I just finished my re-read of Towers of Midnight, and I’m excited and anxious to start reading A Memory of Light, even though I probably won’t start it until this weekend. While the previous two books started events in motion that would lead to the end of the series, this book amps everything up and says that the ending is coming, and it’s going to be bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before.
But I’m here to talk about this book, so here we go. One early thing you notice about this book is that the chronology of the chapters is a little strange. Much like Crossroads of Twilight told different parts of the story that happened concurrently with Winter’s Heart, several events in this book took place during the same time as The Gathering Storm. The reason it’s weird is that not all of the events do. Perrin and Mat have their timelines taking place during the events of The Gathering Storm, but there are also chapters where Rand and Egwene are the viewpoint characters which clearly take place after The Gathering Storm. But for once I know the reason why it ended up that way. Jordan originally planned for the twelfth book to be the last, after Sanderson was chosen to finish the story and had seen the outline, he talked with Harriet (Jordan’s wife and editor) and they ultimately decided to split the ending of the story into three books. If a little weird chronology is all that we have to deal with to get the ending of the series, it’s well worth it.
Anyway, on to the events that actually happened in this book. One of the most notable is that Perrin finally, at long damn last, accepts leadership. This builds slowly over the course of this book, but it pays off brilliantly. He is up late one night, and he goes to a forge in his army’s camp to try and clear his head. Without realizing what he is doing at first, he starts to make a war-hammer. One of the Asha’man with him offers to hold the metal at a steady temperature, and ultimately places different weaves upon the metal while Perrin is working on it. This ends up giving Perrin a power-wrought weapon, the kind which hasn’t been made in thousands of years. So much of what Perrin has gone through for 13 books is summed up in two short paragraphs:
“The tool he left behind was the hammer of a simple blacksmith. That person would always be part of Perrin, but he could no longer afford to let him lead.
From now on, he would carry the hammer of a king.” – Towers of Midnight, chapter 40: A Making
This is one of the scenes that I went back and found to read well before I got to that part of the book. I probably re-read that scene 4 or 5 books before it happened, maybe some impatience at not being able to read the books as quickly as I wanted to. It’s a wonderful scene that shows everything that Perrin was in the past, as well as everything he has become throughout the series.
Along with Perrin, Mat has a lot going on in this novel as well. The first thing that he has to do is defeat the gholam, because you can’t have that thing running around with the last battle coming up. I really enjoyed the scene where he finally is able to get rid of the creature. It’s a solid combination of Mat’s impulsiveness, trickery, battle skill, and good luck. After Elayne is able to make several imperfect copies of Mat’s foxhead ter’angreal, he uses them to surprise the gholam, he then tricks it into a gateway that a member of the Kin opened for skimming. After the gholam is on the playform inside the gateway, Mat simply kicks it off the platform, into the nothingness for eternity. Again, it works really well for everything about Mat’s character and I enjoyed the scene greatly.
The other scene that Mat really shines in was foreshadowed way back in book 4, and now that I think about it, it was early in book 4, probably in the first 1/3 of the book. When he visits the Aelfinn he is told that he will have to give up half the light of the world to save the world. And we know from earlier on that Mat is going to travel to The Tower of Ghenjei with Thom and Noal to try and rescue Moiraine. This is yet again a great scene, and it works well to show how odd the world of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn really is. The Aelfinn and Eelfinn also show off one of the biggest strengths of the entire series, the depth. There is so much going on within the main storyline, but then you look deeper and you see an expansive history to the world. And then you look deeper and see the subtlety of the foreshadowing throughout the entire series. And then you look deeper and see how well Jordan played with cultural norms and taboos. Every time you look for something else in these books, it’s there for you to see. I’ve only read through the series three times (books 12 and 13 only twice), but there are people who have been through the books 10 or 12 times, and the reason is because of the depth. While this will be my first time finishing the entire series, this will not be the last time that I read these books.
Hmm, what other things to talk about? Rand has a wonderful scene in this book that I completely forgot about until I got to it. After leaving Ituralde to defend Saldaea, Rand succumbs to his near madness and forgets about him for a long time. After defending for far longer than anyone should have been able to, Ituralde finally realizes that his cause is lost, at which point Rand of course shows up. The city is besieged by thousands of trollocs, and Rand declares that they won’t take over the city, and promptly goes out and kills thousands upon thousands of trollocs on his own. It’s a great scene, and one that also reflects the line from The Shawshank Redemption that I quoted talking about The Gathering Storm. After finishing the chapter that this scene takes place in, I went back and read it two or three more times, because it’s just that good.
But while so much in this book seems to be so good, the epilogue ends the book on a very threatening note. We’re introduced to a new kind of warrior for the shadow, similar to the Aiel but with their teeth shaved into points. And while all of the previous books have had a page of prophetic writing after the ending, this is the first one that features one of the Prophecies from the Shadow. From what the prophecy says, it seems like everything that we’ve been led to believe will lead towards the light overcoming the shadow is also right in line with what the shadow believes will lead it to victory. It’s a very dark turn right at the end of the book, and I can’t wait to FINALLY read A Memory of Light.