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I have read Towers of Midnight


Posted by Jason on Sep 26 2010 01:30 PM under in Towers of Midnight
About a year ago, you and I and the rest of the Wheel of Time fan base were eagerly awaiting the release of The Gathering Storm, the twelfth book in the series, and the first one written in large part by Brandon Sanderson, the relatively unheard-at-the-time fantasy writer who was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's epic. The burning question back then was, "Can Brandon deliver?". The answer was nearly unanimous amongst fans: not only did he deliver a good Wheel of Time book, but he delivered one of the most exciting Wheel of Time books yet. The book was a smash success, and by and large fans everywhere took a deep sigh of relief. In my original review of The Gathering Storm (TGS), I called the book one of the finest in the series, and I stand by that statement.

So now the question has become: can Brandon do it again? Is Towers of Midnight (TofM), the penultimate novel in The Wheel of Time series, as good as--or better-- than its predecessor? Brandon gained fan confidence by writing TGS. The bar has been raised. Does this next novel live up to the hype?

Of course it does. It's an amazing novel.

I've had the privilege of reading it, and I'd like to share some thoughts regarding it with you.

But first, I'm once again obliged to give a few disclaimers. My involvement with the WoT franchise is deeper than most fans. More and more, rather than being a passive observer, I'm finding myself actually helping to create content for the Wheel of Time (via my involvement in other parts of the franchise such as games, movies, etc). In this case, I was one of Brandon Sanderson's beta readers. This means that the version of the book I'm reviewing was a version that was still incomplete, and was towards the end of its editing process. More importantly, I provided feedback, both technical and creative, which may have had an impact on the writing. (I say 'may' because I honestly don't know yet whether some or any of my suggestions and feedback were taken.) In addition, I happen to run a large WoT fan site and therefore find myself promoting these books on a daily basis. I've had business dealings with Tor (although I have never been paid to do any of this and I do not accept money for promoting WoT). I'm not here to sell books. I am here to represent you, and share my honest feelings regarding this new book. I realize I can never be truly impartial, but I'll sure do my best. Like you, I'm a fan first, and always will be.

So with all that said, let's cut to it. Towers of Midnight is an outstanding novel, but I wouldn't say it was the finest in the series, nor can I say I personally enjoyed it more than its predecessor. But don't let that fool you. As Leigh Butler wrote in her recent review, these books are all like family, and so of course I loved it overall. And so will you. It's just that for me, as an individual reader, I personally enjoyed the tighter focus of the previous novel over this one. Viewed in terms of the whole series, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that TofM fits into the series and successfully sets the stage for the final, explosive novel.

Let's take a closer look.

"To understand something", Perrin notes early in the book, "you have to know its parts." Well, Towers of Midnight is made up of a lot of complicated parts. It makes The Gathering Storm seem simplistic by comparison. The two of them are as different as The Great Hunt is from Lord of Chaos. This surprised me. I expected Brandon to deliver a novel that was just like the last one; to just continue with the same pacing and style as before. But he didn't. Instead, he did what I feel was the right thing and followed the needs of the story. TofM is darker, grittier, and filled with a lot more external conflict than TGS. The prose is consistent with its predecessor, but overall the book has the feel of the later WoT novels. More viewpoints. A wider scope. I loved reading about the increasing threat to the world; the mounting tide of darkness sweeping across the land.

[Begin minor spoilers. Some of you will think these aren't true spoilers, and some of you will complain if I don't label them. So I'm playing it safe.]

In TGS, the primary focus of the book was on Rand and Egwene. It was that intense focus on their dramatic character arcs that made me love that novel so much. Although Rand and Egwene have some important roles to play in ToM, the primary focus shifts over to Mat and Perrin. Perrin has a wonderful arc in this book, even if it is just a tad slow to initially get going. (But hey, nobody ever said anything in WoT was fast, eh? Just chew your food and savor the taste). This is balanced by the fact that Perrin probably has the most action in the book. Well, except for poor Ituralde. The man just can't catch a break can he?

