Monday, January 3, 2011

Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson

13 books down, 1 more to go! The penultimate novel in The “Wheel of Time” series is upon us and not a moment too soon as THE SERIES SHOULD HAVE ENDED ALREADY! They should never have spilt the final book into 3 novels!

I know I sound like a broken record but I have to get that out of the way. Now that’s done, on with the review.

I was looking forward to “Towers of Midnight” as this is the first book in the series that is mostly written by Brandon Sanderson. Book 12, The Gathering Storm, was partially written by Robert Jordan and Sanderson finished the book. So I was looking forward to seeing how he does on his own.

He starts off with a bang. The prologue has Rand al’Thor walking straight into The White Tower and telling the new Amyrlin Seat, Egwene, that he’s going to break the remaining 2 seals at Shayol Ghul. Then he walked straight out. Needless to say, Egwene blew her head at this and began calling on all the leaders of the world to convince Rand to stop his plan. It was intense and dramatic. In short bloody brilliant!

Despite the good start between the two, the “Towers of Midnight” was mostly about Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon. A good thing as I always felt that the series was good when the focus stayed on Rand, Mat or Perrin. Once the attention started on all the other side characters, the series suffered.

The novel spilt the action between Mat and Perrin but the results in “Towers of Midnight” were mixed. Of the two, I thought Perrin’s story was by far the better one. Perrin was taking his army back to Rand to prepare for the final battle but on the road, he met up with the Whitecloaks army under the command of Galad. Old wounds between Perrin and the Whitecloaks surfaced and he has to try his best to prevent a battle between the 2 armies. All the while, Slayer is hunting the wolves in the dreamworld as The Last Hunt has finally started.

Basically this part is how Perrin shadowed Rand. In the earlier books, Rand went from farmer to king and now Perrin is following the same road as his friend. It took awhile for him to get to the point where he knew there’s no escaping destiny, but at least it didn’t take him a few books to get there like Rand did.

Compare to the story of Perrin, Mat’s story was far more straightforward. He’s struck in Caemlyn due to his promise to Verin, alternating between trying to meet Elayne, now Queen of Andor, and escaping the gholam assassin. The big problem I have with his story is the amount of time he was struck in Caemlyn. It was a serious bore reading how he was planning to go to the Tower of Ghenjei and put into motion his plans to rescue Moiraine but before that, he had to meet with Elayne and kill the assassin. It took way too long for it to happen, just go already! Once he actually got to the tower, the action picked up considerably (the part where Noal was revealed as Jain Farstrider was cute) but the process of getting there was excessively stretched by Sanderson.

The good point of this book is that Sanderson seriously went about closing up all the side-stories. Rodel Ituralde makes a welcome return and showed why he’s one of the Great Captains of the world defending the besieged city of Maradon from overwhelming odds. I always preferred Galad to his 2 annoying siblings and this book showed why. His scenes with Perrin were some of the best moments in this book. Nynaeve and Lan also had their moments.

Despite not showing up often, Rand stole every scene he was in. Now fully mad with the memories of Lews Therin, the way he now speaks give chills to even his closest advisors (even Cadsuane which take some doing). However there is a method to his madness. If a guy knows he will fight a dark god, die in the process, and (win or lose) destroy the world killing millions of people; well, the guy has to be mad to even show up for the fight right? Sanderson has a great feel for Rand and it showed in this novel.

However I will have to say the bad points outweigh the good in this book. One of the stated reasons why they decided to extend the series was to let Sanderson have time (and pages) to finish all the story arcs. He did not do that. At 864 pages, he should have done a lot better at that. By the end of this book, there were still a lot of arcs that were opened and some new arcs were even opened. The parts of Aviendha especially were a sore point for me. (Hint: I foresee more books set in the world once The Wheel of Time is over.)

I said earlier about how Mat’s story was excessively stretched by Sanderson. Well, his were not the only parts that were stretched. The parts involving Elayne suffered even worse from the same problem. The production of the dragons devised by Aludra, Elayne’s hunt for Darkfiends, her plans to take the Sun Throne; okay I never liked her in the first place but it all stretched my patience.

However the biggest problem I noticed is the timeline. It was a huge problem for me. At the start, Tam al’Thor was with Rand, then he was suddenly with Perrin. What happened? Worse, a few hundred pages later he told Perrin he had to leave for somewhere. I fear this was the part where Nynaeve and Cadsuane came for him to meet up with Rand because Tam was very secretive about where he was going. If that is the case, then the prologue happened before the exact story in the “Towers of Midnight,” which throw the entire timeline of the book into question. I hope I'm wrong because this is a significant problem Sanderson need to address.

In the end, I can’t say Towers of Midnight is a bad book. It wasn’t great, but it was serviceable. It was the setup book to the finale and in that aspect, I have to say Brandon Sanderson did a good job of it.

Like I said in my review for The Gathering Storm; Bring on Tarmon Gai’don!

No comments: