Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Towers of Midnight – The Wheel of Time, Book 13

[Spoiler Heavy]

Brandon Sanderson has gained much ji.

Finished reading “The Towers of Midnight”, Brandon Sanderson’s second book in the “Wheel of Time” series and I must say - “Damn. That was good”. 

The trouble with the WoT was, like most long running series, the quality has been variable, trending towards decline. The last few books have been pretty damn bad - “Crossroads of Twilight”, “Path of Daggers” and even “Winter’s Heart” have been abysmal.

Sanderson has made a difference. Story-wise RJ had left copious notes on how he planned to handle TG, but juggling the sheer number of major and minor plot threads couldn’t have been easy. He’s kept the story moving along, zipping along, tying up long standing loose ends and bringing Randland closer to Tarmon Gaidon than ever – in fact it seems that TG has begun by the end of ToM.

So lets see – what’s he  done so far:

  1. Made Rand likeable again, bringing him closer to EoTW Rand.  The transition from jerkass badass to jedimaster badass is actually quite smooth.
  2. Made Nynaeve likeable again, a MUCH harder job. She was one of the characters I despised through the series, but here – oh wow. She ROCKS. Hard. Her AS testing and the speech she gives about who she is, makes you want to cheer.And there's a very funny moment where she begins a tirade at Rand, having returned after three days when no one knew where he was, and Rand calmly completes it for her and tells her that she needs new insults to use on him. "Er. Yes" indeed
  3. Answering the Mesaana question, having Egs face off the Forsaken and turn her to a drooling idiot. (cue Egs fans squee). Egs used to slip in and out of the jerkass squad, and I’ve never really been able to like a person who’s name sounds like Chinese food. She does the same here, good moments and bad moments
  4. Brought Moiraine back. Moiraine was one of the best characters in the series, and in a lot of ways the leading lady.  She is weaker than before and her wish from the Finns sounds quite ridiculous – downright un Moirainey – a goddamn angreal? Not even a sangreal? But there’s a possibility that the angreal, that specific angreal has a part to play. Moiraine was always a deep one.
  5. Reunited the Trakands. Dear God. I thought Morgase would never meet her kids, who still think she’s dead. Well, there’s a reunion here. Uncomfortable, but a reunion just the same.
  6. Ties up the Gawyn/Egs and Morgase/Tallanvor romances.
  7. Kicks off the Galad/Berelain relationship, long foretold.
  8. Changes the balance of the Rand/Cadsuane relationship
  9. Ends Perrin’s “I am not a leader” and “I don’t want to become a wolf” angsting
  10. Kills off Hopper
  11. Shows that Elayne is still the undisputed mistress of the idiot ball
  12. Shows Perrin making a hammer (Verrry cool scene- deals with the fallen blacksmith)
  13. Makes Perrin super powered in Tel’aranrhiod – very matrixy too, stopping balefire(!?!)
  14. Brings Lan, the entire Malkieri nation and several Borderlander nations to the Blight for TG.
  15. Shows the new jedimaster badass Rand saving Rodel Ituralde and destroying a 150,000 strong trolloc army in “a storm of light”
  16. Mat meets up with Perrin finally, and in one of the best moments of the book (Easing the Badger? Easing the Bloody Ashes Badger?)
  17. Matt kills the Gholam
  18. Mat gives up half the light of the world, dealing with the Finns
  19. Taim has been running the 13x13 trick on his Ashaman and some of the visiting Aes Sedai.
  20. Provides Avi with one of the most critical passages she has had in the series, ever
  21. Kills of Balthamel/Arangar for the second time, this time by balefire
  22. Kicks off Tarmon Gaidon

Oh, and most importantly, shouts out to Kate Nepveu, Jason Denzel and other long time fans.

So what more can you expect?

