Towers of Midnight

My biggest complaint regarding The Gathering Storm was that one did not get the feeling that one was any closer to Tarmon Gai'don than we were at the end of Knife of Dreams. It was evident even before the book was released that splitting A Memory of Light into three installment would affect the plot. Needless to say, I was expecting more of The Gathering Storm in terms of moving the story forward toward the Last Battle. True, the pace did pick up late in the book, yet I felt that the first 2/3 of the novel or so contained more filler than killer material. In my opinion, eleven previous WoT volumes were enough of a build-up, and I felt that The Gathering Storm should at least have allowed us to witness the beginning of Tarmon Gai'don. In light of that, I felt then -- as I do now -- that splitting A Memory of Light into two volumes would likely have allowed Team Jordan to knock the ball out of the park.

Which now brings us to Towers of Midnight, the middle of book of a novel turned into a trilogy. Would it raise the stakes and start to fulfill the series' immense potential? Although it suffers from the very same shortcomings as The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, though plagued by a sluggish beginning and a slow pace for a sizable chunk of the book, moves the plot forward like no other WoT installment to date. Which bodes well for the final volume, A Memory of Light.

As I mentioned in the update which sent Twitter and the SFF Blogosphere abuzz with so much crap, stylistically, Towers of Midnight is quite different from its predecessor. Brandon Sanderson explained that he didn't try to imitate Robert Jordan's style in The Gathering Storm. Instead he tried to adapt his own writing style to The Wheel of Time. Which, in the end, worked well for certain scenes and characters, and not so much in other instances.

On the other hand, Towers of Midnight is written in Brandon Sanderson's own narrative voice. Which, unfortunately, doesn't always work all that well. Hence, for better or worse, Towers of Midnight reads more like The Way of Kings or The Hero of Ages than The Gathering Storm. This change of narrative voice will not be a problem for many readers, but for some it will be off-putting. While it didn't affect my overall reading experience, I have to wonder why Team Jordan felt that such a change in style was warranted this late in the game.

As far as the structure of the novel goes, however, Towers of Midnight reads much like its predecessor. Too much, truth to tell. Once again, there are some cool and very important scenes we've been waiting for years to see them happen. But in order to get to the good stuff, one is once more required to sift through a lot of extraneous plotlines or scenes that don't always have that much of an impact or influence on the principal story arcs of the series. For example, a pointless conversation between Faile and a crook of a quartermaster lasts about as long as the resolution of the eagerly anticipated Mesaana storyline. Are you kidding me???

As was the case with The Gathering Storm, Sanderson needs to create a better momentum, for too often the culmination and resolution of storylines fail to live up to the build-up behind them. The build-up for certain scenes has been going on for two decades, after all. Essentially, this robs those important scenes of the impact they so deserve. Sanderson must also be careful with the more emotional scenes, another shortcoming that plagued a number of key scenes in The Gathering Storm. The Egwene/Gawyn storyline is a case in point. Though it's been hinted at forever, everything surrounding that plotline turns out to be a failure to launch, with absolutely no emotional impact. Having said that, I must admit that Sanderson did surprise me a few times in Towers of Midnight, so that's a good thing!

Too often, I felt that Sanderson has a tendency to take the easy way out, especially with Egwene's dealings with White Tower politics. Too often does everything falls right into place too easily, which seems contrived and stretches the limits of realism and credibility.

I've always felt that Brandon Sanderson can't quite manage shades of grey all that well. This is especially flagrant when the narrative turns to politicking, which has never been the author's strong suit.

So yes, the pace certainly is an issue during the first 2/3 of the novel. For the better part of that portion, Towers of Midnight is essentially Perrin's book as the narrative focuses on Perrin and Galad's plotlines. Though they have an important role to play in the Last Battle, too much airtime was devoted to them and the secondary storylines attached to them. On the other hand, the last third of the book moves at a crisp pace -- too fast for my taste at times -- and definitely shows signs of greatness. Which, in the end, results in a decidedly uneven book. Had Sanderson managed to maintain the quality and the momentum of the last 250-300 pages throughout, Towers of Midnight would have been as great as the first six WoT volumes. And that's saying something!

