Books

Forget A Memory of Light


Memory-of-Light_WoT_Michael-Whelan

Last week the final book of The Wheel of Time arrived in bookstores.  I picked it up on my lunchbreak from work, and three days later I had finished.  Really, I’m quite surprised that I wolfed it down that fast, as I would compare reading this final novel in the fourteen book sequence to eating a big bowl of sand.

The book was NOT good.  Before it came out, I read the reviews of several longtime Wheel fans who had an opportunity to get an early look at the book.  They all promised that the ending would be supremely satisfying, and that pretty much all of the hanging plot threads would be wrapped up.  I’m not sure what book they were reading, maybe I got a defective copy at the bookstore, but I was not satisfied with the ending in any way, nor were all plot threads wrapped up well.

As an aside, I’d like to say that I really like Brandon Sanderson as an author.  The previous two Wheel books were the best in years, and his own work with Mistborn and The Way of Kings is awesome.  That being said, he missed the mark in this book in a lot of ways.

So, without further ado, the Pros and Cons of A Memory of Light.  There are massive spoilers beyond this point, so don’t keep reading if you haven’t finished the book.

Pros:

Memories of Light:  This is my theory about everyone who is giving the book good reviews.  They’re not actually READING the book.  I mean, they’re reading the words and following the plot, but what they’re actually doing is reflecting on the 22 years we’ve been waiting for this series to end.  When I first picked up the books, I was 11, in the sixth grade, and had no concept that I would ever have a personal computer in my future.  I’ve grown to adulthood and literally watched the fabric of the world change around me, all while reading the Wheel of Time.  Each book is like a nail that helps to hang the tapestry of my life.  When I finished A Memory of Light, it was IMPORTANT to me in ways I don’t truly understand, as it would be to anyone who followed the series for more than a few years.

Egwene’s Death:  Egwene’s death scene was pretty awesome, probably the best one in the book.  It was an obvious echo back to the last queen of Manetheren, and it worked well.  It felt more liberating than sad, which was a pretty satisfying way for that character to go.

Noal joins the Heroes:  That twist was fantastic – Jain Farstrider joins the Heroes of the Horn and rides to save Olver.  This is the kind of capstone ALL of the plots and characters needed.  You could look back at what happened, and everything made sense to arrive at this point, and it was awesome.

Very little Cadsuane:  She’s so terrible in all of the books.  Thankfully she’s hardly in this one at all.  Did anyone ever find out what she was supposed to “teach” Rand and the Asha’man?  Because I’m pretty sure Rand figured all of that “don’t be a dick” stuff himself.

Rand and Tam sparring:  This was a good scene, though I wanted more conversation between the characters.  It was nice to finally really see Tam bust out the blademaster skills in a book and be recognized for them.

The fate of Hinderstap:  While we never find out the final fate of the village of Hinderstap, Mat using them as a never-ending force of crazy berserkers was fantastic.

Androl:  The giant lava gun was pretty awesome.  His character was probably the best realized of any of the characters in the final novel.

Close-up scenes of Demandred:  I really liked the scenes with Demandred we get from his viewpoint.  They paint a complex personality that has been heavily affected by this Age.  He seems at times to be on the verge of returning to the Light.  I wanted a novel about the time he spent in Shara, and how he fulfilled their prophecies.

Lanfear:  I actually really enjoyed Sanderson’s portrayal of Lanfear remaining true to her power grabbing ways right up until the end.  Even her death was appropriate, with Perrin going all Chief Tyrol on her ass.

Cons:

The writing:  The actual prose in this novel was pretty bad.  Sanderson was trying to match his stuff to Jordan’s, and it just didn’t work out.

The names:  The names were AWFUL.  Just terrible.  Bao the Wyld?  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that guy roleplaying on IRC.  Knotai?  They’re just bad.

The battle strategies:  The entire plan made zero sense from the start.  The side of Light had access to teleportation, the Shadow did not (when the Light siders were making their plans, anyway).  Why on earth would they split their forces into four and fight the four armies of Shadow at once?  Make one huge fucking army, use your teleportation to crush them one at a time, be home before dinner.

