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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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The Forsaken are a group of power hungry people who don't like one another and vie with one another for power as much as they vie with the forces of the Light. Much like the internal politicking in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But look at the situation in the world as it actually stands, from the White Tower divided to crop failures caused by a too-long winter and a too-long summer and people fleeing their farms because the Dragon Reborn has broken all bonds, meaning still less food, and that spoiling at a fearsome rate, from chaos in Arad Doman to a large part of the Borderland armies out of position, from the arrival of the Seanchan focusing too many eyes on them instead of the Shadow to the strongest single nation, Andor, riven by civil war in all but name and Tear split by open warfare, from.... Well, take your pick. There are lots more to chose from. Take a step back and look at what the forces of the Shadow have wrought. The world and the forces of the Light are in bad shape. At this point, boys and girls, the Shadow is winning. There are glimmers of hope, but only glimmers, and they MUST pay off for the Light to win. All the Shadow needs for victory is for matters to keep on as they have been going thus far and one or two of those glimmers to fade or be extinguished. The forces of the Light are on the ropes, and they don't even know everything the Dark One has up his sleeve.
Think of it this way. The bell is about to ring for the fifteenth round, and the Light is so far behind on points the only way to win is a knockout. Our boy is game, but he's wobbly on his legs and bleeding from cuts over his eyes. Now he has three minutes to pull out his best stuff and deliver the punch of his life. The Dark One has taken a few shots, but nothing that has really damaged him. He's still dancing on his toes and talking trash. His head shots can fracture a skull, and his body punches can break ribs. And now he's ready to unveil his surprises. You didn't think all it would take is for Rand to show up at the Last Battle, did you? According to the Prophecies, the Light has no chance without him, but his presence doesn't ensure victory, just that the Light has a chance. Gotta stiffen your legs and blink the blood out of your eyes. Gotta suck it up and find that punch. Three minutes to go, and you gotta find that knockout. That's your only chance.
RAFO, but I will tell you something about the Horn. People always ask why the inscription on the Horn is in the Old Tongue, if it's so old. It was added in the Age of Legends.
It should also be noted that, when a panel moderator asked the audience if we wanted to see the Heroes of the Horn come back before the end, Maria raised her hand high.
However, the glossary entry in Towers of Midnight for the Aelfinn states that there are consequences in such circumstances, so either that is wrong or there is a possible contradiction.
Towers of Midnight
Aelfinn: A race of beings, largely human in appearance but with snakelike characteristics, who will give true answers to three questions. Whatever the question, their answers are always correct, if frequently given in forms that are not clear, but questions concerning the Shadow can be extremely dangerous. Their true location is unknown, but they can be visited by passing through a ter'angreal, once a possession of Mayene but in recent years held in the Stone of Tear. They can also be reached by entering the Tower of Ghenjei. They speak the Old Tongue, mention treaties and agreements, and ask if those entering carry iron, instruments of music, or devices that can make fire. See also Eelfinn, Snakes and Foxes.
Another thing I will add in my report later.
I might have mentioned something to Brandon that I would be very upset if Nynaeve died.
The ending itself was already written by Robert Jordan, and it is a fantastic ending. The notes that Robert Jordan left include a quite extensive list of what happens to each major character, and I'm writing their fates according to his wishes.
It will definitely be hard to know that when the final book comes out, we won't be seeing any more of these characters who we have come to love since the first book came out. But it would have been much harder if we never got to see the end that Robert Jordan had planned. I'm honored to have had the chance to get inside the characters' heads for a couple of years, though it's still a bit sad for me that I don't get to read a new Wheel of Time book at the same time everyone else does.
Brandon tried to get moments for every character in A Memory of Light. Egwene is ready to be bad ass in the Last Battle; her character development is done.
Perth Exclusive for #WoT counted scenes by viewpoint. Rand has the most viewpoints in A Memory of Light, not a huge margin. Others tied.
Caveat, still revising A Memory of Light, so that can change.
It's not much but Brandon S just told me that Lan has the most POVs in A Memory of Light, only just ahead of Rand. But that could change with editing.
I thought he said Rand ahead of the other main characters?
That doesn't even make sense. :s Sure, Lan is vital, but it's hard to see how the story could focus on him that much.
Confirmed it was Rand with the highest number of POV scenes in A Memory of Light (at the moment).
Ask him if there is a Waygate anywhere near Lugard. We suspect that Ogier-built Shaemal was somewhere in Murandy.
Why does it matter where Shaemal is?
It only matters because of the possibility of a Waygate in Murandy, which is why I phrased the question the way I did.
It has to do with the theory that Roedran is Demandred. ;)
Okay, I'll ask that one next time!
Answer re Lugard Waygate: "*chuckles* That's clever! Anything I say will give away too much, so I'll have to RAFO that one."
As far as I recall, yes. But I'm not a hundred per cent sure.
No notable expression changes. Can someone check that map on Deviant Art?
Will there be fighting in the Waste? That is, Shadowspawn?
For Shaido = remnant of a remnant. I think he knew EXACTLY what I was not asking.
The last battle strategy and body count were in RJ's notes, the specifics not. So he did specify who'd die but not how. Help was gotten from Bernard Cornwell. (woohoo!)
RJ set up the whole layout of the battle, who would be where and who would not make it out but he kept insisting that he'd write the Last Battle on the fly, so to speak. Apparently Bernard Cornwell lives kind of close to their place so one day Harriet asked him over for coffee and he had a few good pointers for the battle (which I personally think is great because his battle-style has a very similar immediacy in scale as RJ displayed in Dumai's Wells and while I also think that BS writes good battles, he's better at the one-on-one type things and not so good with the massive event that the Last Battle would be).
The scene depicts Min, Aviendha, and Elayne gathered on a battlefield around what is presumably a funeral pyre for Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn. What we recognize as a yin/yang appears in the clouds, possibly signifying a unity that has evaded male and female channelers for over 3000 years.