Interspersed through the book are scenes focusing on Rodel Ituralde's POV, which offer our first glimpses of the Last Battle as the invasion of the Borderlands begins. They offer a nice counterpoint to the more boring Perrin and co. sequences. The same thing goes for scenes involving Mat and Elayne.

As was the case with The Gathering Storm, the characterization is more than a little uneven. At times brilliant, it can also be clumsy in some instances. I felt that Sanderson had a better grasp on Rand this time around. He had no problem with Perrin and Galad, who are black-or-white kind of characters. Since many of the scenes Mat appears in in Towers of Midnight were written by Jordan prior to his death, it's hard to say how much of the narrative focusing on him was actually written by Brandon Sanderson. In any event, everyone should be happy to learn that Mat is not off the way he was in The Gathering Storm. Sanderson doesn't try so hard to be funny all the time, so Mat is no longer an issue for me. It may not be the original Mat, but it works for me. Egwene, on the other hand, can be an issue. I felt Sanderson got her right in the last volume, but in Towers of Midnight she goes from high school drama queen to a cool, manipulative leader, and you never know who you'll get. The same thing can be said of Elayne, who sometimes sounds more and more like Naynaeve, and not because she is pregnant.

Sadly, I feel that you can add Lan to the list of characters that Sanderson has trouble with. As I mentioned in my update a while back, my eyes actually watered when I discovered what Nynaeve had done to him in Knife of Dreams. This had been foreshadowed since The Eye of the World, after all. But now that the end game of that plotline is within reach, I'm not feeling it at all. . . Even by bringing back characters from New Spring, Lan seems to be played by a different actor. . .

Hence, the first 2/3 of Towers of Midnight, as was the case with its predecessor, can be a little underwhelming. And yet, buckle up, for the last third will keep you on the edge of your seat and begging for more!

Not surprisingly, the cover art gave away the fact that there would be a rescue attempt to somehow get Moiraine out of the Tower of Ghenjei. Though it felt a little too rushed for my taste, there is no denying that it should satisfy all WoT fans who have been waiting for years to witness this. But there is a lot more transpiring. The fate of the thrones of both Andor and Cairhien is revealed. Rand's final plan is also revealed, and factions for and against him are massing prior to his departure for Shayol Ghul. Revelations about the Black Tower, the remaining Forsaken, the Borderland monarchs, Aludra's plans, and the Shadowspan's schemes now that the Last Battle has begun are made. Add to that what is now one of my all-time WoT favorite scenes, second only to that of Rand in Rhuidean in The Shadow Rising, and which also occurs in Rhuidean. There can be no mistaking: You'll know the one I refer to as soon as you read it. If Brandon Sanderson wrote that one based on Jordan's notes, let me tell you that Robert Jordan couldn't have written it any better. As far as I'm concerned, it was pure awesome!

The last third of Towers of Midnight moves the plot forward like no other book in the series, and it ends the novel with a definite bang. The stage is set for an epic and rousing finale that should leave no one indifferent! Splitting A Memory of Light into two volumes would probably have resulted in an all killer, no filler installment. Unfortunately, three volumes mean that you are forced to wade through a lot of extraneous scenes and plotlines to get to the juicy stuff. It does break the rhythm of the novel, no question, but the ending is well worth it.

All in all, though it suffers from a number of shortcomings, Towers of Midnight should please every single WoT fan out there. Even the hard-to-please readers like me! Overall, the positive more than outweighs the negative. Indeed, the last 300 pages or so will make you forget the sluggishness of the first 2/3 of the book. Yes, the ending is that good!

Roll on A Memory of Light!

The final verdict: 8/10

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27 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

There's a ton of stuff I can barely agree with here. To start with, the glaring factual error that Faile's scene with the quartermaster is as long as Egwene's scene with Mesaana. That is very easily proved to be completely untrue.

The first two thirds are far from sluggish, IMO. The book certainly trots along at a fine pace compared to books 9 and 10.

And while I agree Egwene/Gawyn didn't work out, I'm surprised you failed to mention how well Faile-Perrin did work out. Sanderson did a bang up job there.

More to come later...


Anonymous said...

