“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.

“The Eye of the World” audiobook giveaway!

A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time series, was just released, debuting at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. To celebrate, the nice folks at Macmillan Audio have offered to give away an audiobook version of The Eye of the World. You can use the widget at the bottom of this post to enter.

I haven’t listened to the full audiobook, but judging by this excerpt from Chapter 2, it seems really great. I especially love Mat’s voice. (The audio player is a bit small, sorry about that).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“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.

Wheel of Time Reread #13: Towers of Midnight

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

towersofmidnightFinally, we’re at the last book of the Great Wheel of Time Reread. I’d originally thought about rereading New Spring too, but I can’t keep myself from reading A Memory of Light anymore.

Probably the biggest change in this book is Rand turning into an infinitely compassionate Messianic figure. While I’m glad that Emotionless Rand is gone, I’m not sure if I like Jedi Rand any better. He still lacks the quirks that make a character endearing, but I guess his job is to save the world, not be endearing. At least I didn’t wince every time there was a scene with him.

So… Graendal isn’t dead? Dammit! I did not remember this, I thought she was a goner. She actually drives a lot of Perrin’s plot, so I’m not sure why I didn’t remember it, but that sucks. At least Halima/Aran’gar is gone.

Perrin finally accepts his destiny as a Wolfbrother and undergoes extreme Tel’aran’rhiod training provided by Hopper. Perrin’s character arc has been stagnant for a while – he’s always had problems accepting his wolf nature, his leadership qualities, his battle skills. He’s always said “fine, I’ll do this ONE thing, and then I can go back to being a blacksmith”. He confronts much of the same issues in this book, but instead of just accepting it, he embraces it. And then he proceeds to school Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod! And then he rediscovers Power-wrought weapons and forges a legendary hammer! Go Perrin!

There’s a lot of embracing reality in this book – Gawyn finally realises that to have Egwene, he needs to drop his preconceptions and actually start listening to people. Galad realises that the world isn’t just black and white – Light and Dark, and that allies can be found anywhere. Morgase realises that she can marry Tallanvor and be okay with it. Lan realises that his people regard him as a king despite his reluctance, and fully accepts that he needs to lead them. Finally, everyone’s getting over their shit!

I was glad that Morgase finally got a break – she’s been through hell and back again several times already. At least she knows it wasn’t her fault, and that it was a Forsaken that messed with her mind. I was also glad that she was able to reunite with all three of her kids.

Moiraine gets rescued! I don’t really have any words for this except “YAY!” And Jain Farstrider finally revealed himself! I hope Mat gets to pass Jain’s message to Malkier on to Lan.

There were several touching and very well done moments in the book – in no particular order – Lan riding through the Borderlands, Faile and Perrin’s anniversary and reconciliation (as well as Faile’s realisation of how immature she used to be), Bornhald stabbing Byar, Ituralde’s desperate fight in Saldaea, the Kandori Guard Tower scene, Olver picking up his knife to defend Caemlyn, Grady and Neald realising that they’re fighting to live instead of die with the taint cleansed, Bethamin and Seta assuring Mat that they will do their best to show the Seanchan Empire that channeling is okay, Mat and Perrin’s meeting after eight books, Perrin watching and rejoicing at Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount in Tel’aran’rhiod.

This book also has funny moments! Mat’s letter to Elayne was hilarious (“Your Royal Bloody in My Back”), and so was Moiraine’s disbelieving “You accidentally married the Seanchan Empress?” I was also very amused by Berelain and Galad falling in love immediately – the two most beautiful people in the world, of course. I particularly loved Faile’s comparison of Galad and Perrin’s looks (“you can’t compare a stained glass to a sturdy cabinet built by a master carpenter”). And Mat and Birgitte got to go drinking together again!

Elayne continues to annoy me – her treatment of Perrin was abominable. I understand that she fears rebellion in Andor, but… the Two Rivers hasn’t seen any support from Andor in five generations, and she says she’s going to execute Perrin? Plus, she goes off alone again to interrogate the Black Ajah. Plus, she’s trying to seize the throne of Cairhien two days before the Last Battle. It’s not that I dislike Elayne, but she’s just so… royal.

Nynaeve gets back to being awesome in this book – she heals the madness caused by the taint on saidin, she gets Lan’s bond from Myrelle and she passes the hardest Aes Sedai testing ever. I loved Rand telling her not to be a Stock Aes Sedai and instead focus on her strengths – passion and compassion, and let them show. And then she does exactly that at her testing, and stands up for herself. Very cool.