We are very excited to reveal the cover to A Memory of Light, the final volume of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. The artwork for this final edition is by, arguably, one of today’s most beloved illustrators, Michael Whelan.
The task of jumping into a 14 volume series on its last installment must have been a daunting one but Michael rose to the occasion. Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s editor and widow remarked, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years” when she saw the image. And while the artwork clearly has all the earmarks of a Whelan painting, its theme and coloration make it a fitting heir to Darrell K. Sweet’s series of Wheel of Time covers.
In keeping with the series’ covers, the scene gathers elements from a key scene in the book. Here, Rand stands with Callandor on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, heading down into its depths to confront the Dark One even as the sun itself vanishes from the world. Two Aes Sedai follow the Dragon Reborn into the mouth of darkness, two women who have been with Rand since the very beginning.
Not sure why there's still confusion. It's Nynaeve and Moiraine on the back cover. The yellow and blue dresses should make that apparent. Nynaeve's hair is obviously shorter than it used to be.
I spoke to Michael about the cover as he was finishing it. Since he didn't have the opportunity to read all fourteen books for the assignment, I was one of the people he leaned on to fact check his work.
Michael mentioned there are details the readers (like me) wouldn't be privy to yet. For example, Nynaeve takes the bulk of her jewelry off before this scene.
Callandor is a sword that isn't a sword, right? He's not holding it for defense. It's a source of power as well as his source of light (there's a clue about that in the lighting on his face). He's shielding his eyes as he stares in to the pit. Apparently, the deeper he goes into Shayol Ghul, the brighter it shines.
A little background that some might not know... Michael has studied martial arts, including Filipino Kali and Arnis. The forearm slash position actually has some utility in fights with bladed weapons.
Compositionally, the line of the sword is another element that draws you into the intensity of Rand's stare. Further, the opening of the cave is the shape of an eye; the eclipse suggests an iris. It's as if the gaze of the Dark One is falling on Rand. We see his strength and determination in response. How many illustrators can convey that kind of depth in a scene?
Say what you will, but I think Michael brought a lot to the plate on what was a very difficult cover assignment. He put his stamp on Rand while producing a cover that fits well with the first thirteen that DKS painted.
Thanks for confirming that. However, Nynaeve's hair is still the wrong color and, while it's shorter after the Aes Sedai testing in Towers of Midnight, it should still be in a shoulder-length braid. She never gave up her signature braid. That's why many people don't think it looks like Nynaeve—the braid is the main thing that would identify her as Nynaeve to the readers.
The loose light hair makes the woman on the cover look more like Alivia, who many fans believe is the woman in yellow. So I'm still of the opinion that Whelan did not do a good job with Nynaeve if longtime fans don't even recognize her. I think it's a beautiful cover, but as a reader, the main thing I care about is seeing the characters—who we have been reading about for twenty years—done right, not so much whether the cave looks realistic or happens to symbolize the Dark One spying on Rand. So it's disappointing that Nynaeve ended up virtually unrecognizable. She doesn't even wear yellow dresses in the books, despite being Yellow Ajah (she makes a point of wearing green or blue since that's what Lan likes), so that's not something that makes the woman's identity apparent either.
If you don't mind me asking (not trying to be rude here, it just strikes me as a bit strange), why did Whelan rely on fans to check his work instead of Team Jordan? I'm assuming you work for Tor, but you refer to yourself as a reader who hasn't read the book. To what extent were Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan involved with the creative process behind this cover?
I was just one of the people helping with the details. Obviously Michael had Irene Gallo's art direction and was in contact with editors including Harriet.
Michael's wife Audrey usually serves as his sounding board, but she hadn't read the books. (For the record, I'm not affiliated with TOR. I've worked with Michael since the mid 90s, primarily on his website.) I'm a WoT fan and that's the kind of feedback Michael was looking for... someone he knew who had read the previous thirteen books.
Michael and I did discuss Nynaeve's dress color. I mentioned that she catered to Lan's color preference of green and blue. The yellow of her Ajah usually came in slashes of color, accents if I recall correctly.
Like I said, I haven't read the manuscript for A Memory of Light and Michael couldn't talk about it. But I distinctly recall Nynaeve taking pride in being a true Aes Sedai finally. Going into the Last Battle, I don't think it's a stretch that she would choose yellow. I suppose we'll have to RAFO on that.
In the background information I provided, I described Nynaeve's hair color as darker brown and referenced previous covers (among them the Melanie Delon's cover for A Crown of Swords that drew criticism for being too red).
I'd have to ask him why he chose lighter highlights. Just my speculation here, but Callandor is a light source. There's also illumination from the eclipse filtering in from the mouth of the cave to consider.
Michael got the length of Nynaeve's hair right, and this isn't simply opinion. Hopefully Brandon or Harriet will confirm at some point that her shoulder length hair was too short to braid.
Interestingly, Michael and I spoke about the challenge of pulling character descriptions from the text. If you're familiar with his illustration, he's known as a stickler for details. But it isn't always easy to translate text literally, especially when Jordan and Sanderson contradict in their description.
In correspondence, Michael wrote,
"Major characters are described as diminutive in size, yet 'commanding' in presence. Faces are youthful, yet ageless. Or young but having eyes full of wisdom of the ages. Rand is tall and manly, yet has an almost "feminine" beauty in his eyes or mouth. It's a bit confusing how one is supposed to render such conflicting elements."
Honestly, I don't mind the nitpicking. Criticism comes with the territory. My point in responding is to state that Michael was mindful of details here. There's evidence of it in the painting. I can tell you that he had Moiraine's kesiera and Nynaeve's ki'sain accounted for before I even spoke to him.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of meeting Robert Jordan before a signing on the Knife of Dreams tour. One of the things we talked about was the cover art for the series. I think Mr. Jordan would be pleased with this one. Obviously Harriet was when she said, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years."
Firstly, thank you very much for the thorough answer. It answered many of my questions, and it was also interesting to hear more about the creative process behind the cover.