Boring:  There is a one hundred and ninety page chapter in the book.  It is appropriately called The Last Battle, since that’s what it covers.  It is, however, mostly boring as well.  ALL of the war in the book is boring.  A few characters compare wars to a slog through the mud instead of a sprint.  Well, the book certainly got that one right.

The terrible Aiel future:  This entire plot was a complete throwaway.  We don’t get to see anything beyond a few hours post Tarmon Gai’don, so all of the speculation will just remain speculation.  No idea why this was even thrown in.

The mighty hammer WhoGivesAShit:  Perrin and his armies discover how to create Power forged weapons on the eve of the Last Battle.  This figures into the book exactly zero relevant times.  Yet another plot and scene that was meaningless.

Demandred:  The most mysterious of the Forsaken alternates between being an excellent general and thoughtful, if evil – and being Captain Fucking Caveman.  You’re either up close to him, where he’s calm and rational, or you’re far away where he is literally raving and smashing the ground with his big magic mace and hurling huge fireballs.  The closeup is awesome – the far away is fucking terrible.

Mat:  Sanderson sadly missed the mark completely with Mat.  Sanderson doesn’t have a lot of grasp on the Loki archetype, especially the humor, and it shows.  His meeting with Rand was lifted straight from Jaws, but not in a fun homage kind of way.  It reads like a pair of bros demonstrating who can wear more AXE Body Spray than the other.

Fain:  What the fuck.  This guy has been one of the creepiest recurring villains for the whole series.  He has literally NO significance in the Last Battle.  Mat just shows up and stabs him.  The end.  No great showdown of any kind.  Fucking lame.  I knew he wasn’t going to be Gollum, but could he at least have been the Balrog or something?

No real reunion scene:  I REALLY wanted a reunion of the original main characters before the Last Battle.  Just a scene of them eating dinner together in a tent or something.  That would have been very satisfying.

All the Demandred Fights:  The trio of regular fucking dudes running after the Forsaken was dumb as hell.  I get what was going on – it was the same as the False Dragons, the Pattern was trying to spit out the swordsman that would beat Demandred.  Still fucking dumb in the context of what was happening.

Gawyn:  His entire plotline throughout the series ended up being Quentyn’s plotline from A Dance of Dragons.  Long, drawn out, and going absolutely nowhere.  The whole “What’s he going to do with the rings?” mystery ends up being “Basically nothing.”
Galad:  Another character for whom the story was cut short.  He and Berelain apparently do fall for each other, but in the scope of the series, who gives a shit?

All the Holocausts:  How many holocausts were there in the book?  All the holocausts.  MILLIONS of people die in the course of the book.  Even more Trollocs and Myrdraal and everything else under the sun.  At some point, when your story revolves around war, you sort of stop telling the tale of the last struggle for the survival of humanity and instead tell the tale of how humanity is fucked anyway.  The book ends in the same way that the Mass Effect series did: humanity is absolutely fucked, at least in Randland.  An enormous percentage of the population died in the course of the two years the series spans.  Almost all governments fell/changed hands.  And, last but not least:  NO FUCKING FOOD HAS BEEN GROWN FOR MONTHS.  And, just like in Mass Effect, no attention is paid to these effects at all.  Just, “We win!”, then fade to black.

Abrupt ending:  I’ve been reading these books for 22 years.  There are 14 volumes.  Almost 12,000 pages.  MORE than 4 MILLION words.  In the final volume of this epic DO NOT MAKE THE PROLOGUE LONGER THAN THE FUCKING EPILOGUE.  I’m 22 years invested.  Give me some damn payoff, please.  Give me a hundred pages on what happens NEXT.

What happens next?:  This one is good and bad.  It’s good that Sanderson and Jordan managed to introduce enough plot elements that I really want to see what happens after the Last Battle.  A book about Rand having normal adventures, or Mat pacifying Seanchan, or Nynaeve and Lan resettling Malkier.  Those would be interesting books.  But I’m never getting them, so fuck.

