First Wheel of Time Readthrough, Part Final

If you happened to stumble across this readthrough here, at the very end, and would like to start from the beginning, you can do so here.

At first, I considered writing separate articles for my read of “A Memory of Light” and an overall review of the series and my readthough, but as I started to gather my thoughts I had a tough time separating the two so I decided ‘screw it’ and just combined the two.  Forgive me if my train-of-thought rambling style jumps quickly between the two.  This will be the last article in my readthrough, and likely my last thoughts on WoT for a long while, barring something unexpected happening.  This seems like a series that deserves, if not demands, further readthroughs to catch all the missed details, but I don’t think I will have that in me any time soon.

Back in June, my excuses for putting off reading the epic (and oh so lengthy) series were finally put to rest when a friend from my Tabletop group dropped of this monstrous box of books:

I don’t consider myself a slow reader; not a speed reader by any sense of the word, but steady, at least.  I saw this as three or four months of steady reading.  It ended up taking almost seven.  There were, of course, some personal things that occurred from time to time to slow me, and some of the books dragged.  Overall, I just massively underestimated the length of these beasts.  They make the Game of Thrones series look like light reading.

A Memory of Light was lengthy as well, though it never felt it.  I forcibly took my time with it, because if I didn’t I felt I would have absorbed the book in one sitting and that would have left me feeling a little empty. Instead I pace myself through the battle scenes, stopped to try to consider how things were playing out, and trying to count on my fingers the villains and plot points still at large.  And boy, were there a lot of those right up until the very end.  It wasn’t until the final few pages that Padan Fain / Shaisam made his appearance on the battlefield, and Slayer of all people was one of the last villains standing.  But more on that later.

Typically, I start these articles off with a summary of the book, but this book was really just one giant climax written over 900 pages, so its a little harder to do that.  The book opens with the opening strokes of the Last Battle, Camelyn getting wrecked by the Trollocs.  Talmanes runs a suicide mission to rescue the Dragons, and despite taking a myrddraal wound manages to survive, bashing my expectations.  In the Black Tower, the good Asha’man plot to overthrow the bad.  They meet and plan, deciding on four battlefields, and conveniently they just so happen to have four great captains to lead them.

From then on out its a near-constant battle between the forces of the Light and the Shadow.  Outside the fighting, a last few plots are resolved: The Black Tower saves itself from the evil within it, Perrin goes traipsing through Dreamland to confront Slayer yet again (this time losing and barely escaping with his life), and at some point Rand returns to the Seanchan who had, somehow, stubbornly refused to join the forces of Light still despite it being halfway through the last book and the Last Battle already under way.  At least it gave a chance at a hilarious reunion scene between Mat and Rand where the two of them compare their heroic feats.

While everything starts out well enough (or as well as a desperate battle against the forces of Darkness can go) it all quickly spirals downhill when Graendal more or less single-handily undoes the forces of Light by using Compulsion of the great captains to cause them to undermine their own forces.  These plots aren’t discovered until it is almost too late, and most of their battlefields are lost.  A new battlefield is picked at the Fields of Merrilor, where things continue to go wrong.

Demandred comes in with the forces of Shara, becuase apparently that’s what he has been doing all this time.  Sigh…you know, I have an excuse for not getting that, the Sharans made no other appearance in the series, all the thirteen books of it, not even a minor character travelling about to give exposition.  All we know about them came from the Glossary and a few words from Noal.  So that’s my excuse.  I thought for certain he was impersonating a lord somewhere, since Graendal was sure he was gathering an army.  But why didn’t Graendal get it?  She managed to figure out the plots of each of the other Forsaken, even realizing Semirhage was among the Seanchan, a whole different continent, but she didn’t consider Shara?

Anyway, Demandred and his Sharans, which includes a metric shitton of channelers, make a right mess of things.  Added to the now Chosen Taim and his Dreadlords, the Black Ajah, and a few hundred thousand trollocs and things don’t look good for our heroes.  Eventually Mat gets control of the battle, cause of course he does, and through a series of gambles, luck, and strategy helps make the battle a bit more even.

