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-   -   Jason Denzel's (of Dragonmount) Towers of Midnight Review (http://www.theoryland.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=4009)

Tamyrlin 09-26-2010 05:50 PM

Jason Denzel's (of Dragonmount) Towers of Midnight Review
 
Here is the link: http://www.dragonmount.com/index.php...f-midnight-r36

Here is the text:

About a year ago, you and I and the rest of the Wheel of Time fan base were eagerly awaiting the release of The Gathering Storm, the twelfth book in the series, and the first one written in large part by Brandon Sanderson, the relatively unheard-at-the-time fantasy writer who was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's epic. The burning question back then was, "Can Brandon deliver?". The answer was nearly unanimous amongst fans: not only did he deliver a good Wheel of Time book, but he delivered one of the most exciting Wheel of Time books yet. The book was a smash success, and by and large fans everywhere took a deep sigh of relief. In my original review of The Gathering Storm (TGS), I called the book one of the finest in the series, and I stand by that statement.

So now the question has become: can Brandon do it again? Is Towers of Midnight (TofM), the penultimate novel in The Wheel of Time series, as good as--or better-- than its predecessor? Brandon gained fan confidence by writing TGS. The bar has been raised. Does this next novel live up to the hype?

Of course it does. It's an amazing novel.

I've had the privilege of reading it, and I'd like to share some thoughts regarding it with you.

But first, I'm once again obliged to give a few disclaimers. My involvement with the WoT franchise is deeper than most fans. More and more, rather than being a passive observer, I'm finding myself actually helping to create content for the Wheel of Time (via my involvement in other parts of the franchise such as games, movies, etc). In this case, I was one of Brandon Sanderson's beta readers. This means that the version of the book I'm reviewing was a version that was still incomplete, and was towards the end of its editing process. More importantly, I provided feedback, both technical and creative, which may have had an impact on the writing. (I say 'may' because I honestly don't know yet whether some or any of my suggestions and feedback were taken.) In addition, I happen to run a large WoT fan site and therefore find myself promoting these books on a daily basis. I've had business dealings with Tor (although I have never been paid to do any of this and I do not accept money for promoting WoT). I'm not here to sell books. I am here to represent you, and share my honest feelings regarding this new book. I realize I can never be truly impartial, but I'll sure do my best. Like you, I'm a fan first, and always will be.

So with all that said, let's cut to it. Towers of Midnight is an outstanding novel, but I wouldn't say it was the finest in the series, nor can I say I personally enjoyed it more than its predecessor. But don't let that fool you. As Leigh Butler wrote in her recent review, these books are all like family, and so of course I loved it overall. And so will you. It's just that for me, as an individual reader, I personally enjoyed the tighter focus of the previous novel over this one. Viewed in terms of the whole series, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that TofM fits into the series and successfully sets the stage for the final, explosive novel.

Let's take a closer look.

"To understand something", Perrin notes early in the book, "you have to know its parts." Well, Towers of Midnight is made up of a lot of complicated parts. It makes The Gathering Storm seem simplistic by comparison. The two of them are as different as The Great Hunt is from Lord of Chaos. This surprised me. I expected Brandon to deliver a novel that was just like the last one; to just continue with the same pacing and style as before. But he didn't. Instead, he did what I feel was the right thing and followed the needs of the story. TofM is darker, grittier, and filled with a lot more external conflict than TGS. The prose is consistent with its predecessor, but overall the book has the feel of the later WoT novels. More viewpoints. A wider scope. I loved reading about the increasing threat to the world; the mounting tide of darkness sweeping across the land.

[Begin minor spoilers. Some of you will think these aren't true spoilers, and some of you will complain if I don't label them. So I'm playing it safe.]

In TGS, the primary focus of the book was on Rand and Egwene. It was that intense focus on their dramatic character arcs that made me love that novel so much. Although Rand and Egwene have some important roles to play in ToM, the primary focus shifts over to Mat and Perrin. Perrin has a wonderful arc in this book, even if it is just a tad slow to initially get going. (But hey, nobody ever said anything in WoT was fast, eh? Just chew your food and savor the taste). This is balanced by the fact that Perrin probably has the most action in the book. Well, except for poor Ituralde. The man just can't catch a break can he?

