Book Review: A Memory of Light (Final Book, Wheel of Time Series) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Quite a while ago, I wrote a blog post about the book that caused me to become a bibliophile and eventually brought me to pursue my dreams as an author. I told of how my dad found a random fantasy book and tossed it on my lap one day. I also told of how I had never read fantasy and thought it was somewhat dorky… well, it is dorky, but I’m okay with that. You can read that blog post here.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the first book in the Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan was the catalyst. I began this journey almost fifteen years ago and now that journey has come to an end… or has it? I mentioned in an earlier post that my wife asked how I would feel when I finished the final book in the series. While I stared at the ceiling for a good half-hour once finished, I quickly straightened up and pulled out my notebook to jot down my own fantasy genre ideas.
I’ve moved on in multiple ways. The fantasy will never end for me because I am an author. I’ll just write more! And of course, there will always be other fantasies out there to keep my interest, though it will take one heck of a story to compare to my first love.
On to the review!
A quick note about the description below. It’s not as much of a description for the book as it is a description of the entire series and the culmination of the entire project.
Book Description via Amazon
Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.
When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.
Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.
What was, what will be, and what is,
may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
If that last line isn’t one of the coolest lines I’ve ever read, I don’t know what is.
A reminder here that I try for no spoilers, but don’t read on if you’re worried I may give something away. I haven’t had any complaints yet, but I know I’m the type of reader who wants to know virtually nothing about the storyline of the next book in a series I’m reading. There’s your fair warning.
Sanderson had hundreds of main characters, and hundreds of story arcs, to cover in this one. A close friend and I have discussed how this series would end for years and neither of us could comprehend how Sanderson could put the finishing touches on this one. While there were a couple small areas we complained about after finishing the series, the rest of the story was amazing enough that it didn’t change the way we felt one bit. The Wheel of Time series is, and will continue to be, one of the greatest epic fantasies ever told.
I didn’t think it was possible, but Sanderson kept an unbelievable pace throughout the entire novel. The chapters and sections were shorter than in previous WoT (Wheel of Time) books, but not only did it work well, I believe it was needed in this case. The reader is all over the map at first as we’re brought into the state of mind of all the characters and reminded where we’re headed: Tarmon Gai’don, the final battle, possibly the end of all things.
The final battle isn’t just one battle, but many. Some on a larger scale and some that are small yet lead to larger fights that may or may not be known by the other characters. Matrim, Perrin, Rand, Egwene, Nynaeve, Lan, Tam, and I could go on, all have their part to play, and they’re each significant.
Best Aspects of the Book
Sanderson keeps to the storyline and to Jordan’s vision of an epic story while continuing to focus on the individuals and their actions that brings us to the final climax.
Again, THE PACING! I swear my heart was racing through almost every page of this darn book. Not just the battle scenes, but with every decision the characters made bringing us closer to the end of the world, and the book.
The epic battle scenes. Sorry for using the word “epic” again, but it’s the only word that encompasses the breadth of this story. The tactics, the blood, the soldiers, the individuals; they all play significant roles in the final battle. Another reviewer said something similar, but the way the scenes played out it was as if Sanderson had first hand knowledge of that battle, as if he were there copying down what he saw.
Many may not see this as a positive, but it made the book more realistic in my opinion. Characters are dying all over the place in this one. It makes sense considering it was the final battle. If we’d had this grand battle to only have a few characters die, not only would it not have been as realistic, but the reader wouldn’t be on the edge of their seat wondering when their other favorite characters were going to “wake up from the dream,” as the Aiel would say.
Sanderson completed so many story arcs in one this one book that it was simply amazing. In a recent conversation with the friend I mentioned above, we discussed how Sanderson could have easily written another four or five books in the series with each of those story arcs being a story of their own.
The Negative Aspects
With how much I loved this story, it’s hard for me to say anything negative. However, I try to keep an unbiased tone when I write a review, though that’s pretty much impossible in this situation. While I say some of these things are negative, it’s only my opinion and other readers may disagree.
Where was Thom Merrilin? No, he wasn’t removed from the story, and he played an important role, but I loved his character and I wanted more. With the how big of a part of the story he was throughout, I thought there would be more.
There were some parts that were 100% Sanderson, particular lines especially. He sticks to a Jordanesque style throughout the previous two books he wrote, yet in this one, I felt there were times when the things he wrote were something Jordan probably would have done so differently. Of course, we’ll never know, and I’ve no doubt that Sanderson did the better than any other author could have in his position. My argument against this is that I’m not sure Jordan could have completed this series the way Sanderson did, and that’s saying a lot, because I love Jordan’s writing. Before this book, I wasn’t completely sold that Sanderson could finish the WoT series the way it should have been. Now, I can see that Robert Jordan and his wife picked the perfect author to finish this epic story.
This part goes with one of the positive aspects. I mentioned that Sanderson completed so many story arcs above, but there were some I wish he’d spent more time on. “Wish” is the key word there. We all wish we could read more of our favorite book or series, but that’s just not possible. I won’t mention which one, but there was one point that had been alluded to almost since the first book, and then when we reach the actual moment, it’s over in less than two pages. I can’t complain too much, the story arc was completed, even if not in the way that I had imagined.
The actual ending. I could probably put this in both the positive and the negative. In my mind, it fit perfectly. So why does it go in the negative section? Because, in my mind, there were just enough questions left that the ending read like the final line was a precursor to the next book in the series, which of course we won’t have. I think my brain is still working on what exactly I think about everything.
I give A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson five of five stars, and the series itself, five of five stars. If you’re looking for a true epic fantasy with an epic story line, an epic cast, and now an epic ending, the Wheel of Time is for you.
I doubt Brandon Sanderson or Harriet, Robert Jordan’s wife, will ever see this, but I want to take this moment to say thanks to all three of you for sharing this amazing story with the world. Thanks for the time and effort you put in, despite the untimely passing of Mr. Jordan. Thanks for showing me what it’s like to get lost in a book, to care for characters as if they’re my family, and for giving me this pipe dream to chase.