Monday, March 17, 2014

A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Wheel of Time series was 23 years old when it concluded last year.  I did not start reading the series when it first came out, though I did hear about it--I began it around the turn of the millenium, and then purchased the books as they came out.  So partly free.  And I am part of a legion of fantasy SF readers for whom the series has been part of life, for 14 years now.

It was never a compulsive part, as even when I am not a free SF reader, I am a cheap one. I got the final volume, A Memory of Light, for Christmas this year and spent close to three months reading it.  Coming to the end of such a series, I was bracing for disappointment.  Bringing a series to a close is a truly difficult affair.  So many classic works have ended poorly.  Brandon Sanderson had done a very good job of getting the series from the death of Jordan to the ending, but still...

Not this time, though.  A major series spanning many years comes to a full and satisfying conclusion.  Jordan gets only partial credit, since he didn't manage to conclude it in his own lifetime.  But it was really good to see such a fine strong ending.  Sanderson says Jordan had most of the ending written, and I can buy that, since it's heavy on battle scenes.  Those were his strength before he undertook this series.  But the pacing is definitely Sanderson.

Really, in the end it delivers what was promised all the way at the start.  Rand Al'Thor leads the forces of the Light into the Last Battle, as promised.  All the major characters are there, and get their say one way or another.  Rand becomes rather larger than human, even as he tries to hold on to his humanity--pretty much what you would expect of the Savior.

But while this, like so many of its kind, bears a resemblance to the Bible, this isn't really a Christ allegory.  In the end, Rand is still human, with some special power.  The ending underlines this well. 

No tricks or gimmicks here.  The heroes of the end of the Third Age step up and play their part, as do the villains.  The series never was about complex personalities, though they do have flavor.  If you have never picked it up, I would say it's worthwhile to spend a year (or however long it takes you to read 14,000 pages) and read it.  It sets a good expectation for what a fantasy series can deliver.  I give this one my rare Five Stars, in the special category of Long Series With A Real Ending.