Monday, November 1, 2010
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.