Monday, November 1, 2010

My Review of Towers of Midnight



By Linda

The Wheel of Time series is drawing to an end and, true to its name and philosophy, the Pattern in the story is turning full circle. Events, objects and characters in early books (including New Spring) resurface to play their part in Towers of Midnight.

The book contains events and reunions that have been anticipated for years, but also new and surprising events. Some things resolve as expected, others are complete surprises. There are new mysteries, big mysteries that seem to indicate the huge changes people will undergo before the end.

Towers of Midnight is faster paced than The Gathering Storm. Part of the speed comes from the greater number of plotlines with things happening.

As he did in The Gathering Storm, Sanderson continues to move the POVs move back and forth. Egwene and Rand are ahead in the timeline, and Mat and Perrin catch up. Both Mat and Perrin play prominent and superb roles in Towers of Midnight, but Egwene and Rand have far from minor parts. I have seen that some readers are planning on finding Moiraine’s rescue chapter and reading it first. This is a mistake in my opinion since they will miss out on all the buildup to what is the climax of Mat’s subthread. Mat’s character and humour is done better in Towers of Midnight than in The Gathering Storm. Lan’s thoughts are in character but his speech doesn’t sound quite right. Other characters are very well done.

Few characters still living of which we have previously had two or more POVs are absent, and one of those is referred to in the opening extract. On the whole, we see more of the Forsaken than in previous books, and the Dark One shows that he is literally the boss from Hell.

Some well-known theories are proven right, wholly or in part, others die the final death. Unexpectedly, considering there is only one more book to go, new theories are born. I have at least four. :)

Now that both The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight are written, we can look at them as a whole. And they are a whole. I think Sanderson made two great books out of the huge mass of threads at the end of Knife of Dreams. He chose to separate the strands and concentrate on two, Egwene and Rand, in one book and then advance and dovetail the other threads into Egwene’s and Rand’s threads in the second book. Reading both prologues, I can see how they would knit together – how POVs in one prologue mirror POVs in the other. This would be more obvious had they been all one. However, had the story advanced in a linear fashion over two books with all the threads going at once, like in books 8-9 or 10-11, there was the risk that the first of the two volumes was weaker. So it was a good decision.

Is Towers of Midnight one of the best books in the series? I still think that The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos are the best of all. But it’s a level below, and appropriately it resolves so many unanswered questions from those three books and leaves us right on the edge of time, the edge of everything. One can feel the acceleration into the abyss.

I loved it, it was such fun.

21 comments:

Heather J. said...

Phew! I'm so relieved that this is a good book. I enjoyed The Gathering Storm, but of course I want to series to end strong so I'm very glad to see you say we're going in the right direction.

Emma said...

omg! I can't wait!! I am so anxious to read this book!!

Anonymous said...

I can't sleep, due to excitement about the book :o

What I am wanting is some more Berelain, or at least some.

Neth said...

nice review. I agree largely, though I don't think I'd place it so highly (the thematic coherence of TGS places it higher for me).

My review should go up in a few hours.

Terez said...

Your review...like, it says almost exactly what mine did in different words. :D

Terez said...

Also, I don't get how TGS is supposed to have greater thematic coherence than this book. It seems to me like a buzzword that got dropped by one early reviewer and then spread.

Anonymous said...

break out the spoilers...
j/k...
but, no really give us something...

Anonymous said...

Just finished it and I agree with you.

Hardly anyone should fail to enjoy this book. Pacing is good, they storylines are interesting and some unanticipated things happen.
The only minor gripe I have is that sometimes the writing is very different and some word choices are way off. Some lines/words just sound incredibly awkward and just don't fit in (it's very rare though). But you can tell Brandon tried hard and I'm thankful for that, so I'm not really complaining.
You can tell this with Mat, who is done much better. Not quite 100% perfect, but 95% is more than good enough :)

Overall I'm very happy with the book. This will be one hell of a 15+ month wait for the next one...

Nickel

Neth said...

@Terez

gee, it might've been my early review that used that term ;)

That discussion is long and not best suited for here (and it's been done and better than I can), but in brief - the book was focused on two main individuals. One sinks further and further into darkness, the other shines. One has embraced her situation, one still fights his. One is male, one is female. One heads the BT (even if only nominally), on heads the WT. The entire book is yin and yang. It's by far the most thematically focused novel in the series. I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot.

talinthas said...