Chief among the aspects of this book that I loved is our favorite gambler. I'm happy to report that Mat is back. In a big way. I give Brandon a lot of credit for listening to feedback from fans who thought Mat's character voice was somewhat "off" in TGS. We'll never know how much of the book was personally written by Robert Jordan before he died, and how much was written by Brandon, but the point is that Mat not only sounds right in most of his chapters, but he is in his finest form. Quite simply, Mat redefines the very meaning of Awesome in this book. He's funny, but in a less slapstick way like he was in TGS. His internalized sarcastic humor is contrasted by the fact that he just bloody cares too much about people around him, and that makes him the old Mat we all know and love.

(If you haven't already heard, you can read the first Mat viewpoint chapter from ToM right here on Dragonmount)

I won't tell you what the best parts of the book were, of course, but I'll tell you that two of them were so good, they'll just shred you to pieces emotionally. Both of them are completely unexpected, and they happen to occur in a series of three back-to-back-to-back chapters. (Well, in the version I read. They may have been re-ordered since I read it in manuscript form) One of the chapters involved Perrin. And no… She's not involved. It's not what you think. So stop guessing.

The other scene that rocked me to read is one that completely embraces the spirit of the whole series. It's the epitome of what makes The Wheel of Time stand apart from all other fantasy series. To say that I was moved by it is an understatement. After reading it, I honestly began to question whether this story will actually have a happy ending or not. I mean, let's face it. Most of us assume the series will conclude with a victory at the Last Battle, with maybe a few heroic deaths along the way, right? Well this sequence I'm talking about proves that even victory can be disaster. It shows that even the most noble of intentions can have a butterfly-effect ripple across the Pattern. The sequence was beautiful to behold, and that alone makes ToM worth of being on the shelf with your other WoT books.

What else?

Ah yes. If you'll excuse some shameless self-promotion, you need to go watch the Towers of Midnight book trailer. Once you've done that, then we can talk about Her.

Yes that plotline is addressed in ToM. But not in any way that resembles the video linked above. (The video was produced before I read the actual book) Some aspects play out as you might expect, but there are a lot of key surprises along the way. I devoured every word, and loved everything to do with it. And of course, it left me wanting more!

One last plot-related item…. Olver. There's a chapter involving him that just breaks my heart. Now maybe it's just me. I'm not talking about a big dramatic scene. (Although it does have another big reveal). Most people might find humor in it. But not me. Maybe I'm just sensitive. Remember what I said earlier about the price of victory? What happens here is both endearing and tragic. On one hand it was logical and inevitable that things would play out this way. On the other hand, I just never saw it coming, and neither will you (not that it will stop you from trying, huh?). I tip my hat to you, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sanderson. Once again, you've given us a moment that people can debate. For me personally, it'll stick in my gut for a long time.

[END spoilers.]

It occurred to me as I finished this book that this is almost it. After ToM, there's only one more book to go. One last round in the great fight. These characters, this world, they're a part of me. And clearly, they're a part of you and a great many others as well. Some of you are new to the series, and many of you have been reading it for a very long time. Regardless of when we started though, we all see the same looming horizon before us. The inevitable arrival of the Last Battle, and the fabled "Last Chapter" that Robert Jordan spoke of for years. We've reached the sunset of this Age, and after reading ToM, I just don't know how it will end anymore.

This book will always have a special place in my heart. In part for my involvement as a beta reader, in part for the book trailer project, and even for the book's dedication which is a profound and humbling gesture. But mostly, this book will be special to me because it marks the true beginning of the end. Story-wise, the "good guys" are gathered and ready to go. But in fact they're in shambles, just barely held together. But in terms of us, as a community of fans, we are gathered like never before. I'm proud to see our fandom linked in this last year like I've never seen. We all know there's something special about this series, and Towers of Midnight is without a doubt a fine and worthy addition to its ranks. I look forward to riding the storm with you guys one last time to Tarmon Gaidon. One last charge. One last book.

We will meet it with swords raised.

Jason Denzel

WinespringBrother 09-26-2010 06:05 PM

Sounds awesome, and I like a wider scope of viewpoints, which would seem that a lot of loose ends will be covered. Not to mention the increase of danger indicates the Shadow is finally trying to win, instead of standing around with their piecemeal plots, assuming they will win against the puny shepherd Dragon LOL

Can't wait til Nov 2!

