Saturday, February 17, 2024

Wheel of Time Book 11-14 Review


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 rankings between these books are 12>14>13>11.  Here are my book 1-5 and book 6-10 reviews 

My overall rankings are - 

4 > 2>12 >14>13 > 3 > 6 > 11 > 5 > 1 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Life in 5 Nov'23 to 6 Jan'24

 Happy new year 2024! Welcome to our lives. And goodbye 2023! Fare well.

I am writing this from Mahatama Nature Cure centre, Kannur, with my luggage packed and another 40 mins or so before I leave here. Today is the last day of my 14 day treatment out of which I spent 9 day in fasting. A feat that I never thought would achieve but today I am happy to report that it is done and not that difficult. 

In my young age, when my weight would go up, I had a feeling that I will feel sick one day, high-fever/bad stomach, and as part of the healing, my weight would loose. That may have happened but loss was not proportional. Indeed, my weight went up. But at Mahatama, I got the feeling back - a truly magical place where you come in for two weeks and go back with reduced weight. 7.5 kgs to be precise in my case. I have documented my whole Mahatma journey here . I am impressed, believer and I would highly recommend this. 

I have finished three Wheel of Time books - book 8, 9 an 11. Now, I am onto book 12. 


Family trip to Bali 

Half-Day outing in Kannur city with Aarti before she boards her train.  Visited For Saint Angelo.

Interesting things

- Office holiday party where I donned a suit and tie after ages 

- Attended my first ever comic-con in Bangalore. It was an okay experience. Lot of stalls, basically pay money to enjoy. Main stage events were okay-ish. 

- Attended a kid's birthday part - Arjun, son of Abhishek and Sonal :) It was at McDonalds and they had cool kid games that I also played. Lot of fun!

- Did a small food-walk in HSR with Abhishek and Sonal. Places tried

Dhanraj Ji Chole Bhature - Decent place. Not very rich chole, but good to try once. 

Shiv Shakti Samosa Center - Had their Poha and Samosa. I liked it a lot ! Very tasty Poha. And this is a crowded place. 

Finally Idli and coffee at MDP Coffee house. Decent thindi it is.

- Went to Alif Concert at Gilly's fandom. Alif is a kashmiri band with a meaningful lyrics and a soulful voice. His music videos are unique in their own way. Loved the concert and the songs. Lot of Kashmiri folks in the audience and they were having an amazing time- something to connect them to their native places. Songs are in Kashmiri language that adds on to the connection. Loved the experience. I will attend them again if I get a chance. 

- Lunch at Nammiga Basura - loved it! Went to an impromptu meals and this was really good place. 

- Followed India's world cup journey. Watched semi and final matches. Good fun though India lost :(

- Did a week long detox diet from Team Sharan. Much needed one after the Diwali sweet binge. 

- Signed up for Iconic fitness gym. Attendance would be around 60%. Liking the trainer this time. 

House parties - 

- Diwali celebration at Didi's place - 

- Diwali/Rangoli in 1023 - 

- Family Christmas dinner a week before Christmas at Deck of Brews, ORR

- Bhanu did breakfast at Monkey Cafe Sarjapur and celebration of their house registration at 1522 Sarjapur road. 


Dumb Money - 3/5 
Based on a true story on how a bunch of reddit folks did stock trades on Gamestop stock which a lot of analysts were betting to fail. Caused multi-billion dollar loss to financial firms. A true David vs Goliath story. 

The 36th temple of Shaolin - Truly a Cult 4.5/5

Oppenheimer - 4/5

The Killers of the flower moon - 3.5/5

We made a beautiful boutquet. Thoroughly enjoyed it and wrote a long review. 4/5

Equalizer 3 - Passable. 2.5/5

Mission Impossible 7 - 2.5/5 This could and should have been much better, especially with AI as villian

Ted Lasso - Big fan. 4.5/5 - Masterclass of Show Don't Tell

Slow horses - season 1. Binge-able. 3/5

Mahatama Nature Camp - Story of my two week Tapasya

Mahatma Naturopathy course

Dates - Dec 24, 2023 to Jan 7, 2024

I had been to visit a naturopathy retreat for a while. Last year, Kanishka and I tried Udupi but that was a bad experience. Through reference, got to know about Mahatama Nature Cure Centre and utilized my end of the year leaves to plan a 2 week course. I had little knowledge of what goes here. So, a lot of it was new. 

My main aim was detox of body and weight loss. Mahatama is known for its fasting therapy. 99% of patients who come here are given fasting therapy. I have never fasted a single day before in my life. It was a scary thought to begin with - to fast for so long. But I was committed to sign up. Their recommended stay is 21 days here with a 14 day fast with 5 day of juice diet. They curated the plan for me for a 14 day stay. Below is the schedule, plan and my day by day activities. 

Overall, I am a believer. I would rate this 5/5 - one of the best things that I have done in my life. I would highly recommend anyone to visit. 