Egwene… I wish she wasn’t opposed to Rand’s idea of breaking the seals, because dammit, don’t make the same mistake every Aes Sedai makes and try to control Rand! Trust him! Other than that, Egwene is pretty awesome – defeating Mesaana and killing a bunch of Black Ajah, creating a Channeling Women Alliance of Randland, bringing the Hall of the Tower to line by changing some rules that allowed people to be super sneaky. Oh, and bonding Gawyn and saving his life, I suppose.

Wow, so much stuff happens in this book. I’ll attack them by plotline.

Black Tower – there’s a Dreamspike on it! And everyone’s trapped within, and people are being turned to the Shadow (poor Tarna, I liked you). I guess this might be to create a Dreadlord factory for the Last Battle, I hope Pevara and Androl can stop it. And bring down Taim.

The future of the Aiel – these were actually some of the best chapters of the book, including Aviendha’s encounter with “Nakomi”. I really hope A Memory of Light explains who Nakomi is. I also really hope the Aiel’s future can be changed once Aviendha convinces Rand that the Aiel need a purpose, that the Dragon’s Peace should apply to them too? Also, the future that Aviendha saw says that Rand bowed to the Seanchan – I hope that can change too, but judging by Tuon’s current attitude, I’m not sure.

The Seanchan – they now have traveling, and Tuon is still adamantly opposed to leaving channelers free. I’m not sure how her attitude will turn around in one book, but I really hope it does. Right now, they seem to be planning more assaults of the Dragon-related forces.

Padan Fain – is still alive and kicking, but now has a can of Portable Mashadar. Last seen heading to Shayol Ghul to wait for Rand. Scary.

Borderlander armies – now on Rand’s side! Yay! And Rand apologises to Hurin!

Caemlyn – last seen burning. Luckily, Talmanes is on it, thanks to Olver. Why didn’t Mat open Verin’s letter?!

And last, but not least – R.I.P. Hopper and Nicola Treehill. I was hoping Nicola would make something of herself, and Hopper deserves sainthood for teaching Perrin so well. I will miss you, Hopper.

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #13)
Tor Books, 2010 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #12: The Gathering Storm

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

GatheringREV_thumbThe Gathering Storm continues the newly established tradition of A Lot of Stuff Happening. Tarmon Gai’don is most definitely coming, and the people of Randland are getting ready.

Rand continues down the path of going totally nuts – he’s convinced that he has to a weapon and show no mercy, but fails to realise that he’s not really different from the Shadow if all he can do is destroy. His chapters make for very unpleasant reading, but it’s because it’s so believable, considering all the stuff that’s been happening to him. He goes absolutely as low as he can go – using the Choedan Kal to balefire an entire fortress controlled by Graendal, for example (and a lot more, but I don’t want to dwell on it). His final epiphany on Dragonmount was a little cliché, but also necessary, and also nicely fulfills the “he shall weep over his own grave” prophecy. But I guess your life would seem pointless if you had to lead the world every time you were reincarnated, and the thing you had to realise would be that you can learn, love and improve despite that.

Anyway, for me, Verin is the real star of the book. I love the idea of Verin poking her nose into the Black Ajah out of curiosity, ending up drafted and deciding to be a spy for the Light. I also love that she goes to Egwene with her suspicions, as well as sets off a bunch of different plots – I counted a letter for Mat, and a letter for Rand and a letter for Alanna show up in the next book. I can’t wait to see where they all go. I also loved her revelation that the Shadow looks for selfishness above all in its minions, that makes the Forsaken make more sense.

Oh, and the White Tower finally reunites and Elaida is conveniently kidnapped by the Seanchan, so Egwene gets raised to be the Amyrlin! I wasn’t really happy with how Elaida was disposed off, but I’m happy that the plotline is over. Not that I disliked it, but it’s been a long and arduous road and at least they’re reunited in time for Tarmon Gai’don. I’m not sure how I feel about Egwene – I thought she was a lot more awesome the first time around. She’s still pretty awesome, but I’m not sure if I buy her character arc as much. I guess her time with the Aiel really hardened her, she’s always been full of initiative and she’s a breath of fresh air for a complacent Tower. She just seemed to jump from childish to authoritative very quickly.

