Book Review: Towers of Midnight (WoT #13) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Never once in Towers of Midnight does the story let you forget how close the Last Battle really is. After twelve books that covering roughly two years’ time, full of meanderings as the characters tried and failed to rally, it’s finally time. And I have no doubt it’s going to be epic. But we aren’t there just yet. First, we must discuss the penultimate novel of the Wheel of Time series: Towers of Midnight.

The majority of the story focuses on Perrin, but all characters spend this time getting all of their pieces into place so they are ready for the Last Battle. Buckle up, because it was a wild ride.

Warning: spoilers abound

Perrin and the Wolfhead Banner

I may have to come back to some of Perrin’s storyline later on in the blog post. The reason is actually connected to one of my only complaints about the narrative. As you already know if you’ve made it this far, Rand al’Thor has a pivotal moment in the previous book, atop Dragonmount, that results in the clouds breaking. Throughout the narrative, it becomes obvious that at least the first half of Perrin’s narrative takes place before that moment. It brings up questions of timelines for the rest of the characters, but most notably Perrin’s. This sort of mishandling of the timeline was part of what had bogged down the “slog” books, and I wish it had been more clear-cut when everything was taking place.

Beyond that, Perrin’s narrative picked up. There were serious implications to his successes and failures, even when it wasn’t apparent at the beginning. His learning the wolf dream led him to be on Dragonmount with Rand–why that was necessary, I don’t know, it was a really weird scene to have in the grand scheme of things since Perrin didn’t actually do anything or give us any new information–but it also lent him control in his big fight with Slayer.

I’m still confused as to the exact nature or drive of this man, why he pleasures in killing wolves and why he does so in the wolf dream specifically. It seemed more than just drawing Perrin in, though that likely played a part. Though Slayer, unfortunately, still managed to survive, the big fight over the dreamspike felt like it had significant importance to the overall narrative. What’s more, we know by the end of the book that Perrin inadvertently messed up not just Graendal’s plans, but Mesaana’s as well, resulting in Mesaana’s downfall. Unfortunately, Hopper also died in the end, despite his control over the wolf dream. Hopper’s death didn’t sit quite right; mostly it seemed weird that he couldn’t have shifted away to safety. But his death signifies Perrin’s newfound control over the wolf dream.

In the waking world, we have Perrin’s conflict with the White Cloaks, and man was I surprised at how that turned out. The trial itself fell flat; it seems likely that Perrin wouldn’t have just agreed with Child Byar’s testimony when it was clear he lied about some pertinent information. Regardless, Morgase’s ruling displayed an interesting element to the setting of WoT. Having a separation between “murder” and “illegal killing,” differentiating between the killing of an innocent person versus a potential death from a mercenary scuffle, is yet another little detail that adds to the three-dimensional nature of the setting.

And, finally, Graendal’s plans to attack Perrin did spring up with very little basis, yet the results were stunning and absolutely unexpected. It was important for Galad to get out of his own self-righteousness long enough to realize that being a Child of the Light did not automatically give him protection or lend any weight to moral judgments. Perrin’s charge into the Trollocs was reminiscent of Gandalf’s reinforcements in the Battle of the Hornburg (AKA Battle of Helm’s Deep). Then, his conversation with Galad later suggests that Perrin intentionally used his ta’veren nature to convince the Lord Captain Commander to swear fealty to him. It’s nice to know that the corruptness of the Children of the Light has effectively been cut off, and now Perrin has under his command what had once been a rogue, unpredictable band.

Rand Becomes Four Hundred Years Old

With Lews Therin’s memories merging in with Rand’s, we are suddenly presented with a very strange character, one that’s almost impossible to understand. I’m not surprised that he has almost no PoV scenes in this book. There is an argument to be made about using other characters’ eyes to describe a character if that character is going to be difficult to write. At the same time, it would have been more grounding to understand Rand’s character if we had more of his PoV.

Regardless, several important things happen with him. First: breaking the seals. I have seen before on a few occasions where a character draws conclusions to a mystery without having the proper tools, and then it feels unearned when their assumptions are correct, almost like a a deus ex machina in a way. With Min’s attempts at research and Rand’s integration of Lews Therin’s memories into his own, I suppose there is plenty to base Rand’s decision on. However, I will also say it’s a big risk he’s taking, and that’s putting a lot of faith in Min, who admittedly says the research is difficult for her to comprehend, and in Lews Therin’s memories, basing them off of an attempt that failed. I can see how things could be different this time, so I will reserve judgment until after I see how it plays out.

Secondly, we finally see the Borderlander armies meet up with Rand, which they’ve been trying to do for quite some time. The prophecy was intriguing, and I suppose it’s a good thing they took so long to find him, or else Rand would not have been able to answer correctly. Yet the stakes were clear, thanks to Rand’s near-breakdown atop Dragonmount. It could have gone either way, and had Rand not come to his Light-based conclusions, it’s very likely that his hardened nature would have brought the entire world crumbling down around them.

Egwene as Amyrlin

One of the first things that happens in the book is that Rand meets with Egwene to tell her he will break the seals. Naturally, that leads her to using the power that comes with her seat to rally nations against this idea, to convince Rand not to. And while we see that come to fruition at the tail end of the book, it’s hardly the most interesting part of her narrative.

We see Nynaeve finally go through the traditions associated with gaining the shawl, and I love how she broke tradition in some ways to reaffirm to the other Aes Sedai that she had already been raised. We also see the remnants of the Seanchan attack, both in the slow renovations of the Tower as well as the Blood Knives. Gawyn’s character has been annoying at some points, but I will say that his fight scene with the three Blood Knives was quite impressive, and the end, when he reached for Egwene’s hand, realizing he wasn’t even sure if she was alive… well, that hurt my heart, I’m not going to lie. Especially because, after his long-overdue reunion with Elayne, he was willing to acknowledge that his pride was putting a wedge between Egwene and himself.

And, of course, the attack from the Blood Knives took place the same time as Mesaana’s attack. As it took place in Tel’aran’rhiod, it allowed for the intersection of two plotlines–Perrin’s and Egwene’s. Humorous, because they both worried the other was in danger by being there despite the fact that both had become proficient in walking the World of Dreams. But also, any time two characters are able to cross paths, it helps make the story cohesive, especially in the timeline department, which, again, was a little confusing when it came to Perrin.

Elayne Outplays Cairhien in Daes Dae’mar

Let me just say that Elayne has grown impressive in her role as queen of Andor. We may have taken awhile to get here, but no one can deny that she deserves that crown. She bargains with Mat over the nature of his “dragons”–which are almost certainly some form of cannon–and deftly figures out how to give Perrin what he wants without seeming to give away power.

But, most impressively, she acknowledges the problems of Daes Dae-Mar in her desire to gain the Sun Throne, and makes a few sacrifices in order to quell any thoughts of rebellion. I also appreciated that, while Elayne needed to take Andor on her own, she also acknowledged there were times where it was okay to use the help that was given to her.

What will happen to Caemlyn in her absence, with the city under attack, is unclear, but I cannot express how eager I am to see what happens there.

Some Minor Plotline Comments

Before I get into the last few major points, I wanted to touch base on a few of the smaller plotlines that we followed, and some of the things that we learned.

Aviendha and Rhuidean: After a rather strange encounter with what I’m guessing was a ghost-figure in the Waste, Aviendha goes through the ter’angreal twice. The second time, she sees some disturbing images about what direction the Aiel will take, and she’s certain that their downfall will be her fault. I’m curious to see how this concern is handled, as the events she sees all take place after the Last Battle, which means I’m not sure if there’s any way to know for sure if her visions come true or not, but it may depend on how the series ends.

Asha’man and the Division of the Black Tower: Taim is a sketchy fellow and some really weird stuff is happening here. It felt a little out of place, almost, its inclusion in Towers of Midnight, especially because the first scene of this particular plotline didn’t take place until the two-thirds mark, maybe? But it’s clear, I think, that the division will have some effect in the final book, so planting the seeds now is better than waiting until the last book, I suppose.

Fortuona and the Secret Weaves: It’s still unclear how Elaida learned the Travelling weave in the first place. Maybe I just missed something. Either way, it’s obviously bad in a big way that the Seanchan learn how to Travel, and now is not the time to be launching attacks against the White Tower. Assuming things actually work out in our heroes’ favor for once, hopefully some event will stop her from launching the attack.

Mat Wins at Snakes and Foxes

I wanted to save this storyline for last because it seemed like this was supposed to be the focal point of the story. After all, arguably one of the most accurate covers of any WoT books shows Mat entering the Tower of Ghenjei, and I theorize that the title of the story itself refers to the *Finn realm.

Regardless, with the gholam theoretically killed, and at the very least taken out of the picture indefinitely, Mat is able to relax a little bit. There were a lot of reunions in this book–Andor becomes the central point for many of the characters–but one of my absolute favorites was the reunion between Mat and Perrin. We got to see Mat hasn’t quite completely grown out of his mischievous self when he actually goes through the effort of catching a badger just as an inside joke between the two boys.

Thus sends Mat officially on his journey into the *Finn’s realm, and let me tell you, the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn made me realize just how horrific the setting of WoT is. The TV show could definitely give the story some horror-vibes if they wanted to, regarding Trollocs and all the other strange things.

I thought Mat did really well with the negotiating, and so it was a little frustrating to find that loophole that made the three have to run in the first place. Especially when he already paid such a hefty price–the loss of his eye–to get them all out of there alive. Noal was of course revealed as Jain Farstrider, which I already happened to know, but I did feel as if Mat and the others took it surprisingly well, especially when Noal’s revelation wasn’t exactly an obvious confirmation about his real identity.

If you ever meet a Malkieri, you tell him Jain Farstrider died clean.

–Jain Farstrider; Towers of Midnight, chapter 55, pg 1169

I hope to learn his connection to Malkier, of course, but it wasn’t as if he said “I am Jain Farstrider.” He could have meant that he knew Jain Farstrider. I’m also curious about Noal’s use of terms and phrases that Mat didn’t recognize, considering Mat’s extensive historical knowledge. But perhaps Jain Farstrider walked the earth in a time when no one in Mat’s memories did.

The War Against the Shadow

Lastly, with the Last Battle arguably starting in those last pages as Lan charges Tarwin’s Gap, I thought it prudent to again take a look at the position of Darkfriends and the overall state of the world that opposes them. Reading this book, I was astounded at how brilliant the pacing felt. It didn’t seem like we were wasting time, or rushing to the battle. Characters were doing what needed doing, and it was the very important calm before the storm. I would also just like to throw out there how absolutely brilliant Lan’s journey was, as he begrudgingly accepted more followers, only to raise the Golden Crane, something we’ve been hoping he’d do since New Spring, the prequel.

In addition, we got frequent updates on the Shadow’s own movements. Rodel Ituralde’s fight to hold Maradon was somber and devastating, and shows the readers just how bad things are going to get. Towers of Midnight also opened with a rather sad PoV scene where a Borderlander tower presumably fell to the Trollocs, and a father and his newly-grown son fight to the death together.

At the same time, the Forsaken still squabble and scheme, and with the inclusion of a Darkfriend prophecy at the end, I’m left wondering why so many people follow the Dark One to the begin with. If it was a misguided understanding of right and wrong, that would make more sense to me, but people are literally out here dying and “begging for their destruction” as the prophecy on the last page says. I guess people really are that hungry for power. I suppose I can only hope that they get what’s coming to them when the Last Battle arrives.

A Personal Update!!

Readers: I know this post is already super long, since there’s just so much to talk about when it comes to Wheel of Time, but I have an announcement to make 🙂

I know this is a small community that follows me, and I’m grateful for every single person who has followed my posts so religiously. Even for those that are new, though, I can’t express how cool it is that you found your way here. I want to make some improvements on my blog, namely in its presentation, to make it more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, and so I decided to make a Patreon.

You’ll obviously get some additional perks by joining. To name just a few, I’d like to keep an active TBR list available to all Patreon members, and some of the higher tiers can even vote on recommended books that I will read. The highest-level Patrons will even get to see some sneak-peek, general information about my writing works in progress.

If you’re interested, you can learn more by following this link: https://www.patreon.com/katiebachelder. Obviously, I will continue to post my usual content on my blog, so whether or not you join the Patreon, you’ll continue to see the content you came here for in the first place. But if you want some additional content, you have that option too 🙂

Much love,

~Katie


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