I am satisfied. Just finished a first read through, a bit quickly, I guess but It's the literary equivalent of wolfing down your food too quick.
If I had to single out one aspect of the book that really struck me, or stood out to me it would have to be the casual manners in which a number of the main characters deaths were handled. To be brief: I loved that. It really helped hit home what I feel is the truth about war. No soldier, no matter how great or heroic, gets the valiant last stand, coveted in glory & drawn out before ending in an epic fall to the ground screaming defiance. The truth is that most men just take a shot to the neck or a blow to the gut, crumple, have maybe a split second of horror/shock & they fall in the mud. Dead.
It's going to sound strange but even though in my mind I knew 22 years we've been building up to The Last Battle and yet the deaths still caught me by surprise although a part of me was thinking, you're surprised that people are dying in an apocalypse? It would be like jumping into a pool then screaming 'Oh god, I'm wet!'. If I had to be even more specific & pick the moment that have so far affected me most, it's currently the death of Gawyn & the events surrounding & coming as a direct result of his death. For me that was a very powerful set of events. I still don't know how to feel about Gawyn. I feel like his character developed in so many admirable ways & yet remained stubbornly idiotic in the ways the count and for all that I think in his passing I've finally grown to love his character. Of all the characters, his death was surely the most meaningless. It was set in stone the moment he put on those rings and what I am still chuckling over is the fact that I still feel that was not ever necessary. Oh it was necessary to make a great story but from a decision making pov I am laughing at that dumb sob. In the way that you laugh at a dumb kid you just can't help but adore. My favourite part was the way he never even thought to simply tell Ewgene & see if there was anybody who could have healed him. Oh Gawyn.
I think an aspect of his death I absolutely loved was that even with his ter'angreal, Sanderson/RJ wanted to really drum home just how utterly outclassed Gawyn was by Demandred. It helped me put a perspective at the super human kind of level those guys from the Age of Legends were at. I was, however, baffled by the fact that Galad without a blurring shape still managed to put up, apparently, a better fight that Gawyn. I have no issue with them both falling, I felt it was the only appropriate outcome. My issue, a trifling one, was with character development & consistency. I felt that Gawyn's whole identity was tied into how he as grown both as a person by learning forgiveness & as a swordsman by slowly but surely stepping out of Gawyn's shadow to establish himself as maybe the 2nd best swordsman in the land. That he simply died without dignity or putting any real strain on Demandred was a plus to me, again helping to really drum home the kind of superiority they were dealing with. I just found it odd that after putting in so much effort to see Gawyn develop his identity as the Premier swordsman, especially considering he was a man with nothing to lose, to then end up putting on a 2nd class show compared to Galad? I didn't get that one, i liked it, it just felt inconsistent.
Gawyn's death & it's directly related happenings was, for me, the most powerful moment in the book. It just felt so personal & intimate & had such great bearing mostly because it got me emotionally involved with such a stupid son of a goat. Everything he did could have been avoided right up to & including his death. I didn't mind, I found it privately hilarious, it highlighted what has intrigued me most about his character. His development. I feel that no character in the books grows so much as a person & yet learns so little at the same time. His decision making flickered between baffling & mind numbingly asinine. He managed to forgive Rand, learn to love Ewgene without implying he felt she was inferior & needed protection, those were huge steps. At the same time he felt that his best option to scout a path & free him & his lover was to activate a suicidal ring? I'll admit that was one choice he may have been forced into but to not tell Ewgene or anybody about it? In an age where miracle seems to happen on the daily & twice on Tuesdays? There was surely a cure waiting just around a corner. However even if we forgive him all these terrible decisions I refuse to forgive him for wandering off during the the apocalypse to fight a man who is two steps away from being Satan's boss. There was simply no way he was ever even going to come close to winning & a blind monkey with Aspergers could've see that. That wasn't even the worst part, though. What's rule numero uno of being a body guard of any kind? Never leave your principle. I know diddly squat about security/warfare but even I know that. It's dumb, reckless & worst of all in his case, selfish. He felt that it was noble but no wife/husband, who genuinely loved their partner, has ever thought that their spouse going off to die was in their best interest.
All these decisions, I find it hard to believe a man who has grown up with a palace education & has lead men in battle could willingly make these. His character was just too unbelievably stupid. I think this is why I've sort of grown fond of him. I guess in hindsight he's become a sort of de facto favourite character. So much education & so much growth & so, so unfathomably selfish & stupid yet I love him because the whole time he thought he was doing what was best for Ewgene & everybody. As I wrap this up I really should mention Ewgene's death. Bizzare how despite knowing this was the Last Battle in both name & nature, I just kept getting surprised by who kept dying. Everybody else saw it coming but I just didn't expect her to die the way she did. i guess nobody expects a loved one to die & turn into a giant white pole. It just sort of snuck up on me. The way it was suddenly mentioned that she had draw too much of the power. It wasn't like other deaths where 'suddenly an arrows sprouted through his chest, his eyes galzed over' those deaths you know instantly & you can process the shock. This, for me, was more subtle. She was drawing in way more than she could handle, my first thought was oh this is building to something. Then I realised oh she'd *already* drawn in too much and my second reaction was, oh god she's burned herself out, how will she continue as Amyrilin, then finally as the paragraph had her keep drawing in energy, more & more & then the penny finally dropped along with my jaw. It took me three whole seperate thought process to wrap my mind around the fact that in that one sentence, one action of drawing in power, she was already dead I just didn't know it yet. That was very moving for me.
Call me a hopeless romantic but I always thought/hoped/wanted Ewgene/ & Gawyn to make it. So that really hit home for me. Funnily enough I have loved Mierin right throughout the series & I also got very emotional that she was given such a beautiful, poetic ending. I am a living testament to how stupid men can be over women. Even with all the ample evidence of her character, to see her helping in the last book I still believed she wasn't truly evil right up until she tried to kill Rand at the very end. I'm a right sucker because in my heart if I was there I would still try to 'save' her. I maintain she wasn't like the other chosen. That tremor in her voice, she was the only one to show that somewhere buried deep she did, if not love, then believe in the union betwixt her & Lews Therin. I'm glad, though. She never lost her edge. Anything less than a fierce, vengeful, wrath driven fury would have just not suited her. I just always felt she was the most sane, least petty of all the forsaken & she was a villain with style that you could truly love. The others were just brutal savages but she always brought a smile out of me. A true villain. The kind you love to hate & strive to defeat but when they die you're filled with a sense of loss & regret that you just can't quite fill or ever shake off. She got under my skin & I will forever love her for that.
Thanks RJ. Thanks Sanderson.