The butcher’s bill rises high during this fight.  I knew going into this book that it would.  I actually expected the death of at least one of the ta’varen, and probably a large chunk of the supporting cast.  Well, the supporting cast certainly does get whittled down, first minor characters such as Gallenne, minor Aes Sedai, Two Rivers men, and so on.  Then we start to lose minor POV characters, Siuan and Bryne, Gawyn (who death was predictable but still sad), Birgette (who I knew was going to come back when the Horn was blown, though her death still surprised me). Eventually it is Egwene of all people who bites the bullet and sacrifices herself taking out Taim and a bulk of the Sharan channelers, which I believe makes her the only major POV character to die in the series.

Demandred starts to prove himself the Last Battle’s raid boss by tanking literally everything that comes at him, which included a surprising number of named characters.  First Gawyn, empowered by several Bloodknife rings.  Then Galad with a foxhead medallion.  Then Logain tries his hand at him.  Finally its Lan, wielding the same foxhead medallion, who manages to take Demandred down with a Sheathing the Sword.  This disorganizes the Shadow’s forces, and with Mat’s awesome battle leading skills (and the Horn of Valere) turns into a victory for the Light.

In Shayol Ghul, an even more desperate battle takes place to buy Rand time to fight the Dark One.  The forces of Light there have to try and hold off a near infinite wave of darkspawn, the Wild Hunt, evil red-veiled Aiel (some whom can channel), Graendal running about taking her pick of fighters and casters and using compulsion on them, Padan Fain and his evil mist, and a storm that threatens to wipe out all sides.  And of course Slayer trying to slip past it all in the dream and get to Rand that way. Perrin confronts Slayer a final time and defeats him, the Horn of Valere is blown again, and the heroes return, including wolves this time (I would very much like to know what a wolf has to do to qualify as a hero), and the ghost wolves confront the Wild Hunt.  Mat proves immune to evil mist and kills Fain.  Perrin gives Lanfear the world’s worst neck massage to prevent her from completing her Starscream-esque plan.

Inside the mountain, Rand finally confronts the Dark One.  After sword fighting with Moridin, playing “I can paint a better reality than you!” with the Dark One, and letting go of the burden of the fuckloads of deaths outside, his final plan is revealed: get Moridin to stupidly pick up Callandor so that the women could take control of him and give his access to the True Power to Rand.  Rand uses all three powers together to kick the Dark One’s nonexistent ass, decides that actually killing the Dark One would actually be worse (cause the real enemy was us all along! or something like that) and reforges his prison, thus ensuring this will never happen again until the next time.

Rand is dying when he leaves the mountain carrying Moridin, but he somehow manages to Freaky Friday him and they switch bodies, something only known to his three girlfriends, who can sense him through his bond.  He lets everyone think he is dead and rides off into the sunset to go live his life without destiny forcing him along one path. Close curtains.

Some Final Thoughts on MoL and the series overall:

So Mat was no longer bound to the Horn cause he died…like…back in Book Four?  So for the past few years when everything had been going to shit and the Shadow was everywhere, they could have bound that Horn to anyone and made use of it?  I suppose it all worked out in the end…if you don’t count the massive, massive number of casualties.

Rand’s Freaky Friday body switching with Moridin was … weird, and unexpected.  I guess this was what Min’s viewing had told him, that she saw two of him, and one of him had to die for the other to live.  And they had a weird connection.  They obviously wanted a happy ending for Rand, without the unhealable wounds, but I don’t think they ever established “Body Switching” as one of the Power’s abilities.  Speaking of the Power, Rand is unable to channel any of it in Moridin’s body, but he can light his pipe by thinking.  Kind of like how things work in the Dreamworld.  So…is he essentially a god now?

Speaking of Min’s prophecies, not all of them are resolved in particularly satisfying ways.  I had been waiting a long time to see how Alivia was going to “help Rand die”, but it turns out that meant she was just going to give him some money so he could disappear.  Kind of weak considering the build up, though I suppose there weren’t many other ways for it to resolve.

I hope Moghedien and Elaida are trained together as damane.  They can both talk big shit about how important they used to be.

Perhaps the most controversial thing I ever wrote during my readthroughs was my defense of Egwene after learning how much hate the character garnered.  I’m more surprised now at the hate of her after her sacrifice in this book.  I know a noble sacrifice doesn’t redeem every character, but I felt it was a pretty badass moment, her against Taim while trying to keep everything from falling apart due to the Shadow’s free use of balefire (something they used to be hesitant about, but I guess they had orders to spam that shit this time around).  She’s far from one of my favorite characters, but I like her, and I don’t get the hate.