SauceyBlueConfetti 09-26-2010 06:07 PM

Quote:

But in terms of us, as a community of fans, we are gathered like never before. I'm proud to see our fandom linked in this last year like I've never seen. We all know there's something special about this series, and Towers of Midnight is without a doubt a fine and worthy addition to its ranks.
I like this. I like this quite a lot. For so long I have felt this building momentum towards the finale of the book, and I like the idea of this ragtag bunch o'fans bonding together closer and closer as the end draws nearer. Knowing things might end up ugly, unhappy. Loss of friends along this long path has been a part of it as well. The loss of the leader, but the ability of everyone that cared to close ranks and find someone new to take the next step. And the next, and the next, towards the end.

Well, yeah, can ya tell my baby hormones are kicking in? I cannot imagine how I will react to the book in another month. :) Miss you all...I do keep reading and watching you all from the shadows, but I am sure there are lots of us out there right now. Looking forward to the book release more than ever now.

Tercel 09-26-2010 06:34 PM

Jason gave Crossroads of Twilight an extremely positive prerelease review, and that book is widely regarded as a flop. So to be honest I don't really take his prerelease opinions as trustworthy any more.

For some reason his way of writing about his emotional reactions to scenes doesn't get me excited to read the book. I think that's cos I tend to read the books for the plot and not for emotion (okay I'll be the first to admit that I'd be White Ajah).

I'm pleased to hear that he doesn't feel that the series ending will be predictable, and that he doesn't even feel he can say for sure that the light will win. (I'm also glad that RJ chose the plot of the ending and not BS, cos frankly I loathed the ending to the Mistborn trilogy...)

wolf_sister 09-26-2010 07:17 PM

Great review! I'm so excited to see the scenes he talked about. The Gathering Storm was probably one of my favorite books in the series, I just hope that Towers of Midnight is just as amazing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tercel (Post 112208)
I loathed the ending to the Mistborn trilogy...

That was probably my favorite part of the whole Mistborn series, simply because I didn't see it coming. :) But I do agree, I'm very glad RJ wrote the ending as much as he could, because despite all of Brandon's efforts, it wouldn't have been as good.

dfchang813 09-26-2010 10:36 PM

Let's speculate:

1. What is scene involving Olver that is endearing, tragic, breaks your heart, logical, inevitable, no one will see coming, that most people might find humor in, AND represents the price of victory AND has a big reveal associated with it. What could this be???

How can it be all of these things?

2. Speculation on how Moiraine's rescue will play out? SOME aspects at least are predictable and happen as expected. Jason does state he loved everything to do with it and it left him wanting more.

Now . . . knowing what I know about Jason's personality and sensibilities this seems to rule out any outright weird or outrageous outcomes like Moiraine being turned into a man, another person, Black Ajah, missing a limb, etc, etc. Him "wanting more" seems to suggest either the rescue is not complete or she may not be totally with it (comatose?) or has not yet had a chance to interact with anyone such as Rand or Nynaeve or Lan, etc. I'm guessing she will at least have some sort of interaction with Thom and Mat unless she is completely unconscious.

I would even go as far as to speculate that ToM leaves us with them still in Ghenjei were it not for Jason's assertion that the end of the book sees all the "good guys" gathered and ready to go which implies that at least Mat, Perrin, and Rand are together again.

Thoughts?

Dennis

jana 09-26-2010 11:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dfchang813 (Post 112223)
has not yet had a chance to interact with anyone such as Rand or Nynaeve or Lan, etc. I'm guessing she will at least have some sort of interaction with Thom and Mat

This is my guess.

Luckers 09-26-2010 11:57 PM

Quote:

1. What is scene involving Olver that is endearing, tragic, breaks your heart, logical, inevitable, no one will see coming, that most people might find humor in, AND represents the price of victory AND has a big reveal associated with it. What could this be???
I said this on Dragonmount, but I'll repost here coz I think its an interesting thought...

