A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

A Memory of Light imageBrief Summary:  Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, has come to Shayol Ghul to face the heart of all evil, the Dark One, and the world and its future rests on his shoulders.  The Last Battle has come.

The Tsundoku Scale: Top of Pile, 10 out of 10.

The Good: The best part was, as always, the characters.  The Pattern includes everyone, and this last book touches on everyone you’ve ever read about throughout the series—they all play a role (even Huirin!).  I loved how the characters of Androl and Pevara evolved out of nowhere and almost stole the show.  Only the Wheel of Time series could introduce two new characters in the last book of a 14-book tome each with 1,000 pages per book, and make both of these characters some of the most endearing characters in the series.  And Logain, too, has an unexpectedly touching moment.   As with the other two books prior to A Memory of Light, the tone of this book is much closer to that of the first books in the series, with more humor and less of the darker sense the books had begun to take.  Jordan loves incredible finishes and literally the entire book is the Last Battle—so get your popcorn ready.  For some reason, I have always loved Rand as a character (contrary to all the people who just call him crazy), and I guess it’s because I’ve never seen another character try so hard to be good that they almost lose what it means to be good.  There is a fine line in what sacrifices should be made for the “greater good,” and, for a time, Rand almost sacrifices his soul in the process and comes dangerously closing to acting like a villain.  For years, I have waited to see whether Rand would die or not, consoling myself to each possible conclusion of his and the book’s story—yet upon reading A Memory of Light I found an ending that somehow still managed to surprise me, and, most importantly, left me feeling satisfied and complete.  It’s incredibly hard to end a series, much less one of this magnitude, but Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Harriet McDougal (Jordan’s wife and editor) were somehow able to leave me with that warm tingly feeling of just right.
                  (Yes, I am blatantly tacking on the below note about the entire series, but I can’t help it.  If it’s too long for you then skip to “The Bad” section that follows.  But if you actually finished the entire WOT series then you can probably handle this too!)   The Wheel of Time is just so complex and so vivid, and I honestly don’t know how Jordan managed to not only keep track of almost his characters, but also make them uniquely full of depth.  From characters like Berelain whom I disliked at first, to the whole story arc of the Aiel, to even the hinted past and regrets of the Forsaken, there are few characters that remain only 2-D personalities. And yet at the same time, the series itself remains 2-D in a way, like a cliché, and that is what makes it all the more endearing.  Most people hate clichés for being overused and worn out, yet I look at clichés differently: I think they are the epitome of the feelings that we can all relate because they are so overused and worn out.  In such a way, epic fantasy, is much like a cliché—you know there will be a journey involving a hero against some terrible villain, often the hero has to come of age in order to win, and then there are some prophecies and epic battles and your story is done.  And yet despite being “cliché,” the best books of a genre never feel overused or worn out, and its because they refine and sharper clichés into something more true—they make clichés come alive again with all the stirred up feelings they had once caused when they were first created.  The Wheel of Time series is the tantamount of what a cliché aspires to be; it makes the world of epic fantasy feel brand new and fresh, and I am honored to have come along for the journey.  When a cliché is revolutionized in such a way, there is only one word used to describe it: a classic.

The Bad:  I wished there was more Rand, but in truth, Rand’s story had really finished when he had rediscovered his purpose and joy in life upon the slopes of Dragonmount after almost killing his father.  All Rand really had to do was face the Dark One—which he certainly does in this book.  I also found myself still slightly frustrated with Perrin by the end.  I always liked Perrin for his steadfastness and honesty, but by the end those qualities were actually what disappointed me the most in him because they were directly tied to his continual inability to change and adapt.  This is why we had the Crossroads of Twilight disaster, which was one of the worst books I have ever read (definite bottom of the pile!), and I thought Perrin had turned the corner since then with his internal struggles, but I feel like he never quite figures it out satisfactorily compared to how long the reader has to deal with his whining.  And there was one particular event that I had been waiting an excruciatingly long time to happen with Olver that didn’t quite happen… but I won’t give away anymore.  Congratulations to the readers who have finished this incredible series!