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In Memory of Light is the final book in the Wheel of Time series began by Robert Jordan before his death and finished by Brandon Sanderson with help from Jordan's notes and his wife. This book ends the story of Rand, or the Dragon Reborn and his struggles against the Dark One, the first book came out in 1990, encompasses 14 books and over 11000 pages.
In memory of light is the final book in what for this reader has been over 20 years of reading the Wheel of Time series of novels. I first read the very first novel in 1991, it was the beginning of a long wait until the final conclusion and occasionally I thought of stopping and not reading further but something drove me on. The Wheel of Time books tells an increasingly complex story of a simple farmhand called Rand, he is born in the Two Rivers land and is believed to be the Dragon Reborn. The Dragon Reborn is the man who will face the Dark One at the Final Battle, where man's final prognosis will be delivered. Rand is tall, intelligent and can use the source; the source is a way of pulling on the pattern of the universe to cast magic spells. At the beginning of the books men have been banned from using the source as the Dark One as a final act before he was placed in an unbreakable prison tainted the male side of the source. Along the way of the many books we meet friends of Rand (Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve to name a few) and all would become major story lines of their own and enemies of Rand (the forsaken, Padarn Fain, Mydrrall, trollocs, dark wizards and witches) and some of these would have storylines through the novels.
Along the way we encounter tree-hugging giant builders, war obsessed tribesmen (Aiel), an entire nation of warriors (the Seanchan), the dreamworld, the world of wolves, the wolf dreams, magical talismans, a city controlled by women with the power (the Aes Sedai), and the voice of a man long dead who was the previous Dragon. As you can tell the complexity was at times bewildering and lead to weighty tombs, all the latter books come in at over 800 pages long. We walked with Rand, fought with Rand, Mat and Perrin, we loved with Rand, Mat and Perrin and saw the world through their and normally their friends eyes. In every huge book almost nothing happened except for one major event, and so it was towards the 9th or 10th book I almost gave up, the winter's heart the huge 9th novel in the series was the closest I ever came to stopping reading but I persevered.
After the 11th novel, Robert Jordan died and the last three novels were put together by Brandon Sanderson with contributions from Robert Jordan's wife and notes.
In Memory of light finally finishes the story, it is suitably immense in scale at over 900 pages and tells the last days of the struggles of Rand et al against the Dark One. In truth it's the best book of the latter novels, it is more of an endless battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil, we have endless pitched battles between the various nation's armies and the armies of trollocs, half men and evil sorcerers. There is a flow and a speed to the narrative which has been sorely lacking in the last 5-6 books and the action is rapid and unrelenting, this isn't the world of the endless debate and consideration, here we have fights, magic, death, misery and a final meeting between Rand and the Dark One.
The book also narrowes the action down to the core characters, gone are the endless minor Aes Sedai, Aiel, generals and commanders whose actions rather slowed the narrative in previous boks. Here we follow Rand, Mat, Perrin,Nynaeve, Egwene, Moraine, Lan and Elayne all characters we met within the first 5 chapters of the very first novel and here we finish with them. All of them contribute, all add to the story and all of them finish their life stories in ways which are satisfying and complete. This is a fantasy novel in the old school, lots of sword play, magician's battles and huge scary creatures clashing with men on horses wielding pikes and swords. At the end we find out what Rand did in his final battle with the Dark One and the conclusion of their battle is suitably complex, engaging and open to debate. As I said this is the best novel in the Wheel of Time series probably since the Lord of Chaos that was the 6th book in the series and was released in 1994, that's a long wait for a satisfying conclusion.
My only criticism is the treatment of Padarn Fain, Padarn is Rand's delightfully dark nemesis in the early books he is a twisted Pedlar who becomes one of the Dark One's leading corruptors of men, he's crooked, witty, devious and generally a fun read. In this novel, he appears for about 2 pages and is dismissed with barely a hello; indeed I don't think he has a line in the book. What a shame and a wasted opportunity, especially as the leader of the Dark One's armies is given to another less interesting character.
This book also has the longest chapter in literature, chapter 38 is ~200 pages long, a bit annoying as I'm sure I'm not the only one who tends to finish chapters before going to sleep at night.
So I've finished with the Wheel of Time, I have no desire to go back and read the previous 13 novels again, though maybe one day I will. I'm glad the books have finished but there was a slight moment of sadness because for all Brandon Sanderson's work we will never read Robert Jordan's take on how Rand faced the Dark One because of his untimely death.