Reviewed: A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (2013) (spoiler-free)

The Aes Sedai, the Seanchan, the Asha’man, and the various nations and their leaders must all unite to fight in The Last Battle. But divisions still prevail between the Seanchan and the rest of the world. The Black Tower is still divided between the traitor Taim and Rand’s chosen, Logain. On top of that the Shadowspawn are attacking on multiple fronts, including in the World of Dreams. How can Rand unite everyone, command several battlefronts and figure out how to beat the Dark One all by himself?

A Memory of Light is the 14th and final book in Robert Jordan’s epic – epic! – fantasy, The Wheel of Time. In this last book, everything is put on the line on the most speculated event in the series: The Last Battle. Humanity, freedom, choice, the freedom of choice – the right to choose good or evil – is all at stake.

The first half of the book reads a little slow and the events feel cyclical. It acts as a set up for the second half of the book, the climax to the series. When The Last Battle finally begins, the reader is flung into a whirlwind of action and emotion. There are ups and downs in the tide of battle, but there’s no time to breathe until the very end.

Sanderson and Jordan succeed in delivering the ‘epic’ synonymous with The Last Battle. In scale, in stake, in intricacy and in enormity, The Last Battle is woven deftly, with intention and clarity. And that’s saying something, considering there have been many epic battles throughout the series that had to be one-upped.

With a series as ambitious as The Wheel of Time, much depends on what happens after the battle. Did the ending deliver? Were our expectations met? Were the riddles answered? Did the good get what they deserved, and the bad what they had coming? The ending has potential to make or break a series of such grand scale.

I for one was satisfied. Was everything answered? No. Was I still speculating, long after closing the book and turning to my side to fall asleep? Yes. But that’s okay. An ending isn’t meant to answer everything; a good ending lets you move on with a sigh of satisfaction and, like a transient love affair, makes you think back every now and then and wonder what could have been.

Considering the plethora of characters introduced by Jordan in the series, Sanderson had a tough job on his hands. Each of these characters needed to be given appropriate word count and sufficient closure for the reader’s sake. On top of that, tying together all the side plots, the side-side plots and the various schemes of the forsaken (the Dark One knows there were plenty of those), while keeping focus on the main players and plot was not an easy job. Sanderson, and Jordan respectfully, have done a great job in concluding the series.

The Wheel of Time – the end of an age

I started the series in 2000, when I was about 13. 14 years later and I’ve finally finished. For others, the wait has been longer. The first book in the series, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990. Nearly 25 years and 2 authors later, the series comes to an end.

The series was ambitious. It was grand, in scale, vision and storytelling. Say what else you want about the series or Jordan, you can’t take that away. No, the series wasn’t perfect – far from it – but the sheer scope of it has to baffle the mind.

Would I recommend the series? Depends on who you are. The series is not for everyone. If you’re a writer though, especially of fantasy, I would recommend you trying it. If nothing else, the scale of it will amaze you, maybe even inspire you. There are things the series could have done better, and there are things it got just right. You can take what it got right and study what it could have done better.

If you want to write an epic – an epic of space-time proportions, an epic of journey and discovery, an epic of humanity, an epic of life, of Beginning and End, of the stars and the dark space in between, of what it means to be human, to be alive, to love and hope, to hate and despair, to wonder why, why here? Why now? Why me? Why us? – then read this series. It captures Epic very well and will epitomize it in fantasy literature for a long time to come.

RIP Robert Jordan. Thanks for the good times.

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