I'm thinking here about the chance Olver will follow Mat and co. into the Tower of Ghenjei, thus violating Moiraine's stricture about there being nor more or less than the three she set out. Jason did say it was 'both endearing and tragic.' Olver trying to help could be endearing--and it would be tragic

Frenzy 09-27-2010 12:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Luckers (Post 112229)
I'm thinking here about the chance Olver will follow Mat and co. into the Tower of Ghenjei,

that's the obvious plot twist. i wonder if what made the books will be obvious or something out of left field.

jana 09-27-2010 12:30 AM

the theory that Olver will run in to help has never made sense to me. The letter specifically says "more will mean death for all" and "less will mean death for all."

The only way Olver can go into the tower is if somehow he's not considered part of the group. I guess it's possible that in her trips to ToG in the rings, she never met Olver. So he would have to die before Moiraine sees him.

Luckers 09-27-2010 12:35 AM

Quote:

that's the obvious plot twist. i wonder if what made the books will be obvious or something out of left field.
Jason did say it was inevitable. *shrug*

1Powerslave 09-27-2010 02:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dfchang813 (Post 112223)
I would even go as far as to speculate that ToM leaves us with them still in Ghenjei were it not for Jason's assertion that the end of the book sees all the "good guys" gathered and ready to go which implies that at least Mat, Perrin, and Rand are together again.

Quote:

Yes that plotline is addressed in ToM. But not in any way that resembles the video linked above. (The video was produced before I read the actual book) Some aspects play out as you might expect, but there are a lot of key surprises along the way. I devoured every word, and loved everything to do with it. And of course, it left me wanting more!
I wouldn't like it at all if he left us in Ghenjei with a cliffhanger.

BTW. Mat's timeline problem should be solved in Finnland. Just say that time flows differently there. ;)

Nero 09-27-2010 08:06 AM

Quote:

Mat's timeline problem should be solved in Finnland. Just say that time flows differently there.
Clever. But he is probably meeting up with Elayne, before the Tower of Genjei. I guess it might work, if you just don't give Elayne another POV for the rest of the series... Yay!

AbbeyRoad 09-27-2010 08:56 AM

Quote:

endearing, tragic, breaks your heart, logical, inevitable, no one will see coming, that most people might find humor in, AND represents the price of victory AND has a big reveal associated with it. What could this be???
Well, Olver sneaking into the ToG after Mat and possibly dying to save the group from the 'snakes and foxes' would certainly satisfy the "endearing, tragic, logical, inevitable, breaks your heart, price of victory, and big reveal" clauses. The "no one will see coming" might refer to the way in which he sacrifices himself to beat the *finns (or something similar) and not the act of sneaking in after Mat, since that seems pretty obvious and many people on this forum have suggested it for years. As for the humor part... you got me, there.

WinespringBrother 09-27-2010 11:28 AM

Maybe his full name is Olver Cain lol wouldn't that just be mind-boggling?

Terez 09-27-2010 11:34 AM

I am doubting Olver will die, simply because Jason would never have spoiled that for us, and it would be hard to see how others could interpret that as humorous.

Infidel 09-27-2010 01:16 PM

Jason's reviews have to taken with a pound or two of salt. He has never met a WoT book that didn't make him squeal and clap his hands together like the cheerleader he is.

That's why he gets advance copies and unfettered access to the Inner Sanctum of the Inner Circle, and Tam is left cooling his heels in the alley like a leperous beggar. Jason is an ass-kissing fanboy, and Tam isn't afraid to say if and when, IHHO, portions of certain books suck.

Jay799 09-27-2010 01:32 PM

IMO, the Olver twist is going to be his loss of innocence...him realizing that the only way to win Snakes and Foxes will be to cheat. He will no longer play that stupid game that has wasted so much of his, and ours time on. :)

I do think he will sneak into the TOG somehow...I'm not sure how, and I think he will be instrumental in saving the day....maybe something to do with Noal\Jain revealing who he truly is, and sacrificing himself for all of them, as some kind of atonement for his misgivings with the way he left his wife to die alone...and Olver being there leads him to the sacrifice...

I know its not well thought out, it is just the way I have envisioned it playing out in my mind for a long time...

Anaiya Sedai 09-27-2010 01:43 PM

I like the review, it does exactly what a review is supposed to do - leaving you wanting to read the book.

Maybe Olver is secretly hiding some horns under his hair and is a mini trolloc. or maybe he's demandred. [nb: that is not a serious suggestion, before you start quoting RJ and BS on demandred].

1Powerslave 09-27-2010 01:50 PM

I like Infidel's review of the review. :)


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