14 day fasting plan 

  • 9 days of fasting

  • 3 days of juice

  • 1 day of fruits

  • 1 day of normal food. 

Schedule - 

  • 1 hr walk in the morning. 

  • 7 am JIRA water

  • 8 am Yoga

  • 9 am JIRA water

  • 9:10 am - Daily doctor visit. 

  • 9:30 am - Mud pack treatment - 30 mins

  • 11 am - Coconut water

  • 1 pm - Honey water lemon (honey is used generously, it is sweet in taste)

  • 1:30 pm - Cold pack treatment (Towel is soaked in normal water and wrapped around the chest)

  • 5 pm - coconut water

  • 7pm - Honey water lemon

  • 1 hr walk in the evening. 

Day 0 (Dec 23, 2023)
Reached Mahatma nature at around 4 pm. Had roti alu sabji (interesting take on alu sabji

with gravy but without tomatoes. Also had an energy bar and an egg puff :) 

Day 1

BP - 120/90

Had a doctor consultation in the morning. He shared the plan. Did 30 mins walk at 10 am

and an hr long walk in the evening. Slept for 2.5 hrs in afternoon and hence could not sleep

in the night. Watched Season 1 of Slow Horses, 5 episodes.

Forced myself to sleep at 6th episode. 

Day 2

BP - 120/70

Wt - 1.5 kgs loss from day before

Started Yoga at 8 am. Did a short 20 mins walk at 10 am. At this time, it is quite hot

and you feel VitaminD going inside your body :)  Night binge watch had an effect, so I slept at 1130 for 1.5 hrs. Afternoon was difficult - felt headaches and weakness. 

At 430, went to Vellikkeel eco park. This is an amazing park at about 4.4 kms from my

stay,. First, I thought to walk all the way but looked risky. Energy levels are not what they

are. So, I took my car and parked it at 2kms before the park. The park was amazing.

Good 90 mins walk. 

Came home tired, drank both coconut water and honey lemon water and slept within 30 mins. 

Day 3 

BP - 120/90

Wt loss- 800 gms

Woke up at 430 am. Finished book 8 of Wheel of Time. Spent most of the day reading the book. 

Afternoon was again slightly difficult. DIfficult to concentrate. Mild headaches come and go. 

Evening - went to Kavin Munampu Kadavu (jetty point) . Parked my car at about 3kms away and then did a 6km round trip walk.

Took about 90 mins. 

Evening long walks make me tired and sleep comes quite early. Slept by 830pm.

Finished watching Transformers Rise of the Beasts - such brainless movies are ok

to watch before going to sleep. 

Day 4 

BP - 120/80

Wt loss - 1.3 kgs

Started book 9 of Wheel of Thrones. Day 4 was normal. Woke up at 330 am and then

tried to put mys to sleep. Managed to get up again at 5 and then went for a morning walk.

Starting today, moved my moring walk schedule to 530-6am.

Went to Koovede Check Dam for evening walk.

Interestingly there is a trail at the other end of the dam that goes via dense coconut forests.

Walked about half a km on this stony trail. It was pretty and calm.

There were folks who were climbing trees to break coconuts. Hunger wise was manageable. 

Day 5 

BP - 110/90

Wt loss - 1.4 kgs

Day 5 was tough. In today's Yoga session, it had 30 back to back Surya Namaskara in Yoga.

Felt quite hungry through the day. Morning walk was 55 mins and in the evening

went to Kottakkunnu Hill View Saw sunset from this view point. 

Walked only for about 40 mins (~3kms) and then came back.

Did some shopping (toiletries) and petrol+air in car. Binge watched The Test CaseTV series in the night. 4 hrs.

Series is decent. Keeps you hooked though it had potential to be much better. 2.5/5

Day 6 

BP - 100/80

Wt loss - No change from yesterday

Woke up late due to the binge watch last night, at 630 am.
Went for an hr walk. Yoga was easy today.
Little disappointed that there is no weight change given that hunger pangs were more
yesterday. Day six was the easiest to handle. Not many hunger pangs, not much cravings. In the evening, did my walk around Vellikkeel eco park and then went to salon for a haircut and shave. 

Day 7

BP - 100/80

Wt loss - 200 gms

Slept nicely for 9 hrs. Woke up at 530 am and did a comfortable walk.
Yoga was peaceful today - breathing exercises and meditation.
Had a lot of craving for good Idli Sambhar through the day.
Disappointment for not loosing more weight was there too -
spoke to doctor and he said that it is all part of physiology,
sometimes it will be much, sometimes not so much.
I guess this part of the program is the trying part - to go through with it.
Did local walk in the evening. Finished book 9 of Wheel of Time -Winter’s heart. 

Day 8 - Dec 31

BP - 120/80

Wt loss - 550 gms

Kind of a difficult day. There was no Yoga given it was a Sunday.

In between the two walks, time went slow. Unable to focus and felt quite hungry today.

