“Fool’s Assassin” by Robin Hobb

rhho2s1qbzbzymfhn3niI took entirely too long to read Fool’s Assassin. I originally won it on LibraryThing Early Reviewers, but the book never arrived – I finally broke down and bought my own copy about a week ago. And then I ended up rereading all the previous six Fitz/Fool books.

This is another one of those books I knew I would like before I even read it – I’ve read the previous twelve books set in this world, and I love Robin Hobb. I didn’t think that there would be another book about Fitz – I’d figured he’d gotten his (well deserved) happy ending. I should have known better (and after rereading the previous books, the clues are there).

I’m not going to do a real review, but here are a few things:

  • There’s a new narrator in the book, and that was pretty interesting.
  • Fitz is way younger than I thought he was, he’s been through so much. He can totally carry a few more trilogies.
  • As usual with Robin Hobb books, this book is heartbreaking.
  • I still miss Nighteyes.
  • I really hope two of the new characters introduced redeem themselves (like Malta from the Liveship books), because I really didn’t like them.
  • Fitz is really stupid sometimes. However, this isn’t new – he’s always been horrible at seeing the obvious.
  • I hate cliffhanger endings.
  • I guess I’m glad I read this book a few months late because I don’t have to wait a whole year for the next book. Only eight months. Why isn’t it August 2015 right now?

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb (The Fitz and the Fool, #1)
Del Rey, 2014 | Buy the book

“A Memory of Light” by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (SPOILERS)

a memory of lightWarning: This review contains full spoilers! I have also written a spoiler-free review, though.

I intended to get this review up much sooner, but I think I needed to let the book sink in a little. I still can’t believe the Wheel of Time is over!

A Memory of Light is everything I wanted, although it might not have been everything I expected. All my questions were not answered – some were, but there are bigger things going on, and it feels right. I don’t want to regurgitate the rest of my general thoughts beyond that – see the spoiler free review for those.

I have so much to say, but I’m not quite sure where to start, so I’ll start with Rand vs. the Dark One. In hindsight, there’s no other way it could have ended. I was hoping that Rand would find a final way to defeat the Dark One (probably because my background in programming has really made me hate infinite loops), but the Wheel of Time’s metaphysics and theme has always been about the balance between two opposing forces, so it makes total sense that Rand realises that the Dark One is necessary to balance the Creator. I assume that the “three shall become one” prophecy refers to the combination of saidar, saidin and the True Power to reseal the Dark One – I’m really glad that the fan theory of Min, Elayne and Aviendha combining to become “Ilyena” did not come to fruition. The Rand/Moridin switching bodies thing was foreshadowed a long time ago (“to live you must die”), and it’s the only way the Dragon could disappear entirely, so I wasn’t too surprised.

I thought that Perrin’s arc had a really satisfying end – all the lessons he’s been learning throughout the book really helped. I didn’t expect that he would basically fight in Tel’aran’rhiod the entire book, and I certainly didn’t expect him to be the one to kill Lanfear (although, again, it makes sense, since she’s the Daughter of the Night and he’s the most experienced with Tel’aran’rhiod). I especially loved the end, where he goes looking for Faile – their relationship is really the most important thing to him, and it made a great ending.

And now we come to Mat. I’m not really sure how I feel about his and Tuon’s relationship – Tuon was a lot nicer when she was travelling with Valan Luca’s circus. I’d feel sorry for Mat, but he seems to like living on the edge, so whatever. He starts off commanding one Seanchan regiment, but of course, by the end, he’s commanding the Armies of the Light after some deft maneuvering by the Shadow that got rid of the Great Captains. I bet the Shadow thought they were doing themselves a favour, but they didn’t count on Mat and his foxhead medallion rendering him incorruptible. He also manages to get Tuon pregnant and win the respect of the whole Seanchan army, so he’s pretty busy. Oh, and he defeats Mashadar/Padan Fain/Mordeth. Apparently his brush with the Shadar Logoth dagger has left him Mashadar-vaccinated, so yeah. All I have to say is: I love Mat.

