There was a point in this series when you couldn’t have convinced me that the conclusion THE WHEEL OF TIME would live up to all its potential. Robert Jordan seemed to be drowning in the sheer quantity of characters and plots he’d created, and as he meandered his way through the middle books of the series, it seemed as though the juggling act had overwhelmed him. There were simply too many characters, too many plots, and the story seemed to have lost its focus. The same scope that made WHEEL OF TIME stand out from the crowd had proven too much for the author to bear.
But having completed the penultimate tome in this landmark series, I’m pleased (and somewhat stunned) to realize that Jordan and Sanderson have brought the story entirely back on track — to the point that it may be better ever, including the opening books that drew me into the story in the first place.
I realize most will be quick to hand Sanderson the bulk of the credit, and he certainly deserves it — he’s brought a much-needed focus to the storytelling that has elevated these final books. But KNIFE OF DREAMS, Jordan’s final completed book, showed signs of righting the ship, and I’d hate to fail to credit from the man for creating the framework of such an epic tale.
For a 1,200-page book, TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT moves quickly, something the middle books in this series struggled to accomplish. All the major characters get their time in the spotlight, and each of them see their plots move forward toward Tarmon Gai’don. Mat is a slightly different character, but I still like him — and he’s a character I didn’t like in the early books. I still love reading Perrin’s chapters — and he seems better than ever in this book –and Rand’s chapters have gotten significantly stronger.
Almost all the characters have set aside their fears and the whining that was getting in the way of the storytelling, and it’s amazing how big a difference that makes, not only in allowing the plot to move forward, but also in allowing us to actually enjoy these characters’ company. There’s even a bit of humor in these books, moments where I laughed at the dialogue and interplay between characters. Since this didn’t happen often in the first 11 books of the series, I have to assume that’s Sanderson’s touch shining through.
Really, my only criticism of this book lies with Egwene, who was such a strength in THE GATHERING STORM. Her relationship with Gawyn turns into something of a power struggle, and she determines that she won’t let him close until he proves his subservience. It’s off-putting, especially considering that Gawyn was a likeable character before he started mooning over Egwene.
This was a series that had a lot of promise early on, then seemed to wander off the path. It was impossible to see how the pieces would fit together, but the last two books have really brought the characters and their plotlines into order, and if you aren’t looking forward to the final book at this point, then I really can’t understand how you could have gotten through the first 13 books.