First of all, thanks for this post Luckers. I really needed to hear some other opinions for and against this novel and, of course, to voice my own. Generally speaking I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable as I got through this book. If I had to summarize I would simply say, "AMoL is ...hard to stomach. The writing is poor and story shabby compared to the other novels." That said, as a stand alone affair I'd give a B- or C+. The prequel was flawless, in my opinion, but it takes a dive with the events of Camealyn. The first thing to stand out was the direction from "plot" to an attempt (and failed one) at "Story arc". I'm making a distinction here between a "plot" and a "story arc": A plot being the general course of the novel without an intent to accomplish (by author) where as "story arc" includes both the intent to accomplish character development and a conclusion of some aspect of story within the novel (or simply one of these two things). Jordan had a lot of characters that never possessed a strong characterization. Padan Fain being amongst them... but suddenly we are seeing these character's missing life events being filled in, however haphazardly. Fain didn't need to be a fully flushed out character. Neither did Talmanes. I've had enough boyfriends in my life (and girl friends) whoever failed to ever develop - at all. What says a character or a plot ever needs this? Did Lord of the Rings really come out all flush and tidy? This attempt by modern writers and Hollywood producers to force 'development' in a story is unnecessary and unrealistic in my opinion. I think Sanderson (without fault to himself) caught this bug and didn't realize it to be a disease. It mean, it's appealing to believe we get to see all the characters worked out and their lives basically on forward footing post-the Last Battle. Nothing lingering from the past. However, it's unrealistic and I wish it hadn't found its way into the AMoL.
Women... somewhere down the road I began to realize there is something wrong with how Jordan addresses women in his story. They are not world shapers. This takes some explanation as I believe people get a little short sighted whenever this argument is made. To be a world shaper a person must plan, execute, and accomplish their plan while in turn others must be able and willing to glorify their attempts. This is not something I have yet to see happen with a female character in fantasy. Especially true with Jordan and Sanderson. I'm not saying I have hatred here, but I do feel deeply disappointed. Men in Wheel of Time shape the world. They make plans, they execute those plans, and for good or ill people acknowledge their -accomplishments- and set similar goals for themselves. With women, this is not the case. Women forged the White Tower, but it it was through entropy and its sheer persistence that it remained. Yes, the persistence could speak of its power (and actually does) but it is not the same as glorifying the one single woman or group of women who set it in motion. There is nothing in Wheel of Time except for Latra Posae Decume... whom I personally believe was Edgwene in the current age. Of Decume, all we can really say she is remembered for is preventing Lews Therin from accomplishing his strike at the Dark One. Then there is Lanfear... if ever a character deserved redemption it is her. But Jordan lathers this character with persistent, unexplained scorn. Why? She finds the Bore? People hated her for that but she wasn't looking for it. She didn't even turn to the Shadow until it was obvious there was no salvation for herself in the Light. If need to question this to think of what happened to her Aiel servant. We can be sure she was cast out as, if not cause, prime among the reasons the Shadow ever touched the world. What more would we expect of a terrified, blame seeking populous than to scorn her? Her turn to the Shadow was one of the only forsaken who really had a conflict to resolve there. We don't see that happen. We don't see anything of Hawkwing's Daughter's attempt to take Shara. Faile was the only woman we see in all of Wheel of Time who leads an army and accomplishes anything with it significant to the major plot (i.e. keeping Perrin alive). Whole thing with women ends up feeling very Sword of Truth ish. Degrading and very gendered. And why are only the women in the Forsaken being so radically punished? I am just not convinced that the Dark One had enough sexual energy to become so one sided to his female chosen. I rather think this was all in the writers.
Magic... oh magic. When did the One Power suddenly turn into magic we might look for in say... Warhammer? It's suddenly very superficial and flashy and not well thought out. Jordan was a physicist. The whole nature of the magic in Wheel of Time had that special quality of being 'near-possible'. "If we only had realized..." ..."how to align the matrix" ..."creating standing flows." ..etc..etc..."We could have ter'angreal doing most of the advanced work load. Industry would go on, otherwise, quite as normal. I felt that Perrin's ability to be able to overcome compulsion in the dreamworld trumped the abilities of the One Power and in so doing basically threw out the whole premise magic set down in the series. That's not even getting into Rand's obnoxious overpowered meta-gaming by the end. I think before I go too far though, I have to acknowledge Jordan's (I'm assuming) use of the word Purity. Obviously Jordan felt that it was important to make it known there were pure and impure states of the Saidin, Saidar, and the True Power. He made this claim in Book One when "they died to make it pure"; mentioning the men and women who made the Eye of the World. So, Purity was a big deal for Jordan. Unfortunately, Purity seems to be what really drives everything in his story. So... Perrin could overcome Compulsion because he knew his purest self. Rand could channel pure Saidin and Saidar because he -is- the pattern by the the story I guess? Whatever the case, Purity was not well enough worked out early in the story. It's appearance at the end destroys the whole establishment of checks and balances that had been worked out throughout the rest of the novels. Sure, that's fine to do ... but not the last book of the series. It's just too much of a MacGuffin.
The Creator...Rand... the Dark One... and the hopeless samsara of the Wheel. Did anyone else feel like the end of the book was the worst possible ending imaginable? If the Dark One had taken over at least it would be a change. With Rand's solution the whole world is doomed to repeat itself... endlessly... just as it has. All I could think at the end of the novel was... "Rand needs to die." Men would become no better than the Dark One if he killed the thing? Why? It's not explained, it's the worst writing imaginable. Just some random words thrown on a page in hopes we're frothing at the mouth overcome by emotion? I was so dead with boredom and "this is too much magic" that I felt like a fan that had just watched the ending of Mass Effect 3... "There's no hope. No free will. No choice. Choose your space-magic and watch the pre-selected cinematics. 20plus years of reading...of character development...of build up to 'win the last battle' and..." dead... Rand gets to say, "Ahhh, whatever... we can do this again! It was fun! That's what it's all about? Seriously... worse than the forsaken. Rand must die."
I stop here. There's nothing more to write.