So, this was much more of a war novel than I anticipated. It feels right – any less battling would have made Tarmon Gai’don seem too easy – this way, we truly feel the horror and despair of battle without the usual shortcut of killing off half the main characters. I thought it was very well executed – we’re used to our main characters being completely badass, and we see them get slowly overwhelmed despite all their resources and all their strength.

Not that characters don’t die – Egwene is the only one of the main trio, though. And against all odds, Lan survives! (Although, I knew he had to because of Min’s vision of his kid.) Anyway, back to Egwene. I was really surprised by her death – she’s the one that has the most to do after the battle, reforming the Aes Sedai. She had so many plans that were barely coming to fruition – the integration of the Kin, the Aiel-Sea Folk-Aes Sedai alliance, the opening of the novice book. I don’t really like Egwene, but I do admire her, so I was pretty sad. She certainly went out in style, though, taking out Taim and all the Sharan channelers, and inventing the opposite of balefire to restore the Pattern (again, the theme of two opposing powers in balance). Her bonding of Leilwin was also a nice touch – that’s definitely not how I expected her help to go.

Speaking of the Sharan channelers – I totally saw that one coming! I knew Demandred had to be in Shara (although Rand’s reaction to the Murandian king Roedran not being Demandred was pretty great) – it was interested that he was seen as their own prophecised hero. I wonder if Rand had made it to Shara whether he would’ve fulfilled those prophecies? Demandred was definitely formidable, though – killing Gawyn, disfiguring and nearly killing Galad, but finally falling to Lan. I’m used to the Forsaken falling easily, so it made a nice change. Although, I’m not quite sure why Demandred kept calling for Rand to face him – wouldn’t he know that Rand would be heading to Shayol Ghul to battle the Dark One?

Gawyn’s death was pointless, but Gawyn seems to have made a habit of doing pointless things. I read his story a lot differently now that I know how it ends – it’s always been a tragedy. This actually makes me like him a little better.

The saddest death was definitely Bela’s, though. Although, Rhuarc’s comes pretty close, considering what happens to him beforehand.

Min’s story did not go where I expected it to go. I guess I didn’t really expect it to go anywhere – I figured she’d just provide support to the forces of the Light, but her becoming Tuon’s Truthspeaker was a completely unexpected twist. It fits with the Seanchan obsession with omens, as well as their imperial disregard for people’s wishes, though. I’m glad that that happened – along with Mat’s influence, and Tuon and Egwene’s conversation about allowing free speech in each other’s lands, this really sets up the stage for the end of damane and hopefully da’covale. (I hope Tuon will hold to the free speech idea now that Egwene is dead, the Seanchan don’t really have a history of keeping their promises). I think Min can hold her own very well against Tuon, and I wish I could read more about her adventures.

Some of my favorite moments – Annoura burning herself out to deliver Galad to Berelain, the moment between Egwene and Rand before the Last Battle, Androl creating gateways into the lava within Dragonmount, Olver blowing the Horn of Valere (one of the best parts!), Birgitte’s return to save Elayne (yay, Birgitte is still around!), and the magical undying army of Hinderstap. I thought that sequence was kind of pointless in Towers of Midnight, but I didn’t count on Mat’s military ingenuity. Also, pretty much everything to do with Gaul was awesome. I knew the Aiel were brave, but Gaul took it to a whole new level, entering a realm that he had no power in and no conception of to watch over his friend.

I can’t help but wonder how the Fourth Age is going to go. Perrin is Lord of the Two Rivers, and Faile is the Queen of Saldaea – how will that work? Cadsuane as Amyrlin? The poor Aes Sedai. And Logain building the Black Tower back up as a force of good – the moment where he realises where his glory will come from was priceless. If you’re interested in this, too, there are a couple of awesome articles on Tor.com about the Fourth Age – Brandon Sanderson giving some answers on future events, and some speculation on the fate of the world after the Last Battle.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #14)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

“A Memory of Light” by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (SPOILER FREE)

There are no major spoilers in this review but you probably shouldn’t read it if you want to go into the book with an absolutely blank slate. For those on the other end of the spectrum, a spoiler-filled review is coming soon.

a memory of lightI know there are no endings to the Wheel of Time and this is merely an ending, but I still can’t believe the Wheel of Time is over.

