Warning: contains spoilers.
Even though I finished A Memory of Light months ago, I’m only getting around to writing a review now. The fourteenth and final book in the series was, as far as I can remember, an honourable enough conclusion to a great series. But I will be honest here and tell you that I am relying heavily on memory and the internet to remind me of the course of the novel.
For me, A Memory of Light felt different to the rest of the series. In the earlier novels of the series, the author focused the attention of the reader on a select few characters. Often, he would stay with one character for several chapters at a time. In previous blog posts where I reviewed earlier books, I wrote of how it annoyed me at times as a reader. To me it made the series feel stagnant at times, and I often found myself losing interest in what was happening in the story. Jordan was so hell-bent on making the politics dramatic at times that he nearly neglected to push the story forward. The last book, however, read very differently. It was fast-paced and frequently jumped from character to character. The intensity of changes in point of view, and the rapid speed at which things happened, gave it a feverish feel. As the series had progressed, Jordan had shifted more and more to this pattern of writing, and personally, I preferred it. It gave it that page-turner feeling that it had unfortunately lacked at some points in the series.
I think one of the biggest challenges an author must face when writing a novel such as this is picking how many characters to kill off, and more importantly – whose neck to bring to the executioners axe. Fantasy series often hint at terrible battles, and losses of life to come. But often, many authors fall short of delivering on their promises. Perhaps they don’t want to look reckless, or as though they’re killing simply for dramatic effect, but I personally find it refreshing to come across an author who isn’t afraid to just kill off a major character. It’s why George R. R. Martin stands out from the crowd to me, and so many other readers. Books can often be predictable when it comes to guessing who will kick the bucket. But Martin makes everyone a victim. No character is safe, and it makes reading his books exhilarating.
So when it came to reading A Memory of Light, I had pretty high expectations for the death toll – not to sound morbid. But it just isn’t interesting, or realistic, if in a war of such magnitude only two semi-important characters and one main character die. In the end, I found it a little bit disappointing, and somewhat of a let-down. It wasn’t exciting or shocking enough, after such a long build-up. Because of the Aes Sedai – Warder bond, it was blatantly obvious that Gareth Byrne and Egwene Al Vere would pass, because Siuan and Gawyn did. And in relation to Egwene dying, I was annoyed that she was the only person in the original party to not make it to the end, and none of Rand’s significant other halves perished. Even more disappointing is the fact that Rand didn’t actually die, that it was Moridin on the pyre. Rand gets to ride off into the sunset and start his new life, leaving all the troubles of the world behind him. It just made it all too clean, too perfect. The bad guys get defeated, and all of the good guys minus a select few don’t make it through. To be honest, the deaths felt like token deaths, watered down and placed in the final book simply because Jordan knew he had to kill off someone.
I found myself feeling undecided at how I felt about the ending of the entire series as a whole. A Memory of Light was an interesting enough read, and vastly better than the novels in the middle of the series, but it lacked something. For me, Jordan held back in a way. I also believe that if he left too many stones unturned. How did Aviendha’s visions about the Aiel play out? Where they able to change the pattern? And what about Perrin’s trial with the Whitecloaks? Robert Jordan spent so much time writing such beautifully descriptive language and building up the story that he might have neglected to tie up some loose ends.
I know it sounds as though I have almost nothing positive to say about the final novel in the series, and maybe I don’t. But don’t let that take away from the fact that I did thoroughly enjoy the series as a whole. Yes, it had its flaws, and probably could have been cut well down in size. Nevertheless it is a brilliant series. The sheer scope of Robert Jordan’s imagination, his ability to create such a complex and detailed world, is nothing short of incredible. The Wheel of Time is one of those series that every fantasy fan should read. It’s a long ride, sometimes long-winded, but believe me, it’s worth it.