Book Review – A Memory of Light, final book of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and @BrandSanderson

It was one week after having suffered a series of strokes when I learned of Robert Jordan’s death from a small TV hanging over my hospital bed. Of course I had heard of him and his Wheel of Time series many times before, but I had never read any of his work. Something about the timing of his death and my own recent experiences made me want to get to know this man better. I felt sorrow for all of his fans, how his story would never be completed.

A couple months later I heard refreshing news; the news that another writer would pick up the mantle and write Jordan’s last volume. I remember thinking to myself how generous of Robert to allow someone else to finish his tale – how selfless an act to prepare for another artist to add the final touches. I was blown away and I rushed to catch up in time for the final battle.

I found myself falling into RJ’s universe as I listened to The Eye of the World. I became engrossed in the struggles between the shadow and light so much that I searched for ways to spend time alone so I could “read” more. I listened to the novels as I ran miles around my town preparing for my first marathon. I listened to them as I tore my house down to the studs and rebuilt it for my wife and new baby daughter. I listened to them as I flew back and forth across the country for work. A lot of good memories float to the surface every time I think of this series and I give partial credit to them for my recovery.

To take a word from Thom Merrilin, the last battle was “exquisite”. A Memory of Light delivered on all of its promises. It is packed with action. It tied up all the many loose ends. It brought about an ending. Robert Jordan can now rest as his tale has been told. His memory has become legend.

A Memory of Light has so many plots! On the surface it might seem a daunting task to read and keep track of them all, but Brandon Sanderson groups them together so you’re not following too much at once. The world is in utter chaos and all the main characters have crucial roles to play. No one of them has a task more important than another, save maybe Rand himself. As Rand prepares for the final battle, he uses all the assets at his disposal. After setting them in play he leaves them to their own successes and failures as he finally sets out to confront the dark one.

You begin to wonder as the shadow pushes back, how can the light prevail? The world is being torn apart by the dark one as he attempts to break the great wheel. Cracks that fall away into the void of nothingness, bubbles of evil erupting across the lands, and forsaken permanently burning souls from the pattern with balefire all plague the armies of the light. Slowly the pieces slide together as all the many loose ends from the previous thirteen books are gathered together into one final weave. Heroes fight, friends are lost and forsaken are left behind as the third age comes to a close.

Brandon’s writing mimics Robert Jordan’s very well, though he writes with a youthful flourish that adds new life into an aging story. I hadn’t known of Brandon prior to this venture of wearing the dragon pin so proudly. Since then I have read almost all of his work and wholeheartedly recommend him. A Memory of Light does not fall short of his standard.

Throughout the three final volumes, the characters have all remained true to Robert Jordan’s telling. Our farm-boy heroes have all grown up over the course of their adventures, yet they remain themselves. Matrim Cauthon is still the same gambler he has always been, though he is much more calculating now. Perrin remains the most level headed of the three ta’veren and Rand’s insanity has given way to a clear head that is needed for the final battle.

If you don’t already know, the magic system within the Wheel of Time series is one of the best known in the fantasy genre. It is defined almost scientifically with advantages and dangers to its use and with opposite forces for every action. Not only is it soundly structured, it is also artful in its casting and the descriptions of its outcomes are both beautiful and ferocious. Aside from the primary magic system within the world, the pattern of existence itself grants new mystical abilities to heroes and villains to add balance and uncertainty to the stories.

The world within the Wheel of Time is one of opposites. Villains are almost always evil and heroes are good. There are some minor exceptions, but this is not your gritty fantasy filled with anti-heroes. At its heart, this is your “farm-boy grows up and saves the world” fantasy story.

I don’t know how “original” A Memory of Light was. I certainly haven’t read many books with such a wide scope, but most of the elements within the story were previously seen. There were a few new bits and pieces, but this story was more about concluding the legacy than about surprising us with new notions.

I truly enjoyed A Memory of Light. It was a fitting end to one of the greatest epic fantasy series to date. I’d probably have liked it even more if it hadn’t been so long, but the length served the purpose of wrapping up loose ends. It truly was unavoidable – there were so many. I also felt the ending would have been more powerful if a few more heroes hadn’t survived into the fourth age. That isn’t to say I didn’t tear up at their survivals. How could I not? The Wheel of Time has come to an ending.

I “read” this entire series via audiobook, the final volume being no exception. Kate Reading and Michael Kramer have practically become two of my best friends now, though I’ve never met or even talked with either of them.

I’m torn between four and five stars. I think the telling by Brandon definitely deserves the full five rating, but the “farm-boy saves the world” story has been done quite a bit. This is a really good story though and one that has earned its place in history.

Thank you Robert Jordan for this epic series and for having the humility to allow another to finish your tale. Thank you Brandon Sanderson for completing this work with the grace only few have. Thank you Harriet for having the will to see your husband’s work completed – you made an excellent choice.

You can buy it here:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I only have one issue with the Last Book and that was Padan Fain’s character . His demise at the end seemed VERY hollow to me. You build him up from Book 1 through Book 15, this character with so much dimension,so much character, then you just have Mat kill him as if he was nothing. I personally thought over the first 3-5 books he would be a pivotal piece at the end regarding Defeating the Dark One with Rand in some way. The plot was driving you to think nothing but that. To me, introducing the Dark One’s”character” in the very last book and not through all 15 books seemed like a missed opportunity. It made me not really care about the dialogue between the Rand and the Dark One in the cave very much. And yes, I get that Robert Jordan was probably copying the Gollum character in the LOTR way too much. The progression of the Fain character and his abrupt end tells me Robert Jordan realized he made a grave mistake with this character. So he suddenly did a 180 on him. So in his notes to Sanderson he told him to just kill him off with no fanfare or plot device that obviously had been in place , hoping no one would notice this error in writing. Just one man’s opinion take it or leave it…:) Great Review!

    1. Nate says:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I was a little let down on Fain and the Black Wind to be honest, but in a way it does make sense the way it went. Remember, Rand was not the only Ta’veren. Mat being there at the end was necessary… This was imparted over and over through the series especially as it grew to its close. Without Mat, Fain would have killed Rand and possibly the Dark One as well.

      1. I guess I just wanted to see more of confrontation/ much build up with him and then poof! Thanks for the reply…its still one of the greatest series ever…I am wanting them to take it to Showtime or HBO and do a treatment like they have done with Game of Thrones ( I have yet to actually read that series or see the series)

  2. Nate says:

    Both the books and the TV series are really good! Even my wife likes the show and she cares very little for fantasy.

    Whenever I envision Wheel of Time for TV, I think of Legend of the Seeker and my whole mind cringes in disgust. If they do make it a TV series, I hope they go more the route of Game of Thrones. Focus less on the magic/special effects and more on the characters and plot.

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