This book is a perfect ending. The main theme of the Wheel of Time has always been balance between two opposing forces – saidin and saidar, Darkness and Light, good and evil. The resolution of the story carries that philosophy to its logical place – there’s no other way it could’ve ended.

Don’t go into this book expecting all your questions to be answered – some are, but a lot aren’t. It feels right, though – there are far bigger things going on.

Most of this book involves battles. Tarmon Gai’don is the Last Battle, and the stakes are truly desperate. The book does a great job of conveying the scale of this conflict, even though it’s exhausting to read about. Any less, and it would’ve been too easy to win. The usual “no one dies” approach that the rest of the books have does not apply. Some very bad things happen to very good people, and death seems better than some of them. Our heroes are outnumbered and outmaneuvered, and it shows. Even at the end, you’re not left feeling like it’s been a great victory – you’re horrified. There’s still hope, though, and that’s what matters.

Of course, it’s not all bleak – there are several moments where characters are really awesome, including some unexpected ones (Gaul, you are the man). There are some very touching moments between people (one of my favourite ones involves Annoura Sedai and Berelain). There’s even some humour – usually Mat or Talmanes are involved (although, one fan theory concerning Demandred gets a very unsubtle nod). Long-awaited prophecies are fulfilled in unexpected ways (Logain’s glory and Seanchan helping Egwene, I’m looking at you!) And there are still some cool plot twists.

The battles are not just about swords and spears and the One Power, there are several maneuvers by both sides that were absolutely brilliant. What seemed like throwaway incidents in the previous books come into play in a very clever way.

I liked that Perrin, Mat and Rand were fighting on different “fronts”, so to speak. Their special strengths were uniquely suited to what the forces of the Light needed, and brings their character arcs to a satisfying close. Most of the characters got a satisfying ending, not just the ta’veren, but my favourite was Birgitte’s.

We finally get to meet Demandred (I guessed right about where he was!), and he’s quite formidable. I’m used to the Forsaken being easily balefired/defeated by our heroes, but not Demandred. Some adversaries that I thought would have a much bigger role end up not being a huge threat, though.

I really couldn’t see how the multitudes of issues with the Seanchan would be tied up in time for Tarmon Gai’don, but it’s handled very neatly. A completely unexpected character ends up playing a pivotal role, and I hope that the Seanchan system of institutionalised slavery can end because of that character. The Black Tower plotline’s resolution was not quite so satisfactory, but it works pretty well.

I kind of wish there was more of an epilogue, but I think that’s just me being selfish and wanting to see the dawn of the Fourth Age. It’s probably a good thing there wasn’t one, judging by the Harry Potter epilogue.

It’s rare that I say this about a book that ends a much-loved series, but A Memory of Light
is everything I wished for and more! Thank you, Robert Jordan for creating this incredible world, and thank you, Brandon Sanderson for doing such an excellent job giving us a satisfying conclusion.

I’m giving away a copy of the audiobook version of the first book in the Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World enter here.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #14)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

“By Grace and Banners Fallen” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

By Grace and Banners Fallen coverI’m apparently a total sucker for corporate gimmicks, but I figured $2.99 was an okay price to read By Grace and Banners Fallen (the prologue of A Memory of Light) three months in advance, so I bought it.

This isn’t really a review – after all, I’m writing about the prologue of the fourteenth book in an epic fantasy saga. You’re not likely to read it without reading the entirety of The Wheel of Time (and neither should you!) This is more just an excuse to squee a lot. Of course the prologue was amazing – it even answered a few plot questions! We meet the protagonists gathering for the Last Battle, secondary characters neatly stepping into their roles, the Chosen plotting, a rare sympathetic perspective from an evil character, and heroic battles and noble warriors. And Talmanes being a total badass!

Waiting for January 8 was hard, but it just got a lot harder.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #14)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.