The book also raises a few interesting questions

  1. We still have no clue who and where Demandred is
  2. Who are the red veiled killers in the Aiel waste?
  3. Is Cyndane in Rand’s dream a trap? Or is she for real?
  4. Who is Taim working for?
  5. Who is the murderer on the Seanchan throne? Is he relevant to the story?
  6. Who’s Graendal’s pretty in the Seanchan court in Ebou Dar?
  7. Tuon's Tar Valon attack - how will it pan out?
  8. What happens to the fake foxhead taken from Elayne?
  9. Who saves Caemlyn? Is it Mat, Perrin or Olver, Talmanes and the Band?
  10. Is Avi's vision a probability or a certainty?
  11. What about the Shadow prophecy

Which therefore lead to some wild guessing on how A Memory of Light will go.

  • Demandreds Location: Shara
    Reasons: When Graendal meets Sammael in LoC, they talk about the others - Mesaana, Semirhage and Demandred. Demandred says something about their locations and how long the DL has been planning. Graendahl then talks about her latest pets from the Shara. She implies she doesn't know where Demandred is, but she knows Mesaana is in Tar Valon. And its possible that the who Shara bit was red herring, its also possible it was not.(Tenuous )
    Then there's the fact that both RJ and Sanderson have said Demandred has not appeared in his civilian form yet. The Shara is one of the few places we have heard about, but have seen nothing of. (Tenuous again)
  • The Red Veiled Killers
    Following from above. Veiled faces, teeth filed to points, in the Aiel Waste. Other possibilities are, of course, male Aiel channelers, Fain's creatures - turned Aiel, like undead Trollocs
  • Is the Lanfear dream a trap?
    My take - Cynfear is a trap, but her repentance is genuine - heroic sacrifice ahoy
  • Who is Taim working for?
    The clues all point to Ishidin - the colour choices - red and black, the possession of the second dreamspike (thats obviously what is preventing Travel in the Black Tower. Taim is obviously doing the 13x13 trick, and he's trying to get a set of 13 Ashaman and 13 Aes Sedai as well. So who is he trying to turn? Is he planning a severing?
    Whatever it is, this is probably something that Loghain will handle, not Rand. Rand may do a repeat Ituralde, come in at the last minute, apologize to Loghain and then kick ass.
  • The Seanchan Throne
    Absolutely no idea. Logically, it should have been some DF tool of Semirhage, never shown before, but now, you don't know. Suroth was the only tool Semi had used up till this point - but that doesn't mean much. Ishidin again? Or Demandred? The thing is I'm not sure if there have been any references to Seanchan nobility in Seanchan before. And whether this is relevant to the story or not, I'm not sure. Tuon will have to deal with this person, but whether that is in the scope of MoL is not clear.
  • Who is Graendal's pet in Tuon's court in Ebou Dar
    The most obvious answer is Beslan - given Graen's penchant for pets drawn from the relations of the rich and powerful. Graen also talks of this as a recent development and Beslan has just been raised to the High Blood.Beslan might be thinking that his duplicity is furthering the cause of Ebou Dari independence. There are other possibilities - One dark horse is Abuldar Yulan, married to Riselle of the famous bosom. Riselle being Graendal or one of her proxies. Galgan could be another.
  • Tuon at Tar Valon
    I would like to think that things get settled by then, but thats unlikely. What seems likely is that Tuon gets a'damed and changes her mind about marath'damane. The other thing is that the Amyrlin and her troops are now in Merrilor and the tower is practically undefended.
  • Who Saves Caemlyn?
    It's not Perrin. He is already in the Fields of Merrilor. It's unlikely to be Elayne, there's a contingent of Cairhenian in Merrilor as well. Rand is in Merrilor too. The candidates are Talmanes, Olver and the Band and Mat himself. But Mat is near Ilian, and he needs to travel back to Caemlyn and that depends on Grady being around to open the gateways. My personal take is that this is Olver's moment in the sun, but let's see
  • Aviendha's vision
    It's a possibility, not a certainty. It's fruition depends on the Seanchan. Does Rand bow to Tuon or vice versa? I think its highly unlikely that Rand submits to Tuon. And Avi/Rand relearn the song and they try to get the Aiel back to the Jenn ways. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

As for the Shadow prophesy, I think I need to reread the series, especially the Great Hunt - which I read ten years ago in Sri Lanka - to look at the other poems of prophecy.A lot more newsgroup scavenging will be required as well...

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