Where The Gatherin Storm was a studied read, methodically building up the storyline and the pace until the final climax, Towers of Midnight is a frenetic charge toward Tarmon Gai’don, and this could be seen as both a blessing and a curse for the novel.
I’m not doing to set the scene for you – if you are reading this review and don’t know what The Wheel of Time is, then too bad. I’m jumping in and offering you my opinion. And this review will have spoilers!!!
First thing: The prologue was a real head-spinner for me. I alternated between amazement and shock while reading it, due to what happens.
Having Graendal escape Rand’s bailfiring of her hideaway was brilliant, I really did not see that coming, and the way she was written -with that edge of panic and utter fear- really held my attention.
The Borderland’s scene was as effective, if not more, than the Farmer’s scene in The Gathering Storm’s prologue – here we have the actual beginning of the Last Battle, and the way the characters were handled here was poignant and respectful; these men knew what they had to be about and knew what would happen to them.
Padan Fain’s section really made me happy – he is definitely one of the most terrible characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and his scene stayed with me up to the end of the book. To be honest, I didn’t even think about why he didn’t reappear (or maybe he did, and I missed it, like I missed something else), because the rest of the book had gripped me utterly and completely, but now I’m wondering if he won’t burst into the spotlight again at Rand’s meeting with Egwene (which is sure to open A Memory of Light)…
Lan’s scene was the weakest, in my opinion; as soon as I read it I knew where it was going, and that made his denials more and more irritating. The man wants to travel into lost Malkier and take on the Shadow on his *own*? Dude, you can’t even channel! Anyway…
Rand’s chapters were absolutely incredible, even though they were few. He was, once again, my favourite character. Here we’ve got a guy -who has to save the damn universe- having gone through being reviled, feared, manipulated, wounded, contending with the crazy (and mostly irritating) women in his life, and practically losing his mind, passes through all these trials and becomes who he was meant to be – calm, self-assured, conscious of the mistakes he has made (Cadsuane), determined, and still able to feel love and gratitude. The scene with Egwene in the White Tower sent tsunamis of thrills down my spine – it’s never been more evident to me just how far Rand has come as a character than in that scene. Hell, I was thinking, “What the hell are you doing, are you insane?” and he goes and completely controls the situation, showing the Aes Sedai that he is the Dragon Reborn once and for all. I cheered and cheered and cheered when he walked out of there and kept on saying to myself, “Dude, you absolutely ROCK.” The rest of scenes were consistently awesome – taking charge, trying to give attention to what he had overlooked, moving towards his destiny. Sounds lame when I put it that way, I know, but this movement was never really apparent for me in the previous novels (say, from Winter’s Heart onwards). I’m going to be cheering him all the way to the blood on the rocks.
Egwene, on the other hand, irritated me as never before. It didn’t have anything to do with Brandon’s writing of her, though; she irritated me because a) of keeping Gawyn on a bloody string the whole time (seriously, WTF), and b) not trusting in the bloody Dragon Reborn to know what he’s doing. I did get chills when she (finally) bonded Gawyn, and I was very happy for them.
Gawn, Morgase, Galad: Galad was excellent, easily one of the best characters in the book – he went through more characterization in one book than in all the preceding novels and it didn’t seem rushed or forced to me at all. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t really give his threads much notice -fine, the dude sees everything in black and white, let’s move along already- but I really enjoyed him working through the evidence of Perrin’s crimes, having to deal with Bornhald and Byar (shaking my head at these two, that’s all I’ll give to them), and then coming to trust Perrin.
Gawyn and Morgase, on the other hand, irritate the living hell out of me. They are, without a doubt, two of the most selfish characters I’ve ever come across. Morgase is such a bad mother that she would rather be a serving woman than even try to get in contact with her children (and I’m sorry, the whole argument of “Elayn can’t have me interfering while she’s on the Lion Throne” is a load of crap. How many times did she even worry about her children? Not bloody enough. Bad, bad mother. Thinking more about being a cougar than letting her own children know that she’s alive. Gawyn… Fine. Thinking that someone killed my mother and then knowing that I’d have to put up with him because he has to save the universe is one thing; but always thinking about killing him? Did he not get the memo or something? Rand is the Dragon Reborn – your little worries just do not matter. Anyway, rant over. For now. (He’d better do something useful in A Memory of Light – or die falling down a toilet; either wouldn’t really matter to me).
