It’s been just under 24 hours since I finished reading the final book in The Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light.
For some Wheel of Time fans, the above sentence is a baffling one. Last ever Wheel of Time book? What?!
And yet it is.
The first novel, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990. I didn’t pick up the series until my best friend, David, introduced me to it around 1997, a year before the publication of the 8th novel, A Path of Daggers. Which is about right, as I was in my first junior year of high school (I changed schools, and had to redo my junior year – much to my pleasure, as my new school was excellent).
David introduced me to the series, as his parents (and he being my brother from another mother, who I called Mum, and whose husband I called ‘Dad’) also read it. Well, Dad at least, did. We were – and remain – fiction junkies. It’s our drug of choice. And so the addiction started. And by the time I restarted my junior year, and met a fellow student named Jason, the addiction was in full swing. Jason and I started a challenge: we would race to see who could finish the series up to the most current book first.
The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and The Dragon Reborn each took a week. The Shadow Rising (my favourite in the series) took just over a week and a half. The Fires of Heaven? About a week and a half as well.
With The Lord of Chaos, the descent into expanded reading times began. A month.
A Crown of Swords: a month.
The Path of Daggers? About two weeks.
During my early university years, the next three books managed to finally see the light of day: Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, and Knife of Dreams.
And then Robert Jordan passed away, of an unbelievably rare blood disease. And several months later, Brandon Sanderson was hired to fill in the gaps, and do justice to the guy who was, during my formative years, the Most Inspirational Writer Around, and Fully Deserving of Sentences With Capital Letters Everywhere.
And so Sanderson did the impossible. He wrapped it all up. And like Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, and like Serenity, there was of course a sense of things being rushed, of there being just *too many* dangling plot-threads, far too many to capable of being wrapped up neatly, organically.
A few felt rushed, a few felt incidental, but many felt just right. A beacon flared, indicating to all readers: the road to the end was now being paved, and we should all get onboard. Harriet Jordan, Tom Doherty, and all of Team Jordan stood behind him in support, and let him do what an intelligent writer should do: find a nice balance between two styles of writing, and tell the story to the best of the writer’s ability. Should Sanderson ever come across this blog post (which I suspect is highly unlikely), I’d want him to know that Harriet made the right decision, in asking him to finish the series. He did a masterful job.
Granted: The Gathering Storm had its bumps – notably the tone of Mat Cauthon. But the rest of the novel churned along at a nice, brisk pace, echoing, quite pleasantly, the pace of the first half of the series. I’m not surprised. The first book would of course likely have issues with Sanderson finding an equilibrium between his and Jordan’s tone and style. But then came The Towers of Midnight, which prolonged in an almost gleefully masochistic way, an incident that readers of the series knew was coming. And it was superb. From an editorial standpoint, I completely understand why the book’s chapters were structured as they were. It’s simple: keep the pages turning. Leave readers wanting more. Keep them interested.
And now finally: A Memory of Light.
To my satisfaction, it didn’t proceed as I imagined it would. To my delight, the ending wasn’t what I would have written. And to my delight, I found myself crying.
People die in horrible ways. Others get their comeuppance. Prophecies don’t work out according to plan. Bad decisions are made. Smart decisions are made. And when the scales are poised to tip, incredibly ballsy decisions are made.
And in the end, it all ends. And though perhaps the ending was shorter than I might have liked, it suffices. Yes, plot threads are left unresolved, but primarily only those which were not tied to any particular prophecy or omen. Life moves on. The characters would live on beyond The Last Battle. But The Wheel of Time wasn’t about the fourth age, but the close of the third.
And A Memory of Light was the closing book in the series.
What a funny sentence.