasts before they can look to Tarmon Gai'don; how else will such fragmented nations and narratives come together to fight in the final battle? Perrin has to face the Whitecloaks who killed Hopper and demand his head for murder. I liked the story here and how it worked out - it's kind of a Tolkien euchatastrophe, where you're in a situation with seemingly no way out, and the only satisfying resolution has a high cost and can never be used again. It's got to be unforeseeable but also make sense in hindsight. And this one was particularly satisfying for me. These books are so frustrating because it seems like all of the important players are the Emond's Field kids and the companions they've made along the way and shouldn't they all just be playing nicely now that they've collectively conquered the world? Why is Elayne's brother Galad so intent on killing her buddy Perrin? Can't we all just sit down, have a cup of tea and talk this out? Well it's not that simple but maybe the storytellers can come up with a reasonable resolution for this conflict. You will find yourself deeply stressed out, tense and agitated that two armies that should be fighting the Dark One at Tarmon Gai'don are going to go to war over a two-year-old crime. Very frustrating!

I liked Perrin's story, but I can't really figure out why it seemed to take up most of the book. Go to the wolf dream. Learn to control nightmares and hold on to your humanity. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Get's a little tired, if you ask me.

Don't be fooled by the cover art; Mat is not going to the Tower of Genji until the very fricking end. This is absolutely the most interesting, action-packed and imaginative part of the book, and it starts around page 1100. Sanderson is very connected with the community of WOT readers. He is super active on twitter, facebook and Google+ - trust me, I removed him from my news feed because one source is more than enough. Sanderson knows very, very well that Mat is the most interesting and beloved of the ta'veren among WOT fans and that we love the stories and mysteries that unfold around him. He does appear throughout the whole book slowly dealing with his gholum problem but I think he should have been the hero of this novel. Winter's Heart and quite a few other books have already focused heavily on Perrin and we've all been waiting with baited breath for Mat to attempt to rescue Moiraine. But when you get there, you won't be disappointed.

Elayne, Egwene, and Nyneave all get up to some interesting things, hunting Forsaken, bonding warders, kicking ass and all. Most interesting, depressing and foreboding is actually Avhienda's; she will make you doubt there will be any kind of happy ending, even if the Dark One is defeated. Definitely wished for more Rand as we head into the final book. Our hero does fight a few little battles but he's mostly waiting around for his friends to bring nations to him.

What we do get is an excellent set-up for the beginning of the end. I'm very excited for the final book and I don't think it will be possible for Jordanderson to screw it up, but I've been wrong before. As I said, the prologue sends us forward with some serious worries about Tarmon Gai'don. Our hopes for stemming the flow of the Seanchan invasion rest on Elaida's pathetically weak shoulders, and you will be shattered when you see how badly Mat manages to screw up and pretty much doom the whole world. If you can manage to get through it all, the end of Towers of Midnight is the one bit that will not disappoint.

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