Towers of Midnight, the penultimate volume of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, completed by Brandon Sanderson, is definitely a hard book to review. It is a book of extremes: it can be extremely frustrating at times or extremely engaging at others. Before reading it, I had expected Towers of Midnight to be an end of sorts, to give some long-awaited answers, to solve loose ends before heading to the Last Battle. Boy, was I wrong. If anything, this book is a beginning, the beginning of the end.
“And so we begin the game that cannot be won.”
The bad news
In regard to those extremes, let me start with the bad news: the extreme frustrations. In a recent interview, Brandon Sanderson says he has gotten better in voicing Robert Jordan’s story and style. I rather wish he hadn’t. Though I loved Robert Jordan’s story and style, he could be a bit long-winded (and that might be a major understatement) at times. The Gathering Storm – however true to Jordan’s style and characters – had nothing of that. Towers of Midnight does. It contains pages and pages of rambling and annoying repetition of themes we’ve read about so much that they tired us three books ago. This, however, can be overlooked. Robert Jordan made those mistakes, but his books had enough of the good stuff to keep us reading. Besides, the pacing in this book is still great and a lot faster than that of previous books.
What can’t be overlooked is the fact that this book is flawed. I understand the choices made in splitting this book. As much as fans hate the decision, I’m actually one of those few that welcomed it. What I don’t understand is the way the parts that were split; it seems to lack any form of editing. It’s as if Brandon Sanderson just tore the whole thing to pieces and put them back together in a different order without changing a word. I understand this is a choice he has made. I just cannot, in any way, agree with this choice.
The story of Towers of Midnight starts about two weeks before the ending of The Gathering Storm. We get to read those parts about Mat, Perrin and Elayne that we missed in the previous book. However, between these chapters are some random chapters from the point of view of Rand and Egwene, set two weeks later. This doesn’t yet bother me much. Masters like Tolkien have done the same, though in a much less random way. What does bother me greatly is when we read one chapter from Egwene’s viewpoint, where she meets with Elayne, and then move two weeks back for Elayne’s viewpoint in the next chapter. It just doesn’t make sense, and with some minor revisions, this could have been fixed easily.
The good news
As I said, there is good news too. It takes about 500 pages for these storylines to collide, but when they do, it leads to some major explosions. Some of these scenes are so epic and exciting that I thought they would give me a heart attack.
In the end, despite its flaws, that is what I will remember about this book: the sheer epicness. I have read many epic fantasy books in my life, but none as epic as this one. And, as I said, Towers of Midnight is more of a beginning. Instead of solving most loose ends, more new plotlines were created, each of them more epic than the last. Yes, I use the word epic a lot, but it’s what this book deserves.
All I expected
After finishing the book, it has given me everything I expected it would give me. Most things I expected to be solved have been solved. Some in the way we all expected, and some in ways we could never have guessed. What has been most satisfying, though, was the fact that pretty much every character felt as they should. This was a big point of concern after The Gathering Storm, but Sanderson has surprised me very much at this point. Even Mat, who felt very wrong in the previous book, is his old, likable self in Towers of Midnight. Pretty much the only exception to this is Nynaeve, whom I liked in this book, and believe me, if I liked her, she’s not herself.
Oh, and did I mention how cool the “new and improved” Rand is? He’s freaking awesome. I hope A Memory of Light – the final volume – is entirely about him.
Why should you read this book?
If you’ve come as far as to consider reading this one, having read twelve volumes already, you would be a fool not to read the last two books. Having said that, it becomes more a matter of: “Why should you read this book as soon as possible?” Although I have given ample reason already (epicness and such), let me add one more: you should hurry up and read this book because a glorious thing has happened! Perrin has finally stopped whining! It did take him some two hundred pages of whining to get to that point, though…