[Nynaeve's hair] got singed off "a handspan below her shoulders" (Towers of Midnight ch 20), and she wore a shoulder-length braid in every scene she was in after the Aes Sedai testing. That's why it seemed odd for her signature braid to be missing on the cover. I don't really care about the dress or even much about the hair color, but Nynaeve isn't Nynaeve without her braid—it's part of who she is. It's like Mat showing up without his hat and ashandarei. And the ki'sain is too small to be visible, so it doesn't do anything to make the woman on the cover look more like Nynaeve.
I also wish Nynaeve and Moiraine hadn't been delegated to the background/back cover—since they're going to be linked with him, they deserve to stand at his side. But that's not an error, just something I wish were different.
However, while the cover isn't what I hoped for, I understand and deeply appreciate that you and Whelan both worked incredibly hard on it, and Whelan remains one of my favorite illustrators. I think he did a wonderful job with Rand.
I appreciate the sentiment but Michael did the actual work. He pushed his calendar aside this spring to make the cover happen. I was just support. But I will admit it took a lot of restraint on my part not to inundate him with questions that I knew he couldn't answer, so there is that.
As readers, we all have so much invested in this series that I completely understand what you're saying. I love Brandon's work, but I felt Towers of Midnight was a bit of a letdown, especially the resolution with Moiraine.
Moiraine has always been a favorite of mine. I would have liked to see her on the front cover as well. Thankfully Dan Dos Santos gave us that in his brilliant cover for The Fires of Heaven.
I think MRJackson & Mr. Whelan made a very good point, in that we have not yet read this book. By the time this scene happens, we may see several other events that make sense of the seeming discrepancies. Specifically, there are only two scenes after Nynaeve's testing which mention her braid, and in both cases it is specifically noted that it is too short and she finds it quite annoying. Quite possibly she'll meet up with Lan and find out that he likes it loose, or she'll simply decide that it's too irritating to fuss with a too-short braid, and we'll see her with loose hair in several scenes before this.
Someone was bothered earlier by the missing jewelry—but now we know that she specifically and deliberately removed the jewelry before this scene, probably so that someone else could use them. (That's what happened during the Cleansing; why not here as well?) Seems to me that we should make the assumption that the same kind of thing might happen with The Braid, instead of insisting that she should look like she did in the previous book, and claiming any discrepancies as mistakes. Such claims are not only rude, they are unfounded. Once the book is out and we've read the whole thing, we might have grounds for nitpicking; until then, not so much.
MRJackson—Thank you for your contributions, both to this thread and to Mr. Whelan.
Glad to be of help. Maybe someday we'll find closure in the great braid debate...
Seriously though, Michael painted Nynaeve's hair at that length (without a braid) for a reason. I wasn't trying to sidestep debate. I was expressing certainty. Michael was aware that the braid was an identifying feature of her character. The painting turned out the way it did through a long process that involved editorial input. I'll leave it at that.
I look at it this way (and this is my opinion)... Nynaeve has grown enormously through the books. She was always uniquely powerful, but it took time for her to grow into that power. More so, it took a dozen books to accept herself and decide who she wanted to be.
Nynaeve worked through enormous difficulty to channel reliably. Remember how she used to tug on that braid? It really was a symbol of who she used to be. Kind of fitting that the symbol is gone.
Old habits die hard, of course, but she isn't that girl tugging on her braid any more. She's a woman who fought to gain acceptance as an Aes Sedai, and she's going to stand at Rand side to face the Dark One. It's impressive how far she's come as a character.
The Fires of Heaven ebook cover was definitely one of the best, though there were a few things the artist got wrong (Moiraine does not have blue eyes). The New Spring cover was great too, especially Lan. It's mostly Nynaeve who has suffered bad luck with the ebook covers. There's A Crown of Swords where she got red hair and Lan looked like an underwater zombie, Winter's Heart where she didn't appear at all despite being linked with Rand for the Cleansing, The Path of Daggers where she got a Saldaean nose and Elayne looked suspiciously like Jean Grey...
I think much of my disappointment with the A Memory of Light cover stems from the fact that there's already an earlier cover (Winter's Heart) where Rand claimed the stage and his female linking partner was left out. "Hero poses manfully brandishing some kind of phallic object" is a pretty tired concept, especially on WoT covers. Rand does the same on Sweet's The Dragon Reborn and The Path of Daggers, the ebook covers for The Dragon Reborn, Winter's Heart, Knife of Dreams... Winter's Heart is probably the worst offender, if you look at the placement of the Choedan Kal. ;)
Sweet's A Memory of Light cover was a welcome break from that—I'm not usually a fan of Sweet's covers, but I liked that he gave Elayne, Min, and Aviendha a prominent role and added some emotion to the cover. So I really would have liked to see something different on the final cover, like Rand having the two women from the Callandor circle at his side. Here, Nynaeve and Moiraine are present, but only in the background, and not at all on the ebook cover.
The only female lead who held the cover spotlight on par with the men was Moiraine, and that is a shame.
There was definitely opportunity to feature Nynaeve linked with Rand on Winter's Heart. Despite the hair, I liked Nynaeve on the cover of A Crown of Swords. Lan not so much. The Path of Daggers was another miss, mostly because the colors were a distraction. I thought I was looking at an X-Men cover. Even if that was intentional, it didn't work for me.
I can only assume Rand was intended to stand at center stage alone on the last cover, but I think what you suggest would have been great too. Moiraine and Nynaeve definitely earned their place at Rand's side on the front.
That was a beautiful description of why Nynaeve is one of the most compelling characters in the series. She and Moiraine kept me invested during some dark years of almost giving up on WOT. I always hoped they would be the other Callandor channelers, as I could not imagine Rand putting himself in such a vulnerable position with anyone else. Aviendha, Min and Elayne included, though I do love Aviendha! So thank you for shedding light on why some things are portrayed as they are on this excellent new cover. Just don't think that it will put a dent in the debate. ;)
Thanks. I feel much the same way about those characters, and I'm sure the debate will keep going on well after the publication of A Memory of Light.
