Finished at 4:00 am. Main things I remember standing out:
~ How did Rand know that Callandor was a True Power sa'angrael? It just came up "Now that Rand knew..." I assume Moiraine knew, but I don't recall it actually saying...
~ Moiraine's first meeting with Rand was very "meh" to me. I really expected a lot more. I kept hoping all along her importance was going to be one of shock, such as in Terez' original theory from eons ago that she would basically show up to balefire Rand as he was being Turned. As for her 'purpose'... overall, it made me go "meh," since it ended up being a purpose that any other powerful Aes Sedai could have done.
~ So they pulled out all stops in this one, eh? I mean, I know it's "The Last Battle" and all, but at times, a lot of the deaths and mutilations that came out felt a lot more like Team Jordan was just trying to prove they could be bad, especially one most of them with there being no foreshadowing of any sort.
~ However, I thought the trick with Sioun's/Gareth's death regarding Min's viewing was almost very well done (I say almost because, as is BS's tendency, they *said* too much, and should have left a little room for implying, especially since it happened literally in the exact same scene where Min went all "OMG, my VIEWING, Yo! Pay attention!"). Other than that little thing though, I really like the trick. I wonder if that was planned all along, or thrown in later.
~ Egwene's death - I like the new weave, and the fact that there is a counter-weave to balefire does make sense, but really, that's another thing that should have been foreshadowed more I think. Maybe we should have been seeing "disturbances in the force" due to balefire use since book 6 or so (instead of just in the last three BS books, and in my opinion, mostly just this one), leading up to this being a lot bigger deal that everyone was aware of and working towards a solution for. Her death itself I guess was someone foreshadowed (with her split viewing about herself and Gawyn), but it still felt a lot like the author going "See, I can kill people too!"
~ I really didn't like Logain's attitude in this book. I know they put in the throwaway line about "maybe his fear of losing the power was his madness," but it felt like yet another item that was just thrown in to add more tension to the last book. However, I do like his arc otherwise, though I wish he had gone up against Taim at least once (even if he had lost) - there was a lot of buildup to a confrontation between the two of them for that to not even happen.
~ Holy shit that was brutal how he handled Birgitte. I wonder if that was the GRRM moment BS was talking about, more than the Egwene moment?
~ I pretty much liked everything about Aviendha's & Elayne's arcs, and that was very surprising to me, because I usually don't like them too much. I didn't even mind the whole *sneaking around* thing with Avi in the first couple chapters that everyone else bitched about.
~ Mat was mostly pretty awesome, and I know his humor was off a bit, but I don't think it was too bad. It felt a bit weird to me that he so easily accepted his being pulled into the Seanchan culture.
~ Well, there are the Sharans. Guess their entire continent was a bit of a Chekov's gun. If only we had every heard anything at all about the Wyld in a previous book (even just one single line), I think it would have felt a lot better. But their entrance to the battle (and their utter destruction of the Aes Sedai in that scene) was very well done.
~ Demandred turned out to just be a stereotypical monologuing raving lunatic baddie, huh? I was really expecting more from him, and I really wanted him to be the one to fight Rand. I always had in my head that Rand & Moridin would be fighting, & suddenly, Moridin died, and from behind him stepped Demandred with a bloody sword. "You are mine, Lews Therin." At least he got taken out by someone other than Egwene or Logain (either of which I feel would have been too cliche).
~ Speaking of... everything about Lan in this book was awesomesauce. Good god, his final line to Demandred in their duel was fantastic. Except... I was really hoping for a more interesting reunion between him & Moiraine than just yet another throwaway line about "They seemed weird together." I guess with all my issues with these throwaway lines (or lack thereof), it can be explained as needing to fit the necessary components in the book, and not stretch it so much to make a book 15. Ah well, alas...
~ Perrin. I was okay with Perrin's arc, but it actually felt really repetitive to me, since it was pretty much a repeat of ToM. I'm not talking about his character growth (though there was still apparently a little bit of that left to do too, with Haral Luhan's mini-speech to him), I'm talking about his action. So his point in this book was to find & dispose of a dreamspike, and then fight Slayer 17 times. Sounds a bit familiar. And then there was the whole Dain telling him about his family, which made me think it was going to lead to a confrontation between Perrin & Fain. Sucks that Hopper wasn't able to become a Wolfero of the Horn :(
~ Rand... I feel like I should write an entire blog article on my thoughts on Rand. So much right, but so much wrong. First of all, let me get it out of the way a couple things I really disliked greatly. I HATE that they did the body swap. I know it's been foreshadowed for a long time now, but I really hoped all along that would be a trick, and there would be something more clever. God I hate it. A lot. I really dislike how the "blood on the rocks" happened. That his wound just opened back up, instead of there being a specific reason for it (such as a fight, or Gawyn's potential betrayal, or Alivia betraying, or whatevs) was just too easy. His battle with Moridin & Alanna's purpose also seemed really lame. And finally, his constant TALKING IN ALL CAPS was just annoying. There was no sense in it, and it lessened the impact of the differences between Shai'tan & Rand.
I like *how* he fought though. I like the warping reality to force each other to see what could be. It was like a battle of the world of Ifs, and was done pretty cool I think. And Rand's realization that his method would lead to something just as bad (in a different way) as being Turned to the Dark was pretty cool. The description of his new seal as a "shield" of all three power sources was pretty cool. His final thoughts as he walked away as Randadin (Moriand?) were pretty cool, and it's interesting that he can just manipulate reality now. I don't know if I understand the magic/physics/whatever behind it, but I find it cool anyway. Now that he doesn't need it, he has ULTIMATE POWER.
- Final Thoughts: Overall, I somewhat liked the book, but not enough to re-read it. I would give it a C+, or an 6 out of 10, and would rank it somewhere in the lowest of the WoT books overall. If there is one biggest problem I had with it, the entire book felt rushed. Even knowing it is technically the third act of a much larger novel, it still felt as though everyone was just going through the motions to finish the story. And really, I think we could have used a bit more of an epilogue than what we got. I know we were never going to see all the prophecies fulfilled, or see everyone living happily ever after, but at least a little bit more of our main characters' goodbyes would have felt better. It's a bittersweet book (more bitter than sweet), but I'm glad the story's done, and in the grand scheme of all things ever, I guess I'm reasonably satisfied with how everything turned out.
I still wish Terez' theory about Rand & dreamland was true though...