...and it's done. The first serious major fantasy series I ever picked up, back in probably 1998 or so, comes to a close. (I'm discounting The Lord of...and it's done. The first serious major fantasy series I ever picked up, back in probably 1998 or so, comes to a close. (I'm discounting The Lord of the Rings as not being quite a series. And I can't remember when I first picked up any of the Drizzt Do'Urden books, whether it was before or after the Wheel of Time, but in any case I think those books aren't quite so hefty as these.)
I'm one of those fans who spent hundreds of hours reading the books, theorizing about them, discussing them online (in the long-ago book forums on the Wheel of Time computer game website, mostly a ghost town now -- yes, I remember what the Land of Doubles is :-) ), attending book signings for them, and even going to the Provo midnight release party for this one. Really, to me, this is much more than just a fantasy book, even the final book of a series. It's the end of an era, of waiting years between books waiting for the next to come out, wondering what would happen next. I never would have guessed how far the ripples would extend from borrowing The Eye of the World from a friend who happened to be reading it.
Does the book deliver, as the final Wheel of Time book? (There's going to be an encyclopedia, but almost certainly never anything beyond that. Jordan left the barest of notes for potential "outrigger" novels, and he was ardently opposed to "sharecropping" his world, as he's said George Lucas has done with Star Wars. So it goes.) Yes. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time, but this is an ending, and a satisfying one. It's even more impressive given that Jordan wasn't even the one to end it, as he sadly passed away from a rare blood cancer awhile ago and had to prepare all his notes for a successor -- not even one he had a hand in choosing -- to take up the challenge. We as fans demanded an awful lot of this concluding book, and Sanderson delivered.
Given the personal significance of the Wheel of Time to me, I would be more than justified, I think, in assigning it a five without further thought. I may have spent a few hundred dollars on Wheel of Time books (and ebooks) over the years, but I've gotten far, far more entertainment and joy out of them than that. At the same time, I think there are certain aspects of this book with which I take issue, or over which I have inchoate concern.
First, this book covered the Last Battle. Throughout the entire series the Last Battle has been portrayed as monumental and epic in every sense of the word (not just the overused Internet sense of it). And indeed it is that, in this book. The longest chapter of the book, titled -- well, I'll let you make the obvious guess -- is 190 pages. And there's plenty more battle beyond that. This might have been necessary, to appropriately fit the immenseness we'd all imbued the Last Battle with. But at the same time, it is looooooooong. It is excellent throughout, but even excellent battle scenes can't go as long, and sprawl as much as they did in this book, without going a bit too long. I have no idea how fewer or shorter battles could have conveyed the sense of scale and import of it all. But I do wish somewhat that it had been done. Also, totally contradictorily (I told you this was inchoate!), I kind of expected that there would be more fronts to the battle than there were, and that it would occur in many more places. The addition of large numbers of channelers to the Shadow's side explains why there weren't more, perhaps -- what Light-side channelers could have mopped up on their own became often overwhelming when Dreadlords entered the stage. But I expected far more widespread mayhem, perhaps far-flung guerrilla warfare, for the forces of darkness to have delighted in.
Second, the Black Tower. The gradual unfolding of much of that plot thread, and the interactions among particular characters in it, is delightful. (view spoiler)[(Especially with Pevara and Androl's relationship hearkening back to the Aes Sedai united as one in the Age of Legends.) (hide spoiler)] Yet I was somewhat underwhelmed with the actual mechanics of the Dark here. (Admittedly the Dark aren't always the smartest or most well-coordinated villains around, but still.) It took them that long to accelerate their efforts? (And, really, previous books had made me think those efforts had progressed far further, and more successfully, than apparently they had.) And the denouement of that thread was really that sudden? I don't think those scenes did quite justice to the words of Elaida's prior Foretelling. (Unless that referred to other future events -- I think some of the prophecies did, but not this one -- but in this case it seems incredibly poor if that was the case.)
Third, Demandred. A competent Forsaken, finally! And yet. I wasn't surprised to see him appear, and from where he did. But I think we needed more than process of elimination to explain how he got to where he did. And we needed more back story to his dealings of the past couple years, to explain how he did it. (This may be a topic for the encyclopedia, but that tantalization should have been salved somewhat before. This issue goes all the way back, and I don't think Sanderson can truly be blamed for it.) And, returning to competency, slightly: Demandred was waaaaay too vocally angry. Sure, he had a chip on his shoulder the size of Hoth, but he was also really the only Forsaken that consistently got things done. And you're telling me he couldn't control his ego enough to not sound pompous? Seriously, he started to remind me a little of his parody in ISAM's classic Wheel of Time parody summaries. Not to mention, the supposed best general of the Shadow never seriously thought that Rand might be, um, some other, more strategic place, maybe? Like, um, maybe Shayol Ghul? C'mon Demandred, this is clownshoes.
Fourth, Slayer. The eventual way everything went down there was satisfying. But I feel like I never really understood the why of Slayer, his motivations, the history behind him, and so on. Probably that'll be cleared up in the encyclopedia. But I'd have liked a little bit more on him before now. (This is another complaint that isn't really at Sanderson's feet -- I feel like he may possibly have made extra effort to address these concerns. Really they should have been elaborated more in previous books -- perhaps the ones Sanderson did, so maybe I'm okay with shifting a little of the blame to him. :-) )
And there's probably more I could say here, both to praise and to complain, if I spent the time to think about it. But I'm already at ~1400 words, and I really should be moving on to other things now. :-) So I'll leave it at that.