Mr. Jackson (your name isn't Michael is it? because that would be unfortunate),
Thanks for the reassurances. Do you happen to know if specs were given for the eclipse? We're wondering if we can assume it's accurately portrayed from the perspective of an astronomer (we have one of those at Theoryland, and a hobbyist as well). That's not to say we can figure anything out about it right now, or even that we'll be able to figure it out when the book comes out judging on recent portrayal of chronology. Just curious. No worries if no particular care was taken to portray it accurately; I understand it's complicated, but it could have been made simple if RJ left notes about it. Also curious as to why it didn't show up until the final draft.
We didn't talk about it, but I can ask him. Michael has more than a passing interest in astronomy so it's possible.
And M and R are my initials...
The few pages of manuscript I was given to work from didn't have any mention of an eclipse. The subject didn't come up until I had done several conceptual renderings. After sending some of them to TOR I got an email from Irene telling me that if I showed the sky through the mouth of the cave I might want to work an eclipse into the scene.
For reference I looked at a lot of photos of eclipses and liked the idea (for symbolic reasons) of indicating an imminent annular eclipse, the kind where the moon doesn't entirely cover the sun but leaves a thin ring of light in the sky.
Anyone know why his left hand is hidden? I think it is because his hand grows back and they didn't want to give that part away (The Dragon Reborn is causing all sorts of broken things to go good again).
Nice thought but Michael was just hiding the stump.
I'm sorry I don't have more specific WoT posts for you—I know that Harriet prefers me to be more closed-mouthed. However...
Maria from Team Jordan has finished her revision notes for the entire book, as has Harriet herself. So we're only waiting on Alan's notes.
As he's playing "Great Captain" for me on A Memory of Light, his notes are vital—and he needs to be detailed. When I get them, I can finish revising.
Sooooo...there might be a sooner release date than the current for January?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely.
Darn, I need to haste to be ready for A Memory of Light once it releases. Is there gonna be a ebook version along with the physical book?
(Winces.) Harriet has a distrust of ebooks; she prefers to delay the release. It is her call. (Ebook is a few months later.)
Do we have chapter names yet? Or do you know how many chapters there will be? Or is that a secret?
No chapter names yet, as it won't be until this draft is finished that I settle on the number of chapters. Some are being combined.
I'm truly hoping this book is 1/3 battles/fights.
More than 1/3, I'd say...
Forgive me for not understanding, but what does this mean? Release date's not going to change, is it?
Probably not. It's just a progress update, so people know things are still moving behind-the-scenes.
How's The Stormlight Archive coming? I need more.
A Memory of Light comes first. I will get to the next Stormlight book soon, but not until A Memory of Light is done to my satisfaction.
So this means we will be reading the final volume sooner than first announced?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely. I still need to do two drafts, I feel. Then there are beta reads, then proofreads, then we need at least two months to get the books printed and shipped.
What does it take to be one of the beta readers?
Be one of the major members of fandom for years, and personally know Harriet. (Sorry.)
Brandon drew a graph of A Memory of Light's structure and explained in some details how he ended up re structuring it as three books. Not much that isn't already known in there, book 12 will have two main story lines (we know it's Rand and Egwene, but as I said Brandon didn't say so explicitly at the Q&A) and teasers for three more (Mat—and seemingly Perrin and Elayne). By 'teasers', Brandon precised he means 3 or 4 chapters per story line, the rest of the chapters being divided between the two main story lines (by recent books, this could means Egwene/Rand have about 10-12 chapters each, or a few more). Some developments happen in the teasers but it's not huge stuff, more like set ups chapters for what happens in book 13.
Book 13 will have the opposite, with 3-4 chapters each for Egwene and Rand, "toward the end". Brandon kept those for book 13 to avoid spoiling in The Gathering Storm the climax of book 13, which will mark the reunion of all the main story lines at some location, and launch Tarmon Gai'don. So in book 13 we will have the residual Rand/Egwene chapters that specifically build up to the reunion.
Brandon explained the decision to split the books this way came about between Harriet and him, in part to avoid the "Crossroads of Twilight trap". Apparently, RJ went that way in Winter's Heart/Crossroads of Twilight mostly because he had been affected by all the grief he got for keeping Mat out of The Path of Daggers. He decided to try to put all the main characters in the next books, even if it meant all the story lines would advance more slowly if they were all told in parallel like this. He very much regretted this after Crossroads of Twilight, for which he got even more grief than for The Path of Daggers, and decided to return to his more organic/uneven approach for Knife of Dreams and A Memory of Light. The original plan for The Gathering Storm was to develop all the story lines in parallel again, but Brandon and Harriet had qualms about this and Brandon came up with an alternative to focus on two story lines in one and three in the other.
There is one of the 'POV clusters' Brandon had written that it mostly unused for The Gathering Storm and will go in book 13.
Brandon of course wouldn't tell who is the character not in The Gathering Storm at all, though he gave a few clues. Piecing all his bits of answers together, the character isn't Aviendha, Cadsuane or Nynaeve, nor Mat (the only character he confirmed is in the two first books, but we already knew this). He basically destroyed the speculation it could be Perrin by hesitating on the words 'major character' and then adding the bit that the vast majority of fans would actually place this character at the very bottom of the list of characters to be considered 'major'. The way he put Elayne over and over among the five really major ones during the Q&A suggests it's not her either after all. He also said while explaining his graph that there were chunks (his "teasers" for three story lines in The Gathering Storm and the core of the story for two—and his 'five' clusters he explicitly said were Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Mat and Elayne.
So perhaps we've read too much in his 'major POV character' comment (Jason's review may also allude to this, when he commented that one major character is missing but it's pretty much up to each reader to decide who is major and not in WOT). At some point, he said a major POV character in A Memory of Light will be missing in The Gathering Storm, which is not exactly the same as saying a major POV character from the earlier books isn't in The Gathering Storm—which is the way his previous comment was interpreted by many.