Chief among the aspects of this book that I loved is our favorite gambler. I'm happy to report that Mat is back. In a big way. I give Brandon a lot of credit for listening to feedback from fans who thought Mat's character voice was somewhat "off" in TGS. We'll never know how much of the book was personally written by Robert Jordan before he died, and how much was written by Brandon, but the point is that Mat not only sounds right in most of his chapters, but he is in his finest form. Quite simply, Mat redefines the very meaning of Awesome in this book. He's funny, but in a less slapstick way like he was in TGS. His internalized sarcastic humor is contrasted by the fact that he just bloody cares too much about people around him, and that makes him the old Mat we all know and love.

(If you haven't already heard, you can read the first Mat viewpoint chapter from ToM right here on Dragonmount)

I won't tell you what the best parts of the book were, of course, but I'll tell you that two of them were so good, they'll just shred you to pieces emotionally. Both of them are completely unexpected, and they happen to occur in a series of three back-to-back-to-back chapters. (Well, in the version I read. They may have been re-ordered since I read it in manuscript form) One of the chapters involved Perrin. And no… She's not involved. It's not what you think. So stop guessing.

The other scene that rocked me to read is one that completely embraces the spirit of the whole series. It's the epitome of what makes The Wheel of Time stand apart from all other fantasy series. To say that I was moved by it is an understatement. After reading it, I honestly began to question whether this story will actually have a happy ending or not. I mean, let's face it. Most of us assume the series will conclude with a victory at the Last Battle, with maybe a few heroic deaths along the way, right? Well this sequence I'm talking about proves that even victory can be disaster. It shows that even the most noble of intentions can have a butterfly-effect ripple across the Pattern. The sequence was beautiful to behold, and that alone makes ToM worthy of being on the shelf with your other WoT books.

What else?

Ah yes. If you'll excuse some shameless self-promotion, you need to go watch the Towers of Midnight book trailer. Once you've done that, then we can talk about Her.

Yes that plotline is addressed in ToM. But not in any way that resembles the video linked above. (The video was produced before I read the actual book) Some aspects play out as you might expect, but there are a lot of key surprises along the way. I devoured every word, and loved everything to do with it. And of course, it left me wanting more!

One last plot-related item…. Olver. There's a chapter involving him that just breaks my heart. Now maybe it's just me. I'm not talking about a big dramatic scene. (Although it does have another big reveal). Most people might find humor in it. But not me. Maybe I'm just sensitive. Remember what I said earlier about the price of victory? What happens here is both endearing and tragic. On one hand it was logical and inevitable that things would play out this way. On the other hand, I just never saw it coming, and neither will you (not that it will stop you from trying, huh?). I tip my hat to you, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sanderson. Once again, you've given us a moment that people can debate. For me personally, it'll stick in my gut for a long time.

[END spoilers.]

It occurred to me as I finished this book that this is almost it. After ToM, there's only one more book to go. One last round in the great fight. These characters, this world, they're a part of me. And clearly, they're a part of you and a great many others as well. Some of you are new to the series, and many of you have been reading it for a very long time. Regardless of when we started though, we all see the same looming horizon before us. The inevitable arrival of the Last Battle, and the fabled "Last Chapter" that Robert Jordan spoke of for years. We've reached the sunset of this Age, and after reading ToM, I just don't know how it will end anymore.

This book will always have a special place in my heart. In part for my involvement as a beta reader, in part for the book trailer project, and even for the book's dedication which is a profound and humbling gesture. But mostly, this book will be special to me because it marks the true beginning of the end. Story-wise, the "good guys" are gathered and ready to go. But in fact they're in shambles, just barely held together. But in terms of us, as a community of fans, we are gathered like never before. I'm proud to see our fandom linked in this last year like I've never seen. We all know there's something special about this series, and Towers of Midnight is without a doubt a fine and worthy addition to its ranks. I look forward to riding the storm with you guys one last time to Tarmon Gaidon. One last charge. One last book.