Tai’Shar Dumbass:  The end of Towers of Midnight and the beginning of A Memory of Light cheapened Lan’s tragedy so much.  Throughout the series, they continually say that if it wasn’t for Moraine or Nynaeve, he would be off to the Blight like an arrow.  They do not say, however, that he would be a fucking idiot about it and charge off suicidally.  I always imagined him sneaking around Rambo style, blowing up Trollocs with his explosive heron sword, leaving their boots smoking behind them.  Not charging 100,000 Trollocs with like fifty guys at his back.

All the useless plot threads:  There are way too many to list here, but examples are Mattin Stepaneos’s kidnapping, the Ogier’s book thing, “He Who Follows After”, Logain’s glory, the entirety of the Seanchan, etc, etc, etc.

Deus Ex Callandor:  Suddenly, it can also boost the True Power?  And let people mind control you?  What the hell?  I knew it was “flawed”, but there were no clues to this, no reveal at all.  Suddenly, they just have this knowledge.  Irritating.

Rand’s switcharooni:  Lame.  Fucking lame.  I mean, everyone saw it from a hundred miles away, but if there’s no sacrifice, then that sacrifice loses all of it’s tragedy.  Also, Rand accepted his death.  Except for that part where he was apparently planning to STEAL SOME GUY’S BODY.

Big Trouble in Little Shayol Ghul:  The entire sequence between Rand and the Dark One starts out cool.  I liked the time dilation effect, I liked the whole “construct our arguments out of literal worlds” bit.  However, then it just veers into the standard fantasy trope of “Evil can only win if good surrenders.”  That trope is neither fresh nor interesting at this point.  It was done better in the Belgariad.  Also, whoever thinks that evil can only win if good surrenders should probably take a look at Ruwanda, or Dachau, or any of the other ridiculous fucking atrocities mankind has inflicted on itself.  14 books deserves a better ending than a 45 minute Carebear Special Movie.

The cover:  I do not know what the fuck is going on in that piece of art, but it sure looks like a guy in cosplay doing Tae-bo with something he got at Disneyworld.

I’ve. . . .I’ve got to stop.  I’m working myself up into a brain froth.

If you have not started The Wheel of Time, do not start it now.  Go and read Brandon Sanderson’s other books.  They’re great, really great.  Support Sanderson, he’s a good author.  But . . . this book . . . just . . . . no . . . .


  • Grant C

    I think you’re being a little hard on it… but a lot of those points are valid. Fain’s death really pissed me off, arguably the most epic villain in the *entire* world next to the Dark One himself, the shadow itself is afraid of him, and he’s taken on and then killed in less than a page after accomplishing practically nothing in the battle. Taken out of play with as much significance as some Star Trek red shirt buying it on an away mission. Not good.

    Elayne getting the ability to create angreal and sa’angreal with that gift from Rand… and oops it’ll take months to make even one so it’s freaking *useless* for the Last Battle? Yeah, we really needed to be told that at least she’ll be able to make them later to do… I don’t know, something in peace time infinitely less significant than winning the battle for the fate of the world.

    Mat sending Hawkwing off to have a chat with Tuon (*awesome*)… and then… NOTHING??? No talk. No mention of a talk later when Mat and Tuon meet up again. No indication any talk even occurred. That was a potential world altering conversation that would completely redirect the future course of events and remake the entire Seanchan culture and we get *nothing*? The meeting between the empress of the Seanchan and the historical figure they all practically worship as a deity… and we get *NOTHING*???

    And Tuon really needed to be less clueless and stupid about pretty much anything that didn’t involve internal Seanchan political maneuvering.

    On the other hand I don’t think Mat was written too off in this book. In Towers of Midnight? Yeah, it was jarring. Mat was just wrong in that book. But he was pretty on track in this one and I had a blast watching all the little ways he worked Demandred over strategically until he could stomp him at the end (gateway-aimed cannon batteries? Come on that’s right up there with Hinderstap…)

    Perrin generally coming into his own as the lord and master of the World of Dreams was excellent to experience. Could have done without the sleep through half of the Last Battle part…

    Rand was not planning on the body switch from anything I saw, I read that as something he stumbled into after the fight. Appeared to be based on the weird link he and Moridin had (which Rand didn’t understand going in) that was, if i’m understanding this all right, created when they crossed balefire streams in Shadar Logoth. He went in clearly expecting to die.

