"And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction."
It likely would not be much of an exaggeration to state that even non-fantasy readers would have some barely passing knowledge of the monolithic series called The Wheel of Time. Even if one isn't inclined to read such things, it's sort of hard to miss a series that began appearing on shelves in 1990, has had multiple volumes hit the New York Times bestseller list, and whose completion was left in doubt with the untimely death of beloved author Robert Jordan. Tapping Brandon Sanderson to pick up the fallen pen, the series has soldiered on, and with the release of TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, readers are left but one mere step away from the conclusion.
With the previous volume, THE GATHERING STORM, much of the book was devoted to Rand al'Thor and Egwene, with brief interludes with other characters. In TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, the focus shifts, particularly to Mat and Perrin, while Rand, Egwene and Elayne are interspersed throughout.
In discussing a book of this size (300,000+ words) and a series of this length (13 books), it’s difficult to distill the myriad story threads, plotlines and character actions into a coherent thread, particularly for any readers who may be just coming to the series or are simply curious about what is happening. Characters are spread across the continent, each involved in their own machinations as the build-up for the final battle looms ever closer. A significant number of subplots and story arcs are brought to a conclusion, including the answer to the long-debated mystery of who killed Asmodean, though even that is implied within the glossary and not explicitly divulged within the text of the story.
It’s fair, however, to say that TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT is primarily Perrin's book. As he travels through Ghealdan with his followers, they come upon the Children of the Light. It is in this meeting that accusations are laid against Perrin, including the murders of Geofram Bornhald and two Children of the Light, Lathin and Yamwick, in events from early novels. Of the accusations against him, Perrin does admit to the killing of Lathin and Yamwick, and in the ensuing trial he seeks to use an argument of self-defense. But it fails. Perrin is also mastering his Wolf Dream abilities and is under siege from Isam in the World of Dreams. He is being hunted at the behest of Graendal, who wants him dead, but continues to elude Isam and makes his way back to Tar Valon.
Throughout TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, the characters really seem to morph and grow. Some who have seemed stale have been revitalized. Perrin is a prime example, but Mat also appears to be redeemed as a character. And Rand…well, he is no longer the dark soul he has been for ages now. His change first appeared toward the end of THE GATHERING STORM, and now he appears far more as a savior-to-be. All the threads are beginning to draw tight and curve toward the inevitable meeting in the concluding volume, where the ultimate battle against the shadow will occur.
Sanderson has done a very good job of holding true to the characters and in providing the tone and style readers have been accustomed to from Jordan, with some minor shifts and differences that necessarily occur when one writer tries to take up in place of another. Though the styles of Jordan and Sanderson differ, it would be impossible for someone to read the two books Sanderson has completed thus far and feel that they could have been better laid out by any other author, save maybe Jordan himself. Sanderson has performed admirably well and has more than sufficient skill to move readers with the final volume, A MEMORY OF LIGHT, due for a March 2012 release.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 11, 2011