We will meet it with swords raised.

Jason Denzel
Jason@dragonmount.com

Pre-Order Towers of Midnight

   
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Posted by Jason on Sep 26 2010 01:30 PM under in Towers of Midnight

57 Comments

Fantastic review, Jason. Of course, we were all waiting with bated breath anyway... but reading your review refreshed my excitement, and (to be honest) made me happy because of your personal appreciation of this experience. You're a part of tWoT now, officially, in-canon. Congrats!
Great review, Jason. Your review for TGS was a large part of why I became a member of Dragonmount, and if this review is as accurate in portraying how I will feel about ToM as the TGS one was, then I'm in for a treat I think come Nov. 2. What you say about Mat makes me all the more optimistic. 'redefines the very meaning of Awesome'... well, I couldn't ask for more from my favorite character of the series! :smile:

Thanks for whetting our appetite all the more with a good review, and also thanks for all your hard work you do for Dragonmount and the community! :flamingsword:
Great review Mr. Denzel. Your emotions mentioned at the end are very similar to how I believe my own must be - I've invested almost twenty years of my life now into this series, and though I crave for the ending, I fear for it as well. Thank you for your dedication to the site, the series, and the fandom.
This review has put me from the status of pacing back and forth in anticipation to the early stages of foaming at the mouth, with a little drool thrown in for kicks. When's Tower Guard recruiting going to begin? I'm so down for keeping the watch in Sacramento. By your leave, Mr. Denzel, the watch is not done.....
Jason, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to post this review. Similar to Sid, it was your review of Gathering Storm that enticed me to join Dragonmount. Once again, this review is just as tantalizing as TGS, and I am frothing at the mouth for the release of Towers. I too, will be sad when AMoL is released, but at the same time I'm ready for it.

Thanks for all that you do Jason, it's very much appreciated by us. More importantly, congratulations on being cited on the Towers dedication-well deserved!
Thank you. Does anyone know when to Tower Guard promotion will start?
Awesome and Sincerely Appreciated.


Fish
great review, left me hanging for me and now even more excited about getting the book
Great review, thanks man.

I have been reading (and re-reading) the series for over 10 years, but I for one do not foresee the final book as bitter-sweet at all. There will great satisfaction not in only having closure on the series, but having a COMPLETE Wheel of Time on my shelf will be a long-awaited pleasure.

The series and the joy of reading it won't be going anywhere. It will forever be on my bookshelf, never will it have time to gather dust, and I will have an amazing collection to pass on to my children some day. Nothing can do more justice to the Series and Robert Jordan than having it complete.

I know the thrill of the new releases is fun, and guessing and speculating on what will be in them is always fascinating, but to me, the joy of having the entire series on my shelf will outweigh that a hundred times over.

And hey, we'll still have the Encyclopedia to look forward to, as well! :wheel:
Great Review Thanks.

