(Major spoilers in this post, obviously, for the whole Wheel of Time series, and for the fourteenth book specifically. You have been warned.)
So my copy of A Memory of Light arrived on Tuesday and I basically spent the last week reading it, and – as the post title indicates – it is great. Basically the reason for this is that is pulls off a full Return of the Jedi juggle – by which I mean in Jedi, Richard Marquand and Sean Barton (and okay, George Lucas) spend the last third of the movie cutting back and forth between three exciting action sequences – the battle on Endor between the Ewoks/Rebels and Stormtroopers, the battle above Endor between the Rebel Fleet and the Imperial Fleet, and the battle in the Death Star between Vader, Luke and the Emperor – and the film does this while also using those action sequences to build in its character beats, which is why Jedi is a satisfying end to the trilogy.1
The reason AMoL is so fun is that it does what Jedi does, except instead of cutting in between three action sequences, it cuts in between as many as twenty to thirty.
But that’s hardly the only reason. AMoL is the final payoff for a fourteen-book-long cycle. Now, granted, this is the point in the discussion where the haters will all pop up to brag about how they quit at book nine or book seven or whatever2 but all they are doing is belaboring a point. I don’t think there is anybody who is really willing to stand up and say that the middle of the series doesn’t drag on and get tedious, because oh my do they ever.3 But that is the point I am making here: AMoL actually manages to make up for all of that wasted time and flabby middle-third writing, because it is simply just that entertaining. Just about every sequence in the nook is payoff for some element of the series – of course given that we’re talking about fourteen books that shouldn’t be surprising because, well, that’s a lot of elements to pay off – and because of that every part of the book is filled with grade-A one hundred percent fuckyeah.
Every baddie gets their comeuppance, of course, but the body count for the good guys is extremely high, like Pelennor Fields-level high (or even moreso since, let’s be honest, most of the named people who died in the Pelennor Fields weren’t characters with a lot of speaking time – and some very major characters end up biting it). The baddies are very, very bad and the book sells, mostly successfully, the entire Last Battle as a giant game of wits between the two sides, with both of them getting major tactical successes. Demandred finally shows up in this book after all of us waiting for thirteen books to wait and see how he was going to live up to the hype, and while Rand is off fighting the Dark One, Demandred serves as the Final Boss for basically everybody else in the book as the general of Evil Army and holy shit does he ever justify all his buildup.
Anyway. I’m glad I didn’t wait for the remainder bins on this one, because the entire book is like one extended guitar solo with lasers and fireworks and Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy and then more lasers. Not that I was going to do so (as I have previously admitted), so I guess it is more appropriate to say “I’m glad I bought it immediately and it justified the purchase.”
- Yes, even though the Ewoks suck and Empire is the better film, yes, we know… [↩]
- Or of course the ever-popular “I knew it sucked from the beginning!” [↩]
- Generally speaking, the general agreement among people who like the series but are willing to be honest is that books five and six are bulky but still entertaining, book seven is where it starts to drag, books eight and nine are the low point, book ten shows a few signs towards the end of poking out of the molasses, and book eleven is where the series kicks back into high gear as if to make up for lost time. [↩]