Something clever I'll change later

I like fantasy. The end.
A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson As seen on Stumptown Books

This review is spoiler free.

First, a brief aside.

I'm a bigger fan of The Hobbit (the book) than a lot of my contemporaries. It was my introduction to fantasy when I was a wee one; my mom used to read it to me as a bed time story. Then she got sick of it, so my dad started to do it instead. Needless to say, it's probably up there as one of the books I've read the most in my lifetime, if not THE most reread book for me.

After being rather unimpressed by the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, I was only cautiously excited to see The Hobbit brought to the big screen. I ended up liking it more than a lot of my friends, who were expecting more LOTR and not riddles in the dark, or songs about doing the dishes (I clapped my hands and giggled when that song came on, by the way). I still didn't think it was good, and it could have been so much better. It just kept on going, and the additional story Peter Jackson decided to write in didn't actually add anything to my enjoyment. Even those changes in the story didn't bug me nearly so much as the near constant use of CGI.

It was only a few years ago that Guillermo del Toro was the director assigned to The Hobbit. Yes, he is still credited as a producer, but he was forced to quit the director's chair before production had even begun. Now, I love del Toro's movies, as a general rule. They are tight, well edited, and he uses PUPPETS! His worlds don't seem fake to me - even if they are a little crazy. I can't even imagine how amazing The Hobbit might have been in his hands.

Somewhere, there is an alternate universe that has Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit, and I wish I could see that movie.

And now the required "My History with the Wheel of Time" explanation!

My first foray into the world of the Wheel of Time came when I was 17. I went to the library, browsed the fantasy section for a while, and came home with two books - The Eye of the World and The Sword of Shannara. I actually started with the Shannara novel, but thought it just okay. I've never bothered to pick up a sequel in all the years since. Then I read The Eye of the World, devoured it, went to the library and got every single other book that had been published at that point, which was up through book 9, Winter's Heart. By the time I had powered through all of those, Crossroads of Twilight had been released, so I read that too. I read them feverishly and intensely, probably missing all sorts of hints that I was supposed to pick up on. In the years that followed, I read books 1-6 another 3 times, before putting them down and saying, "I will not read another Wheel of Time book until the series is completed."

All of that is meant to say that while I am a huge fan, I have never partaken in any sort of theorizing, nitpicking, or memorization. I read them for the pure pleasure of being wrapped in a fantasy world - which, I dare say, is probably how most readers coming to the series now are going to look at it. I am positive, because other people have made more in-depth analyses than I ever could, that I missed a lot of meaty goodness. But you know? I don't care. I love Wheel of Time. I will cry when my favorite characters do something heroic, I will clap my hands and whisper "yay!" when I am happy for them, I will roll my eyes when skirts are smoothed and noses are sniffed. That, for me, is what it means to be a fan of the Wheel of Time.

However, I am not the fan of the Brandon Sanderson novels that a lot of people are. I still powered through them, but they were...missing something for me. The events were there on the paper, but they weren't in my heart. God that is incredibly cheesy, but that's the best way I can describe it. Books 12, 13, and 14 just lacked soul to me.

I was willing to let a lot of that slide, because how amazing is it that we got to have a finished story? He spent a lot of time on it, and Wheel of Time fans all over appreciate that, myself among them.

A Memory of Light is a novelization of Tarmon Gai'don, or The Last Battle. Unfortunately, that is ALL it is. It is 908 pages of action, action, action. I'm sorry, but it is not what I wanted. Every single character finds "one last reserve of strength" probably 3 or 4 times. I was so, so tired of reading about exhausted characters reaching into themselves to pull out all of their anger at the Dark One so they could kill one more trolloc. It was, dare I say it, boring. Too much political intrigue, like in books 8, 9, and 10, was boring. The flip side, for me anyway, is also true. I was okay with the first couple hundred pages, because I figured eventually it would reach a climax, and then we'd have some conclusions, maybe some final threads wrapped up.

Around page 400, I posted a status update: "Ok so I know it's the LAST BATTLE but can we have a break from battle battle battle tactics discussion battle battle?" Had I but known that I had another 600 pages of battle to wade through. The middle, oh how it dragged. Troop movements, things going wrong, quick aside to cameo a character we haven't seen in a while gritting their teeth as they fight, a last stand, another last stand, complaining about lack of sleep and supplies. It just went on and on.

The problem, I think, is that this is supposed to be the climax of the series, so it's like the ENTIRE book had to be a climax. Obviously, that's not going to work. One of the main things I love about the Wheel of Time novels is that they slowly build up over the course of the whole book, and then the last 100 pages are some sort of crazy fever dream as I can't turn pages fast enough to see what's going to happen. 900 pages of that... well it simply doesn't work. What ended up happening is that the end of the book was actually anti-climactic, and I was left feeling unfulfilled.

That's not to say I didn't bawl my eyes out at certain points in the book. Page 170 was the first time I cried, and I mean full out dripping tears here, not just choking up. A number of events happened in quick succession after that that had me continue the cascade. I was really into the novel there, and I was thinking, My God, he's done it. As I said though, what followed was a book of battle scenes. People started dying and I didn't even bat an eyelash. Then page 806, I had to get up and walk away because I couldn't see, I was straight up gulping air through tears. Talk about bringing it full circle. I just had to go look up that page number, and just reading one sentence has me leaking again, damnit.

There were more parts than that that I liked, of course, but I don't want to annoy you with page numbers in my attempt to leave you unspoiled. There were small things that I just loved, but over all, the book just lacked heart. Do I still love the Wheel of Time? Of course I do. It's been an amazing part of my life, and I will unhesitatingly recommend it to fans of the genre (well okay, maybe with a little hesitation).

But somewhere...somewhere there is an alternate universe where Robert Jordan got to finish the series, and my eyes they well up, and my heart, it breaks.


Edit: March 18, 2013

Somehow I missed this video in all the hype leading up to the book release, but I highly recommend it. It's mostly Harriet talking about her husband and how fucking epic this series is. Have Kleenex at the ready.


Edit: March 28, 2013

You know a book is powerful when all I have to do is think the words "One last lesson..." and I start tearing up. Seriously, that scene STILL gets me, and it's been 3 months.

I also just read this quote: "Run, Bela," Faile said. "If you've kept any strength back, now is the time to use it. Please. Run, girl. Run." Also made me tear up. I miss all the Wheel of Time characters so much already. Maybe I should start over again...


Edit: October 6, 2013

My partner is a rather stoic guy, but he just read a book for our book club ([b:Written on the Body|15054|Written on the Body|Jeanette Winterson||809754]) and this one passage about losing someone close to you actually made him cry. I mean I've seen him cry like 3 times ever in our almost 10 years of being together. He didn't even cry when we put his dog down and I was bawling like a goddamn baby.

Anyway, so he was like "This passage is really beautiful and I know this is sappy but it's the only thing I've ever come across that I think you should read at my funeral." Queue super sappy conversation. Then I say, "Well that's a weird thing to think about, but I can't say I can think of a quote I would want you to read at my funeral."

He gets a glint in his eye. "Oh no? What about 'One last lesson?'"

"Hah! No one would get it, it would be awesome."

Yes, it STILL makes me tear up. If only Sanderson hadn't ruined the best scene in the entire series for me by keeping Lan alive. I mean I love the character but I just wanted him to die just so that scene could be SO EPIC.

I think this is officially my longest review ever.

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