It is funny that back in 1998 the month b4 the book was released i got all jittery and couldn't wait to read it and it amazes me that 12 years later i still feel the same way. Yep it will be sad when this is all over.
Thanks for explaining the Olver thing more clearly. The only time in WoT that I got all mysty-eyed was when Perrin discovered his family was dead. I think someone in a review thought that we would get all distraught when the Amayar committed suicide but because we had no connection to them i felt nothing. It sounds like I'll just read the Olver bit and wonder what you were going on about :) Glad to see Perrin has got his mojo back, he's been in a steady decline since LoC. And Mat Cauthon, ever since he put Gawyn and Galad on their backside he's been my favourite character in any novels. He's just so cool and fun to read, and your saying he's back to his Awesome best brings a big smile to my face. Great Review. Congrats to Brandon & Harriet, a silent prayer to RJ. Bring on November 2 :)
Thanks for the review. I think it covers exactly the topics that most people want to hear about. My main fear is that ToM will be too testosterone heavy. I am one of THOSE people who prefers the female characters in WoT; I enjoy almost all of the characters, male and female, though. After this review, I am still looking forward to November 2.
Well Jason,
Reading your review made me somewhat emotional..could be the hormones, could be that it almost over or it could be that Perrin ends up killing Bashere and his "darkness" somehow...thus driving Perrin and Faile further apart? As far as "her" well I kinda figured we might see her, but just long enough for Mat and Thom to run in to where she's been..Mat to say something snarky (like "Why am I always bloody sticking my flaming neck out for you fool women?") and for her to arch an eyebrow or something. What you say about Olver is confusing, could be humorous but you found it tragic? Hmmmm...well I'm gonna guess anyway. Mat leaves Olver with Elayne which breaks his heart but Birgitte realizes he's Gaidal Cain but he's obviously way to young for her so she thinks shes gonna die without ever getting to share a life with him again(because she doesn't realize she's still tied to the horn)? Any scene with Mat and Elayne is pretty comical, but if this happens there is some tragedy..As for the other scene that rocked you, you give no names or locations so it can't theorize :) Nov. 2nd can't come soon enough and now between you and the wonderful Miss Butler time is going to crawl!!
After reading TGS, I am thouroughly convinced that Harriet chose wisely in having Brandon finish the epic. As some of the other posters have noted, it will be very bitter-sweet when the series is finally put to rest. I've been reading almost from the beginning, so these characters have become like family to me and it will be difficult for me to say goodbye to them.

On a side-note, I am REALLY hoping that Harriet will allow Brandon (or some other, equally Talented author) to write a 4th or 5th Age series. I'd really like to see where the world had actually forgotten the Dark One when he rears up & reminds them what a Bad Dude he is!! It'd be neat to see a main character that has Rand jibbering in their head!

Sorry, I got side tracked...

Thanks for all you do for us, Jason! The review was awsome! My mouth is literally watering, waiting for Nov. 2nd!!
Jason,
my previous long thank you got killed thanks to teh internets.
suffice to say I hope that I one day have the opportunity to thank you personally for what's been a huge part of my life for 20 years.
Jason, you are a hero to us fans out here, great review!
Great review!
My sanity is hanging by a thread, it's so damn close now!!!
i'm glad there was no real spoilers because i couldn't help myself reading it :biggrin:

Jason, your a hero!
Thanks for the review. It is very thoughtful and enticing. I can't wait for ToM. :biggrin:
I'm now also approaching rabid and foaming at the mouth - thanks Jason, this was awesome!
Yay, I was waiting for this all week. Deadly review, Jason. Can't wait...
Damn....I got all emotional just reading that review. Thanks! Bring on 11/2! :biggrin:
Thatnks for the quick incisive relatively non-spoiler-ish review. Can't
bloody wait!
I just finished re-reading the series in preparation for ToM. surprise, I finished much too early and now my life is pathetically empty,and I've developed this weird twitch ... maybe i should stop coming back here every 3 hours hoping for more tidbits like this ....
Haha Tom, and i thought i was getting bad :biggrin:
Great review Jason. It gets my heart pumping a little speculating on what will "shred" us to pieces.
Burn me, I don't see how I COULD get more excited about the ToM release, but that did it... IF I have a heart attack or something before the book comes out, I would like a signed and numbered copy to be placed in my coffin along with the rest of my collection, and the new ones added when any WoT material comes out...

And that is true, I have been reading the series since the beginning of concisely conscious thought(some time starting around 6th or 7th grade as far as I can recall...), and it has only now sunk in that this really IS the end. I have devoted my passions and interests almost entirely to the Wheel of Time for years now, and probably won't know what to do with myself after they all end... Probably just keep reading like I always have, though these last three will likely increase the time that takes by at least three to six weeks between them...

Thank you Jason, for this review and all you have done to keep that thing I call insanity intact. Got to go now, but back in three hours, eh? :wink:


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