    Wolves have heroes tied to the horn to fight the Last Hunt? Awesome.

    Anything Androl was doing… great.

    Gawyn trying to take Demandred was purely stupid (you know you’re bonded to the main chaneller on your side and what happens if you die you freaking moron), but Galad going in with the power blocking amulet was actually a pretty good idea with a decent chance of success when he baited him into single combat by using his relationship to Rand, and Lan actually taking him out was perfect. Sorry, I got immense satisfaction from the fact that Demandred spent the entire battle obsessed with going mano a mano with Rand and showing everyone he was the greatest and the Chosen one and then he never he even gets to see him and gets cut down by Lan while Rand is off doing something more important. Ha. Ha. Ha.

    Etc. I think the good outweighed the bad. There were numerous episodes of bad, don’t get me wrong…but there was a lot of good in there.

    • JJ

      And I think he is, quite frankly, being too easy on it.

      First, it’s utterly impossible to review the book ‘on its own.’ It cannot stand apart from the rest of the series, so many criticisms are going to stem from what has come before.

      So many plot threads ended up being utterly unnecessary. A common complaint, but the Seanchan could have been excised from the series entirely with no impact. The final book changed nothing about this Armies from Tarabon and Arad Doman could have ‘ridden to the rescue’ as the Seanchan did, with their late arrival coming due to political machinations – a plot that would have consumed 1/100th of the space the Seanchan plot did. The Sharan could have been introduced earlier and filled some of the gaps – the attack on the White Tower, etc. This also would have made Demandred and his Sharan army and the big ‘reveal’ about who is actually meaningful.

      And that space that the Seanchan took up? How about finding out more, and seeing first hand, some of the places that were destroyed in the last battle? The comment about not wanting to see the “Seven Halls of Commerce” (or whatever they were called) in Kandor destroyed in the same way the Seven Towers of Malkier were would have had far more impact if we had EVER SEEN THEM. Same goes for Fal Dara, Fal Moran, and well.. pretty much the entirety of the Borderlands. Even then, removing the Seanchan and filling that space with first-hand accounts of things that actually MATTERED in the Last Battle (Shara, Shienar, Kandor, Arafel) would have resulted in a series 3 books shorter, and with much higher impact.

      Literally dozens of other smaller threads that qualified as “completely unnecessary.” There’s a difference between not being wrapped up cleanly and having been entirely pointless in the first place. For comparison sake, using one of the more commonly called out ‘pointless’ arcs; What is going to happen between the Black Tower and the White Tower in the future. Not cleanly wrapped up, but it doesn’t make either story pointless. That’s fine. Why does Gawyn even exist? His plot goes nowhere and at no point really enhances the story in any way that other, less-time consuming methods couldn’t have managed. That’s not fine.

      Next; the entire Last Battle. Not just the chapter. The whole thing. There are far too many instances of plot devices being invented to keep main characters out of the fighting. Rand can’t help Caemlyn because he has to go to a meeting in the morning. Rand can’t help any of the armies because the Shadow would find him. Rand can’t help the Black Tower because it’s a trap. Rand apparently can’t tie his own boots in this book because it might leave his arm too sore to hold Callandor when he faces the dark one. I understand that in a book this messy, these type of devices will be used. But they were overused to the point of being comical here. Mat can’t help at all because he went from being a loveable cad to a straight up prick (for awhile anyhow). Perrin can’t help the army he formed and sent into battle because he is still fighting Slayer for the third book in a row. And so on and so forth. Not to mention the endless parade of absurdity that was the tactical element.

      And – so, the Dark One plots for 3,000 years, and then essentially sits back and waits for the Dragon’s forces to be good and ready before he really takes a swing at the whole “breaking out of prison” thing. Sure, there was the attack on Caemlyn, and the shadowspawn push at Tarwin’s Gap and in Kandor, but even those only came once Rand was already gathering his armies at the Fields of Merrilor. The Shadow essentially let Rand and his forces choose when, where, and how to fight, right down the final confrontation between the Dragon and the Dark One literally coming when Rand walked into a cave in Shayol Ghul, completely prepared for what was coming, rather than developing organically on a battlefield. The entire handling of this was simply beyond any suspension of disbelief. I mean, I just have to say again – LITERALLY walking into a cave in Shayol Ghul and telling the Dark One – it’s time, bitch, lets do this! You’ve got to be kididng me. Apparently someone has no grasp of metaphor or allegory.