It would have been preferable if you spent at least a bit more time on the pros of the book. It doesn’t feel right that you give the book an 8/10 when you spend 2-3 pages writing about how horrible the book is, and then give us 2 paragraphs about the good stuff.

In general my experience of different sff books matches your own, your one of the reviewers who’s opinion I value. This review gave me the impression that the book is seriously broken, something in the vein of a 5/10, not anywhere near an 8/10. It really killed my enthusiasm.

Aaron said...

Great review! I take it that since you mentioned Asmodean's killer in your previous post and he you mysteriously ignored mentioning it now that we do, in fact, find out who killed him in this book?? Thanks!

Unknown said...

Not that I'm holding it against you or anything, but it's kind of funny that you basically attributed every good scene to Jordan and any bad scenes to Sanderson. How do you know what was already written versus what needed to be written from scratch?

Patrick said...

Aaron: You find out in the glossary...

Shadowane: Sanderson himself told us in our last interview with him.

Anonymous said...

I just finished Towers of Midnight and it's fantastic. I'd rank it right up there with Books 4-6. And it sets up so much amazing stuff for the final book.

Love your blog, Pat, but couldn't disagree more with your Sanderson reviews. Obviously the guy is not your cup of tea and nothing he does is going to please you. Which is fine. That's your opinion and you're certainly entitled to it. But I think WoT fans are going to absolutely love this book.

William said...

Isn't that what Pat said???

Brett said...

There's something about Mat's internal monologue that is very annoying in this book. Yes, Mat, women are troublesome, and you're a married man. Was Classic Mat that annoying? It feels almost like a stereotype of the character.

I'm not sure I agree that the pacing was off for the first 2/3 of the book, although it was definitely uneven. A lot of that probably had to with chronological issues - parts of the book were chronologically behind other parts.

Nynaeve was pretty cool (she had definitely improved in this book and TGS), and Egwene was fun to read (although I agree that her pay-offs seem to be coming too easily).

Arthur said...

Maybe its just that I've grown up as a reader, but I thought most of the stuff in the book in general was too easy. I didn't get the kind of tension I remember feeling when I was reading the older books, instead, it was replaced with a sense that things will fall into place because the Last Battle is coming. Elayne's narrow brush with death, Moiraine's lack of ability compensated by a powerful angreal, Mat out of the blue deciding to cut the wall open with his ashandarei, on the whole, just too easy, very different from the books before.

In Team Jordan's defense, though, I suppose they are trying to wrap this up, and don't want to get into complications. In that sense, it served its purpose, and I hope the really good stuff will come in the last book.

Anonymous said...

Dunno if it's Jordans or Sandersons doing - but its kinda funny that plotlines that has been evolving for more or less the whole series gets resolved in "will you marry me"/"yes I will". That, bugs me alot.


Anonymous said...

this review really seems overly negative given the final score...

one thing I'd like to mention from my reading experience is the Gaendal scene in the prologue. this coloured the entire Perin arc with a sense dread and forboding for me. in every one of those "pointless" (as you call them) scenes I was on the edge of my seat paranoid that the forsaken would spring her trap. te final resolution of that was a bit dissapointing given how paranoid i was over it, but it absolutely added TONS of tension to the arc.

Cassie said...

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed having questions answered that I had been wondering about. RJ's writing was original so I like that BS doesn't try to copy it. The one thing I like better about BS writing is he doesn't repeat stuff quite as often as RJ. The big thing I am HUGELY disappointed in regarding ToM is the editing. Did anyone else notice how many spelling and grammar errors there are in this one book? Not to mention that at least three times I found where they mixed names up. TOR seems to be getting lazy on their editing. I get they are trying to please fans by producing the book faster, but this fan would be more pleased if they'd done their job prior to releasing the book!

Crossman Family said...

If you want to discuss errors, here's a massively glaring one. Tam al'Thor appears to have the knack of being omnipresent.
Gathering Storm talks about the unhappy reunion of Rand and Tam al'Thor, yet near the beginning of Towers of Midnight there is the scene of Reconciliation, during the same time Tam is also giving Perrin council whilst Perrin is doing his wagon inspection and also training and recruiting troops for Perrin and taking care of the mercenaries, basically he is always with Perrin, yet later on we are told that Rand has sent his Father to recruit in the Two Rivers, yet the immediate chapter has Tam back with Perrin getting ready for the battle with the Whitecloacks... Somebody please shoot the editor and the so called fan of WOT known as Sanderson.

