Please be warned: The following review is mostly general in nature but does contain a few specific spoilers.
I have focused this review primarily on A Memory of Light, co-authored by Brandon Sanderson, and the third part of the conclusion to The Wheel of Time, written by James Oliver Rigney, who penned tWOT under the pseudonym Robert Jordan. These books were edited by his wife and professional editor Harriet McDougal.
I finished reading A Memory of Light over a week ago. And my original plan, which was to process for a couple of days and then form a review, went by the wayside. This happened because I just was supremely unmotivated to share my feelings. And that surprised me. Shocked me, really. Good or bad, high or low, I have always been moved to strong emotions by these books…ever since the day I shook the hand of the man that shook the Third Age…as it is called by some…
The Gathering Storm motivated me and stirred emotions. Mostly positive ones – though a severe case of puzzlement over the impostor wearing Mat’s hat lingered. … Towers of Midnight motivated me alright, lol! Motivated me to fury, but it motivated me! But, part three of the A Memory of Light trilogy stirred…not very much either way, I am afraid. And if you knew how much love I have for this series, its original author and its fans, you would know what a sad surprise that was – and is – to me.
One of the running themes in the series was:
Dovie'andi se tovya sagain
And what a gamble it was when the decision was made to use the combined efforts of Tor chairman Tom Doherety. Harriet McDougal, a ‘’Team Jordan’’, a collection of audio and written recordings of information left by James Rigney and a pen supplied by young fantasy writer named Brandon Sanderson to finish – and split three ways – the final volume of ‘’Robert Jordan’s’’ epic, sprawling saga. The result is one that was destined to have a different effect on all of us – leaving some, hoepfully, happy, or at least satisfied - and some, perhaps perplexed, even stifled. But, pressing on is what we do in life and it is appreciated by me that I am given the chance to share my feelings, so press on with my review I shall.
Here we go:
Overall, A Memory of Light read like a ‘’To Do List’’ to me, with things happening because the fans were breathing down Team Jordan’s neck to make sure that they did not forget them. But the way that most of these things occurred felt far too rushed and rather oddly-executed, as well.
A few disappointments and then some things I enjoyed.
Moiraine. Everyone was waiting for years for her reunion with Rand. And then – after an admittedly cool chapter-closing entrance – the POV shifts…to PERRIN!
How under the Light it was approved that Moiraine’s reunion scene would NOT be told from inside Rand’s head is beyond me. To me, that alone is unforgivable. And, if you were one of the many who spent years looking forward to her reunion with Lan for the first time ‘’onscreen’’ as well – then you were destined to disappointment in that regard as well.
To never see Rand, Mat and Perrin together again collectively even once was also something I couldn’t quite get past. Although, thinking on it, if some of the wincing I still do after some of what happened when Mat and Perrin reunited in Towers of Midnight is any indication, perhaps I should be thankful this was eschewed after all.
Also serving as a bit of a letdown to me were the odd, brief appearances and conclusions to Shadar Haran and Padan Fain’s arcs. If they were NOT going to have significant parts to play in the finale, then why treat them with such build up?
The fact that Rand and Demandred never ever see each other…puzzling. In fact – in the entire series, do Rand and Demandred ever meet in the Third Age?
Who WAS Demandred’s Third Age identity? Sanderson – after some vacillating – did say we had indeed seen it as of and past Knife of Dreams.
What was ‘’The Message’’ that was so dire in Chapter 22 of Lord of Chaos? The one that received nothing but ‘’RAFO’’s for decades.
Why the silly vacillating over things now (Nakomi, Verin, the Voice, etc) at the Signings, Q and As and on Twitter after Brandon was quoted as saying: ‘’After the last book is out I will be much more free to answer questions.’’? … Harriet, bless the woman, sometimes seems a bit…stern…and if this closed-mouthness is an edict of hers, then the only word to describe that approach is:
If they think it is ‘’cute’’ or ‘’mysterious’’ to leave certain things ‘’open’’ – they are not picking the right things. Mr. Jordan wanted a freshness and sense of continuity to linger – we all know that – but even HE is quoted as saying it was his desire to ‘’close up most of the major arcs.’’
It was a bland read for me. And I despise the fact that I keep coming back to the word ‘’bland.’’ There were only two times when I did not feel I was reading a list. When something truly moved me…or when I was wincing in embarrassment over some ‘’funny’’ part that Brandon had presumably added.
