Towers of Midnight review

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Towers of Midnight is the penultimate novel in the Wheel of Time series. At last, we are on the verge of finality in this saga that went on for two decades with ups and downs. After fourteen books, I have to admit that I grew fond of many of the characters and still hate some of them fervently, be it that the book was written by Robert alone or by Brandon.

The Last Battle, Tarmon Gai'don has come. Perrin is taking back his army of followers from Malden to Caemlyn. On the road he will meet with his old nemesis, the Whitecloaks, while Slayer will be waiting for him in the wolf dream. Rand tells the new Amyrlin Seat, Egwene, that he is going to break the seals at Shayol Ghul. The head of the Aes Sedai will call on all the leaders of the world to convince him to stop. And then, Matrim is not in rest, he will prepare his journey to the Tower of Ghenjei and put into motion his plans for the production of dreadful dragons devised by Aludra. In the borderlands, the trollocs are marching and Rodel Ituralde will have to face them while being greatly outnumbered.

Let me begin with my feelings in regards to the way the author handled the protagonists. In Brandon's first shot at The Wheel of Time, I thought he was usually spot on (although I think the perfection in this endeavor is of the domain of the impossible) with most of the characters and my feeling was renewed. Mat was somewhat the biggest difference. In this novel, he felt closer to the old Matrim. The humorous element that the hero brings to the grim setting is refreshingly pleasurable. I grinned more than ever at his remarks even though is best smile was a too common occurrence (you can also take a peek at one of my kick ass moment staring Mr. Cauthon).

Among the tasks expected from Brandon was the closing of story arcs to eventually concentrate or agglomerate the plots toward Tarmon Gai'don. In The Gathering Storm, some side plots were coming to an end and in ToM, at long last, many smaller arcs are coming to an end. The table is now set. However, that's not really the principal element that I retain concerning this book. Although it sometimes feels like a huge bridging novel, there's still a main storyline that is not really the most captivating adventure I wished for. I like some aspects of Perrin's quests, although the whole run for the liberation of Faile was excessively stretched by Jordan. I think Brandon fell into the same mistake. The main protagonist of ToM is Goldeneyes and he still spends way too much time thinking about throwing away his axe and becoming a wolf in the wolfdream. That story could have been recounted in at least half the pages dedicated to the subject.

After The Gathering Storm, I had a feeling of understanding that the split into three books for the ending was necessary, well I'm not certain about that now. Hopefully, the novel is eventually saved from being a slightly boring bridging novel that has to occur before the great conflagration (about time after so many words written). This redemption comes mostly in the form of Mat's storyline and the brief passages where Rand or Rodel Ituralde make appearances. In those cases, plenty of action is in store and a good deal of furious use of saidin. Moreover, Aviendha, some Ashamans in the Black Tower and Nynaeve have also some sidestories worth the wait.

By the way, I still hate the character of Elayne and I find her to be tremendously annoying again. Couldn't she just take the bloody Sun Throne already! At least, for her brief moments in the book, Nynaeve shines as one of the deeper and most compelling feminine character, finally (there is less mighty looks from the women in the novel, Egwene included).

As far as the author's writing is concerned, I think Brandon has proven once again that he can deliver on the accessible but enriched writing front. He uses the WoT universe with mastery. However, in this case, aside from Maradon, there's not much that can be considered an addition to the world.

Finally, we learn the name of Asmodean's killer. As I feared, it's not really breathtaking. It doesn't come as a big surprise but mostly, I think the myth behind it was far greater than the interest in the knowing.

I could tell you that this book is a must for the readers that were patient enough to get this far, but you can already tell by the review. With everything in place, this is at long last the end of fill-up storylines. The expectations for A Memory of Light are now sky high since everything important will come to a conclusion in the next book. That's probably why Towers of Midnight felt a bit like a letdown for me, the good stuff will have to wait. There one exception toward the end, the Tower of Ghenjei is stormed by Mat and this create one of the best moments I have felt while reading WoT in a long while.

Technically, as with all the Tor covers for The Wheel of Time series, I find this one to be looking bad. It's not as ugly as some of the previous work (TGS and Lord of Chaos for example) but I can understand the "need" for continuity. The hardcover edition is 864 pages long. There's the usual world map at the beginning of the book but also a great rendering of the besieged city of Maradon. And don't forget, as I mentioned in this post, don't read the glossary if you don't want to know who is Asmodean killer before reading the novel.

Towers of Midnight review score :

Characterization............. 8.5 /10
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. 8 /10
Story.............................. 7 / 10
Writing........................... 8 / 10

Overall (not an average) 7.5 / 10


Brandon Sanderson page
The Gathering Storm review


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