Anonymous said...

Crossman that is not an error.
The Perrin/Galad story line is actually about a month and a half before most of the scenes that happened in The Gathering Storm. Jordan had written the different plotlines non parallel time line for years.
In fact Tam actually tells Perrin that he has been summoned by Aes Sedai to meet with Rand shortly before Perrin sees Rand on top of Dragonmount (another scene from TGS) in the dreamworld.

Unknown said...

I think every charachter has more dimension since BS took over. I always found RJ's characterization of Rand, Perrin, and Mat to be wooden. The only problem is that I liked Mat's previous wooden character, oh well...

My biggest complaint as the series draws to a close is the brief and shallow culmination of so many drawn out story lines.

Perrin/Aram, Egwene/Gawyn, Moraine/Thom, etc...

The biggest and most egregious problem is the way asmodean's killer is exposed. So sad to see probably the most discussed mystery of the series show up in the freaking glossay...good god...

Anonymous said...

There were two different hints in the text of the book as to who Asmodean's killer was, pretty big hints in fact.

Granted, the glossary is the first place where it was outright stated.

Anonymous said...

I saw the grammar/character errors. At one point Mat followed Mat and Thom...that was annoying and I totally agree that Tor has relaxed too far on their editing. Tam being in 2 places at once was also annoying, advance Perrin to Rand's storyline before advancing Rand further, it's pretty simple, though it tends to make fans mad since "Rand wasn't even in the book til page 500 that is such BS, he's the main character" blah blah blah.

Things are supposed to fall into place easily since, ummmm, the pattern bends around the characters? Kind of makes sense that everything works out right. It would have been much more convenient to not even have Elayne in danger, instead she got stabbed, pretty sure that's not convenient lol.

On goodreads I originally had this as a 5/5 then made it a 4/5 because of the storyline problems(Tam's everywhere!) But everyone that has read Brandon's other work, he doesn't ever have that problem, he keeps the timeline nearly flawless, I'm not sure how Tam being everywhere happened.

Mat swears too much, more than normal I think, but he's MUCH more accurate than the TGS.

Biggest hint to Asmo's killer is the last part of Graendal is the biggest hint, leading to 3 forsaken deaths, 2 are mentioned right away so there's really only one unaccounted for and it's the only one nobody knew about.

Anonymous said...

I just finished TGS and started ToM this morning. I have been reading this series since I was 14, I am now 33. Matt was by far my favorite character under Jordan, but Matt under Sanderson is an utter travesty. I found myself ready to hurl the book across the room when Sanderson's Matt was speaking to Talamas prior to the incident in Hinderstrap. Matt would never say the things that Sanderson has him saying. Its such a shame that after devoting 20 years of my life to this series that my favorite character and storyline in the books ends up with a complete rewrite of his personality which utterly ruins the continuity and image I had of the character. The greatest field general in the WoT, the holder of the Horn, and the man who defeated the blade master crown princes of Andor with a quarterstaff while sick, has been reduced to an unfunny whiner who says things he would never have been written to say under Jordan. I can't wait to read about how he bitches to the Eelfin about woman since that is all Sanderson seems to think that he is capbable of. So sad and upsetting after all these years. Matt's parts deserved way more respect and gravity than Sanderson is capable of.

Anonymous said...

TGS went very well, I don't understand how Sulin was in Rands camp in B.E. and Perrins in both books, but other than that I liked the flow.

TOM was a bit more sluggish at parts, I liked Egwene's role in both books, I feel she has been consistent in both, just now she is more a confident leader without so many of the constraints.

To me Tam was not in 2 places at once it is more the sequencing, Rand and Perrins Time-lines never do meet up in TOM or TGS, neither do Elayne and Rands, the timing depends on who the POV character of that chapter.

This review is very "Goldilocks" to me,nothing seems to be just right for this guy. I dont want to give away anything but I do feel this was overly negative for a positive overall rating. Sanderson is not as descriptive as Jordan was, but he maintains the momentum that Jordan had and keeps your head in his book until your done.

