Sunday 3 March 2013

Review - "A Memory of Light" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

A Memory of Light

I loved the first few books in this series - they were well written, well imagined, and populated with very distinct characters.

Like most fantasy readers, I love getting lost in another world, so I even appreciated their vast size.

But then I came to a terrible and boring one. I think it was number five or six? It seemed that the plot required all of the characters to move to new locations, so there was a whole book of people travelling around the landscape. All they did was ride horses, camp, and feel great angst. For 800 pages.

At that point, I gave up on them.

But when I was on a beach holiday a few years later, I saw the next volume at the second hand store. I had time to kill, so I grabbed it, and it was pleased to find the plot had gained momentum again.

I read the next half dozen volumes in much the same way, just casually. Then I heard that Robert Jordan had died, and his wife had picked another author to take up the reins.

That got me excited about the series again, because though Jordan had created a great world, he seemed incapable of getting on with the plot. Now things would move along the way the first few books had!

The series takes place in a medieval fantasy setting - hugely complete and detailed, with many countries, races, religions, legends, etc.

There is magic, which is done by gifted people known as Aes Sedai. They channel energies from the mystical “source” and weave spells with it.

But the source is split into male and female halves, and the male half was tainted by the Dark One (the devil of the series), so all male channellers eventually go mad and have to be killed.

The female Aes Sedai have a city where they live and train. It's like the Vatican for magicians, complete with political factions and corruption.

We see this world through the eyes of a small group of young adults from a little village, which is attacked by the Dark One's evil creatures - the opening gambit in his new attempt to take over the world.

Of course, in the classic hero’s journey, these young villagers turn out to be very important in different ways. Including one who is the Dragon Reborn, a hero of prophecy.

That’s the basic set up. And, as I said, the first few books are great.

And the last few books have been good too. Brandon Sanderson has taken to Robert Jordan’s story and style very well, but he’s gotten on with it rather more smartly. Things that should have happened about 6 books ago are finally taking place!

A Memory of Light is basically all battles. Everyone has been maneuvered into place so every type of good person can combat every type of evil creature.

It’s pretty satisfying that they finally get to it! That the betrayals and tricks and strategies they’ve been setting up for so long can finally come to pass. That some characters can achieve the status or clinch the deal that they’ve wanted. That the war we’ve been waiting for gets off the ground.

There are some terrific battles, good moments between characters, and a long awaited sense of tension and release.

My biggest issue was with the portrayal of the Dark One. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s only up to page 700, but I was pretty disappointed with how the final battle between the Dragon Reborn and his evil nemesis played out. It took on a philosophical bent that made a kind of sense, I guess, but didn’t really satisfy me.

In the end, like most people who’ve read this series, I feel such a sense of relief that it’s all wrapped up that I hardly know what else to make of it.

Vertical stacking? Only when you own the Wheel of Time series.

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