Rand looked saddened. "Well, I suspected she might try to do that eventually." He took Nynaeve by the shoulder in an odd gesture. "Don't let them ruin you, Nynaeve. They'll try."
"Your passion is part of you," Rand said. "I tried to be like them, though I wouldn't have admitted it. Cold. Always in control. It nearly destroyed me. That is strength to some, but it is not the only type of strength. Perhaps you could learn to control yourself a little more, but I like you as you are. It makes you genuine. I would not see you become another 'perfect' Aes Sedai with a painted mask of a face and no care for the feelings and emotions of others."
Authors: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Synopsis: As a suddenly different Rand tries to prepare the world for Tarmon Gai'don, Perrin faces attack from Graendal and Whitecloaks and works to keep from losing himself to the wolf. Mat and Thom prepare to enter the Tower of Ghenjei, hoping to free Moiraine from the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. Egwene and Gawyn try to work out their relationship as Egwene seeks to find and defeat Mesaana. And while Nynaeve goes through rigorous testing for the Tower, Lan raises the Golden Crane and rides to the first wave of the Last Battle.
Notes: Thirteen books. Between 675-1000 pages each. Two hundred fifty-plus words per page.
One more volume to go.
Well, two, if you count the prequel. For now, I'm overwhelmed at having gotten this far. I had to stay up well past midnight both last night and the night before to finish by today, so I'm sleepy and a little numb. But I'm glad I've done the reading.
Sanderson's writing is a little mellower than Jordan's. It comes across more peaceful, even more hopeful, though I couldn't say how much of that has to do with the voice and how much with the fact that what Jordan built to the heights of conflict, Sanderson has been given the task of resolving. Be that as it may, I've enjoyed reading both authors. Jordan pulled off poignant moments much better. I'd actually say that some of the scenes in this book came off a touch cheesy. But Sanderson's even pacing and quietness come as an immense relief.
The moments of resolution help, too. I won't spoil things, but the last two books have carried long-held suspense threads to their conclusion, though still prepping the reader for the Last Battle. I'm actually a little afraid of the next book. It's going to be gory, and there are some plot points for which I wish I didn't have to wait months to find out what happens. For those of you who have waited years, well... wow.
For now, the young people are ruling the world (mild spoilers):
- Egwene al'Vere, 19, the Amyrlin Seat
- Fortuona Athaem Kore Paendrag, 16, Empress of the Seanchan
- Elayne Trakand, under 25, Queen of Andor
- Rand al'Thor, under 25, the Dragon Reborn, king of Illian and in charge of both Tear and Arad Doman
- Matrim Cauthon, under 25, Prince of the Ravens, leader of the Band of the Red Hand
- Perrin Aybara, under 25, steward of the Two Rivers, married to the second in line for the throne of Saldaea, proving himself a great general
- Galadedrid Damodred, under 30, Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks
- Nynaeve al'Meara Mandragoran, under 30, most powerful living Aes Sedai and wife to the uncrowned King of Malkier
This sort of thing rarely works outside of fantasy fiction, but practically defines the genre. It makes for a great story: the very young person generally has to face whole lives' worth of extraordinary challenges in a short amount of time, including contact with their own mortality, and prove themselves strong and sensible enough to handle great trials without becoming hell for the world. When most of us were teenagers, we couldn't handle the imposition of a curfew or a well-deserved punishment without becoming hell for the little world we knew. But it's nice to read and imagine what we might become.
It took me awhile to get into the book because I generally find Perrin and Mat less interesting than Rand, Egwene and Nynaeve. I did enjoy their journeys, however, and liked Perrin as much as I ever have. Mat was amusing, especially at the end.
As for Rand... I'll just say that it's good to have Rand back and better than ever. Those dark days were hard to read about.
Egwene continues to interest me, and I loved watching her work through things with Gawyn. His character progression fascinated me; I wound up liking him much more than I ever have.
Then there's Nynaeve, who I loved very early on, and who for a very long time seemed a bit stalled out in character development. Marrying Lan helped her out somewhat. But I took to loving her wholeheartedly again in this book. Maybe I just needed to hear what Rand said in the quote above. It's good to be reminded that there are kinds of strength that even we passionate types can aspire to.
Her belated testing for the shawl was one of my favorite parts of the book. I appreciated her conclusion at the end of it.
The last hundred pages of the book contained a great deal of creepiness and several cliffhangers. But then, it's the beginning of Tarmon Gai'don.
Afraid or not, I can hardly wait for the finale.
Recommendation: Well, yes.