“All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon.”
— A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
*Some Spoilers…but not many.”
I don’t think I can give a decent review of this book, simply because I have been reading the books for a span of twelve years (as I’m sure most of Robert Jordan’s fans have — He is similar to George R.R. Martin in that way). Naturally, I have forgotten some important features of the series and I have also lost my intimate knowledge of the characters. However, this lapse of memory will not deter me from writing a simple review and final farewell to the first-ever colossal series I started as a young adult.
A Memory of Light is the third and final contribution Brian Sanderson has made to the series while filling in for Robert Jordan (The man did as he promised and wrote until they nailed his coffin shut). Throughout this giant book, standard size in the series, we witness all the events leading up to and that are a part of the Last Battle. It is a harrowing struggle between the Light and the Dark, however, the battle seems quite sour with Egwene’s and Elayne’s armies being overwhelmed by Shadowspawn. The Dark One seems to have an endless supply of Trollocs to throw in their direction. Sticking together, the armies of the Light bond together in support of Rand and the single objective of defeating the Dark One before he can take full grasp of the world. However, it takes every effort to hold on long enough in the hope that Rand will emerge victorious before their strength wanes entirely.
Like I said, it has been while since I’ve read the series, so my memory of each book is foggy at best. But, in regards to the series overall, I found this book not so dragged out with extended events that disengaged the main characters, like Matt and Perrin, from the main storyline. Previous books usually had them gallivanting off in different directions. It was refreshing to see all the characters united in a single cause yet still independent from one another. Matt is still adorable in his quirky and humorous mannerisms, but he also becomes more responsible—a leader. Perrin is still that pillar of silent strength and endurance, but in the same way that Matt develops, we see Perrin finally accept himself as both man and wolf rather than constantly battle between the two. This acceptance makes him suddenly a formidable force that Slayer can’t possible compete with in the end. I especially enjoyed Egwene’s transformation. She truly became a magnificent Amyrlin Seat, unsurpassed by all who came before her and likely all who came after. She leads the battle until she is spent and she doesn’t break even when she experiences the greatest loss an Aes Sedai can experience.
Everyone seemed to solidify as individuals by the end of the book, making sacrifices and decisions that defined them. I was still unsatisfied with Rand, though. He seems to lose his three-dimensional aspects and became very simple in his characterization: I must say goodbye, defeat the Dark One, and die. Okay, Rand, that’s great and all, but who are you, really? I wasn’t convinced I knew him in the same way I got to know all the other principal characters by the end of the book. A lot of people in the series talk about liking Rand before he was the Dragon Reborn, and I can’t help feeling the same way. He was a lot more complicated and colourful in his characterization and becoming the Dragon Reborn should have only amplified that rather than dim it completely.
The Last Battle is where all the action happens, and it takes up a good chunk of the book (The chapter is over 100 pages long!!!). I didn’t mind the chapter’s length, however, as much as I minded the repetition beforehand: “Last Battle this” and “Last Battle that.” The redundancy of those two words became exhausting, and the importance of this event was gradually eroded away. A little variance in the gravity of the situation would have been appreciated.
The Last Battle lived up to its name. There was chaos. There was death (some heart wrenching). It was a magnanimous struggle. I was thoroughly enthralled with the battle on all sides. The intensity was catching as the armies dealt with heavy losses, traitors in their midst, and the Forsaken trying to undermine them at every turn. Alas, there is another “but.” Purely caught up in the battle raging outside Shayol Ghul, I was severely disappointed that the same intensity was not developed in the battle between Rand and the Dark One. Instead of this grand final fight between the two, there was only “mind games,” creating imagined worlds based on who won. The plot slowed down horribly whenever Sanderson focused on Rand. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a lot of “raised eyebrow” looks for these scenes. For all the hype generated for this battle and what it would mean if they lost, I wasn’t convinced. The battle was very figurative and abstract, which failed to keep me interested when so much more exciting action was happening elsewhere, and that elsewhere was where I felt the most investment in the storyline.
I did enjoy A Memory of Light, despite its flaws. It was the end of the series and, for the most part, a fitting one. We saw where everyone ended up, and we were left with a bit of mystery to play with (after all, “all-wrapped up nicely” endings are old school these days).
Farewell, Wheel of Time, it has been a pleasure going on this twelve-year journey with you.
4 out of 5 book thumbs up
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson published in the USA by TOR Fantasy © 2013