I did a series review of Wheel of Time, recently, and I intended for it to serve as a book review for the final book, A Memory of Light. I mean, it makes sense, especially for this book. While for most series, the payoff is in the latter half of the final book, the entirety of A Memory of Light is payoff for the previous thirteen (fourteen, with the prequel) books. I’ll talk about that a little more later, but basically what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of things that happened in the final book, and I wanted to talk about them.
So, unlike my wrap-up, here’s your warning: spoilers abound.
✔ A Book of Battle
I did have to think a little bit about this one, honestly. I mean, the fighting was absolutely endless, and despite having overwhelming numbers on their side, the Forsaken and Darkfriends also had a thousand different plots going on at once that made it seem like Rand and company could never catch a break. But then I thought about it, and I realized that if it was one short battle, it didn’t matter how intense things were, it probably wouldn’t have felt like it was paying off the previous thirteen books. That said, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that the good guys could actually ever lose, which did mitigate the tension considerably in some places.
✔ Min’s Talent and Seanchan Omens
This is one of those details that didn’t have to be included. I could have just as easily lived my life wondering on some rare occasion about Min’s strange talents, content to believe it was just some fluke of the Pattern. But, instead, we get to see she is not the first person to hold that ability. Even better, after wondering about the strangeness of the Seanchan’s very specific visual omens, it’s cool to see where they originated from.
✘ (Multiplied by 1000) Bela’s Death Scene
I will never not be angry about this. Someone from Emond’s Field should have been her companion at her death scene. Perrin or Egwene or Tam. Someone who actually knew her and was there at the beginning of the adventure with her. Do they even know their loyal shaggy mare was killed? Probably not, and probably won’t ever. And that’s just not cool.
✘ Siuan’s Death
This scene should have absolutely been written in her point of view. I don’t know why it was in Min’s, but I don’t like it. It was just written so casually, in such an offhand manner, as if Siuan had not already survived so much. Her death was not even witnessed. Sanderson really did Siuan dirty here.
✔ Rand Letting Women Fight and Sacrifice
I cannot tell you how annoying it was as a fellow woman to see Rand refusing to let women risk their lives, mourning their losses, taking away their choices. Especially the Far Dareis Mai or Aes Sedai, people who were more than capable of taking care of themselves. And finally, finally, Rand let other people assume risk, let people like Egwene choose what fights were worth their life. It was long overdue. For Perrin, too, though he still was overprotective of Faile.
✔ Moghedien’s Fate
You know, I should probably be really angry and upset about this. Even Egwene would not wish the a’dam on her worst enemy (well, despite her encounter with Moghedien in Salidar aside). But despite all of the humbling experiences she’s had to withstand, the second she sees an opportunity to rise up in power, to gain favor with the Dark One, she wants to take it. Right up to the end. I’m not saying it was the best fate for her, but I also can’t deny there’s some level of satisfaction from it anyway.
✘ The Dark One’s Defeat
Again, I’m not super angry about it, but I am a little confused. Rand had, for quite some time, planned on not just beating the Dark One, but killing him too, so the world would never be plagued by darkness and evil again. On the one hand, I get it. A world without shadow and a world without light are two sides of the same coin. But on the other hand… this means that in some Age in the future, some poor fool could almost let the Dark One out of his prison, or could succeed. Additionally, it takes away the uniqueness of Rand’s character. A story should be about a character who is different, who inevitably and irrevocably shatters the status quo. A reader wants to know why they are reading about THIS person and not THAT person. Why are we reading about Rand rather than Lews Therin Telamon? Well, we thought it was because Rand was going to not just fix Lews Therin’s mistakes, but also protect the world from the Dark One for good. Now, we’re just back to where we started.
✔ Reappearance of the Ruby-Hilted Dagger
Contrary to popular opinion, I assume, I really think that this scene was good. Maybe not great, but good. It felt slightly more dramatic and tense than, say, earlier in the book when we find out there are more Trollocs, more Dreadlords, more troops dedicated to the Dark One. One last threat, and one not connected to the Dark One, not completely. I also think that this scene did what the Bela scene did not: it brought the narrative full-circle, to the very first WoT book. And we see that Mat did grow, because he refuses to take it.
✘ Turning the Tides
They were so badly outnumbered at the beginning that they had no chance of winning, especially as sabotage after sabotage ripped apart whatever advantages they might have had. Granted, Mat is a military genius, but he could only do so much, and it was obvious he was struggling to keep the opposing forces at bay. Even Artur Hawking and his companions admitted they wouldn’t be able to carry the battle on their own. So how suddenly Mat was able to turn the tides and begin to win so thoroughly is beyond me.
✔ Egwene’s Victory
Say what you will about the inconsistencies about using the Power and being too exhausted to do anything. Egwene’s final sacrifice was majorly impressive. I cannot wait to see that visually on the screen. It’s fitting that Egwene, who is always learning all these new things, who is such a skilled channeler, would figure out how to undo the effects of balefire, and save the world in such an epic fashion.
✘ The Fate of the World
I talked about this a little bit in the spoiler-free discussion of the WoT series, but I just wanted to speak on it again. There were a lot of scenes during the battle that could have easily been cut out, as they were somewhat repetitive or useless. That word count could have easily be turned towards establishing life after the Last Battle, because even with Rand’s demands for peace, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Where is Rand going to go and what is he going to do? Where will Min live? With the Seanchan? What about Mat? The Seanchan are always threatening to kill him for political power. But not just that. What of him and Tuon? Can he change her mind about the a’dam and damane? Will Aviendha’s visions come to pass, or have they succeeded in averting them? And, unfortunately, there’s no way to know the answers to these questions.