Forget A Memory of Light
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.
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.
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 . . . .