Lan isn't a major POV character in the earlier books, but now he's on his own he may very well become one in A Memory of Light.
In any case, I'm more and more thinking it's Lan (or possibly Moiraine), not Elayne or Perrin which I doubt many would place 'at the very bottom' of the list of characters to be considered major. Most people would place Elayne not near the bottom at all but among the top 7 or 8 most important characters. Above Moiraine and Lan, Thom, Loial and probably even Min and Aviendha.
Brandon pointed that Jordan himself began that trend in the prologues; "Embers Falling on Dry Grass" being among Sanderson's favorite uses of that device, and revealed that readers should expect even more in the final volume.
How many more?
Upwards of 80. In a single chapter. That’s around 70,000 words and which takes place near the end of A Memory of Light. (We're very curious to see if that chapter is titled "Tarmon Gai'don.")
If you bought Legion hardcover, send me a picture of you and the book/receipt and I'll give you the e-book FREE!
I told people I was trying to figure out how to do this with A Memory of Light. I failed there—the publishing end of that book is too far out of my hands. I can at least do it with stories for which I own the electronic rights.
The sad thing is, this shouldn't actually be news. It should be the standard. I feel that publishing should have figured out how to make this work already.
The next step is to figure out how to make this happen for my Tor books.
As a personal opinion, how good do you feel A Memory of Light is? I feel like I've been waiting for this book since I was a child. As a side note, I just finished The Way of Kings and have been told it will be a 10 book series which makes me worry when it's done I'll feel like I do about A Memory of Light right now.
On The Way of Kings: If it helps, it's two five book arcs. The first five will draw to a natural conclusion. (Kind of how Mistborn one comes to its own conclusion, then two and three are in another arc.)
A Memory of Light is good. How good? Hard to say. I don't know that any book can live up to two decades of anticipation—or, at least, I don't know that any book I write can manage that. I think it will hold its own with the other two I've done, and then will have Robert Jordan's own ending on it, which makes it feel RIGHT to me. I won't try to falsely inflate the book, however. I did my best with it; I hope it is a worthy capstone to the series. The ending sequences are majestic. Some of the lengthy war chapters may drag for some people, though.
Is the ebook date set in stone by now, or is there a chance of it changing?
For Legion or A Memory of Light? I guess I don't need to ask, since they're both pretty set at this point. I wish I could get A Memory of Light earlier (or at the very least, get an ebook sold with the physical copy.) However, I am not in charge of these decisions, and this book doesn't seem the one to use for rocking of the proverbial boat.
True, of course. Thanks for your interactions with the community!
Just opened the document, as I figured I could give some hard statistics on this. The chapter is just shy of 79,000 words. It contains (by my quick count) 72 scenes—but only 31 distinct viewpoints, as numerous ones repeat. (There are eight Rand scenes, for example, and six each for Mat and Egwene. Three or four each for another eight characters.)
It is not the last chapter of the book, but is a very important one, as you might have guessed. From the get-go, I lobbied Harriet to let me do this sequence as a single, massive chapter as I felt it fit with what was going on in the book as well as fitting with the series as a whole. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
This may be a silly question, but what exactly is it that defines a chapter? Why the reluctance to break it up?
This is a tough question to answer because what defines a chapter is dependent upon context. I have done chapters a paragraph or two long, and I've done some (well one) at this length. In addition, if I were to go into depth about what makes this chapter a single chapter to me, I feel it would give too many spoilers. It has to do with the pacing, the sensation I wish to convey, and the attempt—through prose and the form of the storytelling—to evoke the same emotions in the reader that the characters are feeling.
With Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight complete, Brandon Sanderson had to face his greatest challenge yet—writing the final battle in A Memory of Light.
A Memory of Light was a challenge for a number of reasons. There is a lot of warfare in this book—more so than all of the others—which needed to be realistic, and the tactics needed to be sound. And these were the sorts of things that Robert Jordan was extremely good at doing—he was a military historian. I don't have his background, so I had to rely a lot on the notes, and on Team Jordan. You want the story to be focused on the characters—it has to be a personal story. How to balance that, how to tell the story of these wars in a series which is primarily concerned with the characters was a real push back and forth with the text, trying to massage it and edit and work it to the point that it would convey their stories but still be true to the tactics that would make this all come together.
There's been huge enthusiasm. People have been waiting for this for a long time. If they once dipped into it, they wouldn't be able to put it down.
And in January, they will finally get the full story—the final volume of the Wheel of Time. The end of an Age has arrived. The Dark One is almost free. The Wheel of Time hangs in the balance, and prophecy must be fulfilled. The Last Battle begins January 8th.
"We'll remember those who fell, and we'll tell our children how we stood when the clouds turned black and the world started to die. We'll tell them we stood shoulder to shoulder, and there was just no space for the Shadow to squeeze through." (p. 278)
A little bit of spoilers here: One of the big things we got going on is Rand and Egwene on opposite sides of the big decision regarding what needs to happen with the last battle. It's a power struggle that has been brewing for a long time behind the scenes. Some may not have noticed it until I brought it to the forefront in the last book. We've just had a main character who has been gone for a long, long time show up again in the end of Towers of Midnight, and there are ramifications for that. Can we work together? How do we work together?—that's going to be one of the themes.
And, of course, this is the last battle, which means there's a lot of war in this book. And that's actually very different for a Wheel of Time book. There have been big battles before, but not ones that span half of the book or more.
So what can we expect?
"I can tell you a few things as Robert Jordan was once asked what the series was about and he said that 'It's about what it's like if you're a normal person who is told that the world is going to end unless you try and save it.' This end book is what everyone has been expecting. They call it the Last Battle, so it's the last showdown as there's this massive war going on. You can also expect the last chapter written by Robert Jordan himself. He always promised fans that he knew what the end of the series would be, so he sat down and wrote it before he passed away. It's gone into the book virtually unchanged by me. It's the goal I've been working towards all this time.”
