Although I finished A Memory of Light over a week ago, I’ve hesitated to write a review. Reaching the end of a good novel is not unlike leaving the dark of a movie theater for the light of day. Coming back into the real world can be a bit of a jolt. The jolt at the end of A Memory of Light for me came after a marathon reading session where I plowed through the end of the epic, watched heroes and villains alike die, and a final denouement. Twenty years after I first opened The Eye of the World and met Rand, Mat, and Perrin, I found myself closing A Memory of Light in a daze.
I started the fourteen volume series with The Eye of the World: Book One of ‘The Wheel of Time’ at 15 when Greg Stephenson, a friend with a penchant for finding the “next big thing,” recommended and loaned a copy to me. It didn’t take me long to fall into the story. It was a world alive and vibrant, a tale about boys not much older than myself, suddenly swept up on a dangerous adventure to save the world, travelling to lands exotic and distant, fighting foes they knew only from legend. What boy wouldn’t love that? They were on a hero’s quest, and I loved every page of it.
As the years passed and the series grew, so did the number of characters, plot lines, and intricacy. There have been high and low points, but with A Memory of Light Brandon Sanderson has with a careful and deft hand closed the tale in the world that Robert Jordan created with a novel that is both satisfying and bittersweet. Satisfying because the A Memory of Light really is, for me, one of the more enjoyable of the series. Bittersweet because with its close I must say goodbye to so many characters that I have watched grow and change.
But perhaps I wax too eulogistic. With so many story lines integrating, the action is busy, but the pace is exciting and moves with alacrity. Sanderson is at his best, painting a scene with the colors that Jordan has left for him that is vivid and gripping.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will admit that there were moments where characters died so suddenly and unexpectedly that I was left flipping pages to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken. Others survived that I had not expected, and yet others made choices that were both surprising and foreshadowed.
If you’ve not read the previous novels in The Wheel of Time, now is a great time to start. The ride is satisfying, even if the commitment does at times seem daunting. Robert Jordan died before finishing the series, leaving a legacy unfinished and a large reader base with an unfinished story. Brandon Sanderson has crafted a wonderful and fulfilling conclusion to the series that Jordan created, and millions of fans will be ever grateful. The fantasy genre is often dismissed as lesser fiction, but Jordan’s novels regularly made the New York Times bestseller lists due to its broad and mass appeal.
It’s a tribute to Sanderson that he was able to, using only the notes left by Jordan, finish The Wheel of Time with three novels each a hefty door-stopper with dozens and dozens of characters and plot lines to be tied together. Sanderson has proven himself a writer of the first class, and I look forward to seeing more from him in coming years. I’ve met Brandon twice, once at the release of his own The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) and more recently this last weekend at a signing of A Memory of Light at Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City. I arrived late, and by the time the line wound down, it was late. Sanderson remained genial, friendly, and accommodating. For a guy who just successfully finished one of the most anticipated novels in fantasy since George R.R. Martin‘s A Dance with Dragons (if not more so).