Spoiler Check: I have completed chapter 28 of Wheel of Time series, Book 13 – “Towers of Midnight”
The Wheel of Time has taken us on a pretty bumpy journey, hitting some real highs then dragging us through some thoroughly tedious lows. The weakest book by far was Crossroads of Twilight in which some existing plot threads were moved on a bit but nothing of note actually happened. Write a plot summary, I dare you, and prove me wrong!
Knife of Dreams was a vast improvement. The pace picked up, a number of well-worn plot arcs were thankfully brought to a conclusion and the Egwene in the Tower thread was an unexpected delight. My heart had sunk when she was captured by the Elaida-faithful, but her battle for the top Aes Sedai job from within the loyalist camp turned out to be gripping and enchanting at the same time.
Then Brandon Sanderson took over and topped it with The Gathering Storm, a Wheel of Time book to stand up there with the very best. An absolute stormer which maintained a cracking pace throughout and contained some very memorable scenes, not least a wonderfully well crafted continuation of the Egwene in the Tower thread.
I completed The Gathering Storm (on Audible) on the same day I finished George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (Kindle). I loved Martin’s book and will definitely read the rest of the series, but it was The Gathering Storm that produced the greater reaction from me. It was Towers of Midnight I really longed for next, not A Clash of Kings. It may be unfair to compare my enjoyment of a single book from Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series with a great book from a series I have become deeply engaged with over a period of years and twelve books. Possibly in time I will be just as hooked on Martin’s works as I have been on Robert Jordan’s, but I simply care more about the WoT characters and what happens to them. I appreciated AGoT as a serious, grown-up fantasy book with some true gravitas and richness of writing, and was truly gripped by it. Put it down to the regularity with which leading characters meet shocking deaths just after you have started to care about them, and the fact the series is still new to me, but I have yet to get as deeply immersed with ASoIaF as I have with WoT, for all the latter’s literary shortcomings.
And I am now about half way into Towers of Midnight which has been a bit of a disappointment so far. After TGS I had possibly kidded myself that Brandon Sanderson, with his fan’s eye perspective as well as obvious talent as an author, was perfectly placed to capitalise on the strengths of WoT and cut out the annoying aspects. But he has not maintained the exalted standards of TGS. It’s not that ToM is a poor book, but some bad habits are creeping in. Repetitive use of phrases – I’m sure Gawyn “froze” in response to some danger or other at least three times in the same chapter. Surely Sanderson can find a wider selection of verbs in his absolutely big vocabulary. Mat is becoming a tedious caricature, his eye forever alighting on pretty girls he feels he must deem as suitable for Talmanes or Thom or someone else because as a married man he must not let his fancies wander. Worst of all, since finally becoming the undisputed Amyrlin, Egwene has gone from admirable heroine to a bossy know-all of a cow. And as for Perrin and the absurd amount of time spent in that infuriating wolf-dream. Can’t he just do what Hopper tells him the first time instead of mooning interminably about his man-wolf balance problems?