After 22 years, 14 volumes, hundreds of characters, countless storylines and two authors, arguably the modern era's most ambitious fantasy series, The Wheel of Time fantasy, has come to a close. Most readers who have been with it since the first volume, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990, should be satisfied.
In fact, they should be happy not just with the novel itself but with the series being completed at all. Primary author Robert Jordan, a South Carolinian, died in 2007 after the 11th volume, Knife of Dreams (2005). Brandon Sanderson, a Utah-based fantasy author and academic, has carried on in his stead.
The series is a prime example of epic fantasy, both in genre and scope. It is about the ongoing struggle between "the Dark One" and the Dragon Reborn, who is the champion of light. The story follows a group of young villagers who through struggle and hardship become the heroes who face the forces of the Dark One.
To complete the series, Sanderson worked closely with Jordan's widow, Harriet McDougal, who edited all of the books in the series. Sanderson also worked from notes and even partial scenes written by Jordan.
The conclusion was originally intended to be one novel, but they realized they had too much material. The Gathering Storm came out in 2009, The Towers of Midnight in 2010 and now A Memory of Light.
In this volume we reach the "Final Battle" the previous 13 volumes were building up to and we see the last confrontation between the Dragon Reborn and the Dark One.
Not surprisingly, a large portion of this 900-page book is dedicated to battle scenes. The Final Battle is an all-out war on four fronts, in addition to the "duel" between the main protagonist and antagonist.
The reader is barraged with a constant stream of fast-paced, action-packed, tension-building scenes, in which major storylines end in a brutal and sometimes almost off-hand manner. It often leaves you thinking you must have missed something.
(Longtime readers, take note: don't assume any characters you've been rooting for since the beginning are safe.)
However, it's not just about the Final Battle; perhaps more important, it's about ending the series.
The constantly changing points of view mean almost all the characters introduced in the series make an appearance or are referred to, and their storylines tied off.
Unfortunately, some of the major characters (into the double digits, admittedly), such as Nynaeve, Thom and Siuan, barely get any page time, while some minor characters get several chapters. As well, some plot details get resolved offstage, frustrating for anyone waiting years to see how Sanderson would handle them.
Still, given the scope of the story, such shortening tactics tie things off and keep the main storyline going.
As a whole, A Memory of Light is an impressive book. Sanderson manages to finish the series in a way that stays true to Jordan's vision and the world he created.
There are a few instances where Sanderson's style, such as his sense of humour (more modern than Jordan's), sticks out -- reminding us that the writer finishing the series was not the same one who began it. That Sanderson often makes this possible to forget is a testament to his skill as writer and his clear dedication to the series as a whole.
But it was also clearly Jordan's skill in creating such a detailed world, with complex and developed characters, and an outline that stayed largely true over 20 years of writing, that laid the foundation for the final volume's success.
Winnipegger Bronwen Quarry, an archivist with the Archives of Manitoba, has been an avid fan of The Wheel of Time since the series began.