So, I did it. I bought it the day it came out and read it straight through. 840 pages in one evening.
For those who don't know what this is, it's the 13th book in the Wheel of Time series, a series which has continued past the death of the author. It's epic fantasy, where epic is sometimes astonishing events and sometimes it's incredibly detailed descriptions, which the reader is supposed to use as clues to what the hell is going on and who the various bad guys are masquerading as.
It's the penultimate book in the series (which, btw, is an odd word - why a special word for the NEXT to last thing in a series?), which started in 1990. I remember buying the first book, though I don't know if it was in 1990 or a little later, and reading it and thinking - well, this is pretty good, though not great.
I kept reading and they got better and better, until they stopped getting better, and then got a little worse and took longer to come out and had so many characters that important, central characters would get TOTALLY DROPPED FOR A BOOK, which isn't so bad if you re-read them, but when the books were taking 2 and 3 years to come out and major arcs were resolved over 3 and 4 books, it was kind of annoying.
Anyway. They are, quite literally, the only books I ever buy in hardcover and I have 'em all.
So, this is what I thought of Towers of Midnight.
I liked it. A lot. Much goodness, many laugh-out-loud moments, several "wow" moments, plotlines wrapped up, everything moving towards the final battle... I am very comfortable with how the series is set up to end, without feeling like I know exactly what is going to happen (other than the good guys winning... for some definition of "win")
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ToM is mainly about Mat and Perrin doing their final thing in preparation for the Last Battle - Mat confronting the snakes/foxes, the prophecy about him losing half the light of the world to save the world coming through, the gholam plotline being resolved, finding out what the ashanderii is for and, of course, the return of Moiraine. Oh, and cannons. And Verin's letter, but in a way that makes you wonder what the hell Verin was thinking - she could have just asked Mat to read the damn thing, and not try to force him into doing what it said.
For Perrin, it's about coming to grips with his wolfishness, resolving the whitecloaks, Berelain, being a leader, becoming a recognized lord and how to be a blacksmith. he also figures out how to deal with slayer and has a moment of total awesomeness in the world of dreams with egwene.
TGS was mainly about Rand and Egwene coming into their own and so they take a bit of a back seat here... but I have to say, Sanderson did a great job with both of them in their limited roles. Rand coming into his own as the Lord of the Morning is an awesome sight and, finally, spent an entire book NOT wanting the reader to tear his hair out in frustration - everything about him was literally awe-inspiring, from the apples to casually walking into Tar Valon and walking out again, to his reunion with his father, to being able to literally see a darkfriend by looking them in the eye to forcing another darkfriend to rip out his own eyes from his light to.. well, everything. he was exactly what you would want a leader to be, especially one who screwed up as often as he did and nearly brought the world to it's knees.
And Egwene - I think some people found her annoying... but she bagged a forsaken, who doesnt' look to be coming back.
Structurally, it's a little odd, since Perrin starts the novel some time in the past (ie, the events at the end of TGS take place near the middle of ToM for Perrin - if you don't realize what's going on, it's kind of disorienting)
And there are some things that are annoying. Verin pretty badly mis-read Mat, I'm not honestly sure that Elayne has really grown very much - I mean, becoming a queen is one thing, but she's kind of stupid about her personal safety... again., and the whole "Elayne takes over Cairhien" thing seemed very contrived.
Very awesome moments:
Rand showing up at Tar Valon and Byrne describing him as "looking like an Aes Sedai" to Suain. Then, later, he tells Cadsuane "You can call me Rand Sedai, since I'm the only properly raised male Aes Sedai not turned to the shadow"
Mat going to meet with Elayne.
Mat meeting up with Perrin.
The wolves dancing on Dragonmount in the wolf dream because the last hunt is coming - as opposed to the nothingness....
Nynaeve basically telling the Aes Sedai to stick it after her testing.
Lan's slowly building army.
Rand's reunion with his Dad and introduction of Min.
Rand telling various people that he's going to meet with all the leaders, then go break the remaining seals to the dark one's prison.
Rand pulling Bandar Eban back together, with just the force of good ta'vereness
Galad and Berelain. Just funny.
Graendal being confirmed as Asmodean's killer, once and for all. In the GLOSSARY.
Perrin schooling Egwene on Tel'aran'rhiod. Priceless.
The entire perrin/slayer battle taking place along side the BA attack along side Egwene taking on Mesaana along side Gawyn killing 3 unkillable assassins.
Worst moment (not in terms of writing, but in terms of emotional impact)
Aviendha's journery in Rhuidean. Terrifying stuff.
Badly done things:
Verin's letter to Mat. Anti-climactic and, really, not terribly believable. Unless it had to be that way for an unknown reason, i suppose. But in a series which has 3 characters bend chance to make things work out well (which is a great way to reduce the need for deus ex machina... since they do it all the time), it seems poorly done.
Much of Elayne's stuff.
Really, though, a fine book. Don't wanna wait a year for the last one...