      The best thing I can say about this book is also the worst. After devoting 22 years to the series, the only thing that got me through the final volume was looking forward to the next scene with Androl and Pevara. If not for them, the intervening material may well have been intolerable.

  • Bud

    I respectfully disagree with most of your cons and some of your pros. I rolled my eyes at the Hinderstap inclusion -it was something a bad GM would come up with. Jordan said not all threads would be wrapped up because that’s real life. The Aiel and Power-wrought weapons and creating x’angreal was included to gives us a hint of what’s coming but we don’t need it spelled out.

    I really really hope no future stories are written and I would feel that way were Jordan still alive.

  • Steve

    It was just awful, the best thing I can say is that after reading this book I now know what seizing saidin through the taint feels like. Foul and greasy. Brandon Sanderson is basically the Dark One, he won and remade the Wheel of Time series in his own twisted image.

  • I don’t think it’s really Sanderson that is at fault here. He was handed an impossible task – “Take this series that millions of people love, which has SERIOUSLY dropped off in the last few years and become bound up in minutae, and finish it well. Go!”

    • Steve

      Agreed, he had an impossible task but he did such a good job with Books 12 & 13 that it just makes me wonder what went wrong in book 14, he clearly demonstrated that he is a good writer with his first two WoT books that it is apparent he did not bring the same level of commitment to the last book. I liken Sanderson to the Dark One in jest, ala Rand’s world creating battle with Saitan, specifically the world where the Dark One let’s the good guys think they’ve won. It’s possible that Mr.Sanderson was having a little joke with that whole segment, maybe suspecting that some amongst that fans would not be happy. Anyway without doubt Sanderson is talented that’s why this effort is so disappointing, he clearly is capable of more, but for some reason he did not bring his A game here.

      • I definitely agree that he’s capable of a lot more. But keep in mind – he was basically writing half a book here. Large chunks of this volume were already finished before Jordan when he died. Sanderson was kind of trying to fill in the blanks, and there’s no way to know which sections he wrote, and which Jordan did.

        • Steve

          Good point, it stands to reason that there would be more Jordan generated material in book 12, less in book 13 and less again in 14 correspondingly Sanderson’s contribution would have increased as time went on, possibly this is the reason why AMoL is so jarring as Sanderson’s style came more to the fore but it still doesn’t account for giving relatively minor and new characters so much screen time at the expense of the main characters that Jordan had built up for the first 11 books. To be honest I felt like I was reading the “Amazing Adventures of Androl” rather than a story about Rand Inc.

          • I actually have a feeling it was the opposite order from that. I suspect we saw more of Jordan in this book than in the first two. Jordan the final 3 books to be a single volume, wrapping everything up. I suspect he spent a great deal of time before his death writing closing scenes and the major framework of this one. Also, the dozens of minor characters was basically exactly what Jordan was doing in the previous 7 novels, and not something Sanderson has done in his other books.

  • Galadiscool

    I really like your review. I agree with almost all of it. It is nice to read a review of someone who actually liked the books.
    a couple of notes:

    1. I went to a book signing and Sanderson said there less than hundred and fifty pages written by jordan total, so i don’t think Sanderson had too much to deal with.

    2. I am confused why people liked Androl so much. I was pissed that so much of the book was given to a character I have never met and had no emotional ties to. I didn’t want some new guy to save the day, I wanted Logain to save the day or Moiraine or Rand or how about a raging pissed Nynaeve. ah well.

    3. Everyone wants to bash Jordan, but the whole series was similar to how he wrote his books, they were slow and sluggish at times too, but usually they ended with someone amazing like Dumai’s Wells or The battle for two rivers or or or or.

    4. Speaking of that,,, that’s what was missing from the battles in this book. Jordan’s ability to build tension in a battle and just when you think everyone is going to die something amazing happens to save the day. Sanderson tried this, but couldn’t quite get it done.

    5. 100% agree about the epilogue… ah well.