(Consternation on his face) He was goofing off somewhere.
And his army? They didn't do anything of note, eh?
Why is the Last Battle chapter so long?
It is two hundred pages, and takes place for almost 24 hours, but the goal was for the reader to feel as exhausted after as the characters themselves did.
The complete Karaethon Cycle will not be in there, because Jim didn't write the complete one out. Same for the Prophecies. I'm not sure about the maps...(looks at Harriet)
I do think you'll find that, as published, the strategic movements are really very clear.
Hi, I'm Michael Chantry from Podunk [?] Idaho—[claps] someone knows the area. Thank you for the books; they're amazing. Thanks Robert Jordan for the books. I like them so much I actually named my second child Perrin. [applause]
My question is to both Brandon and Harriet. I know you love this new book, A Memory of Light, that you've created for us, and out of it, is there anything that we... What is your favorite part? What did you enjoy most about it? If you can give us a chapter, a section...anything. I know you're going to say "the whole thing." [laughter]
(flips through book) [laughter] There's a 200-page chapter in this book. [hoots, buzz of talking] I felt it very thematically important, and my favorite part is right at the end of that chapter and the beginning of the next chapter, and the next chapter is actually very short, and so really, it's probably Chapter 39, but with the lead-in at the end of chapter 38.
And Harriet, do you have a favorite part?
(talks to Peter) 37 and 38? Okay, 37 and 38. Peter knows these things better than I do. [laughter]
Well, I love the end of Chapter 23—the final sequence—and as you're aware from Brandon's other books, I mean a lot of the chapters will have a piece here, and then there's a two-line space and you jump five hundred miles away, and so on, but the last segment of 23 I think is just super. But there are an awful lot of things that I do love in this book; the scene I read for you is one of my favorites; there's more of it, but I thought, "Oh, I don't know; I think I'm getting on too long," because we hadn't quite timed it out. I think it's a wonderful book. [laughter, applause]
I know that the question wasn't directed up here to me, but I think I definitely need to say that—without being cliché—the ending, the epilogue, was far and away everything I could have hoped it was, and it was my favorite part of the book. It was just...I can't wait for all of you to eventually read it, and hopefully have the same kind of reaction that I did. It's pretty awesome.
I can talk a little bit more about that, because...I told you the Asmodean story, but next under that sheet was this, was the...were the scenes that Robert Jordan had written for the book. And so, that included sections from the prologue, which got split into various pieces of the various prologues of the three novels; sections out of the book; and then this ending, the epilogue, and it's one of the most...one of the scenes where you're able to preserve, a sequence that's the most close to the way Robert Jordan left it. Because a lot of scenes he'd leave, he'd leave like a paragraph, and then it's like I have to expand that into, or I have to work a whole thing and then have that paragraph in.
There's a famous scene, for instance, with Verin in Gathering Storm where he left, you know, the kinda...what you would imagine is the important parts, but it's only the important parts, and then it doesn't have a lead-in or an exit to the scene, and so I had to write up and then lead in to what he'd written, and then lead out of it, and that sort of stuff. And this, it's actually...we've got complete sequences that he wrote before he passed away. And so, when you get to that epilogue, you can know...there's some very non-touched-by-the-rest-of-us stuff that he had in a very good shape to be published before he passed away.
And I should have thought of that, but as he read it in 2007—and so did I, and I had known some bits of it for years before that—but it really is splendid.
Thank you very much. [applause]
I'm gonna say...[audio cut]...is the ending, writing the last sequences that I've been planning so long—because I always know what my ending is, and I tend to point everything at the ending—writing that last sequence is my favorite. For instance, my favorite scene to write in A Memory of Light comes right near the end. There's a very long chapter that you'll read; it's the last part of that very long chapter, into the next chapter which is very short. (something from audience) Yeah, it's 200-something pages.
For good reason.
Yes, for good reasons.
Was the Last Battle chapter in A Memory of Light 190 pages long because that was how Jordan wanted it?
No, Brandon made this decision himself because he felt like none of the characters could put their weapons down during this stretch, so he wanted the reader to be in the same predicament and not be able to put the book down.
There is a 190-page chapter in the book, in this book. And it was done very intentionally. I actually planned it that way from the beginning in my outline, the goal being that that's a point in the book where the characters can't just put down their weapons and stop, and I did not want the readers to be able to put down the book at that point. And a lot of people say, "Well, I'll just read one more chapter." (laughter) I wanted you to feel like they did at the end of that chapter, where they have been, and involved in something that is just draining emotionally, mentally, and physically, and the closest...the best way I can think of to make you have empathy for them was to push you through the same thing.
It worked! (applause)
It's authors getting tricksy, is what it is.
Also of interest to WoT fans and aspiring writers, both: one fan asked, given the lack of majorly epic-scale battles in Brandon's other work, how he approached the near endless warfare that makes up the bulk of A Memory of Light.
The answer: research, research, research, and lots of help from experts. Brandon asserts (and I can believe) that he can get himself to about 80% expert on just about any topic in the course of writing prep, but his lack of personal experience with warfare (reminding us of Mr. Jordan's service in Vietnam) put him at a disadvantage in accurately conveying what needed to be conveyed in the last battle. Military buffs and armchair historians came to the rescue (including Team Jordan member Alan Romanczuk), outlining a series of strategies and tactics based on real-world battles that Brandon used as a guide. However, Tarmon Gai'don being on a somewhat different scale than we're used to in our Age, both metrically and dramatically, there was a lot of back-and-forth between Brandon and the battle guys about amping up the drama without sacrificing realism—inserting twists and character moments to make us cheer or weep.
Do you know about how many Aes Sedai are left after the Last Battle?
Um, Harriet said "many".
Many? (laughs) Yeah...
(laughs, coughs) Boy they lost a lot.
