Monday, December 7, 2015

Towers of Midnight Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Thirteen
Pages: 1,240

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(Spoilers for the previous twelve Wheel of Time Books are below).

Overlapping with the previous book, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight largely focuses on catching readers up with Mat, Perrin, and Elayne who were either absent or in a reduced role in the previous book.  Being the penultimate book to a long series like the Wheel of Time, Towers of Midnight also leaves readers with a number of looming cliff hangers in the final chapters and epilogue.

In his second Wheel of Time book, Brandon Sanderson continues to justify his position as the rightful author in completing this series for Robert Jordan.  However, despite being a strong book, Towers of Midnight isn’t able to match the thematic depth and emotional intensity that could be found in The Gathering Storm.

The Towers of Midnight is largely about the gathering of all of the heroes, cultures, and basically all around good guys at the Fields of Merrilor to prepare for the battle against the Dark One.  A lot overlap with the previous book occurs as Sanderson has to catch readers up on the happenings of Elayne, Mat, and Perrin.  Rand and Egwene who dominated the previous book function more as auxiliary characters.  The various plot threads are bullet pointed below:
  • After his life changing epiphany in the previous book, Rand looks to repair as much of the damage he has caused.  He also makes his first visit to Tar Valon to begin preparing for the Last Battle.
  • Egwene plots to find the Foresaken Mesaana in the White Tower, while Gawyn finds himself getting in Egwene’s way.
  • Elayne meets with Mat to discuss the design of new weapons.  She also begins to plan her claim for the Sun Throne.
  • After meeting with Elayne, Mat continues his battle with the Gholam, he awaits the right time to open Verin’s letter, and he begins his quest to rescue Moiraine.
  • Perrin and Faile confront Galad and the Whitecloak army near them, while Perrin also has to face Slayer once again in the Tel’aran’rhiod.
  • Aviendha’s return to Rhuidean shows her the expected visions about the past of the Aiel that was revealed in the Shadow Rising, but then she discovers a new way to use the Ter’Angreal.
  • Mazrim Taim continues his stranglehold on the Black Tower, while members loyal to Logain prepare to resist his rule.
The Towers of Midnight has a lot of hits, but unfortunately it has some pretty big misses, too.  All the scenes that take place in Tel’aran’rhiod with Egwene and Perrin are spectacular.  Egwene dealing with her assassin and Mesaana actually holds together as a real strong subplot in this book.  Likewise Perrin fighting with Slayer is equally as good.  Other strengths in the book include Aviendha’s visions in Rhuidean, Perrin’s fighting with the Whitecloaks, Mat’s journey in the Tower of Ghenji, and Rand’s beginning to atone for his crimes in the previous books.

Brandon Sanderson handles most of the relationships as well as Jordan has.  If there was one character pairing that was really entertaining in this series it was the Mat and Elayne conversations that largely took place in Lords of Chaos and Crown of Swords.  The latter book was largely carried by those two characters and their interactions.

Since Elayne and Mat hadn’t seen each other since the seventh book and due to the previous success of those two characters sharing scenes with one another expectations for these two characters seeing each other again was very high.  Unfortunately Sanderson isn’t able to recreate the same magic in their relationship that Jordan had created.  Despite this, Sanderson still does an excellent job juggling all of the plot threads and character’s continuing development, but his writing of Mat’s character could use some improvement.

The other weak point/points that are a lot less believable are the marriages/marriage proposals that occur in this book.  You can’t blame Sanderson for the plot points that Jordan wanted in his book, the question really is why force these marriages upon readers?  Without divulging into too many spoilers, two notable marriages take place in this book.  The first one requires you to stretch a bit to believe in it, but the second marriage proposal that takes place towards the end of the book is almost wholly unbelievable.  It’s so bad it nearly jeopardizes the quality of the previous 1,000 plus pages of the book, and it really damages the image of the two characters that it happens to.

The ultimate purpose of this book is to gather most of the characters together in one location so they can unite to fight a large epic battle that will presumably be taking place in the final book.  Sanderson manages to succeed in this, while also not including certain characters either, which leaves some potentially interesting plot openings for the finale.  The epilogue rightfully beats readers over the head with cliffhangers, including some that were unexpected.  After overcoming some flaws in this book, I feel primed and ready for the final installment of the Wheel of Time.

Score: 8.5

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