    6. Did I mention how freaking lame it is that Nynaeve didn’t fight? She’s like the hulk of WOT,, madder nyna gets stronger nyna is…. blah.

  • will

    I agree, and I was so glad that the Lanfar and Mashdar final scenes were so quick. I couldn’t take another drawn out battle scene that was as bad as an 80’s Action Movie.

    Complete agree on the epilogue.

  • Anonymous

    stfu

  • Giantevilhead

    I think you’re being pretty lenient on the book. There are two huge problems that really bothered me, the lack of Aiel and Seanchan participation in the Last Battle. They set both the Aiel and Seanchan up as really powerful and badass armies but they barely do anything. The Shaido alone had 150,000 warriors and were trouncing through the wetlands, crushing all resistance. The other 11 clans should have had a huge impact on the Last Battle. Yet, there was barely any mention of them fighting in the front lines. They were used mostly as scouts and a guerrilla force. The Seanchan were similarly underused. The trick where they made it look like the Seanchan were abandoning the fight was fine. However, the fact that the Seanchan were able to crush the shadow’s forces so easily made it seem like they pointlessly wasted lives by holding so much of the Seanchan’s forces was a waste.

  • Josh

    Look I agree everyone has their opinions – i absolutely loved the book – yes plot lines were left open, or unresolved, but thats the world – not everything gets a pretty bow. But what I dont understand is why everyone thinks the Last Battle didnt make sense tactically.

    You are the Commander of the united world (contintent) forces, you have many multiple armies. You could use gateways to move the entire army and crush one army at a time – but that is absolutely the worst choice. Example – U.S. is being invaded by Mexico from the south, Canada from the north, China from the West, and Russia from the east – we now have 4 battle fronts – If you were to take your massive army and defeat each individual army one at a time, you would lose at minimum half the country – if not more.

    To let an army destroy your land unopposed is ludicrous – Not only will they cross your land destroying everything, they can also take and hold any and all defensive positions, they can choose the best spot to take you on – they have the potential of surrounding you while you are working on one of the armies. Its not like if you outnumber an enemy 10-1 you will instantly destroy them in a day – what if the enemy commander is smart? they see you coming at them with their full force so they use this army with delaying tactics to hold you there much longer than normal thus allowing the other armies to do whatever the hell they want…

    Say you have an army of 1 million and each of their armies are 250,000(just random numbers) , depending on the terrain, you wont get full effectiveness from the army unless you fought on an open field miles and miles across. So – splitting up was the best decision

    Another example – Lans army held the shadow in tarwins gap – The entire point of lan going there was that tarwins gap is a very small space compared to an army – only so many can go through at once – and the Shadow’s army there was MUCH bigger than lans army – how would it have been better to: A. Send your ginormous force there and face the same disadvantage that the shadow was facing or B. Hit that army AFTER they all move through the gap and are no longer at a massive disadvantage?

    Mat eventually retreating and combining the remaining forces made sense as well – they defeated quite a large number of the Shadow’s forces, but they couldnt hold so he chose the best defensive position. And at that point all of the shadow’s armies combined as well – so you dont have massive groups rampaging across the countryside.

    On another note, upon first reading i HATED that Androl was included and “wasting space” in the book – it infuriated me – but as I read I started really liking him and I love how Androl was able to be introduced in the final book, and have a quick and great arc – It also answered a question of what if 2 Aes Sedai bonded each other? I think he did a wonderful job with Androl, although, he could have been introduced in the previous book with no issues.

    I reallllly wanted to see at least a chapter or 2 worth of content for an epilogue – even if it was a narration style of everything after the funeral – but alot of this stuff is the normal, leave it up to the readers to draw their own conclusions – so i was disappointed in that – but overall I would not say this book is pointless or worthless – Even with some of the disappointing things, I couldnt put the book down till I was done reading – I would stay up until 4AM and start reading when I woke up again reading the book – Even if you arent happy with it – I wouldnt tell people to not buy the book or start the series – its a wonderful series with an amazing story – maybe say something like “If I didnt already read all the other books, I wouldnt have bought the book” – Idk, I just think that Rock Solid do not buy this you gave is a little much – but again I respect your opinion