Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Book Club - A Memory of Light
Brian Jordan started writing this series, called "The Wheel of Time" in 1984, publishing the first volume The Eye of the World in 1990. I avoided reading it for a few year because I don't generally like fantasy. One of my favorite books of all time is Lord of the Rings which I read for the first time in grade school and have reread 3 or 4 times. Any fantasy book I pick up almost always sounds too much like a retread of LOTR. I finally gave in and read the first book of WOT in 1994 and got hooked. If I thought I'd be finishing the series in 2013, I might have just put it down.
I'm not going to recap the story, if you're interested in this sort of thing, you already know WOT. Or you can read the Wikipedia article. Many of the books were great. The world building was fascinating. The characters mostly interesting. The dialog between characters was always a weak part and there was a lot of dialog.
Somewhere around book 6 or 7, Jordan seemed to lose his way. He had two tendencies which made the books longer and longer and prolonged the series. He seemed unable to stop making new characters. My rough guess is that there are 3,000 named characters in the series. Many of them appear once. Jordan may spend several paragraphs describing a character's appearance, what they had for breakfast, where they were going and what they were going to do when they got there. And this is for a person that one of the main characters (of which there are hundreds) saw walking down the street from the window of the inn where they were spending the night.
His other problem was that he seemed to think he had to advance the story of every main character in every book. There is one book, I don't remember which one, in which, a single day passes, and nothing that advances the story happens.
Unfortunately for Jordan's family and his fans, he passed away after the 11th book. He really did seem to be starting to move the story forward and apparently, the next book was going to finish it. I read recently that only about 2 years pass from the time that Rand (the guy with the sword on the cover) is found in a small village and recognized as "The Dragon Reborn" until the Last Battle with the Dark Lord in Book 14.
Brandon Sanderson, another fantasy writer of some note, picked up the reins from Jordan and, working from massive story notes left by Jordan, said he'd finish the story, but it was going to take 3 books.
This book, in which the Last Battle takes place, is mostly a, well, a battle. The forces of Light, led by 5-6 close companions of Rand's pits the various peoples of the World, against the chief luteniants of the Dark Lord (called the Chosen among themselves and the Forsaken by everyone else) and their armies of monsters and men and enchanted beings. Meanwhile, Rand is in personal battle with the Dark Lord himself, in the Pit of Doom. While the main battle is all swords clashing, cannons roaring, and rivers of blood, Rand's battle is stationary and is mainly a battle of minds.
All of the major characters are involved in the finale. Some do surprising heroic things, many, unexpectedly, die. The legendary heroes of old come back to fight for the Light. The Forsaken, who hate each other and the Dark Lord as much as they hate humankind, continue to sabotage each other and the Dark Lord's plans as they maneuver for positions of power. As you might expect, it was a little too long with some actions going on like there was going to be a 15th book. But Sanderson wrapped it all up.
There are about 2,500 reviews on Amazon. The great majority of them are a 5 rating with lots of 4s and 3s as well. Only a few hundred people gave it a 1. And those people really hated it.
I'd recommend it if you've read the rest. I'm not sure I'd recommend reading all of them unless you really love this sort of fantasy.
I've been shying away from the Game of Thrones series mainly because I don't want to read another long series. I started reading the first book got the message that winter is coming but couldn't finish it. I understand that in the 5th book, recently released, that winter still hasn't come. The HBO series is excellent so I'll stick with that.
Sorry this went on a little long.