Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Memory of LIght by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson #review

Title: A Memory of Light (Book #14 of The Wheel of Time) 
Authors: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Orbit, 2013

No fantasy section in any library or bookstore would be complete without Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. This saga began in 1990 with The Eye of the World and ends 14 books later with A Memory of Light; these books are all doorstoppers – consider yourself duly warned.

It is perhaps not advisable to approach A Memory of Light the way I did; I read book one more than a decade ago then didn’t ever get round to reading the rest by the time A Memory of Light landed on my desk. The Wheel of Time series represents a huge investment of a reader’s time, yet I bravely, and perhaps foolishly, plunged right in with the final instalment.

The first thing I must add is names and things and powers – there are dozens of viewpoint characters to keep track of. Sanderson, who completed this book from Jordan’s notes after his death in 2007, had the task of developing the multitude of plot arcs. Consequently, the scenes are short and the author hops to fresh viewpoints with great regularity. First-timers might feel a wee bit overwhelmed.

I didn’t have any back story to form a solid foundation for the various events taking place, so I know I missed out on a lot. (And that could quite possibly be the biggest understatement of my reading career.) That being said, Sanderson deftly handles enough exposition for me to get into the flow and pick up the missing details.

The Wheel of Time has all the hallmarks of classic fantasy, complete with magic, heroes, battle and the archetypical struggle between good and evil. The final instalment concludes one of the biggest epic sagas you could wish for. There’s battle – a lot of it – and the aptly titled chapter near the end, The Last Battle, is very long, almost a quarter of the book.

If military fantasy isn’t your thing and you’re hankering after George RR Martin’s Machiavellian intrigues, then wait for The Winds of Winter. A Memory of Light is chock full of fighting, strategy, chase scenes, duels – most notably Rand al’Thor’s showdown with the Dark One himself. Various other characters have their final altercations with suitable antagonists.

It’s all very thrilling. And it can get a bit repetitive. Without giving spoilers, the ending is apt, and I finished the novel with a sense of relief. I am the first to admit that my heroic bid to master this hefty tome might have been ill-advised but I’m glad I persevered. You’ll need to be made of stern stuff to tackle this without reading the preceding books but at the heart of the matter is the fact that this is an unforgettable read.

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