I just finished Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan's latest book: Towers of Midnight. I reviewed Brandon's first collaboration with Jordan (on The Gathering Storm) almost a year ago to the day. If you'll recall, I thoroughly enjoyed that one. It was so refreshing to get back to the Wheel of Time series, and very exciting that Sanderson was doing such a good job with it. My main critique was Mat's humor, but other than that, things felt spot on--and that was after I had just finished reading the entire series. Yes, there were differences, but none of them got in the way of the story and the world.
So what did I think about this latest 840 page endeavor?
Well, I read it in two days, if that tells you anything. I this one would be one of the harder ones to write and pull off well, as it's essentially the middle part of a trilogy (that is itself the final part of a huge series). Brandon would have to find a way to make a whole bunch of bridge material feel like it has a good climax. For the first bit in the book, I wondered if it was going to work. The chronology doesn't line up exactly with the Gathering Storm, and that's a tad confusing. Also, it seems to me like a lot of this material was designed to be blended in with the plot lines of Gathering Storm, as well. There are some really nice story lines that would have fit together very nicely with that book, and it's too bad they had to get split up.
Don't get me wrong--they had to get split up. Otherwise the TGS would have been nothing but prep work, with all the pay off in ToM, and that wouldn't work at all. Still, I can see how Jordan had them planned, and it would have been cool. The man just thought too Epic for our time. I wonder if it would be possible to blend TGS and ToM together into a mega e-book at some point in the future? Although even then, it would likely have to be rewritten for it to really work. So . . . it's not to be.
What did I love about the book? I loved the way the plot built and built and built to the beginning of the final book. Once this one's at an end, the pieces are set, the field is ready, and the Last Battle can begin. For all the fans who have been waiting, wondering if the series would ever end, now's the time to dip back in. Read TGS and ToM and get ready for the grand finale in about a year. I don't want to get into spoilers here, because if you've read something like 13,000 pages, it would be a real shame to get spoiled at this point. But for the most part, the characters were great--it was coming home to old friends. Even Mat felt seamless this time around--the differences blended away so they're no longer noticeable.
What didn't I like? Perrin's storyline felt a bit off to me. It took me some time to get back into it, and I felt like he backtracked some as a character for the first third or so. That said, all was forgiven by the end, and that's all I'm going to say about it.
Anyway--no more spoilers, no more discussion. If you liked any part of this series, you really need to come back to it now. If you've never read it and love epic fantasy, you're missing out. If you never liked it, nothing I say will convince you otherwise. :-)
All I can say is that I can't wait for next year.