I wonder where the Seanchan storyline is headed – Rand scared Tuon into opposing him, and Seanchan have to deal with that now. They also now know that Trollocs and Myrddraal aren’t a myth, and that the Last Battle is close. I’m not sure why they attacked the White Tower – killing Aes Sedai is just less power for the Light, but I guess Tuon sees herself as opposing the Shadow AND the Dragon.

Other small but very good things – Faile takes it upon herself to kill Masema in secret. I can’t say I disagree. Siuan finally bonds Gareth Bryne and promises to marry him after the Last Battle! That’s one couple I’m really rooting for – I think they’re one of the only couples where both parties are equally confident and strong. Tam and Rand reunite (even if it goes terribly) – it was nice to see Tam be a father to Rand again. Nynaeve is grown up – I’m not sure when it happens, but she controls her anger now. Maybe it’s being married and also being terrified of Rand that made her realise what’s important.

Perrin – Perrin is emo all the time, and his timeline is a month or two behind Rand’s, but we get hints of what’s happening with him through other eyes – for instance, Tam has left Perrin’s camp, and Rand sees Perrin with Galad. Most of the actual Perrin POVs are just set up, though. The same goes for Mat, although Mat is considerably more entertaining. He’s not as smoothly written (his jokes are a bit off – he’s a bit too immature), but any Mat is better than no Mat.

Gawyn continues to make me want to thump him over the head. He’s like, the Lanfear of this age, mooning over Egwene instead of Rand. Yeah, yeah, I know he has a good heart but he’s so dense! Why isn’t he in Caemlyn doing his duty to Elayne? Egwene doesn’t even need him! He’s shirking his true responsibilities AND treating Egwene like someone who can’t take care of herself. Ugh.

Other random plot points – Aviendha finally passes her test to become a Wise One (boring in this book, but good set up for the Rhuidean revelations in Towers of Midnight), the Altaran King Beslan swearing fealty to Tuon and meaning it (makes sense, his people are mostly happy, and he’s more likely to get rid of slavery from within), the Moridin/Rand connection continues – is this because of the streams of balefire? Also, where the hell is Demandred and his army?!

This was the first book partly written by Brandon Sanderson, so I was paying a lot of attention to see if the style changed. It didn’t change enough to be distracting – the plot and characters still shone through fine (with a couple of minor missteps, like Mat). I had to pay special attention to it to notice. Sanderson tends to be more direct than Jordan – Jordan will make characters hint and dance around things, but Sanderson’s more likely to have them just explain. I’m not sure which one I prefer. Most people aren’t very self-aware in the moment, so Jordan is probably more realistic, but Sanderson’s writing makes me want to punch the characters less.

Only one more book to go!

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #12)
Tor Books, 2009 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #11: Knife of Dreams

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

KnifeDreamsSmallKnife of Dreams is the last Wheel of Time book written entirely by Robert Jordan. I got into the Wheel of Time after Mr. Jordan (or, properly, Mr. Rigney) died, but it still makes me very sad. Thank you for these incredible books, Mr. Rigney.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming. So, stuff starts happening again in this book! A whole lot of stuff!

We start off with Galad being awesome and killing Eamon Valda in a duel (for mistreating Morgase). Since Valda happened to be Lord Captain Commander at the time, Galad gets to take over and insist that the Whitecloaks will fight for the Light at Tarmon Gai’don, even if it’s with Aes Sedai and other former enemies. Yay! I guess this is what Galad joining the Whitecloaks was building towards, but I’m glad the Whitecloaks aren’t a force that need to be destroyed, now.

Speaking of other fanatics, Masema manages to turn Aram against Perrin, but Aram dies before he can do any damage. I’m glad Faile gets rescued, though – that plotline is probably my least favourite. I was hoping Masema would die too, but I guess that happens in the next book. Perrin’s temporary alliance with the Seanchan is awesome; Tylee was pretty cool. I especially loved when they “recognise” him as part of the Prophecies of the Dragon – now both Mat and Perrin are in the Prophecies.

Another scene with Ituralde in the prologue, and he disappears for the rest of the book. At least stuff is happening in Arad Doman, though, with Rand sending his forces there, plus food via the Sea Folk. Graendal, you’ve got it coming.

