I might be the last Wheel of Time fan to finish it, but no matter: I was undaunted.
And at last, I have achieved my victory. I’ve finished this book (behemoth that it was).
After that, I’m going to take a short hiatus on reading books for a week or two, to focus more on my writing and get myself up to speed. Then, I’ll probably go back to A Clash of Kings, the second book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. As I mentioned in comments on my blog: that series is good, but I can’t relate to any of its characters, and as a result despite being very well-written these books just haven’t been terribly compelling for me. I stopped A Game of Thrones half-way through to read The Gathering Storm, and then I stopped Kings about a third of the way through in favor of Towers. “The Wheel of Time” just trumps “Ice and Fire” for me.
So, with that bit of preamble out of the way, I’m going to do something I don’t do on my blog: I’m going to go all spoilery on you and commiserate with any Wheel of Time fans who happen across the blog about the ending of The Towers of Midnight. Don’t worry… it’s all below the cut (you have to click “Read More”), so you won’t see it unless you click through. I have to do it because… well… the ending of Towers left me with a feeling of “Are you kidding! You can’t do that! You’re telling me I have to wait how long for the next book? I don’t think I can handle this! The anxiety is killing me!” You’ve been warned…
So… That out of the way. Caemlyn. Seriously? You drop a Trolloc bomb on Caemlyn in the epilogue? Have you no mercy, no shame, sir? Reading Verin’s letter just left me absolutely stunned… (Incidentally, did anyone else get creeped out by Olver’s POV? As in… does he seem like a nice, budding little sociopath to anyone else?) Frankly, I’m a little surprised Elayne would willingly empty her city of its defenses when she knows an invasion is coming simply because there’s some rumor that Rand might Break the Seals, without even knowing what that really means. With her devotion to Andor and her love of Rand, it just seemed… out of character, I guess. She had to violate both in order to think it a good idea to clear out her armies and follow Egwene with them. So, that rather bothered me a bit.
Anyway… I get ahead of myself.
So, I went into Towers knowing that Mat’s “Enter the Tower of Ghenji, deal with the Snakes & Foxes, and rescue Moiraine” storyline was going to have it’s conclusion here. No surprises there. The dust-jacket flaps made it clear that Perrin was going to have a confrontation both with Whitecloaks and with his own inner wolf, so no surprises there, either – although the introduction of the dreamspike was a bit of a surprise. I don’t recall that one from any prior books, or did I miss something? It became clear through the story that the same device was being used at the Black Tower.
So, what did surprise me about the book? Well, except the ending with Caemlyn burning, not a whole lot (though I had forgotten about the bloodknives from Storm, so that whole story sequence came as a nice surprise, and having it cross paths with Perrin’s story was a fun way of handling it). But then again, it’s not so much about the surprises as it was the intensity. Which is to say, even knowing or having some idea of what things were coming, I was constantly excited to be moving through that story. Most of the novel was dominated by Perrin’s storyline, proportionately speaking, but there were a lot of parallel stories going on, which kept the book moving at a fast clip despite the enormous size of the book. And especially the latter half of the book just kept it down.
Two other things continually nagged at me – is nagged the right word? – but all through the books I kept thinking “I wish someone would take care of ‘X'”. The ‘X’-factor came in two forms: the Seanchan and the Black Tower. It’s like these two enormous elephants in the room that nobody’s taking as seriously as they need to. The Seanchan penchant for slavery (particularly of channelers) seemed to me to be completely incompatible with the idea of a “happy” ending, in that if a nation that endorses slavery gains the upper-hand, I’d consider that a downer-ending for the series (whereas I hope for a happy one, in this case where “happy” can legitimately include the death of the main character). As for the Black Tower… that place is such a den of Darkfriends and potential Dreadlords, I’m surprised no-ones taken the time to realize that (and with Rand’s newfound ability to detect Darkfriends… he’d be sure to be able to clean the place out right). Then again, I’m not surprised that those things haven’t been addressed here in this book: they do seem a bit like series-finale storylines, so I fully expect them to be addressed in the last book.
Anyway, the summation of my review is this: that The Towers of Midnight is a fantastic book that really captures the essensce that made “The Wheel of Time” series so exciting in the first place. It’s the kind of book that is, frankly, so good that one (i.e. one who is also a writer) may be inclined to despair of ever writing something as good. As a writer, I’m trying to keep my chin up… As a reader, I was very pleased.
So… if you read the book, what were your impressions? Do share…