Watched a bunch of reels that had some food things and that made it worse.

Slept early at 845 after watching a couple of episodes of Modern Family. 

Day 9 - Jan 1

BP - 120/80

Wt loss - 400 gms

Last day of fasting. Good to see that weight loss momentum has picked up.

But at the same time, getting bored of this place.

Had a big feeling about quitting and going home most of the day. Survived somehow.

Most of the day was spent wishing new years to family and friends.

Watched The 36th chamber of Shaolin and that was good fun. Truly a cult movie.  

Day 10 - Jan 2

BP - 120/80

Wt loss - 500 gms

Went to Vellikkeel eco park for a morning walk this time. Walked close to 4 kms near a water

body, with no people, perfect calm and on a well tarred road.

Good experience to begin the day. Yoga teacher was on leave so bailed out.

Did early mud pack treatment instead. Evening walk was local only. 

Juice schedule

11 am - Grape juice

1 pm - Aamla juice

5 pm - Hot kashaya (coriander coffee per them)

7 pm - Pineapple juice

Day 11 - Jan 3

BP - 120/80

Wt loss - 100 gms

Spoke to doc today for a Saturday release. Agreed that I can leave after 11 am breakfast/lunch.

It rained mid-way when I went for my morning walk.

Got drenched and eventually sat on a bench with a roof, next to a small rivulet.

It was serene. Calming. Must have sat for about 30 odd minutes.

Came back when rain stopped and there was no Yoga. 

Day was mostly writing peer reviews with a break to attend a doctor session on naturopathy.

I really liked the session, I am now a believer in naturopathy. She explained how it works,

what happens after 18, 24, 48 hrs in the body. Why do we get cravings?

What to expect when you go back? All this was useful.

What I truly like about naturopathy is that it is from within.

Nature, in this case the body, has many self healing properties. So, fasting is body getting

time to heal and fix many things. Also, largely scientific process. 

Went for a local walk in the evening.

Today it was Grape juice at 11, Pineapple at 1 and Mosambi at 7.

Mosambi without salt was not that fun :) 

Day 12 - Jan 4

BP - 100/80

Wt loss - 450 gms

It was raining like anything this morning. So, sat on my balcony and read book for 2 hrs.

Good relaxation. Wot 11 is definitely getting better in 2nd half. Skipped walk and did Yoga

Also, had requested for a massage and today was massage day.

Full coconut oil, almost bathed with it. Good to try out.

Day 13 - Jan 5

BP - 100/80

Wt loss - no change

No change in weight. Did a nice long walk in the morning. Followed by some office work. After the massage, it was some TV. At breakfast, there were 5 small bananas - my stomach was stuffed after eating 5 bananas. There was another doctor session where they explained about some common symptoms that folks face while doing fasting like headaches, acidity, loose motion etc and why they happen. They have a tradition of giving a goodbye present and I got one - a mug. (Interestingly, why would they give a mug given they discourage tea coffee :) ) 

In the evening, I went to Talipramba market to get my shave and visit a bakery.

Did my evening walk in the market onlyI broke my food fast by having Kerala Idli.

After eating only 2 idlis, I felt that I have eaten a whole sadya.

Restaurant guys were sneering when they saw that I could not have my 3rd idli.

It was unbelievable. Idli was delicious - typical Kerala taste sambhar and chutney. 

Back at Mahathama, at 7, they had a large bowl of cucumber salad which I managed to eat

only 50% since my stomach was full.

Day 14 - Jan 6

BP - 100/80

Wt - 300 gms

Total wt. loss is 7.5 kgs

Last day today. Did my regular walk of an hour followed by Yoga. Skipping the mud pack today. 
The emotion associated with leaving a place is something that everyone should experience.
Whether when you checkout from a hotel after a 2 night stay or leave an apartment
after 2-3 years. There is a joy of new things to come, while a nostalgia of good times spent here.
A two week stay will be a memorable one. A very unique experience. A bragging experience.
Looking back, the challenges of a day to day are not what I recall.
It is a positive feeling and even after losing weight, I feel I have more to loose :) .
The environment nearby is green, with lots of birds. Vellikkeel eco park is my favorite.
But, I also see a lot of houses, lot of construction going on.
I wonder how this would evolve after 5/10 years. But at this point, it is serene. Good for walks
More importantly, I liked the process a lot.
Natural things are what I believe in and this naturopathy program aligned with me.
I was more impressed that so many things are scientific here,
it is largely a study of your body. 


Good things I packed - 

  • Running shoes, shirts, socks - Very helpful in long walks. I feel prepared. 

  • Car - Having a car makes it very easy to get any missing items or go to interesting places for walks. 

  • Water bottles - Makes it easier for me to take them for walks. 

  • Odomos - there are mosquitos here.

  • Small towels

Thankful that Airtel connection is decent enough to run internet here. 

Things that I should have packed

  • Extra towel. One is being used for cold pack treatment

  • Soap and toiletries

  • All Out