I read the book over the weekend, and it's absolutely marvelous. Much better than TGS, both in tone and writing, and you get the feeling that Sanderson is finally comfortable with the book and characters.

There is a sequence of three chapters which is pretty much the most heartwrenching thing i've ever seen in wheel of time, and i was bowled over by how emotional i became.

This is the first great WoT book since 4-6.

Linda said...

Anon: I don't like spoiling the book for readers. Spoilers are best discussed on dedicated forums, with warnings.

Ken: I very much liked that aspect of TGS, except that Egwene shone at the expense of some other characters who arguably deserve slightly better from the story, such as the Black Ajah hunters.

Talinthas: Yes, those chapters were full of pathos. And quite a surprise.

Linda said...

Anon: Sanderson very much needs those extra three months - for his own sake as well as the book's.

Terez said...

I shouldn't post first thing in the morning (my morning) because I always come off like an ass. But anyway, I think that TOM was every bit as thematically focused. Your words to describe Rand and Egwene in TGS works to describe Perrin and Mat in this book...and on top of that, Rand and Egwene had their own themes in this book as well. IMO it's just as thematically focused, but the themes are different. They did a really good job organizing the book.

Neth said...

I agree that they did a great job organizing the book - much better than I thought they would. And yes they did a great (and very creative) job of organizing it thematically. But I strongly disagree with the idea that it's as thematically focused as TGS. We'll just have to disagree on this one.

TWW said...

Hey Linda, wanna clear something up for everyone? The bigggggg question: Does Luca enter the ToG with Mat? I've been absolutely dying to know. ;)

Linda said...

TWW: Well let's say that Sweet did draw the figures going into the Tower of Ghenjei correctly on the book cover. (But the Tower should have been more metallic.)

TWW said...

Haha i assumed so. I got my book today but i've two tests tomorrow, and have procrastinated quite enough already....i'll have to find out the truth of that tomorrow, i guess. thanks for letting us know though. wonder how dida will take that info

Linda said...

Linda: I don't think Dida minds. It's more about being the creation of the theories and being distinctive.

Melanie said...

Sanderson definitely needed more time. The job he did with TGS was way better than TOM. I found the shifting POVs and the awkward dialogue grating and so distracting that 1/3 into the book I am wondering if I can stand to finish it! Yes, he has the task of advancing plot, but much of the delicacy, ( the game of houses, if you will) is bluntly spelled out rather than hinted at. That said, Sanderson does a great job of writing the 'heroic' passages such as Galad's early plotline. But he does not do interior dialogue or 'subtle' well in this book. A few more months to 'polish' would have been well spent.

vor0nwe said...

I agree with Melanie, there's quite a few bits that grated because they felt like a rush job. Not merely shifting POVs, but also a slightly bewildering timeline, and loads of imperfections in grammar and spelling!
I know Brandon has said timelines are not his forte, so I don't know if more time would have helped there. But what really irked me, is that the book is really full of spelling mistakes and botched sentences, like it was hardly proofread. I mean... I haven't seen this many errors in a published book since — well, ever actually. Or is it the people at Orbit that botched this? (I've the Orbit hardcover).

Sanderson is perfectly capable of doing it right, judging by tGS, (and quite a few thrilling chapters in ToM). I can only surmise that he's had to rush ToM.

Personally, I would't mind if AMoL didn't get published before the end of 2012, if it meant the execution were better. Especially since it'll be the series' finale!

Ryan Smith said...

vor0new: I'm glad someone else seemed to have noticed how rushed the writing felt. It's not an indictment of Sanderson so much as the timetable, but it really felt like they went to print with a second draft which wasn't fully edited.

There were clearly some parts of the book which felt awkward and a bit cobbled together. If we ever find out which sections were written by RJ before he died I'm guessing we'll find that some of the clumsier sections were chapters he dashed off in a hurry, which were then incorporated verbatim with too much reverence and not enough critical editing. For instance, did it bother anybody else how ludicrous the scene with Morgase coming out of hiding was? In the span of just a couple minutes everyone suddenly accepts that she's back from the dead and starts playing a game of musical chairs in which take turns solemnly judging each other. I can't think of anything like that in the previous books, including TGS.

It's going to be a tough wait, but I hope they allow Brandon more time to get it right this time.