As some of you may know, I have taken a hiatus from writing so that I can spend all of my extra time finishing the Wheel of Time series. My wife and I obtained the 14th (and last) book, “A Memory of Light” last month and I had stopped reading the series midway through book 7 last year. I had a lot of catching up to do.
Yesterday, I finished reading “The Towers of Midnight,” the 13th book and, while I was excited to know that the end is in sight, I find myself kind of shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Meh.” That excitement has dimmed significantly and I blame Brandon Sanderson.
When Robert Jordan died in 2007, leaving the Wheel of Time unfinished, it was reported that he only had one more book to go to finish the series. That would have made it 12 books long (twice as many as was originally planned – yes friends, Wheel of Time was a planned 6 book series). Jordan’s widow hand-picked Sanderson, an unknown author, to write the last book.
In an introduction to book 12, “The Gathering Storm,” Sanderson states that he has been a long-time fan of the series and that he wasn’t planning on copying Jordan’s style in writing the remaining books (yes, books. Sanderson felt that the series needed to be extended an extra 2 books), but would write his own way, sticking to the atmosphere of the originals – and he does – sort of.
However, after reading “Towers,” I feel that it has become nothing more than poorly edited fan-fic and I almost don’t want to read the final volume. The characters have become flat two-dimensional versions of themselves, almost caricatures. The linear story-telling of Jordan has been thrown out the window in favor of some kind of poorly paced, jump around the world, forward and backward through a week of time format. There are so many scenes that are unnecessary and could have been cut from the final draft. The book is riddled with proofing and continuity errors.
“Towers” is 850 pages of unnecessary fluff. Looking back at “Storm,” I really think that with some hard editing, the two books could have been combined into one, and probably would have if Jordan wrote it. There are a few key moments in “Towers” that had to happen, but everything else could have been slashed. Repeated scenes of Lan gathering followers as he travels the Borderlands, Perrin’s training in the World of Dreams and Rodel Ituralde defending Maradon are a few examples of things that could have been streamlined or cut completely.
Granted, Jordan created a world with hundreds of named characters and was able to juggle them very well. His books stick with a group of characters for a number of chapters, leave the reader with a cliffhanger and then move to another group. In “Towers,” Sanderson changes between characters every chapter, most changing characters within chapters. It makes for a jaggedly paced book that doesn’t allow the reader to maintain a connection the the characters. I suppose an argument can made that by the time you’re at book 13 you already have a connection, but wouldn’t you want to maintain it? It doesn’t make sense to me.
This pacing could have one thing good going for it, but Sanderson didn’t follow through. By changing between characters so quickly, he had an opportunity to create some great tension, but he blew it by setting the scenes with Rand al’Thor about a week ahead of all the others. The ta’veren nature of the three main characters, Rand, Mat and Perrin, has developed into them having the ability to know where the others guys are and what they’re doing. Finding out 200 plus pages ahead of time that Mat will be in Caemlyn and that Perrin will be meeting up with Whitecloaks destroyed any tension that could have been created and I found myself waiting for those things to happen. I don’t know if this was an oversight or a poor attempt at foreshadowing, but either way, it was a mistake.
Last, proofreading. I don’t think I’ve read a book with so many typos, missing words or just wrong words. The one that bothered me the most was constantly referring to Rand’s “hands.” He lost his left hand two books ago. He no longer has “hands.” I swear, if “Memory” mentions Mat’s “eyes” even once, I’m gonna scream.
Overall, I think Sanderson was a poor choice to finish these books. He was an unproven author at the time (writing 13 unpublished books doesn’t count). I have read other books by him, and the only ones that I liked were the Mistborn books. All of his other books I can rip apart with ease. I almost want to go back and read Mistborn again, just to see if maybe I was blinded by the unique magic system he invented for it, but for now I think I’ll just leave it alone.
I feel that “Towers of Midnight” is the worst book in the Wheel of Time series so far, especially since it had so much potential to be great. “Memory of Light,” the final volume, is calling to me, and at this point I’m only going to read so that I can say, “I read the whole series.”
Jordan wasn’t a perfect writer and I had problems with some of his books in this series, but Sanderson has killed Wheel of Time for me. I shall look back at the first 11 volumes with fondness, for they entertained me greatly, but the final three books have made me say, “Wait a minute,” far too often and that’s a bad thing for a reader to say.