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Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – Towers of Midnight

November 30, 2010

147. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (2010)
The Wheel of Time, book 13

Read my review of book:
12. The Gathering Storm

Genre: Epic fantasy

Started: 17 November 2010
Finished: 22 November 2010

Where did it come from? Amazon.
Why do I have it? The penultimate installment of the series that got me back into fantasy as an adult? Plus it’s a Brandon Sanderson novel? Let’s not kid ourselves, here.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 12 November 2010.

Tarmon Gaidon comes
and the two ta’veren must
get themselves ready.

Summary: Tarmon Gaiden, The Last Battle, is coming, and the world groans in preparation. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, is the one who must face the Dark One at the Last Battle, but all of the prophecies state that he will fail unless he has the help and support of his two childhood friends, Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon. But Perrin and Mat both have problems of their own they must face before they can stand with Rand at Tarmon Gaidon. Perrin still thinks of himself as a simple blacksmith; he doesn’t want the responsibilities of leading the huge group of armies, refugees, and men from his home village that he’s managed to accumulate around him. He also fears losing himself to the wolves that he can hear in his mind. He must learn to balance blacksmith and lord, wolf and man, and time is running short, especially since he finds himself facing old enemies, both in the real world and in the world of dreams.

Mat, on the other hand, is stuck in Camelyn on a promise, with his band of mercenary fighters camped outside the city walls. He is eager to begin production on the dragons, a new weapon that may turn the tide against the battle with the forces of the Dark, but he also chafes against the limitations of staying in the city… particularly since he’s being hunted by assassins both human and terrifyingly supernatural, and he longs to be off with Thom to the Tower of Ghenjei, to stage a rescue attempt against a seemingly unbeatable enemy.

We also get sizable pieces from other points of view, primarily Egwene, who must heal the White Tower, prepare it for the Last Battle, deal with her feelings for Gawyn, and root out the Forsaken that’s been hiding in the Tower; Elayne, who is trying to consolidate her hold on Andor in a turbulent time; and Rodel Ituralde, one of the great generals who has been left to guard a Borderland city from being overrun by Shadowspawn.

Review: I am swamped with mixed emotions about the fact that the Wheel of Time series is finally ending. On the one hand, I’m very sad that it’s ending – these books and these characters have been part of my life for a long time now, and letting that go is going to be difficult. On the other hand, though, I really want to find out what happens, and I can’t be too sad about things when the books that Brandon Sanderson is giving us are so TOTALLY AWESOME.

There are a lot of awesome things about this book. The big set pieces/battles are phenomenal; Sanderson proved in Mistborn that he can write action sequences well, and he doesn’t disappoint here. But in this book, I found the little pieces even more awesome than the battles. There are a lot of small moments in this book, moments that have been a long time coming, moments that I (like most fans) have imagined over and over again how they’ll play out. And while it’s great that these moments are finally happening, that Sanderson is finally tying up some details and plot threads, what was really wonderful was that the way that those little moments happened was almost always even more awesome than I was expecting it to be. Most of them are not long – Perrin and Egwene finally running into each other in Tel’aran’rhiod only lasted two or three paragraphs – but they’re perfect in ways I never would have predicted.

I also loved the range of emotions that Sanderson was able to evoke, and what he’s done with the characters. The book is filled with the palpable tension of the approaching Last Battle, and I felt like I never have before that, holy crap, this really is the end of the world. There were parts that had me roaring with laughter (Mat’s letter to Elayne, for one) as well as parts that got me totally choked up and misty-eyed, and a few places that did both (most of Lan’s sections). Aviendha only gets a few short chapters, but they totally tore my heart into little tiny pieces. The fight scenes had enough suspense that my fingernails are chewed to the quick. And let’s have a round of applause for Sanderson, who, apart from everything else, managed to rehabilitate Perrin (my former favorite character, but who has spent the past six books being thoroughly obnoxious) into someone who is at least likable again.

While on the whole I totally loved this book, there were a few small things I had problems with. First, and this is not really the book’s fault, but: I wanted more! This book does have a case of middle-book-of-a-trilogy-itis, in which there’s a lot of movement to set up the pieces for the endgame, without an equivalent amount of payoff. Consequently, there were a lot of very short scenes (only one from Tuon, for example) that were necessary to lead into the next book, but were somewhat unsatisfying on their own.

Second, and more problematic, was the monkeying with the timeline. I understand the desire to tell a complete character narrative arc within a span of a single book, and Sanderson has done a nice job of that, by primarily concentrating Rand and Egwene’s stories in The Gathering Storm, and Perrin and Mat’s stories in Towers of Midnight. However, the result of this is that in some places the timing gets really weird; the date changes every time the POV switches, but there are not always obvious markers of when in the story we are. This led to some pretty severe confusion until I get my bearings from the textual clues: for example, Tam shows up in Tear in Rand’s storyline at the end of The Gathering Storm, and is in Tear in the early chapters of this book, but Perrin’s storyline doesn’t involve Tam leaving for Tear until roughly page 480. Again, I can see why Sanderson did it this way – trying to tell everyone’s story as it happens leads to a jumbled book with less-satisfying character arcs (see: Crossroads of Twilight) – but I could have used some more signposts to keep myself on track.

Recommendation: Once again, Sanderson not only lives up to but actually exceeds my expectations. I don’t know if my glowing review of this book will convince anyone to pick up the preceding thirteen doorstops (although that would be awesome if it did!), but existing WoT fans will find Towers of Midnight a hugely satisfying installment. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell, Grasping for the Wind, Neth Space, The OF Blog, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, The Wertzone
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Mandarb’s hooves beat a familiar rhythm on broken ground as Lan Mandragoran rode to his death.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. MK Hill permalink
    December 19, 2010 5:02 pm

    I have been reading this series since and have a lot of time vested into it. Though I grew to hate the length of this massive undertaking I stuck with it and realize now, after reading ‘Towers of Midnight’ how much I miss Jordan’s verbosity. His long winded manner of storytelling is what made this series what it was. His rich grasp of language and the ability to slow down time, so as to drag the reader into his world, is sorely missing with these last two installments by Sanderson writing in a style that merely presents the finale as facts left behind by Jordan in notes.
    I find flavor is being left out of these last two, as if using coffee grounds or tea bags over again. I can hardly wait to see how unfulfilled Sanderson can leave me at the end of the last one.
    It’s only a year away, correct?
    Tom Dougherty is milking this for all he can. Tor is also releasing books that are horribly edited as there are far too many errors within. The physical quality of the books has been way down over the past 8 years evidenced by the sloppy binding/spines In the books I buy brand new from Amazon. They fall apart with very little help on my behalf.

  2. December 30, 2010 11:56 pm

    My boyfriend swears by this series. He’s a huge fantasy (and Brandon Sanderson) fan and he can’t recommend these books enough to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up a 13-installment series but judging from his glowing review, yours, and other fantasy readers’, I can assume that the book was a great ending. Maybe one of these days I’ll have the bravery to begin!

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