Oh, and Halima/Aran’gar is finally exposed by a visiting Asha’man who battled her at Shadar Logoth. Unfortunately, she escapes before she gets her comeuppance. And we get a Romanda point of view to expose her.

The Forsaken of the Book is undoubtedly Semirhage, who shows up in style. She’s been masquerading as Tuon’s Voice, but apparently she’s tired of being a servant (even one that gets to legally torture Tuon), so she went ahead and killed most of the Seanchan leadership and thrown the whole continent into chaos. The most impressive Forsaken so far, I think. She also causes Rand to lose his left arm, so that’s pretty cool too. I thought she died in this book, but I guess we have more awesome evilness to look forward to, which is fine by me. (Rand has been so bland that I’m kind of on Semirhage’s side, even if she is a horrible sadist. At least she has personality!)

Oh and Elayne finally becomes Queen of Andor, after a bunch of fighting. She manages to get kidnapped by Darkfriends along the way, but is heroically rescued. This is a major part of the book, and it’s not like I dislike Elayne, but I don’t like her enough to care whether she gets the throne. Rand’s political machinations are fun because the fate of the world depends on him uniting everyone, but Elayne is just a queen. Not to mention that Rand could’ve popped into Caemlyn at any time and insisted that Elayne was queen, but it’s only pride that keeps her from accepting that. It worked fine for the other countries – why not Andor? The only thing about the Caemlyn plotline that I was interested in was Vandene’s revenge for her sister’s murder, and that ended up being anticlimactic.

I’ll get to Mat in a second, but this book was filled with people being awesome. Lan rides off to Tarwin’s Gap and Nynaeve goes around and spreads the word that the last King of Malkier is riding, and raises him an army. Verin leaves Rand a cryptic note warning him about the Black Ajah – this doesn’t seem awesome right now, but considering what Verin does in the next book, it is. And the Moiraine rescue plot begins – Thom, Mat and Jain Farstrider (I refuse to call him Noal) decide to set forth to the Tower of Ghenjei once they can. And Suroth gets totally owned by Tuon – bye Suroth! It was not at all nice to know you.

Egwene is pretty great too, as she convinces everyone that she is the true Amyrlin. I don’t think it’s that hard, given that Elaida is being totally crazy (it has to be Mashadar! No one is that insane.) and the Black Ajah is sowing chaos.

Mat is finally reunited with Talmanes and the Band of the Red Hand, and he gets to use his General skills and cause trouble for the Seanchan that are (unknowingly) trying to kill Tuon. I love the scene where Tuon realises that she’s underestimated him, and he’s only been amusing because a “lion stuffed in a stable” can be amusing – but now that he’s loose, he’s very awesome. Mat and Tuon also get married just as Tuon leaves, but it has to be the strangest marriage I’ve ever heard of.
Tuon: “Maybe we’ll eventually fall in love.”
Mat: “Well, I’m going to continue fighting the empire that you rule.”
Tuon: “And I’m going to try and take over this whole continent.”

I wish there was some definitive solution to damane and slavery – Rand, Mat and Perrin all tolerate damane to achieve their aims in this book (Perrin actually helps hundreds of Aiel get collared!), but I’m really not sure how they’re eventually going to convince the Seanchan that people aren’t property or pets.

I’m terrible at endings as always, so yeah. See you next time!

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #11)
Tor Books, 2005 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #10: Crossroads of Twilight

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

COTCoverAh, Crossroads of Twilight. The Book Where Nothing Happens. Okay, several plotlines are advanced by a hair, and some new ones are introduced. But they go nowhere.

The fifth Great Captain, Rodel Ituralde, finally shows up, and he seems to making the best of a situation where he should’ve been playing into Graendal’s hands. I already like him. Too bad he doesn’t show up again. Eamon Valda and the Whitecloak army are the next to show up, also never to be seen again. I guess the point was to establish that they exist and will be in play at some point.

Logain and his two “bonded” Aes Sedai are the first characters to show up that don’t disappear for the rest of the book, but when they do show up to warn Rand about Taim’s evilness, Rand has way too much stuff on his plate to deal with it. Poor Logain.

The White Tower has several different plotlines going on and those are a big part of the book – the Black Ajah hunters stumbling upon the mystery of too-young Sitters, Alviarin finally being deposed (but then set after the Black Ajah), and Gawyn and the Younglings being banished. Not to mention peace talks with the Rebels, the Red Ajah making a plot to bond Asha’man and Egwene being captured (okay, that happens in this book, but it happens in the last page! It doesn’t count as something exciting.)

