A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

By Ekta R. Garg

January 23, 2013

Rated: Bookmark it!

I finally did it.  I finished A Memory of Light.

I’ll admit, after I bought the book I let it sit on my nightstand.  I used the excuse that I had several other pressing responsibilities, that I needed to finish one project or another, that my professional obligations took precedence.

In reality, the sight of the book scared me.

The Wheel of Time and I go back about 18 years.  A close friend introduced me to the book, and I fell head over heels in love with the entire concept of the WoT.  Whenever I found myself disappointed with other books, I knew I could come back to the world of channeling and the One Power and live through a dynamic experience.

When Robert Jordan died, I held my breath like all the other WoT fans out there.  Several of them had complained along the way that the series had gotten too long, that Jordan had leached the life out of it, that he wanted to drag it out to make more money—I read every single grievance readers had of the series, and I also read how some of those readers had decided to give up the WoT because they felt like they’d had enough.

My loyalty never waned, although I found myself skeptical when I found out that someone named Brandon Sanderson had received the task of finishing the books.  Would he actually finish the books the way Jordan intended?  Sure, Sanderson had access to all of Jordan’s notes and ideas and could discuss the books at length with Jordan’s wife and main editor, Harriet Rigney.  But would Brandon Sanderson actually finish the books the way Jordan wanted them finished?

Robert Jordan died in September 2007; Tor Books (the publisher of the WoT) announced in December 2007 that Brandon Sanderson was the writer chosen to finish the series.  The series at that point had 11 books and projections stated that the next book, tentatively titled A Memory of Light, would be the last book.  But then Sanderson announced a split: the last book would actually become three books, and the first one he would co-author would have the title The Gathering Storm.

In October 2009 The Gathering Storm released, and I bought the book out of loyalty to Rand, Perrin, Mat, Egwene, Nynaeve, and the rest of the WoT characters.  I had never heard of Brandon Sanderson before the announcement from Tor, but I figured the company knew something about finding a writer to finish this magnanimous series.

I held my breath throughout the entire book and smiled when I finished it.  Sanderson didn’t get every character’s voice quite right, but he had begun treading down the right path.  And I knew right then that he would do justice to the series, to the characters, and to Robert Jordan’s vision.

Towers of Midnight, the thirteenth book, released in October 2011, and I got even more excited.  Sanderson had obviously done a lot of hard thinking and hard work, and I saw vast improvement over his first WoT book.  I found myself getting excited all over again about the series, the characters, and how their story would end.  And I waited impatiently for that end.

The last book in the series, A Memory of Light, released this month.  After 18 years of waiting and wondering and falling in love with this series, I held the last book in my hands—and it scared me.  So I didn’t start reading until last week.

I convinced myself that I would take it easy; I’d read about three chapters a day, savor every word, think about every chapter and point of view and action sequence instead of skipping half lines like I do sometimes when I can’t wait to get to the end of a particularly delicious book.

Well, the “three chapters a day” plan held together for about four days, and then I found myself reading an extra chapter.  And then two.  And then I started reading in every spare minute of the day.

First, let me say Sanderson rose to the challenge and finished the series with panache.  He deserves all the accolades he will most likely receive for undertaking this “daunting” task—his word, when he announced he would be finishing the books for Jordan.

Readers must prepare themselves for the fact that most of the book relays the events of the Last Battle between Rand and the Dark One as well as their respective forces.  By the end of the book, readers will come away with one main feeling: war can be exhausting.  And winning comes with a price.

Characters who I loved and cheered and admired and supported die in this book.  Others get wounded to within an inch of their lives.  Every prophecy detailed in previous books about various characters gets fulfilled.  Readers may find themselves agonizing over some of those prophecies; others will make readers just how brilliant Jordan’s vision was.  He used language to his advantage.

I must admit, when I finished the book it took me a while to absorb some of the revelations made toward the end.  I wanted to ask the characters what happened next; I wanted to ask Jordan and Sanderson what happened next.  Why did certain people have to die?  Why couldn’t some situations end differently?  And where did some of the minor characters go?

Despite all that, I know one thing: A Memory of Light ended the way it should have.  The series ended the way it should have.  And I’m left with a deep longing for that time when I didn’t know what would happen.  Because the next time I read through the series—and sometime in the future I know I will—I’ll know what happens to everyone.  And I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to carry that knowledge around with me for 14 books.

On the other hand, the series (for me, at least) epitomizes everything that good writing should be.  One thing I love about The Wheel of Time is that at its deepest core it’s about good versus evil, a hero versus a villain.  But we don’t have a hero who discovers his destiny and then goes riding into the sunset to fulfill it.  We have hero with flaws, with weaknesses, a hero who, in fact, at some point tries to fight against his destiny.  And when he finally embraces it in the end, he does so with all those flaws and weaknesses intact.  Because those flaws and weaknesses make him all the more real.

The thing I love most, though, is that the WoT is about a group of friends finding out who they want to be and who they were meant to be—and how to meld the two.  And that’s something every one of us can relate to.  So in the future, whenever someone asks me for a recommendation of a good book, I’ll definitely tell that person about The Wheel of Time.

Thank you, Robert Jordan, for giving us this world.  And thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for giving the world of The Wheel of Time what it needed to come to the best end possible.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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