Anonymous said...

(spoiler warning) I have a question. About Tam. I understand that the Perrin isn't in line with the Rand storyline but what i am confused about is when Tam says he has been summoned by an Aes Sedai (to go help Rand from GS) but isn't the dreamspike preventing traveling? So either the Aes Sedai Travel outside of the dome to get Tam or something ... else. By that i mean that it was suggested that a dreamspike can allow some traveling weaves. Which would mean something big. Or am i just wrong in my analysis?


Anonymous said...

Mat's letter to Elayne is classic.

Anonymous said...

Sanderson's Mat sucks. Rand got way more BA. I guess thats the trade. Though I hate it for Mat, he was my favorite character.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing about this, is that if Perrin's time-line is that extremely far behind Rand's that Tam is with Perrin, then Graendal isn't really a threat to Perrin until how much later than what we are reading? Kind of screws up the anticipation of Perrin being in any immediate danger. It also means he will win the Whitecloak battle if there indeed is one (haven't read that far yet).

Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with you on a lot of points here.

What bugs me most about TOM is a)happy couples all around (Berelain and Galad feels like the most forced case of lovebirdiness ever, and I just cannot bring myself to believe in Moiraine having a crush on Thom, sorry), and b) Elayne. Girl bugs me big time, and her screentime feels like the single most waste of time in this book.

I mean, there is the rescue mission that I thought would take up at least half of the novel. There is Aviendah meeting mystery-Aiel-woman and having these awesome visions, but all she gets is like five minutes in a LOTR extended edition re-watch marathon. The pacing of these scenes felt entirely off to me.

But, having Perrin back, as in: I kinda like him again, that is one big plus in my book. And suddenly finding myself sympathizing with Galad doesn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

I just finished the book and enjoyed it as it was an improvement which helps molify some of my distaste for Books 9 & 10. I cannot however for the life of me understand the motive for Verin to leave such vital information in the hands of Mat in the form of a letter which he kept refusing to read? How on earth could she not have told Egwene of her suspicions or have that information in the notes that she gave her? The whole episode of discovering what was finally
inside the note. and then to coincidently have the event occuring at the same time felt contrived and a poor excuse to provide a quick dramatic turn. Quite frankley, the whole Verin-Mat letter storyline now seens hackneyed and cheap.

Sackville Baggins said...

Just finished reading ToM. Whilst some scenes are weak or needlessly diversionary (we could say that of previous installments also), I wasn't overly frustrated.

The Tam issue was very annoying for me - he's here, he's there, he's everywhere! Other characters, such as Lan and Egwene, become less likable - or recognisable - as the story progresses, and some of the language used feels decidedly un-Jordan-esque (words like 'yeah' or terms like 'for sure').

However, I was happy to put up with the inconsistencies and character weaknesses because, at the end of the day (almost the end of an era), this is the penultimate book in a series I have been reading for almost twenty years. I savored every word. There are typos aplenty, and of course the editors could have shaped it better, but the next book is the last book and that is it, no more WoT. Ever.

ToM was a pleasure to read, and the climax is breathtaking. If I had had a sword nearby, I would surely have hit something with it. Lan is sadly not the Lan of old, but he still knows how to kick ass!

WastelandRider said...

I am glad for this consensus on the while Mat problem. It's hard to find good intelligent critique of Sanderson's WoT books on the net.

Our Mat's gone. It's so sad. I haven't always been such a fan of Mat, until the Band, but since, he's been the best character of all time.
But now, Sanderson's Urkelized him. Sardonic dryness has lost out to wet buffoonery.
And noone seems to mention how Thom's been screwed up, calling everyone lad all the time and getting all self-pitying and such. The man is a force of nature. He's an older wiser Mat, not some geezer.
And by the LIGHT, WTF has B. S. done with Aviendha??
I can't even begin to say.

Rand and Perrin (somewhat) are better, though. And everyone is passable. That kinda helps.

Despite all these glaring character problems, though, It also helps that it's almost as if BS is kinda throwing it all on the table and keeping it to at least a manageable pace.

It's obvious that if this was all in RJ's hands, this series would most likely have gotten to 20 volumes. Which wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

I love this series. Thank you for talking about it, Pat.