Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: Towers of Midnight

Robert Jordan started writing a gargantuan fantasy epic when I was in high school. Throughout college, graduate school, and academia, Jordan gave me 11 1000-page books taking place in his world. He promised he'd finish it all up with a twelth, and then he died. Humph.

However, Jordan prepared for this possibility by keeping copious notes and eventually his estate gave the project to another fantasy author, Brandon Sanderson, who promptly promised that there was no way all that plot could be fit into 1 book and that he would instead write 3 books to finish the series. Towers of Midnight is the second of the jointly authored trilogy, meaning there better actually be just one book left. The good news is all the threads seem to be weaving together and there very well may be an end to the story in sight.

Towers of Midnight moves along at a positively sprightly pace relative to some of the mid-to-late Jordan-written titles, although even so the beginning of the book felt a little padded. Many times character progressions are told to the reader rather than shown, and I have to think Jordan wouldn't have been quite so forthcoming -- it reads more like Jordan's notes than Jordan's writing sometime. However, my major reaction is a sigh of relief that this saga is finally wrapping up and Jordan's plans are being revealed. Sanderson is competent and that's all I need from this series right now.

In fact, there are a few scenes that are beyond competent and are some of my favorites of the series. For one, there's a place about two-thirds of the way through where three or four conflicts come to climactic fights all at once, and actually overlap and intersect. This is brilliant and one of the things that only a series of this complexity could do. There's another scene in which a magical artifact is used to look forward in time rather than backward, and it shows some very unhappy endings, with some of the most poignant and affecting writing in the series, even presented in a creative narrative fashion. Finally, there's a climactic scene that you know is coming through the whole book because it's on the cover (and it's been coming for about six books now, fer-petes-sake), and it is pretty much what I hoped for, with a very clever twist at the very end that everyone should have seen but no one did (kind of like LOST Season 6). Overall, as a fan but not a super-fan of the series, I'm glad it's continuing the way it is and am looking forward to more of this in book fourteen. Including the words "The End" at the end -- right?

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