A Memory of Light is quite a good read and leaves me reasonably satisfied at the conclusion of an epic 14-book fantasy series that I have been reading for nearly 20 years.
I know that “quite a good read” and “reasonably satisfied” sound like damning with faint praise, so let me clarify that I think Brandon Sanderson has done an amazing job with his contributions to the Wheel of Time series – it was a huge ask to pull that entire thing together even in 3 books and he’s done a super job for the fans.
Robert Jordan created an awe-inspiring world in writing Wheel of Time, and he also left a massive amount of plot lines to be resolved in the final books. Added to that he even wrote the entire epilogue of A Memory of Light ~7 years ago.
With these restrictions and limitations for Sanderson to deal with, it’s astonishing how well he did with the last three books.
Even if Jordan could have finished it himself, with such a huge and complex series many readers did expect unanswered questions and I accepted that before reading. So why the faint praise? Here are some things that I take issue with in A Memory of Light.
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I thought that Mat would have more surprises to bring to bear in the battle, particularly towards the end – I was hoping for yet another trick up the sleeve that didn’t turn up. Mat didn’t seem to have quite the same level of strategy and battle knowledge he showed in other books – although, quite annoyingly, his fellow characters seemed to mention his tactical brilliance with every second breath.
I wasn’t mad about the Compulsion used on the great generals – surely they would be protected given that Tel’aran’rhiod is busier than a train station these days, and that we know about dream protection since Moiraine mentioned it all the way back when we started in book #1.
It sounds like they had a lot of folks calling in sick when it actually came to Tarmon Gai’don. Where were the 2000-4000 Aiel channellers, the 1000+ Aes Sedai, the 1000+ Kin, and the thousands of Wind Finders? I expected massive circles of channellers wielding sa’angreal capable of killing the anticipated millions of Trollocs. Two hundred or more Black Ajah and a thousand Asha’man, many turned.
The impression I got was of 20-30 Aes Sedai facing the enemy alongside Egwene. The location of thousands, if not tens of thousands of channellers is not something that we should be wondering about. What about the Green – the “Battle Ajah”? They escape mention at the Fields of Merrilor – were they off drinking tea and discussing braid tugging techniques because someone forgot to invite them to the Last Battle? I don’t think so.
We had loads of awesome uses of the power in Dumai’s Wells – dome, exploding ground, headsplosions, etc – and at the manor house – death gates and all that. Where were these in the Last Battle?
We know that only a ‘remnant of a remnant’ of the Aiel will survive, surely that means that several hundred thousand of them die in the Last Battle. Yet we get the impression of hundreds, perhaps in the low thousands, of Aiel moving around and fighting during the battle. Do they even get orders from Mat? I don’t think so – please correct me if I’m missing something.
Aside: I didn’t like how the Aviendha’s visions of the Aiel future seemed to be just written off. It felt like an editorial decision where either resolving this storyline would take too many pages -and requiring another book – or simply that the writing team felt that the deus ex machina resolution would satisfy readers.
Logain, Morgase and Padan Fain were massively built up in early books as important characters with important roles. Logain was utterly disappointing to the point of arguably proving Min’s visions incorrect – which they should never be. The Morgase and Fain cameos were slightly better in that the didn’t deserve more than a couple of lines. Many other cameo appearances felt like just that – name drops rather than real important roles.
Surely we could have got some preview of Shara’s importance and role, rather than simply dropping them in for what seems like plot convenience. Jain Farstrider or Forsaken scenes could have given some more hints in earlier books.
Speaking of plot convenience, the “plot armor” was particularly strong for major characters in the Last Battle – far more of them should have died. For the sake of anyone reading this accidentally, I won’t mention names, but I felt they got off particularly lightly. And as for poor Bela – cruel, guys, cruel!
We now know how Rand survives, taking over another body. This was a decision made by Jordan years ago but despite the hints that the two were connected, it does seem just a little bit too easy.
I agree with those who compare it to a Gemmell-style rushed ending – the battle is still going and you’re wondering how the book could possible end in a couple more pages. I think Jordan’s prescribed epilogue is a strong factor in this – if Sanderson had some leeway to add to the epilogue I think that would have significantly helped.
A note on the ebook: publication of the ebook version of A Memory of Light was deliberately delayed 4 months by Robert Jordan’s wife, Harriet because she was concerned that the hardcover may not reach the top of the bestseller lists if purchases were divided between e-book and hardcover. She felt that this would harm her husband’s legacy.
I think that’s a bloody stupid decision.
In attempting to protect the legacy, this decision has actually harmed Jordan’s legacy by preventing many loyal fans from getting a copy of the book in the format they want. What’s happened now is that hundreds of readers have protested the decision by giving the book 1-star Amazon reviews – there are currently over 300 1-star reviews on Amazon.com. Some may argue that it is wrong to post a 1-star review on the book because the review is not for the correct version (you cannot review the ebook as it hasn’t been released) or that a review is not the correct way to express anger and disappointment with the publishers (and Harriet), and that the complainants should write strongly worded letters to the publisher instead.
My view on this is that the decision was taken to arbitrarily delay publishing the ebook in order to manipulate sales figures of the hardcover, and therefore having people express anger with this decision through online reviews is absolutely fair game. Those reviews will send the publishers a clear message about introducing arbitrary delays in the future.
Overall, I felt A Memory of Light was pretty good. It didn’t ruin the series, which is a real danger with final books, but it could have been significantly better too. There are points I’ve noted above that seem like lack of attention to detail, which was always one of Jordan’s strongest points. I’d have to conclude that they were missed by the writing & review team, or worse, noted and ignored.
Those details are important in any story, but in this more than most given Jordan’s incredible attention to detail and encyclopaedic knowledge and information management. The mistakes remind me of the 2012 movie Prometheus which had massive potential, but was very much let down by plot holes and inconsistencies.
But in reviewing this book, I need to also look at where it came from, that it is the conclusion of an epic 14 book, 4 million word story, and that the author had 3rd party limitations and deadlines for an already difficult task. That gives it serious positive points in my count, enough to outweigh many of the negatives I’ve outlined above. In conclusion, I give A Memory of Light between a 6/10 or a 7/10 overall – the ebook fiasco tilts me clearly toward the 6.
For some other reviews and further discussions about some of the issues I mentioned above see: