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Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time) [Mass Market Paperback] Robert Jordan Unknown Binding – 2011
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It's the next-to final volume in Robert Jordan's twenty-years-in-the-making Wheel of Time series, not the ending itself, but -- well, I'll explain below. If you're familiar with the series at all, you know that Jordan passed away before he could finish writing the final volumes, and you know that Brandon Sanderson, an expert writer in his own right, has been brought on to finish the final three books -- The Gathering Storm, released last year, this volume, Towers of Midnight, and a final volume, _A Memory of Light_, which seems likely to be released around March 2012.
Of those three volumes, this is the "Two Towers" equivalent: there's a heck of a lot of action and movement, but ultimately, this book is about things *finally* falling into position for the final confrontations -- if The Gathering Storm put the key in the ignition, this one turns it, and now all that's left is to watch the last volume put the pedal to the metal. There's a real sense throughout the book that the many, many characters and plots are all locking into place, falling towards their final intersections.
Sanderson's writing is excellent, and in some ways significantly improved since the last volume. Due to the nature of the coauthorship (Jordan wrote some sections of the last three books before he died, and Sanderson is completing the rest from Jordan's extensive outlines and notes), it's hard to know precisely how much we're seeing here of Brandon Sanderson's work and how much of Jordan's, but Sanderson does appear to have a few minor "tells" (chiefly, a tendency towards more modern diction and phrasing), and from those I'll venture a guess that this volume has significantly more of Sanderson's writing in it than Jordan's. That's no criticism, though, as Sanderson's an excellent writer in his own right; the most important thing is the story and the characters, and those Sanderson carries through clear as day. Whatever problems Sanderson might have had adapting to Jordan's voice, he's clearly been working on them, and his work has clearly paid off. He's still not pitch-perfect, and there are definitely still moments where you're reminded of the transfer, but overall there's a vast improvement, even in characters he seemed to "hiccup" on in Gathering Storm (such as Matrim Cauthon). The result is that every point-of-view character, at least, speaks clearly with a voice that's recognizably *their own*, the voices we've known for all the twenty-odd years some of us have been following this series.
I'll avoid detailed plot summaries for fear of spoilers, apart from noting that the book focuses primarily on Perrin and Mat's storylines, overlapping much of the timeline in Gathering Storm and extending past it slightly, with significant further development for Rand, Galad, Gawyn, Egwene, and Elayne as well (in approximately that order, proportionally). Perrin especially gets a lot of development, and if you've ever thought anything like "Perrin used to be my favorite character, but. . . " you'll probably be very happy about the turn he takes in this volume.
The pacing is torrential, to the point that I read most of the book quite literally pacing around the room, too hooked to sit either myself or the book down. It does pay a price for that -- the action moves *so* quickly that at times some of the fine detail work is lost, some side-plots feel a little rushed through and some characters feel a little peripheral -- but it's probably a price worth paying at this point in the series.
The main defining trait of this volume, though, is that as I read it, I had the same sense of cascading finality that I get when I've almost solved a particularly nasty crossword puzzle or rubik's cube: the sense that after all that struggle and effort, *everything* is *finally* falling into place. At the end, it's pretty clear that all the dominoes are in line, the horses are at their starting gates, the match is poised above the fuse; all that's left is the flick, the home stretch, the final explosion. I'm looking forward to it. It's a feeling I've been waiting twenty-odd years for, and, well, to give in to understatement, it's pretty cool. If you've followed this series like I have, if you've been waiting for it too, you'll like this volume.
When I found out he had also contributed to the final portions of this epic tale I had no choice to give it a shot.
Sanderson has done a great job helping close the saga. He makes you fall in love with Mat, Perrin, and many of the characters through their ending days. He and Jordan have developed such relatable characters that you find yourself dying to find out what will happen to them next.
Sanderson has a style of his own and knows how to leave chapters on cliffhangers where you can't help to get to the next chapter for the character you were reading about. The next thing you know you at killing a whole book in one day. His writing style is insane.
If you have made it this far in the series, you know it lagged a bit in pacing in the middle books, but in the final three it has picked up momentum and you have to follow it all the way to The Final Battle yourself.
Unfortunately (because of the death of Jordan) it took the intervention of Brandon Sanderson to breathe life back into the tedium and finally get us to the Last Battle with aplomb. Sanderson has a great gift for cohesion in large novels, and having Jordan's vast panoply of characters wrap up and weave together their journeys and quests is worthy of the "Pattern" itself. So those of you who dropped out of the tedium, I welcome you back to what you find to be a very satisfying last three books.
Several other key characters have important moments, Matt facing multiple past foes, Aviendha becoming critically important to the Aiel, the borderlander army meeting Rand, Egewene juggling internal and external threats and multiple love stories progressing.
There is so much happening in this fantastic book. The last battle has begun.