I thought nothing would ever top the ‘’Letter’’ or the ‘’Backstories’’ or ‘’Master Crimson’’ until:
Nevermind. I can’t even quote it. It hurts too much. Ok – just a snippet. I can’t help myself. I’m a masochist:
Mat said. “By the way, I saved Moiraine. Chew on that as you try to decide which of the two of us is winning.” Mat followed Tuon, and behind him rose the laughter of the Dragon Reborn. I’m sorry. I know it is not a big deal to some. And, further, I understand that there are those who actually found it funny. I respect that. But, speaking strictly for myself, this ‘’One Up Each Other’’ interlude between Mat and Rand gave me a new understanding of the word ‘’cringe.’’And, to avoid any more of the above-referenced pain, that is all I will say about that.
Mr. Sanderson is a mere three years away from being a 40 year-old man! How he feels positive about some of the ‘’cute’’ or ‘’funny’’ things he puts in these books is astounding to me. He reminds me so much of David Edding’s dialogue and ‘’witty’’ and ‘’clever’ repartee in the Belgariad and Mallorean. Except…Eddings did it better. And that is FRIGHTENING to say.
I also feel that Mr. Sanderson allowed personal prejudices to interfere with his writing. I seriously doubt that Jordan had intended Cadsuane to get a mere three pages (if that) in the last book. Speaking admittedly as a Cadsuane fan, that was a true shame.
The last thing I will criticize is the redundancy in the writing. And the fourth-wall breaking (which used to be considered a BIG No, No) that Mr. Sanderson regularly engages in. There are parts – many – where he has the character literally listing step by step what he or she is about to do for the reader.
It hurts me that two of the oldest rules of fiction writing (Show, don’t tell and: never talk down to your reader) are frequently broken by a man who TEACHES a class in writing at a university!
In Jordan-written WOT novels, Morgase and Messana were raped. RAPED. People were murdered, beheaded, lost limbs, etc. No, it wasn’t a Martinesque bloodbath of vulgarity and violence on every page but it was no shiny fairytale for five year-olds either. Mr. Sanderson seems uncomfortable in writing explicit, grim subject matter.
Considering some of the subject matter indigenous to this particular story…it is yet another reason that – in hindsight – Mr. Sanderson seems to arguably be so odd a choice to complete this saga.
Oh, Mr. Sanderson, you came like a tempest, like a tempest touched everything, and like a tempest you were gone.
The good stuff.
I continue to feel Perrin, Faile, Berelain, Galad and others were written very well by Brandon Sanderson.
However, this meritorious truth only makes me wish even more that he had taken more time with certain characters, been more extensive with his prose, matured the dialogue and not insisted on changing things (bloody ashes!), adding his own brand of…humor…(Master Crimson, you and your zany antics crack me UP!) and trying to make everything ‘’cool’’ enough to satisfy even the most ardent comic book fan/fan-fic writer’s dreams.
But, we have what we have. And, it wasn’t all bad.
When Egwene died…it touched me. And I HATED Egwene. But her death touched me. When Tam and Rand sparred…that was fantastic. Lan in this book was pure greatness. Mat had several moments of not just awesome, but PURE awesome – when he wasn’t being ‘’funny’’ – and I’m glad Rand is alive and free to truly wander as Min predicted – and not just around Ebou Dar with an old cloak and walking stick with a bandage over his eyes.
The battle stuff was awesome. For the most part. I agree it was chaotic at times and jumpy – but a battle that size is meant to be.
The end…well, we know there ARE no endings to this Wheel, but…as I said, let Rand wander, Perrin reclaim his Falcon and Mat juggle his Daughter of the Nine Moons for a few decades.
I could wish that, with the 2,700 pages Brandon Sanderson was able to write of WOT’s end, he had used some of the page space he devoted to Master Crimson easing the badger, Androl and Pevara’s James Bond operations, the pointless ‘’Horn Arc’’, backstories, letters and Hinderstap – and used those spaces for answering the fans most long-desired questions and doing so in a way that didn’t feel so rushed and bland.
However, I am still very thankful for the journey. I know that Brandon Sanderson worked hard. I appreciate that. I appreciate Team Jordan and Harriet. I say ‘’Thank you.’’
In fact, I am saying ‘’Thank you’’ with my wallet four times. One hardback, just read, one to collect, one in paperback and one for the Kindle in April.
But, I most say ‘’Thank You’’ for James Rigney’s imagination and the joy and friends this series has always given me.
Yes, as I said at the top: One of the running themes in the series was:
Dovie'andi se tovya sagain
It is true that even as early as the first book there were bumps in the road, but…all in all…
It was a GREAT toss of the dice.