A MEMORY OF LIGHT by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson — a Review

I started reading The Wheel of Time 20 years ago. I bought THE EYE OF THE WORLD for my father, but started reading it when he didn’t. After a couple false starts, I was hooked. And so, 20 years later, with enough books to fill an entire bookshelf and enough characters to fill a high-rise condo, the series has come to an end.

I was skeptical that the series could survive Jordan’s death. But I was proven wrong. Jordan’s wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, made a wise choice in picking the relatively unknown (at the time) Brandon Sanderson. He faced tremendous risks. The world seemed primed to reject his writing. But, despite those odds, he succeeded. Already a fan of the series, Sanderson injected a fresh energy and style to the series that kept me hooked.

Similarly, I was skeptical that so many plot threads could be successfully tied up. I think we all remember how Lost left so many threads hanging, and what plot lines they did resolve, they did so in a terrible way. Let me just say that A MEMORY OF LIGHT does not repeat those mistakes.

Everything has been building up to this moment: the Final Battle. Tarmon Gai’don. Rand must unite the world under the banner of the Light to face the forces of Darkness. Fittingly, a battle this big does not have one front line. It’s a series of battles. Heroes will rise to the occasion, and yes, some will fall. Whole nations will be destroyed so that the world might survive. The battle lines shift as quickly as the point of view characters, but the story doesn’t ever feel jumbled or confusing.

The plot moved along quickly, so much so that I had to force myself to slow down. I don’t think I was quite ready for this saga to come to an end. But I couldn’t do it. I tore through this book. I enjoyed realizing just how dramatically those youths from Two Rivers had grown and changed into the leaders and heroes of the Final Battle. They each have their own desires, goals, means, and motivations. And trust me, no one is safe. Additionally, I was impressed with the number of surprises and reversals in this story. Sanderson and Jordan keep readers guessing, as the outcome of the Final Battle is far from a forgone conclusion, despite all those prophecies.

On the whole, I enjoyed this conclusion. Although it was bittersweet to place the final book on the shelf, I did so with a smile. But it wasn’t perfect. There were a couple moments that were too cute or too coincidental for my tastes. And I suspect the epilogue will prove quite controversial among the fans. It threatened to fall into the “too cute” category, but when you consider that it was one of the last things Jordan wrote, you see it through his eyes: a man confronting death and looking back on his life and works. Seen that way, I think it works. But it will certainly give fans something to talk about.