Towers of Midnight is the thirteenth and penultimate novel in Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time fantasy series. It is the second volume that has been released since Jordan's untimely death with the assistance of (noted doorstop-writer in his own right) Brandon Sanderson. For more on my thoughts on this "collaboration," see my review of the previous volume, The Gathering Storm. After reading Towers of Midnight, I am a little concerned about whether all of the delicate, intersecting plotlines and niggling questions will be wrapped up to everyone's satisfaction, but maybe that isn't necessary. At this point, having spent twenty years with the series, the idea that it might actually soon be complete (expected publishing date for A Memory of Light is spring 2012) is bizarre. The idea that it might be neatly wrapped up is almost unthinkable. Jordan and Sanderson spend this volume getting us prepared for the Last Battle between the forces of good and evil (also true of The Gathering Storm and probably several books before it). I could spend several paragraphs trying to summarize the plot and introduce the characters, but I won't bother, so what follows will probably be unintelligible to people who haven't read at least some of the books in the series. If that's you, just scroll down for the rant portion of this review.
In this volume, we spent much less time with Rand, a relief since his transformation into messiah is almost complete and that makes him not so interesting. Unfortunately, the price was spending many, many pages with Perrin instead. It's not that I dislike Perrin, exactly, but he's always been one of my lesser favorites among the main characters, and I don't really care as much as I apparently should about his struggle to balance wolf and man and accept his new status as a leader of men. Mat, once again, was relegated primarily to a comic relief role, until the very end when he and Thom went in to the Tower of Ghenjei to rescue Moiraine. For an event featured on the cover, the buildup took almost the entire book, and the rescue itself seemed a bit shortchanged as a result. There were some nice moments with Egwene, a few with Elayne and Nynaeve, and Lan's journey across the Borderlands, unwillingly gathering an army as he goes, was good for a few laughs. Aviendha learned about the depressing future of the Aiel. Stuff happened. Some things, like the near-universal misapprehension that Morgase was dead, were even resolved! I am glad to have Moiraine back as a character after an eight-book absence. After learning of Rand's plan to break the the remaining seals on the Dark One's prison, all of the major players and most of the world's armies are assembled by the end of the novel, and everything is ready to go for the last book.
The most notable thing that happened around this book was an interaction I had when I was standing in line at a comic book store. Two guys in front of me were talking loudly about the book and saying "I can't believe Perrin--" At this point, I put my hands over my ears and said a quiet LALALALA to myself until they were done, when the guy closest to me turned to ask me why I was acting as if spoilers for Towers of Midnight might bother me. His tone and line of questioning implied that it was difficult for him to believe that I had read any of the books, much less the most recent one. I assume this was because I am female. When I indicated that yes, I had read them all, and also ascertained that I'd read more Sanderson books than he had, he switched to asking me if I could convince his wife to read Jordan. MAJOR EYEROLL. So let me just say it on this blog, in case someone like this guy is googling someday: Women also read epic fantasy. Some of them have even read more of it than you have. Please let your wife read whatever she wants to read.
One other thing that bothered me was the way Mat's character was constantly sizing up women's breasts and other attributes. Yes, Mat has been known a player, and I guess this might have been to counterbalance the seriousness of his injury at the end of the book, but did he really need to evaluate every woman he encountered? The relationships between men and women and the characterization of women in particular has always bothered me in Jordan's books, and this issue didn't really help that.
All right, bring on the last book. I'm ready.
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Dead Mother: Yes, I suppose