Wheel Of Time
By Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Book 12-14)
Phew! A project comes to an end. I finished the last 14th book last night and it is 3 pm Saturday today and I am still not out of the Wheel of Time World. I liked the ending, I liked that it has ended. It has delivered on many promises, not so much on few. One of the reason that fantasy books, especially series are so popular is because there is a community around it. For WoT, it is the fandom and each one has a different take on it. Since yesterday, I have been reading reddit forums and watching youtube videos, watching secret-sharing videos from Brandon Sanderson - all this to share what has been a fairly significant emotional journey.
For a series like this one, ones where a final battle has been promised, the ending carries a lot of weight. More so in WoT because there has been so many characters, side characters and we have spent so much time with them, before starting book 11, I had began to wonder that how will all this end. Fore the most part, I had stayed away from the fandom while reading books, but I did check the book rankings and everyone shared that it gets better from book 11 onwards. So, I was prepared for this set.
I had high, or maybe more expectations. I did not like the 8-9-10 (didn't read 10). My grouse was less with that pot did not move forward but just the environment of the books. I felt that almost all characters were not supportive of each other, lacked empathy, even to folks who were helping them. I was unable to root for anyone of them and that made me didn't care. Plus, the writing was repetitive. But, I am glad that all was fixed and 11-14 are worth a read, infact the series is a worthy read.
Book 11 - The Knife of Dreams
Jordan definitely got his mission back and this is a book when many threads are resolved and we start to see a beginning of the Tarmon Gaidan - the final battle. First, it is Perrin who rescues Faile and that whole arc comes to an end. It is a good battle scene and this is also an end to Shaido Aiels. I think we spent more time with Shaidos than we needed to but it is ok. Next this is Egwene's book - I really liked the whole arc of Egwene from book 11 to when she becomes Amryllin in Book 12. Yes, she is not yet an Amyrlin in book 11 but this is a slow burn that I enjoyed. Also, this is a story of grit and you root for her. This has been missing for such a long time. Mat also fares better, marries the daughter of the nine moons and again shows off his battle stratagems. Rand is still annoying, albeit a little less. Overall, the pacing is much better and many arc closures are well handled. Some world building tropes are good such as dead-people walking but others like rooms or building architecture changing seem more far fetched.
What I absolutely hate about this book and the whole series is the Elayne character. Absolutely reckless. Even though she is the queen of Andor, such entitlement without much struggle. Yes, she becomes the queen and has affairs to manage etc but her character just did not work for me. Like at-all.
Nyaneve as a character in book 11 is awesome, in particular, how she encourages Lan to ride. Perhaps the best setup here and that too for a character that is so much loved but so less cover.
Book 12 - The Gathering Storm
The reins change - now we are in the Brandon Sanderson writing world. And to be honest, I preferred Sanderson over Jordan. Gone are the repetitiveness, the cut of blouses, the spankings the braid tugging. Sanderson has a mission to tie all these threads together and take us to the promised final battle.
I loved book 12. It may be my second (or may be third, we will see) most favorite book of the series. This is the book where people come together to help each other. The underdogs win - the long arc of Egwene becoming Amyrlin is closed with a fantastic Seanchan siege of the White Tower - one that was promised some 9 books ago. It is epic and it is awesome! The second best part is the change in Rand. In such epic series, the main characters are not the best, it is the side character that drives the series. But in WoT, I just didn't care for Rand at all. Book 12 still has the same aloofness, and he is even pushed to the extreme but he returns to sanity. This transition is deftly handled and I liked it when I read it. Elayne, Matt, Perrin are absent and it is ok. But the twists in this book are amazing - in particular the Verin one. Books, the good vs bad ones, need to re-confirm your faith in humanity. WoT had stopped doing so for so long that it was so refreshing to see it.
Book 13 - Towers of Midnight
Or in which everyone gets ready for Tarmon Gaidan. Book 13 starts when Rand visits Egwene, ow Amyrlin and shares that he is going to break the seals of the dark one. Interesting! But this time, he wants everyone to be together. So, folks are indeed coming together. This is Perrin's book since he finally accepts his destiny to be a leader. This transformation is awesome! The whole sequence of forging of his hammer is amazing. Elayne continues to be the most annoying one and I would just not talk about it. My next favorite bit it Nyaneve and Egwene and how Nyaneve comes to call her as Mother but she is her own one. Nyaneve's tranformation in the series, her arc is one of the best one. Mat kills Golam, arranges for the dragons to be manufactured and finally rescues Moraine. Moraine rescue is brilliant with many reveals in those pages. Mat is the comic relief and he does a good job. At the end of 13, everyone has assembled at a common field - fields of Merrilor and we are now ready for the final instalment. Overall, now we have the sense of mission and camaraderie that is expected.
Things that I did not like - Morgase's reveal was meh. Could have been much better and then she goes to a really side-y character. Gawyn/Egwene has little weight, it was flimsy before and continues to be so. I also feel that Siuan's arc could have been much better handled - she deserved better.
