In 1990, fantasy writer Robert Jordan published the first volume of his epic Wheel of Time saga. The 15 books in the series (including a prologue novel) have since sold more than 40 million copies in 30 languages.
Unfortunately Jordan died in 2007 with the story unfinished and many thought it would remain so. Instead, his widow and publisher tapped author Brandon Sanderson to complete what Jordan began.
Working from Jordan’s detailed notes, Sanderson has written three novels, including the most recent “A Memory of Light,” which wraps up the series.
The Wheel of Time is set in a world where wielders of the One Power (not quite magic, not quite science) had fought the forces of the Dark One (the personification of evil) and, in so doing, initiated a chain of events that destroyed their civilization. Some 2,000 years later, a young sheepherder named Rand al’Thor discovers he is the Dragon Reborn prophesied to battle the Dark One at the Last Battle (an event similar to Armageddon or Ragnarök). Rand spends 13 books preparing himself and the rest of the world for this final confrontation.
His plan for a coalition of nations is complicated by the various characters and political agendas he encounters. In “A Memory of Light,” we finally come to the Last Battle.
First, a note of warning. As a whole, the Wheel of Time series is an excellent collection with only the occasional misstep but reading them is admittedly a massive undertaking.
The books average 800 to 900 pages each and feature more than 60 point-of-view characters. Making use of the glossary is recommended as you read them.
If that does not frighten you, then you will need to start at the beginning before reading this book. Rest assured “A Memory of Light” is an outstanding conclusion to the series.
The book is a brutal depiction of war in which the life of every living creature hangs in the balance.
No character is safe from meeting a violent end. Some die nobly, while others suffer pointless deaths. The survivors will probably carry the physical and mental scars of the Last Battle for the rest of their lives.
The outnumbered, overmatched protagonists are battered and bloodied from the start and then events really take a turn for the worse.
Alternating between a number of battlefronts, it is apparent victory will not come cheap. Jordan’s experiences in Vietnam were said to have influenced his description of soldiers and war.
His portrayal of the fighting and its costs may hold a special poignancy with the veterans in our community.
Even while armies fight and die, Rand struggles with the Dark One over the fate of Creation. Jordan acknowledged life possesses shades of gray, but he was a firm believer in Good and Evil.
That certainty is evident in the philosophical battle that rages alongside the earthly combat. Jordan also included allusions to certain Christian and mythological themes, such as one person suffering for the sake of others.
While his handiwork is not a perfect copy of Jordan’s writing style, Sanderson blends his contributions to the story almost seamlessly.
He retains the same complex plot and multi-layered character development. He does avoid Jordan’s slow, almost glacial at times, pace and instead keeps the action moving at breakneck speed. Jordan was also prone to long passages, and indeed one whole book, of dialogue and introspection that set up subplots and a number of surprising and interesting resolutions further into the series.
As this book was the final volume, Sanderson only had to focus on bringing these storylines to a satisfactory conclusion. He succeeded with the major and most minor plots, although a few were finished a little too quickly or easily. Others were left unfinished altogether, possibly to indicate that life in this world does not end with the book’s finale.
Even if one did not take into account the large cast of characters and divergent plots running the length of fifteen books, Sanderson’s conclusion to the series was everything fans could reasonably ask for.
When those factors are weighed, his work can safely be judged as outstanding. Hopefully, Robert Jordan is looking down and is well-pleased with the ending of his masterpiece.
Darren Ivey is a Manhattan firefighter and a Manhattan resident.