I wonder how Rand’s harem will treat him now that he looks different.  I understand Moridin is also supposed to be handsome, so I guess he still has that.  Still, it has got to be weird getting romantic with a man who looks so different from the one you remember.  Those bonds will probably help.

Although he is no longer Handsome Rand

There’s a mention that the three protagonists are not ta’varen anymore, cause I guess the patterns done with them, but that doesn’t take away any of the skills they got on the way.  Mat is still a battlefield genius. Hopefully the Dragon’s Peace holds and he won’t have to use those skills for the Seanchan.  Although…now that I think of it, Seanchan itself is still fucked.  He’s probably going to have his hands filled using whats left of their forces to try and retake it.

Speaking of Seanchan, is anyone else disappointed we did not get to see the meeting between Hawkwing and Tuon?  I can only imagine Hawkwing shaking his head at the foolishness of what the Seanchan think being his descendants means.

Also regarding the Seanchan, I wonder if Min is going to stick around at Truthspeaker for a while.  She does the job well, as the one person allowed to talk shit to the Empress in public.  More likely she’s probably going to sneak away first chance she gets.

The world is saved, no thanks to you assholes, Shaido.  I hope somewhere in the Wastes, between making Galina your bitch and enjoying the desert heat, you looked up at the sky and the blocking of the sun, and at least one of you thought, “I think we might have fucked up a bit.”

Thom composing his epic while the battle still waged was pretty funny.  I wonder if there is a parallel there to writers working themselves to find the right words while writing the Last Battle.

The last members of the Black Ajah, including Alvarian, get off pretty easy, being captured by Ogier in a stedding.

Based on their physical traits, Galad and Berelain are going to have the most beautiful children.

Is Ituralde the only great captain to survive the series?  I guess it is unclear what happened to Agelmar, but he is not seen after the battle.

Mat’s use of the respawning villagers from Creepyville was both clever and hilarious.  I wonder if their village goes back to normal now that the Pattern has been saved.

Lanfear’s plot this whole time was to set things up to let the Shadow be nearly defeated and then save Dark One at the last moment.  And she would have gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for that meddling Perrin. Right until her last moment she was really, truly, insane.  I really wish we had seen more of her during the series.  She started off as one of the most important Forsaken, with a crazy infatuation with Lews Therin that could only be matched by her power.  After she got Doored by Moiraine, she dropped to the background until this last book.  Still a frightening woman.

Bela deserved to be one of the mounts of the heroes of the horn.  That mare had been through so much and had proven more heroic than most of the cast.

Damn Robert Jordan and his names that are spelled slightly different than real names.  I always have to look up if I am spelling someone right, even a character I have seen over and over again.

Some Final Thoughts on my Readthrough:

When I started this readthrough, I knew the series was somewhat divisive among fantasy fans.  It has its fans, its superfans, its detractors, and its … whatever you would call people who seem to actually take personal offense when someone likes something they don’t.  When I first starting posting my thoughts I received messages from those telling me I was wasting my time and those telling me to stick in there and get to the good parts.  The detractors mostly dropped off after the first couple books.

As I continued, I received more messages, some friendly, some…not so much.  But I don’t want to dwell on the ruder people.  The community has overall been so supportive; it’s truly humbling that any series can bring together people who love it so much they also eat up some random guy’s thoughts as he is reading through it.  I’ve had compliments that range from “Good review” to one commenter who claimed reading my readthrough was almost as enjoyable as reading the series itself, which is such a ridiculously absurd compliment that I don’t even know what to do with it.  I don’t mean this as a brag, but as a testament to this community and a fandom that really loves anything to do with the series they love.  I don’t think there is any other fan community I have been a part of that even compares.

To all of those who followed along, encouraged me, responded to my questions and theories while carefully avoiding spoilers, and debated with my opinions respectfully, thank you so much.  You are all awesome.

