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Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Towers of Midnight – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Published 2010)
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: As Epic as it gets
Completed: November 3 2010

I am a devoted, long time reader of The Wheel of Time. I imagine so is anyone contemplating reading the book or bothering to read this review, so the disclaimer may be redundant. Nonetheless, the hardcover versions of all thirteen novels in the series to date have pride of place on my book shelf and I’ve been reading the series since early High School. I desperately wanted to enjoy this book.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, attempting to summarise what has come before and therefore how this story fits into the bigger picture is virtually impossible. Fortunately, you have probably read the series so I can skip that nicety. After the focused nature of The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight was always intended to fill out the story. The name of the game is progression. The plot tears along fuelled by long awaited revelations and resolutions, though the speed with which I read the book may have been equally attributable to my investment in finding out what happens to these characters. The hard work of getting the reader to know and love the characters was done long ago by Robert Jordan. Towers of Midnight is about taking big steps toward the ultimate (and long awaited) pay off.

This is not to say that there aren’t tremendous character developments alongside the forward momentum of the plot. There were multiple moments that gave me chills, and one which brought me as close to tears as I have ever been while reading a book in a relatively public place. Robert Jordan’s skill in growing a character’s strength to see it become their weakness will always leave me delightfully frustrated. Some highlights for me included Perrin finally coming to understand himself and Mat turning the tables on enemies that have stalked and taunted him. The Last Battle has begun but the light manages to hold firm. I also loved Rand’s transformation. Chapter 1, Apples First, had me literally quivering in anticipation for where the character was headed.

I have always admired Robert Jordan’s strength in foreshadowing key events way back in The Eye of the World. One of the problems for someone who has enjoyed the books enough to discuss them ad nauseum is that the impact of some scenes was diminished because they played out more or less as anticipated. It didn’t help that some of these scenes also felt somewhat abrupt, almost as if the plot resolution box was being ticked. Towers of Midnight covers an incredible amount of ground, yet still seems to leave a lot for A Memory of Light to bring to a conclusion. The reality is of course that the magnitude of the task of wrapping up the myriad plot threads doesn’t leave space for lengthy resolutions. Having said that, my opinion of the book might have benefited from a touch less Perrin and a bit more Mat. How could it deliver on 15 years of waiting (20 for some people)

I don’t want to comment on the writing style, Sanderson vs Jordan. I’m just happy that Sanderson stepped up to finish the story. I have nothing but respect for the commitment and guts that has required.

I rate Towers of Midnight 4 stars but I do so as a long-time fan (as in 15 years) who has waited for many of the moments and resolutions contained in this book and willing to forgive weaknesses more than any ‘objective’ reviewer. Although I believe I can look critically at stories I have enjoyed, there’s no way that I can avoid bias with The Wheel of Time.

Read it – if you are a long-time reader of the series, and have enjoyed all of the preceding volumes
Don’t read it – if you haven’t read the twelve previous books (yes, 12). There is just no way that you can dive in at this point.

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