Things that I like -We do not read more about Kinswoman or the Seafolk, beyond casual mentions. It keeps the series focussed. Faile/Berlaine peace was nicely handled. There are many wonderful nuggets such as the chapter where Matt gets stuck in a village where folks are zombies.
Book 14 - Memory of Light
There is a section in MoL where Thom is wondering how to describe the last battle - is it magnificent, epic? He finally settles on 'exquisite' . I think it is wonderful that Sanderson takes a detour here and I think it is introspective.
MoL is exquisite. It is 1000 pages of battle, it is truly the epic battle that was promised. I liked the book and I read it through the week Mon-Fri, often spending my morning and late evening hrs, post-office hrs, finishing this. There are so many things that I like - it is the one which makes all the character arcs finally worth it. Sanderson also does justice to so many characters that it is amazing. An epic series has to land the ending and WoT does and it is for this reason that the journey is worth it.
And as expected, many good people die in the final book and it is why it is truly heart-breaking. But, this is Lan's book. Lan is the Aragorn promised in book #1 and he is delivered in book #14. The fact that Lan gets justice makes up for many injustices :)
There are many things to like here - some small and some big. I am going to talk about all in this long-ish post below
I really liked the meeting before the battle where Rand lays out his plan. It leads to bickering between houses and Elayne continues to annoy here. Rand wants to break the seals and let the dark one free and here Egwene behaves immaturely. Rand, though, is now the hero, the one who is trying to take everyone together. For this itself, it is just amazing. Perrin is the loyal friend and hence supports unconditionally. The deal clincher, the maker of truce is no other than Moraine and it is just so satisfying to read those pages. YES! YES!
What follows next is the the creation of four battle grounds, the four generals and distribution of all characters in between these four grounds. Oh my! This scale is EPIC now. All characters have a purpose now. Faile is in charge of organizing food, Beralin for maintaining hospital for injured. Sanderson shuffles through each battle scene masterfully, it is just fascinating read. We see Uno, Hurin, Tam, Alliandre, Talmanes, Ituralde all side characters and now we know each one. What I absolutely hate here is that Mat is missing and Elayne is chosen as the leader of the battle. I had to make peace with Elayne and I did it. Amongst so many goodness, this was a duh.
I just loved the plot twist of what the forsaken does here, in particular the Granedal's one where each general is now under compulsion. Massive hordes of Trollocs, we witness scenes when the strengths of men fail yet they continue. The prose is okay-ish, shines on few pages but lands a few punches. But, the screenplay is just amazing.
What I also liked that in this book of final battle, we have a new character Andhrol, an Ashaman of low power who architects a plot to save the Black Tower. A problem created by the chosen one but fixed by normal (or non-chosen) people. It is an amazing story development and that it happens in the last book is just amazing.
I also liked the few scenes which just make the book shine. For example - the banter between Matt and Rand on who has done more for the world. Or how gateways are used to spy on the war by spinning them in the sky, at drone level. There are many nuggets which are just too good.
What I absolutely do not like is the whole Seanchan bit - this is a closure that I needed but did not get. It was told from book #2 that the empire will fall when it is discovered that Suldan can also be damane but nothing happens. Seanchan, in particular, Tuon, are shown to be little sympathetic, because of Matt's marriage but it does not land.
Eventually, the three fronts loose and are forced to join hands and take a last stand at the Fields of Merrilor. Now, this is where the battle is epic because you know who is in charge now - Matt. Matt in his characteristic style drives the battle and it is a ~200 page chapter and just a delight to read. We say goodbye to many favorite characters but it is ok. I think 80% of the armies are dead. It is also a battle of both one-power and non-power people fighting alongside. It is interesting to see how it comes together. Because so far, be it Dumai Wells or in Tar-Valon Seanchan attack, once the one-power is involved, it is all one-power. In Perrin's rescue of Faile, one-power is disabled via Forkroot, so you see battle of only strength. But the final battle has forsaken going against people who is non-Rand.
Things that were satisfying but could have been better - Role played by Perrin and Nyaneve in the final battle. They did a lot but they could have done better. Egwene is satisfying but could have been better. Ashaman and in general the conflict of Logain is good to see.
Things that ticked me off - Galad and Gawyn - why o why. Elayne should have just died.
Things that where extremely satisfying - Lan killing Demandred. Death is lighter than feather. Loial and Ogier joining fight and singing while fighting. Matt's moves and his whole attitude lifts the pages - Demandred thinking that it would be Lewis Therin himself. Lanfear's last gamble is great too. I am also pleased with Rand's battle with the dark-one.
Finally, Tam al'Thor - man, after Lan, if there is some character with minimal presence and maximal impact. Two Rivers is awesome
Overall, it was a satisfying end.
And this is where I am reminded that why the ending of LOTR is so amazing. There is no saving of Shire here, there is no post-credits. The saving of Shire brings things home in such an amazing fashion that no other fantasy book has done it for me.
My overall rankings are -
4 > 2>12 >14>13 > 3 > 6 > 11 > 5 > 1 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10