Mat: he definitely was the old Mat we all love, so big kudos to Brandon there. The whole “I can look at her, only look, because I’m married now” thing got a bit old after a while, but Mat was joking, fearless, utterly without regard for what anyone thought, and downright fun. The ending of the gholam thread was cool (also, finally) and the movement towards the Tower of Gengei was great, although I have to admit that the actual rescuing of Moiraine was wayyy too anti-climactic for my tastes. Yes, it was awesome going back to the Snakes and the Foxes, and the (finally) reveal of Jain Farstrider was one of those awesome-soundtrack-in-the-background moments, but on the whole I think it was the weakest climax in the book. Having Moiraine back is going to be crazy-good for A Memory of Light, but her and Thom just falling into each other’s eyes (yes, I knew it was coming, how obvious it was) was just too damned quick. It was, without a doubt, one of the most unlikely love stories in the entire series and it was officially revealed so quickly that I was left wondering, “Are you serious?” We finally have Mat giving up ‘half the light of the world’, though, and that makes me think that if Moiraine dies before Rand opens the Bore, the world is stuffed no matter what Rand does. She is obviously incredibly central to sealing away the Dark One.
Now I come to what were my favourite threads in the novel: Perrin and Aviendha.
Aviendha gave us what I consider to be the most intense and thoughtful thread of the entire series. Not only did she actually begin to wonder what was left for the Aiel as a people, but she kicked tradition on its ass by taking the greatest risk any female channeler has ever taken by breaking the rules. The scenes of her living through Rand’s descendants was, in my opinion, utter and terrible brilliance. I never thought that we would get a glimpse of the future after the sealing of the Bore, and to get that glimpse while also meeting Rand’s (many) children… DAMNED COOL. She now has this massive weight, the weight of her entire nation, on her shoulders, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how she not only deals with her realizations through A Memory of Light, but does this fighting in the Last Battle. Definitely one of my most-anticipated threads for the final volume.
And then finally Perrin: Up to this book I couldn’t stand him. Many people think of Rand as the uber-Emo, but Perrin took that crown and cried over it long before Rand even vibrated in that direction. I’m re-reading the series (finished Lords of Chaos again not too long ago), and the march towards Malden may just be a thread that I will completely skip – that way I’ll not have to lurch through Perrin and Morgase again. BUT. In this book, Perrin was excellent. He finally goes up against Slayer (wonder what he’ll be doing in the Last Battle – methinks Lan will have a fine old time with him), embraces who he is, kicks ass in the Wolf Dream, and gives us the first (and incredible) forging-a-weapon-with-the-Power scene. I had gooseflesh that entire scene. And when I saw this cover I had gooseflesh all over again. Perrin became not only the best general (my opinion) in that world, but also one of my favourite characters again. RJ, Brandon, you redeemed him for me. THANK YOU. And not only was Perrin redeemed, he was also central to some of the best WoT scenes I’ve ever read – witnessing Rand on Dragonmount (I wouldn’t want to be there, at that time, even if I could channel), and (my absolute favourite scene ever) standing with Egwene and nullifying BALEFIRE.
So, while Towers of Midnight really and truly kicked ass because of the events throughout the book, it also (and here you might think I’m weird) sucked:
The pacing of the book was a bit off – way too much jumping around. Rodel’s thread needed to happen more often – taking as long as it did between scenes sucked away any interest I had in seeing one of the best generals in the world do his thing. I’ve mentioned the climax – I think Mat’s thread would have worked better if it ended before Perrin’s. And the mistakes – when Tam leaves Perrin, Perrin lets him even though he doesn’t know why; but later on, Perrin suddenly knows why Tam left. WTF? Also (and this is my biggest problem), did the copy editors not do their jobs? This book was absolutely riddled with typos – so much so that every mistake was like a blow to the head. Come on, people; you don’t slip up like this on what will prove to be one of the biggest titles in the history of fantasy. You just don’t. But you did. Please, no typos in A Memory of Light. That would be a crime of massive proportions.
My second-biggest problem – the (non) reveal of Asmodean’s killer. Come on. RJ and Brandon: you leave us wondering and hanging and waiting for the reveal and then stick it in the damned glossary?! Not cool. But surprising as hell, I’ll give you guys that.
All in all, Towers of Midnight was an excellent book, marred (but not excessively so) by pacing issues, the mistake regarding Tam, and a massive amount of typos. It brought some cool threads to a close, nicely paving the way for the final volume, and even began what will probably turn out to be some very cool threads that may just carry over until after the sealing of the Bore. Event-wise it’s the best Wheel of Time book I’ve read, that’s for sure. I’m gonna go ahead and say this – I think we can expect the same jumping around through events with A Memory of Light; and that scares me a bit. There’s just so much that still needs to happen, not even considering about Caemlyn being attacked. I do look forward to it, though, and will once again drop everything I’m reading to dive into it when it’s released. Towers of Midnight has left me in absolutely no doubt that the Last battle has started, Rand is ready to do what he was born to do, and that we’re in for one hell of a wild ride with A Memory of Light.
8 / 10
If you don’t yet have your copy, what the hell’s up with that? Seriously, order your copies here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK; those in South Africa can just click the link (the book’s cover) to the right and order from Exclusive Books. Head on over to Brandon’s site here, and don’t forget to check out the best Wheel of Time site on the internet – Dragonmount.