Overall, I am glad I finally read the series.  It was a fantastic experience. Sure, it had its ups and downs.  Some points dragged on, some things made me shake my head.  The series probably could have done with being a book or two shorter and more to the point.  But it was all worth it for the high points, and its conclusion was truly epic.  I have not read any other series with the shear scope of Jordan’s work.  The world he created is massive, filled with unique cultures and peoples, and a rich history, and the story he crafted encompassed it all.  His villains are memorable and frightening.  I’ve been reading for almost seven months and been looking forward to reaching the end, but now…I kind of feel sad that it is all over.

What good would a final readthrough summary be without a list of my favorites/worsts?  Here we go:

Favorite Main Character: Mat.  I really liked Perrin in the beginning, but I started liking him less post-Faile.  Both he and Mat had issues with the responsibilities places upon them by destiny, but whereas Mat handled his complaints with humor, Perrin just got kind of mopey.  Perrin regrow to one of my favorites in the last few books, where he became the dream world’s biggest badass, but by that point I was mancrushing on Mat pretty hard.  So Mat #1, Perrin #2.

Worst Main Character: Elayne.  Early on I really liked her, and her risktaking behavior was part of her charm.  But whereas other characters grew and developed over the course of the years, Elayne’s character was pretty stagnant.  She never learned that putting herself in direct danger was a bad idea, and many, many people suffered the consequences of her actions.

Favorite Forsaken: Demandred.  He hid what he was doing the entire time, even from his fellow Forsaken.  He was scary and competent, both as a tactician and as a fighter.  And he was a freaking tank.

Worst Forsaken: Be’lal.  He really didn’t get to do much.  He tried to fight Rand in swordfighting instead of with the power, was beating him, but then got balefired by Moiraine.  I’m not even sure what his endgame was. He seemed to be trying to get Callandor, but considering its weakness, if he has succeeded he would have just doomed himself anyway.

Favorite Part: The Cleansing of Saidin was pretty awesome.  The Last Battle far eclipses it in terms of epic scope, but watching that scrappy group of Aes Sedai and Asha’man trying to defend Rand from almost all the Forsaken as he cleaned the taint, that really felt like one of the series most heroic moments to me.

Worst Part: Rand in the Wastes, as anyone who has been following my read knows by now.  It started out well enough, with us getting a first hand look at the history of the Aiel.  Everything after that, though, was just a drawn out way of repeating, “The Wastes are hot.  And dry.  The Aiel’s cultures are different than ours.”

Favorite Aes Sedai: Verin.  In the last book, Pevara really shot up the list as well, and I never thought I would like a Red.  She got kind of a pass on being Red for being a part of the Black Ajah Hunters, who were pretty cool.  In the last book she was just a complete badass.  Beating two Asha’man while holding the shield on a third, and then she’s just like, “What do you think the Red Ajah does?”  Course she doesn’t quite surpass Verin, who played the mysterious Aes Sedai role just right without being annoying, and whose infiltration of the Black Ajah ranks just to study them is off the scales ballsy.

Worst Aes Sedai: Is there anyone who wouldn’t put Elaida here?

(Any other categories I either didn’t think of or didn’t have strong enough opinions to use)

To The Future

Thanks again for following along with my readthrough.  If you happen to enjoy my rambling style of blogging, consider subscribing to see the next things I decide to ramble about.  I don’t think my updates will be any more frequent than they have been during the readthrough, so you don’t have to worry about me filling up your inbox.  Just the occasional blather about tabletop roleplaying, or some video game, or some (probably fantasy) book.

Speaking of books…I’m not sure what to read now.  My Kindle is still just as busted as it was when I started, which leaves me in the unenviable position of having to buy physical copies of books when I want to read them, like some kind of caveman (okay, I actually prefer physical copies, but they tend to be more expensive, and I am frequently living hand-to-mouth).  So, unless the book fairy drops off another box of books, might not have much reading to do in the near future.

Oh, and for the…three.. of you who are curious, yes, work continues on Die By the Sword, the sequel to Lesser Evil.  As I said in a previous update, the book kind of ran away on me in terms of length, and I had to spend some time reworking the story I wanted to tell to be more compact, trying to figure out what to drop, what could be pushed to the next book, and what could be much shorter.  I expect I’ll have a draft done in the next few months, though, now that writing has resumed.

So that’s it.  Kind of wish I had something super conclusive to say, but I don’t.  This is not a great ending.  But it is an ending.

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