In 1990, Robert Jordan introduced readers to THE EYE OF THE WORLD, the first volume of The Wheel of Time. Within those pages lay the quest for the Dragon Reborn, the champion of Light who would fight to save the land from the Dark One, and the tale would grow into a fully-realized world embraced by tens of millions. Now, 23 years later and nearly six years after the death of its creator, the conclusion to the series is realized in the powerful 14th volume, A MEMORY OF LIGHT.
The long-awaited finale finds the forces of Light preparing for the Last Battle, but they are still splintered into self-serving factions, some retreating from losses and assaults by the growing might of the Dark One. Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, has devised a scheme by which he would break the seals holding the Dark One imprisoned and kill him, forever ridding the world of malevolence. At the same time, he has crafted a peace accord for all of the kingdoms, insisting they sign the agreement in exchange for his confronting the Dark One --- an act that very likely will cost him his life. His ultimate goal is to leave a legacy of peace for all time.
Elayne is placed in charge of the overall command of Light, devising a strategy with the generals and warriors by which they can draw out the forces of Darkness and secure an easier passage for Rand and his role in the Last Battle. The difficulty lies with having to battle on three separate fronts, each necessary to win in order to secure the others. Failure in one could mean failure in all. As Rand makes his last-minute accords and pulls together the strings that would both bind the forces of Light as allies and wrap the noose around the Dark One, things start to waiver and the plans crafted to win the day falter. All will now ultimately rest with Rand and his success, but as he confronts the Dark One, he begins to see that his course may not be the right one after all and could very well damn the world.
"A MEMORY OF LIGHT is an extraordinary volume, and a more than worthwhile ending to a story that has enchanted readers for so long.... It is no exaggeration...to say that A MEMORY OF LIGHT is epic in all ways: in size, in the scope of the tale and the cast involved, in depth, and as a finale, it is epic in weight on an emotional level, from what is presented in words and from what readers carry with them over 20 years."
A MEMORY OF LIGHT is an extraordinary volume, and a more than worthwhile ending to a story that has enchanted readers for so long. To go into each and every nuance of the plot would require far more time and space than is allotted here -- the 900-plus pages have varied point-of-view characters spread to various corners of the world, engaged in all manner of combat and desperation. Besides the vast amounts of time it would take to do credit to the depth of the story, to go on too much would spoil the discovery of reading the pages yourself. It is no exaggeration, however, to say that A MEMORY OF LIGHT is epic in all ways: in size, in the scope of the tale and the cast involved, in depth, and as a finale, it is epic in weight on an emotional level, from what is presented in words and from what readers carry with them over 20 years.
A debt of gratitude must be paid to the late Robert Jordan. He put an idea to paper and engaged a dreamer in every reader who cracked open the spine of that first book. As a master craftsman, he hooked you, and as the story expanded, as the trials and travails of our heroes deepened and threatened all, more and more readers came into the fold. A number of cliches of fantasy were abandoned. In many ways, he lent credibility to the genre once more and proved that it is just as worthwhile a vehicle for ideas and insight as any "literature." And so it was with good reason that readers lamented the loss of this artist before his full vision was realized.
Thanks and gratitude must also then be paid to Robert Jordan's wife, Harriet McDougal, who worked to see her husband's vision fulfilled, and selected Brandon Sanderson to complete it. And how, too, can we not express our thanks to Sanderson? It is a daunting task, indeed, to essentially set aside your own writing and ambitions only to take up one of the most beloved franchises in fantasy fiction history. With a series that had grown and, to some, stretched too wide and left too many loose ends, it was never going to be easy to fulfill Jordan's conceptual map. That Sanderson performed so extraordinarily is no surprise if you've read his other works, and they could not have selected a better writing companion for the late author.
As with any multi-volume work of this magnitude, some books will rise above others. Some story threads will excite more than others. Some characters will annoy more than others. Even diehard readers have leveled criticisms at The Wheel of Time. No work stands untarnished in the eyes of those who perceive it. A MEMORY OF LIGHT, by comparison to the previous volumes co-written by Sanderson (THE TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT and THE GATHERING STORM), is a half-step behind, yet that opinion does nothing to diminish the quality or success of the conclusion. It still stands as a testament to Jordan's creativity and absolutely carries the banner proudly. On the whole, no matter the opinions of the individual volumes, one can never see The Wheel of Time as anything more than an exemplary crown of achievement, and the journey from Page 1 to Page 12,521 is worth every turn.
And so the story of good friends --- of Rand, Perrin, Mat and Egwene, along with the host of other characters to whom readers have grown close --- will all draw together and come to a close. As with the preceding volumes, they have continued to grow, to learn, to show great strengths and weaknesses, and to have hearts broken and embrace victories. It is sad to see them go. There is a bittersweet quality to turning these pages, knowing that each turn brings you closer to the end. The decades-long story readers have walked and lived with and excitedly purchased new volumes of has come to its final pages. Hearts will be heavy as the cover is closed and the journey ends, a journey started by Robert Jordan and shared with us all. Those hearts will also rejoice, content that they could realize this ending, thanks to Brandon Sanderson. And yet it is not an ending, for as is written:
"There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was an ending."
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 24, 2013