Robert Jordan – A Memory Of Light

Getting the last book of a long ongoing series in my hands always make me hesitate beginning to read because once I read the end it will (finally) be over. No more waiting for the next installment, no more thrill of finding out it is out and getting it into my hands. And so the wheel stops turning with A Memory Of Light (2013), the fourteenth book in the epic fantasy series The Wheel Of Time by Robert Jordan, which has been completed by Brandon Sanderson as the author died 6 years ago.

There is one thing I have to say first on this series. The original predicament for the series was pretty standard: the rise of an old great evil to which a chose savior has to bring a stop. This did mean that there could only be two ways it could end: evil wins or good wins. Any other solution would mean the story had not actually ended. Obviously this is a series of which the conclusion is clear, just not all the exact details.

What made the series different from many other similar stories was its scale and scope and that the journey for the savior contained a lot of obstacles. Aside from the savior there were several other main characters that played a pivotal role in the story and also provided the necessary wider scope of events taking place as the savior’s position became far more constricted. So in the end I have to make clear that the joy of reading this series was in the journey towards the goal.

I say this because in the final book everything has to come together and that it has to conclude as many storylines (and there were plenty) as possible before it heads into the expected grand final of the series. This means that A Memory Of Light is quite different from the previous novels as it has a far greater focus. In the early parts there are still some unresolved issues that get some attention. This maybe takes up a quarter of the book. By then the grand final already begins. This perhaps sounds like early, but it has to. Things are never as simple as that.

The so called Last Battle is not one simple clash. It is given more body, more detail and a more realistic (as far as that goes in a fantasy story) approach. The Last Battle splits out into many minor storylines in which many of the main and side characters we have known in the series play their role. Obviously it is impossible to give everyone sufficient attention so this does mean a lot of side characters only get a momentary notice and for the rest we see little or nothing more of them. This is also the point where the novel is not able to deliver. The reader only gets a limited view of what is going on and in the end we don’t know of many what has happened to them. I am still not sure if more attention should have been paid to that. At least there should have been some attention to the general result of the Last Battle. Instead there is only a focus on the conclusion of the story which, for me, was just one the possible variations I had expected and thus did not surprise me or provide me with a certain impact.

Am I dissatisfied with the ending of the series? To a certain extent. As said before, there was never much doubt in which way it would conclude. The only questions were how and who would survive. On that part there were a few small surprises, but overall it was not that brutal as it could be. Besides that the whole layout and process of the Last Battle was done very well. It was engaging and terrible and enriched with many minor storylines that provide different viewpoints and plenty of variation so that it nowhere gets dull.

One of the other issues I had with A Memory Of Light is that certain issues get resolved rather easily and certain aspects that played a role in the earlier story did not get much attention in the end. Some elements in the story don’t get explained so that I still don’t understand how or why they were there. I can think of them myself, but not every reader might be able to.

This time I had more trouble to differentiate between Sanderson’s and Jordan’s writing style. In the previous novel, The Towers Of Midnight, I could recognize Sanderson’s style quite clearly compared to Jordan’s. In The Gathering Storm, the first book that Sanderson completed, Jordan had probably written many parts of already before he died and he probably had written some of the final scenes for A Memory Of Light, leaving the middle part and other gaps for Sanderson to complete. I had expected Sanderson’s style to be noticeable in A Memory Of Light as well, but I was unable to although there were some moments I thought I did. Either he managed to mimic the style better or he has grown into it as he is still a developing writer. The consistent or similar style is a positive note as it is important that a series can be completed in the same voice.

My final opinion of A Memory Of Light is in general positive. There are some weaknesses which are mainly caused by choices for adding details in some places while glancing over things in other places where more details or some more extensive scenes might have made some parts stronger. A book can only have a certain length. An author has to decide to cut out some things to make it all more manageable. The great extensive Last Battle already takes up a lot of the novel. Although I did not get bored or dulled anywhere, other readers might and so one cannot drag it out too long. So it is not a complaint, just a note. Overall I am happy the series is finally concluded as it did drag out a few books too long. Brandon Sanderson did a fine job finishing it and as I already liked his other works before I heard he would take up The Wheel Of Time series I was happy he was chosen as I thought he would be a good choice and I certainly think he was.

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