Speaking of Aes Sedai plotlines, it’s so frustrating to be aware that Halima is Aran’gar, and is channeling saidin despite being in a woman’s body. Of course this is unthinkable for the Aes Sedai, so it makes total sense that no one thinks about it, but argh! Stop having her massage you, Egwene! Realise that she’s killing Aes Sedai! Dammit!

Mat and Tuon’s plotline remains my favourite – I love that both of them know they’re supposed to get together because of prophecy (although neither knows the other knows) and are trying their best to like each other. Not much actually happens, but they get to know each other and try to outsmart each other. And Mat kills a woman to keep her secret (and regrets it, but doesn’t get into a puddle over it. I wish Rand learned from him.) There’s also foreshadowing of the Moiraine rescue, when Mat notices Thom repeatedly reading her letter (he doesn’t know it’s her letter).

Oh, and the Andoran succession plotline… snore. A bunch of stuff happened, but it looks like the Darkfriends have Elayne under watch, but are also supporting her enemies. Her enemies plot, Elayne is determined to survive the siege. Lots of talking happens. Snore.

Perrin’s in this book too! He gets madder and madder and can’t wait to save Faile! He’s willing to torture Shaido to save Faile! He gets emo and abandons his axe after he realises he’s willing to torture! Meanwhile, Faile is plotting her escape before Perrin gets hurt trying to find her. Faile has failed to plot and Perrin has failed to find out about her by the time the book ends, though. At least there’s a glimmer of a plan – allying with the Seanchan.

Rand is in this book too – he’s hanging out in a manor and resting. Why is saidin making him nauseous? (Maybe it’s because he’s sad and affecting the world, much like weevils in all the food?) Also, what’s the deal with the tav’eren and colours? Oh, on the last page of the book, he agrees to meet Semirhage the Daughter of the Nine Moons.

I think the only main character that doesn’t get a POV is Nynaeve. But Loial shows up! Yay!

Onto Knife of Dreams, where Stuff Happens.

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #10)
Tor Books, 2003 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #9: Winter’s Heart

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

WoT09_WintersHeartOkay, this entry is going to be much shorter than the previous ones (although probably not shorter than the next one). I want to get to Knife of Dreams and further as soon as possible.

The major awesome thing that happens in this book is that saidin gets cleansed. This is probably one of my favourite scenes in the series – Rand and Nynaeve channeling furiously for hours while their allies, both male and female, Aes Sedai, Asha’man, Sea Folk, and Seanchan fight off at least six Forsaken. I would really love to see this on film at some point.

Other plotlines that advance – the Black Ajah hunters in the White Tower finally find their first sister, Perrin finds out about Faile’s kidnapping and is anxious to do something about it (while Berelain takes full advantage of the situation), Rand kills the Asha’man that tried to kill him at the end of the last book, and finally accepts Cadsuane’s guidance. Oh, and Min, Elayne and Aviendha bond Rand (which involves Min and Aviendha meeting and getting drunk with Birgitte). And the Sea Folk continue to be extremely annoying.

A major part of the book is Elayne trying to consolidate her power even more, and some Darkfriends trying to get closer to her. I wasn’t really that interested in it, although it should be more interesting now that she has armies marching on Caemlyn, and she’s made a deal with the Borderlanders to pretend to match on Caemlyn. Oh, also, she’s pregnant.

Also, apparently Mazrim Taim being a Darkfriend was made clear in this book – one of the evil Asha’man says that Taim ordered him to kill Rand. I guess it isn’t fully clear – he could’ve just been jealous of Rand, but it’s a very strong sign.

It was interesting to see Elaida’s party’s reception at the Black Tower – I didn’t remember the forced bonding, and definitely not that Logain did it. It seemed way too much like a mixture of Compulsion and damane to me – I didn’t like it at all. I guess it’s Taim’s orders, and Logain’s trying to obey enough not get kicked out of the Asha’man so he can help the Light, but ick.

I know you’ve been waiting for me to mention Mat. Mat is back, although he doesn’t show up for half the book. And Tuon is finally introduced! And kidnapped when Mat escapes Ebou Dar, along with her maid, a couple of former Aes Sedai damanes, some sul’dam, Egeanin and Bayle Domon, Setalle Anan, the former Panarch of Tarabon, Thom, Juilin and Jain Farstrider (whose identity we’re not aware of yet). A very disparate group of people, and I’m looking forward to their adventures.