Was it up to you to decide what the Dark One actually was? The revelation that the Dark One was a concept or idea rather than a person reminded me very much of Ruin from the The Hero of Ages. How did you make that decision?
I was left a lot of freedom on how to do that specific thing, and earlier in the first draft he wasn't so much like that. We felt the conflict wasn't working—it felt more like the Last Conversation than the Last Battle. Harriet sent back direction for something stronger. The revision included the dueling of possibilities. That is where the Dark One became more involved and so it evolved into that, but we weren't following anything specific Jim had said.
When Gawyn and Galad were defeated so handily by Demandred, I was thinking it was a throwaway of two characters. Then Lan rolls in and it put everything in perspective to show how good he was. Was that the purpose?
That was part of the purpose. It was a war, and someone needed to take out Demandred. Gawyn's arc is tragic, and the end of the arc is what we all know he shouldn't do, by going out by himself.
Did you ever conceive of breaking the "Last Battle" chapter into sections?
No, I felt like I wanted you to feel like the characters felt. And that you couldn't just put your sword down and go. That was my goal.
You were the person with the Moiraine question. RJ wrote in his notes that main purpose of Moiraine is to prevent a war between Rand and Egwene. And then she was to go with him into the Pit of Doom, but in the Pit of Doom there was nothing for her to do. And I felt bad about that, but that's what he instructed. It was hard to come up with stuff for everyone to have a part and a role. But I did what he instructed. It was a good question, people wondered. She did have an important role to play.
The last book had a lot of military action in it. Did you have to do a lot of research for that?
Yes we did. And I relied a lot on some experts that we know to give me a lot of help on that.
Did you have any Air Force consultation with the to'raken scenes at all?
That was in mind. We had a lot of military experts help us out with these books. I relied on them a lot.
Was Robert Jordan's original draft of that as bloody as the way it came out?
A lot of the deaths, he didn't write any of the actual death scenes, he just indicated who lived and died. I just upped the ante somewhat. I wasn't going to have the Last Battle come without substantial losses, and so, where he didn't instruct me, this person lives, I had some measure of, yeah. And so, I did up the body count. I know he was planning to kill off a number of characters, but he also, killing people, and letting them stay dead was not one of Jim's strong suits. He was very fond of his characters, and I know there were lots that he was planning to kill. I don't think that he would have killed as many as I, maybe. I don't know. It's what we felt the story needed, in talking to Harriet and Team Jordan. Maybe he would have. I did what I thought made the best story.
Jordan made the decision of the True Nature of the Dark One. He said that straight out. He and Harriet rewrote and developed the battle the way it turned out, with the possible futures, etc. But the true key of the Dark ONe being needed for the world and Rand having to discover that and just restore the prison were Jordan's directive.
Was anyone else a little disappointed with the way to Ogier showed up for the Last Battle? Kinda just like "Oh yeah, we are here too." Then that was it. The scenes in which we see Ogier fighting are awesome, but I felt their introduction to the Last Battle was a little lacking. Anyone else?
The way they show up is actually the result of a sequence being cut. Originally, Perrin led an expedition into the Ways to try and close the Waygate in Caemlyn from behind. During this, the Ogier arrived, full of song, to drive off the Black Wind. Unfortunately, this sequence had logistical problems with the rest of the book, and had to be deleted entirely. The biggest casualty of this cut was the Ogier introduction, which didn't work nearly as well in the new sequence as it once had.
Thanks so much for adding your insight.
Ever thought about publishing a deleted scenes book? If movies can do it, why not books?
Afraid it isn't my call. You'd have to convince Harriet. That said, we are releasing some deleted scenes in the Unfettered Anthology to help with a friend's medical bills. (They aren't the Perrin ones, though.)
Thank you for being a redditor as well as an awesome author.
Did the same thing happen with Mashadar?
No, no deleted scenes here. I did Mashadar the way I did because of the small amount of information in the notes about it or Fain, and I felt that going with what little I did have was better than exploring widely without knowing where RJ wanted to go. In some other cases, I did extrapolate when we didn't have much from RJ, but here it felt better to go with the "less is more" idea.
There was a big danger in these books in me taking over too much and driving the books far from RJ's original vision. I had to pick and choose carefully which parts I extrapolated, and I did it based more on my own instincts and talents than anything else. For example, I felt very comfortable with Perrin as a character—he'd always been my favorite, and I felt like I knew him very well and could write him strongly. So, in Towers of Midnight where we had very little direction on what to do with Perrin, I felt that the right move was to expand his part and develop a sequence on my own.
However, for Mat in the Tower of Ghenjei, RJ had been planning this sequence for years and years. He wrote or outlined a good portion of it before he died. It was a small sequence, however, only a couple of chapters worth. I realized fans would be expecting more from this sequence, but my instincts said that it would be wrong to develop it into something much larger. That would not only go against RJ's wishes, but would risk messing things up royally. RJ had laid careful foreshadowing and groundwork for the scenes, and had a specific vision for this sequence. Perhaps if he'd lived, he would have expanded it in additional directions, but it would have been the wrong place for me to add.
Fain through my three books feels very similar to me. It wasn't as strict here as it was with the Mat/Ghenjei sequence—I COULD have expanded, and perhaps I would have, given more time. However, at the same time, there is an argument to be had that RJ wanted Fain to have a lesser-than-expected place in the Last Battle, and expanding him would undermine this.
I wish the Ways had been touched on. They were very interesting, as well as the portal stones. Was there any more info, or back story, on the Black Wind that hasn't been shared? Thanks for responding to us, by the way. I loved the last three books, you did an awesome job on them. I am getting ready to start going through some of your own stories.
There is some, but not as much as I think fans hope. In regards to something else mentioned on this thread—I believe that RJ was planning to do the Ogier/Seanchan Ogier relationship exploration in the Outriggers.
What logistical problems were there?
IIRC in some of Brandon's other posts on Reddit, he indicated that the deleted scenes were casualties of keeping the book reasonable in length. Additionally, Harriet or the publisher preferred that the storyline in A Memory of Light should be directly approaching the Last Battle, and this sequence got a little too far away from that.
