Well, it's been 20+ years, 14 books, and somewhere shy of 15,000 pages, with Brandon Sanderson stepping in to finish what Robert Jordan began. I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but it's hard to talk about A Memory of Light without at least acknowledging a few contributions . . . and sacrifices.
The first 200 or so pages were pretty gripping, but after that it started to wear thin. There was a lot of talking and a lot of waiting for the end, with one battle scene after another filling space. I get what Sanderson was trying to convey, and I realize he had to establish the overwhelming odds, but I will admit I started skimming through all the skirmishes with Trollocs. By the time I hit the halfway mark, my reading pace really began to slow, and I found myself struggling to get through.
Having said that, there were some interesting bits, and some moments that genuinely made me smile. Still, it really did feel like a lot of talking and waiting. Nevertheless, I was determined to persevere. It was around the 600 page mark that I began to see some glimmers of hope. I quite liked the role that Mat found himself thrust into (once he was finally allowed to make a long-overdue appearance); the appearance of the Ogier on the battlefront was something to behold; and the arrival of the Asha'man certainly kicked up the carnage a notch; but the battle scenes really began to feel like a lot of padding. For such a battle-heavy book, I found myself surprised by the lack of 'big' deaths, so deep into the tale. Given the overall carnage, and the simple fact that leaders and heroes should be prime targets, it' did push the bounds of plausibility just a bit.
Coming into the last 200 pages, things certainly picked up. The pacing got better, there was a significance to the plot developments, and Sanderson finally pulled the strings on some 'big' sacrifices. Elayne and Egwene both stepped it up, earning their role as equals of Rand, and it was immensely satisfying to see the forces of Light come up with a weave to challenge balefire. Min's role was a little less spectacular, but still with some notable contributions, and Aviendha ultimately had a worthy role to play, despite seemingly being pushed out of the spotlight. Tuon's role was a bit smaller than I expected, but her off-the-page contributions to Mat's planning were indeed crucial to the climax.
More than anything, though, I found myself lamenting the absence of Rand. I really did expect him to be more of a . . . well, hero. Instead, after some touching goodbyes, he spends the last half of the book stuck in a cave and swapping dreamscapes with his enemy. Some of the futures they explored were interesting, but dispensed with too quickly to have any real impact. Again, I get what Sanderson was doing, and I ultimately appreciated Rand's master gameplan, once it was exposed, but it took 850+ pages to get there. I understand it's an ensemble story, and I appreciate that Sanderson was left with a lot of loose ends, but some scenes were just frivolous. Sure, most of the characters had strong roles to play, but others seemed to be given a token scene or two just to get their names into the book.
As much as I enjoyed the first 2 books of the final trilogy, and really appreciate how well Sanderson has managed the legacy, the story was stretched a bit thin. We all know Jordan intended for there to be one last book to end the series, and that Sanderson expanded those notes into a trilogy, but I wonder how much of that decision was creative, and how much of it was sheer marketing. While packing everything into one book might have been a bit rough, I think a two-book conclusion would have better served readers who waited so long for satisfaction.
I am glad we got an ending, and I am entirely satisfied with Rand's final solution . . . I just wish we hadn't had to wade through so many Trolloc heads to get there.
Published January 8th 2013 by Tor Books
Hardcover, 909 pages