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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A frenetic - sometimes too frenetic - but emotionally powerful conclusion to the most epic fantasy series penned, 13 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: A Memory Of Light: Book 14 of the Wheel of Time: 14/14 (Hardcover)
Lord knows the Wheel of Time series has flaws. All fans know that. Plot missteps, idiosyncratic touches which did not always work. Characterization that did not work for everyone.

Nevertheless, no series - none - has earned its ending volume quite like The Wheel of Time. Epic is a word that is overused, but for this series, it genuinely has to apply. No series earns its sacrfices, its twists, its darker moments, with quite the weight of this series. The scale, the depth, the engagement with characters taking dark, sometimes unpalatable paths, and, yes, the length, all contribute to this. None of its flaws overcome how much impact the journey of the series has had on me, and has truly tested the standard forms of the genre while making them feel real and emotionally satisfying; the role of any good reconstructionist.

Rand al Thor was the Chosen One, and no Chosen One ever suffered so much, transformed so much - even into places which were not pleasant - and actually earned the Chosen One label like he did. His journey was real, tragic and draining, and yet his position as prophesized chosen did not feel cheap, as it so often does, as he plainly was the chosen figure of the world for demonstrable reason, a force on the Pattern as much as the evil they all faced. And with a case of engaging, flawed, heroic, complex and yes, even frustrating, core characters, the series built a world of enviable complexity and idiotic humanity, that drew us in even when it dragged or annoyed. Even the seemingly two dimensional had true depth to them. People changed, grew, devolved and above all lived.

No world ever suffered like the world of the Wheel of Time, or at least not for so long in our memories building for book after book. We saw it approaching the end for so long, and believed it, building an apocalypse that matches the dread of the bleak brutality of Westeros despite the vastly different styles of writing. Whole nations seemed to have their own stories we only glimpsed, and yet did not feel tacked on but part of the overall chaos these characters experienced. The atrocities and heroics did not take place in some flimsy construct, but in a land which gave it all weight.

As a finale, A Memory of Light could be hard to follow sometimes, flitting about at light speed between seemingly hundreds of locations and characters coming together in, appropriately, one giant tapestry of epic conclusion. It was only ever going to be thus. As the final planned third of the final book, the glut of action was inevitable, and the confusing mass of characters, motivations and backstories is par for the course for Wheel of Time fans. There are moments of humour (mostly from Mat ;)), glorious heroics, heartbreaking sacrifices and moments of incredible tension as the costs of actions took on all involved.

It was well structured despite the action heavy focus, juggling the incredible weaving of plots with skill, and had moments of emotional power throughout, and I read it all in one day.

Was it perfect? No. I mostly adored the ending conflict and scenes, but without spoiling felt the emotion was undercut by some decisions. It did feel very rushed, as though some other plots should have been resolved or at least addressed in the previous two volumes, leading to some exchanges that just seemed too brief for the occasion, and for my own personal preferences, there was still too much focus on some characters I'm not particularly fond of, but that's on me. I do like being able to imagine the stories of characters beyond an ending, even if I don't necessarily care to see any (which is one problem I had with Mass Effect 3's ending - wondering what the point of all the emotion and energy put into the world and characters had been for if I couldn't picture how things might play out, for good or ill), and appreciated that the world of the books feels real to me, even after this epic story has concluded. There will be triumphs and disasters for these people and world, even if we do not get to see them.

I would thoroughly recommend this series despite all its flaws and length, for though its style might not be for all to enjoy, its development of character in sometimes unexpected directions, it's grand plot that attempts a truly world shattering, high stakes end of world scenario, without copping out on the scale, even if it does require splitting of focus in many places and among many people to keep a character focus to emotionally invest us. And A Memory of Light delivered on much of what was promised. It was a good Wheel of Time book, a mostly fitting conclusion which did not hold back and was not afraid to take risks with characters or plots. Not all of those I liked, even including with the ending, but any negatives won't stay with me in the face of all the good. I read the whole thing in less than 6 hours I was that gripped with its tale.

Well written, emotional, exciting, epic. Fans should be pleased with the finale we got (minor quibbles aside), and what a journey it has been to experience along with all its players. Nostalgia for the whole series makes me want to give it a five star, but four is still great, make no mistake. I look forward to many more rereads of the whole series, and recommend all do the same, with this book in many ways a glorious celebration of the series.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jan 2013 21:30:17 GMT
Mr. A. Flynn says:
How the hell did you read the whole book in six hours???? It took me nineteen in one go and I am a very 'practised' and fast reader? Great review though!

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2013 23:52:48 GMT
K. Elliott says:
"How the hell did you read the whole book in six hours????"

I took a speed reading course for work (which involved reading and redacting thousands of pages of documents all day) and find it hard to slow it down for pleasure reading - it's actually an inconvenience, and may well have contributed to make me think the book was a bit frenetic, which is why I made sure to mention it in the review so people can assess whether I just skipped through it too much.

Thanks for the kind words.

Posted on 24 Jan 2013 16:14:14 GMT
Spanish Eyes says:
I agree whole heartedly with your comments. I read if very fast the first time, this left me a little unhappy with the ending, mostly for Mat and Perin. I then settled down and re-read it slowly and it all made much more sense and the ending played out much better for me second time around.
As you say a good book is one where your imagination can take over and you can envision a future for the caracters.
A very well written review.
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