All these complaints notwithstanding (and I feel like there are enough I really do have to drop it to a four, even if I loved it like a five), this was awesome. Highly anticipated, thoroughly enjoyable, a satisfying conclusion: Sanderson done good. (Although, reading an epilogue I knew to be almost 100% Jordan, I found myself missing all the more his words for the conclusion to the series. Sanderson doesn't have the same lyrical approach that Jordan does. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and probably particularly wasn't for many of the battle scenes of these last three books. But in the quieter interludes and pauses, I sorely missed the real thing.) And much thanks to Team Jordan for picking him, and bringing Sanderson and his books to my attention. The only real regret I have is that this is an ending to fifteen years of my life, and to much of the endless theorizing, discussion, and anticipation. We all wanted this to happen. But it is a bittersweet ending nonetheless.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Suppose you wanted to figure out where you were on earth. You could make a fair guess at your north-south location between the North Pole and South PoSuppose you wanted to figure out where you were on earth. You could make a fair guess at your north-south location between the North Pole and South Pole -- that is, you could determine your latitude -- by waiting for the sun to reach its highest point, then determining the angle from the horizon to the sun, then doing a bunch of math. But where you are on an east-west line -- that is, to determine longitude? This is much harder.
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time relates the story of longitude and how the problem of determining longitude was solved. It begins with a particularly disastrous British naval accident in 1707, after which Parliament established an X-Prize of sorts for methods to accurately determine longitude, to be administered by a Board of Longitude. The story then follows the two methods contending for the prize: those based upon examination of the positions of astronomical bodies, and those based upon accurately tracking the time at one's home port. (Knowing the time in, say, Greenwich would provide the time offset to a known longitude. From there simple division into twenty-four hours would reveal longitude of precision determined by the timekeeping method.) The story particularly follows John Harrison, the eccentric autodidact who built the first truly accurate seaborne clocks, and his efforts to win the prize; but it also tracks the efforts of the leading scientific minds toward an astronomical method. Behind all this lie the politics of the Board of Longitude, in particular its excess of faith in astronomical methods, and disdain for chronometric methods, as the latter took the clear lead.
This book is a popular account of the problem of longitude: if you're looking for an academic account of the story, look elsewhere. (And perhaps be wary of too easily accepting its assertions as fact: Wikipedia claims that the book unhesitatingly repeats a couple myths concerning the 1707 naval disaster, suggesting that perhaps not all facts this book relates are certainly so.) For that it remains entertaining throughout, giving a nice survey of story and its developments. It's definitely worth a read to get an idea of how ship-based navigation worked in a time before GPS and modern communication aids, and accurate clocks on every wrist (or phone, these days) -- which is to say, not always well.
In closing I'll say one thing: I'll never see the card with the sextant on it in 7 Wonders quite the same way again....more
Wan ShaiLu is a Forger. By carefully crafting and using soulstamps, she can in some sense alter the history of an object: fixing a timeworn table by rWan ShaiLu is a Forger. By carefully crafting and using soulstamps, she can in some sense alter the history of an object: fixing a timeworn table by rewriting its history so that it was properly maintained, for example. But the Rose Empire considers Forgery a great evil, and she sits in prison awaiting her fate for having been caught in a theft involving forgery. Fortunately for her, the emperor Ashravan has been desperately injured in an attempted assassination. And the only way he can be healed is for Shai to Forge not an object, but an emperor's soul, well enough to fool an entire nation -- before the emperor's enemies discover the extent of his injuries.
I think it's my best piece of short fiction to date, and stands as one of the best complete works I've done of any length. It reads more like a short novel than it does a long short story, and does a lot of what I do in my longer fiction—it has a great magic system and cool characters. -Brandon Sanderson (link)
At least based on his works that I've read, Sanderson's right: this is definitely his best short fiction yet. Infinity Blade: Awakening suffered somewhat from issues of pacing (not to mention that the underlying story wasn't fully Sanderson's to tell). Legion significantly improved upon this, but it told more story in less time than it should have; it felt a little like a long story abbreviated in a short story format. This book truly gets it right: neither is it rushed nor is it slow, and neither is it cramped nor is it drawn-out. It has exactly the right feel for a novella: not too much, not too little.
And yet, as Sanderson says, it still does what his stories do best: tell a story based around a systematic form of magic, given through interesting characters. The book takes place in Sel, the world of Sanderson's debut novel Elantris, and there are parallels between portions of this story and that one. (And -- mini-spoiler -- most of Sanderson's works take place in sibling worlds within a universe known as the Cosmere, although this is not relevant to this particular story.) But it's not necessary to read either book before the other: if memory serves, the allusions between them are little more than some similarity of concepts and the nations mentioned in both.
Sanderson's novels are where he works best, but he's getting increasingly good at shorter forms as well. If you've only read his novels, this is a good place to start reading his shorter works....more