Rand is still extremely hard – he talks about killing people with absolutely no emotion, and he mistrusts everyone. He makes for a really unpleasant protagonist, especially since not just one but three of the main character girls are in love with him. There are already mentions of weevils in the food (although it’s not connected to his temperament yet). I can’t wait until he gets over his nonsense, but I think that takes until Knife of Dreams.

Crossroads of Twilight next… I’m not really looking forward to it.

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #9)
Tor Books, 2000 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #8: The Path of Daggers

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

thepathofdaggersI have no pithy introduction for The Path of Daggers, so let’s get to it.

The biggest things that happen in this book is that Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve finally use the Bowl of the Winds and fix the weather caused by the Dark One, and Rand finally battles (and vanquishes) some Seanchan that were threatening his new kingdom of Illian. But of course, the fun parts of Wheel of Time aren’t the “big” things.

This book was a bit annoying because Mat wasn’t in it. I probably wouldn’t be so irritated about this, but last we saw, Mat was running around Ebou Dar during a Seanchan attack, looking for a ten year old boy. In this book, Rand pushes the Seanchan back to Ebou Dar, so we cover a lot more time with no whiff of what happens to Mat. Yeah, I know he meets Tuon and all that, but still, it’s annoying!

Egwene begins her road to awesome with this book, finally taking control of the Hall and using obscure legal rules to declare war against Elaida and give herself absolute power during wartime. I was wondering why they weren’t using Traveling to get to Tar Valon, but I guess the rebel Aes Sedai were generally dragging their feet – Egwene puts a stop to this and last we saw, the army was outside Tar Valon.

Some exciting things happen with Perrin’s camp – the Queen of Ghealdan joins them, the ex-Queen of Andor becomes Faile’s servant (no one knows who she is, of course) – probably the best time in Morgase’s life for the last couple of years. Elyas shows up! I love the Wolfbrothers, so that was pretty exciting. But then of course, she gets kidnapped by Sevanna’s group, so that ended – at least that’s the last of her troubles. (This also means Faile gets kidnapped and that plotline gets stretched out to forever and is probably one of my least favourites… but I’ll suffer through it).

The Consolidation of the women-who-can-channel into the White Tower begins, and that is one of the more awesome parts, even if it’s slow. Egwene gathers a thousand new Novices, Elayne and Nynaeve gather Windfinders and Kinswomen, although there’s a lot of friction there (I hope that gets resolved quickly). And Rand collects sul’dam and damane on his battles against the Seanchan – I think those join, too.

What does Cadsuane end up teaching Rand? I love that her tactics of ignoring him worked and he’s asked her to be his advisor. He also gets a few more Aes Sedai to swear fealty to him – I can’t really approve of that, but I guess the Light can’t win without some dirty tricks. Although Rand being mad all the time isn’t doing any good, either.

Elayne finally reaches Caemlyn and starts consolidating her power. I can’t believe Dyelin’s willingness to support Elayne, but I guess she’s smart enough not to want the job of Queen, but dutiful enough to make sure someone good gets the throne. I don’t think I found that plotline that interesting on my first read, but we’ll see.

Other random things – the Shadow has had enough of the Forsaken trying to do their own thing, and is now putting them all firmly on a leash. Osan’gar tries attacking Rand with a few more Darkfriend asha’man, but he manages to avoid harm, and they escape – too bad. Nynaeve hasn’t learned to control her anger yet – she’s just madder because she likes being around Lan so much and knows it. Oh, and Rand has been thinking about cleansing saidin using Callandor, but quickly abandons that plan after he discovers Callandor’s flaw. I didn’t remember that happening, or even Callandor being used again. Good to know he had a plan, though, and that it involved Nynaeve.

Okay, onto Winter’s Heart and Mat. Mat, you’re never allowed to leave again.

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #8)
Tor Books, 1998 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #7: A Crown of Swords

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

ACOSCoverA Crown of Swords is where the books start to really slow down – the whole book takes place over a couple of weeks, along with some events from the previous books from other perspectives. There’s a definite shift in writing style, there are more flashbacks and retrospectives, and more things happen off-screen. For instance, we see Sevanna’s view of Dumai’s Wells, and Egwene’s POV way before Moghedien goes missing.

