Book Review – Towers of Midnight

NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS APLENTY HERE.

Eight-ish years ago, I started reading the Wheel of Time series.  At the time, it was eight (maybe nine?) books long, each 800-900 pages.  There were to be twelve books in the main series, with three prequels.  Eight years later, it is thirteen books long, each 800-900 pages, only one prequel, and one more book on the way.  The author, Robert Jordan, died of amyloidosis while writing the last book – which has since been divided into three.  By the time the last book comes out, I will have been reading it for ten years.

Which is nothing compared to those fans who started reading when the first book came out in 1990.  But still.

So what did I think of Towers of Midnight?  In short, I FREAKING LOVED IT. I read all 850 pages in under a week.  Not a personal record, but impressive nonetheless.  So why did I love it so much?

Well, for starters, TONS happens.  All the myriad plot lines finally get caught up to the present, and they actually begin to converge.  Characters who haven’t seen each other for months and months in the book (or up to fifteen YEARS in real time), finally meet up.  Stories are swapped – marriages, deaths, and adventures.  Characters who were thought dead to most are revealed to be alive!  Alliances are forged, and confrontations happen!  Prophecies come to pass, and new ones are revealed.  It’s awesome.

But I think the main reason I loved ToM so much was because the theme is totally about growing up.  It’s about characters accepting the changes that have happened in the world and in their lives.  Perrin – FINALLY – after YEARS of angst, finally accepts not only his cool powers, but also the mantle of responsibility.  And the fact that sometimes he needs to yell at his obnoxious wife (don’t worry, she actually wants him to), and sometimes he needs to let her walk into danger.  Gawyn – another disgustingly angst-ridden boy – realizes that his whole life can’t revolve around the woman he loves, nor can it be consumed with jealousy and hatred.  Faile – my least favorite character by FAR – even manages to look at life from her husband’s perspective, and tries to put aside silly feuds for the greater good.  Galad, who has long been defined solely by his good looks and Puritanical outlook on the world, falls in love and learns that the world is shades of grey.  Nynaeve – by far my favorite character – learns how to submit to her former protege/now leader for the good of the hierarchy.

Plus there’s all the earth-shattering awesomeness that happens.  Perrin versus Slayer in the Dream World, teleporting everywhere, shape-shifting, and generally making the laws of physics their bitch?  Ummm that was awesome.  Egwene facing down one of the Forsaken?  Gawyn taking out three super-powered ninja assassins?  Rand single-handedly destroying thousands upon thousands of Trollocs and saving a town (or nation)?  Mat and Thom versus the Aelfinn and Eelfinn?  Not to mention Aviendha’s vision.  Which blew my freaking mind and terrified the crap out of me at the same time.  Plus the great cliff-hanger ending.

Alright, so beyond the great plot, what else did I enjoy about the book?  Well, the writing is much improved.  Now, I’m not someone who can easily distinguish various voices.  I can’t tell when one writer writes an episode of TV versus another.  I also have a hard time gauging when an actor is good or bad.  So I didn’t really notice how “off” Sanderson’s – the second author – narrative voice was in the last book.  But I will tell you that ToM sounds vastly more like the Jordan-only novels now that I think about it, which is great.  I think the series is in a really great place right now, with a TON of action still left to happen (like the Black Tower civil war I TOTALLY thought would happen this book and the ENTIRE Last Battle), a ton of great character interactions coming up, and so many prophecies needing fulfillment.  And I can honestly say I don’t know how the series will end, and whether it will be happy, sad, or totally Pyrrhic.

So basically you need to buy book one and start reading it now so you’ll finish the 12,000 pages by March 2012 when the series ends.

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