There were a number. The biggest one was that the sequence wasn't needed. As you can judge from the final book, the Waygate didn't NEED to be closed. The structure of the battle worked just fine without it, as the plan was always to draw the Shadow's armies upward and through the woods. By the time the big fights here played out, it didn't matter terribly much if the Trollocs were being resupplied from behind.
Beyond that, the weight of this heavy Perrin sequence in the early middle of the book was distracting, keeping attention away from Rand and from the push toward the rest of the Last Battle. (this is what simps984 mentioned in his reply, which is correct.) The sequence was awesome on its own, but distracting in conjunction with the rest of the novel.
I would still have liked to have found a way to make it work, but I feel that way about every scene I end up deleting from the book. The truth is that aside from the Ogier arrival, nothing big was lost by cutting this ten thousand words—and a whole lot was gained.
Just finished the chapter "Older, More Weathered". Funniest chapter so far IMO, what are your most humorous scenes?
New Spring—Moiraine gets thrown into a pond.
Eye of the World—Min takes Rand aside when he re-enters the inn to tell him about Nynaeve, Thom immediately assumes they're gonna make out, Min says "Go juggle something."
The Great Hunt—Egwene smuggling Rand into the women's quarters to hide from the Amyrlin.
The Dragon Reborn—Moiraine catches some fish.
The Shadow Rising—Elayne gets drunk; Aviendha describes Elayne to Rand in detail.
The Fires of Heaven—The Aes Sedai in Salidar make Siuan and Leane go over every prank they played in the White Tower as novices and Accepted to prove they're really them; "It happened on the other side of the world and the Maidens still knew!"
Lord of Chaos—Aiel humor; Mat before he realizes Egwene really is the Amyrlin.
A Crown of Swords—Mat and Birgitte get drunk, Elayne gets bond-drunk; Min likes it rough.
The Path of Daggers—Aviendha describes some of her night with Rand to Elayne; Elayne and that mysterious red rod ter'angreal; the Maidens collect some toh from Rand.
Winter's Heart—Aviendha, Min, and Birgitte all feeling it in their heads.
Crossroads of Twilight—"She would bond him as her Warder one day, somehow, and she would marry him, and make love to him until he cried for mercy!" Whoa there Egwene.
Knife of Dreams—Tuon allows Mat to kiss her. "Do I remind you of your sister? Or perhaps your mother?"
The Gathering Storm—"Women are like goats..."
Towers of Midnight—"Your royal bloody pain in my back..."
A Memory of Light—Aviendha suggests that the most honorable way to win would be to take the Dark One gai'shain.
A note for those curious, but a spoiler for the ending. Regarding the AMOL one, have you noticed yet that Rand, to an extent, did this very thing?
Is it just how he imprisoned the Dark One without killing him? Or did I miss something?
The usual way to take a person gai'shain is to touch them while they are holding a weapon. Rand seized and held the Dark One in his hand, then chose not to kill him, instead taking him prisoner.
There were three particular things that were quite a challenge in writing this last book. The first was how to use Rand fighting the Dark One in a way that would be interesting, visual, and powerful. The second was how to do the tactics of a large-scale battle. The final one had to do with Egwene.
In his notes, Robert Jordan was very specific about the fact that Rand and Egwene needed to almost come to blows in the lead-up to the Last Battle. He called it the grand union of the armies against Rand, whose decisions were considered too radical, too dangerous, to be allowed to proceed. Moiraine was to be the force that brought the two of them together, unifying the armies of light, cementing her importance—and showing why she needed to be rescued by Mat before the Last Battle. (There were a lot of instructions about what Moiraine was to say, and some good writing on that meeting at the Field of Merrilor.)
The burden upon me was to realistically bring Rand and Egwene to the point where the reader believed they'd fight one another—or at least go to the Last Battle separately, without cohesion—if Moiraine hadn't intervened. This was difficult. Having The Gathering Storm end on such a high note for Egwene left me struggling to figure out how, in Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, to make her go at cross-purposes to Rand without alienating the reader from her viewpoints. I felt what she was doing was very realistic and in character for who she was, but I also knew that making the decisions she would make was going to cause some readers to be very annoyed with her.
In the end, I decided that the proper course was to let them be annoyed. The very same strength that had made Egwene shine in The Gathering Storm was also the strength that let her lead the Aes Sedai—of whom she had truly become one. The will of the Aes Sedai against the rest of the world is a major theme of the Wheel of Time, and say what you will of it, the theme is consistent—as are the characters. Egwene was at their head. Yes, I wanted her to be relatable, but I also wanted it clear that she was Aes Sedai, and she wasn't about to let someone else dominate the decisions on how to approach the Last Battle.
So this is another one of those places where it required a lot of push and pull between us. This is something that Robert Jordan had more talent for than I have. He was a military tactician and military historian, and I am not. I am an action movie buff, and a Chinese Kung Fu movie buff. And I love vibrant, engaging visual action sequences. And large scale battle tactics are something I usually go to other people to use as resource on. And so on this one, we made Alan Romanczuk our Great Captain who was going to define our tactics....(indecipherable)...There was a lot of conflict between he and myself—good-natured, but sometimes heated—because I kept pushing toward more cinematic and more character focused. And he kept pushing toward more realism and more focus on the tactics. And that was a lot of push and pull between us. We did go to some people starting out to ask for advice on what we should use as patterns for this. And we got some great advice there on which real historical battles would make great models for us to follow. We felt that was one of the things that we should do is rather than try to come up with this from scratch, we really should use something which happened in our world as a patten because that would help us from making any big blunders. And then Alan would say, "This is what the tactics would be here." And I'm like, "That's not dramatic enough. This is what needs to happen to make the story go." He'd be like, "That violates these rules of tactics." And I'm like, "All right. What can we do in between these two that is still dramatic and still tactically sound?" And we went back and forth a lot on that.