Rand continues to make preparations to attack Sammael, and he is finally killed at the end of the book (although by Mashadar, not Rand). The Crown of Illian is offered to Rand (and renamed the Crown of Swords) – now he controls the Aiel, Illian, Tear, Andor and Cairhien. Aside from that, Rand doesn’t do a lot in this book – he does a lot of political maneuvering and moping. (Yeah, I know Rand has a hard life with immense amounts of responsibility, but it’s still not that interesting, despite all my sympathy).

Cadsuane finally shows up! I know she’s very polarising, but I love her. She’s the one Aes Sedai that doesn’t mind saying what she thinks, and although she treats Rand with little respect, I think it’s good for him that he sees that not everyone who wants to help him is either intimidated by him or loves him.

We finally meet some honourable nobles – the Cairhienin Lord Dobraine was shown to be honourable at the end of the previous book, but it continues here. We also meet Cairhienin Lady Caraline and the Tairen Lord Darlin, who were rebelling against Rand – one would assume that that meant they were annoying, but we find out that they’re just concerned about their homelands, and are actually pretty cool people. That’s what I love about Jordan’s books – he creates stereotypes, but then isn’t afraid to break them. Another example – we also meet someone from the Red Ajah that’s actually nice, hey Pevara! I think Teslyn is actually pretty cool too, although it’s not made clear in this book.

Morgase continues having the worst time in the world – she’s coerced into sleeping with Eamon Valda, and then the Seanchan attack and ask her to be their puppet ruler in Andor. She finally escapes, though (but as I recall from future books, she’s headed straight to Sevanna’s camp).

Nynaeve finally gets over her block! Maybe now she won’t be so angry all the time, since there’s no advantage anymore. I hope so, anyway. Oh, and Lan and Nynaeve get married, and everyone else thinks Lan is nuts but also step even more lightly around Nynaeve now. I can’t help but like Nynaeve, despite her total craziness, but I concur.

I like the story with the Kin – it advances the plotline of “how far the Aes Sedai have fallen” even more, and they seem like good people. I also like the Elayne and Nynaeve corral the Sea Folk Windfinders, and they all get out of there before the Seanchan arrive and make everyone damane (I’m attributing that to Mat’s lucky ta’veren-ness, since no one knew the Seanchan were attacking except for Nynaeve’s vague premonitions of a storm coming). And they even manage to find the Bowl of the Winds! And they apologise to Mat and start being (somewhat) nice to him!

Mat continues to be my favourite character – the scene I was waiting for where Mat and Birgitte realise who the other person is, and get drunk while reminiscing over memories of thousands of years ago… yeah. That’s one of my favourite scenes in the Wheel of Time. I forgot that the Horn of Valere connected them both, I was just assuming they’d get along because of their personalities. I also loved the moment where Mat realises that Birgitte is a woman that doesn’t confuse the hell out of him, and that women like that apparently exist.

The whole Mat/Tylin story always left me uncomfortable, especially the way everyone laughs at him about it. Reversing the genders would make it a horror story, but this is a problem that Jordan always has. Mat does have a bunch of funny moments though – especially the scene where he has different Aes Sedai factions pulling at him from different sides… literally, until his coat comes off. I’m so mad that Mat isn’t going to be in the next book.

Other things – I don’t think I picked up that Dashiva was Osan’gar on my first read. I knew there was something off about him, but I thought he was just going insane as male channelers are wont to do. Also, I was really confused about Elaida building a palace for the Amyrlin where she was clearly also worried about the Last Battle coming up, but Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time reread points out that she’s being influenced by Mashadar/Mordeth since she was hanging out with Padan Fain earlier. Makes some sense. I’m sorry for what happened to Colavaere (I wish Rand didn’t have his Woman Hangup), but at least I’ll stop being reminded of this song.

I guess I should say a bit about Egwene, but there wasn’t that much – she’s still trying to consolidate power, and she’s fighting with some Forsaken-given headaches. And she’s taking after Rand (although she doesn’t know it) and demanding oaths of fealty from people. I thought Egwene was a lot more awesome in my first read, and I still can’t see why.

Last but not least – welcome back, Ishmael! You’re way better as Moridin-with-a-mysterious-connection-to-Rand than as “Ba’alzamon”.

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #7)
Tor Books, 1996 | Buy the book