While there were a few noticeably non-Jordanian passages (Mat didn't feel right to me), for the most part, I think Brandon Sanderson has done a remarkable job ... indeed, as fine a job as anyone could have done. I am genuinely impressed, and grateful that he clearly cares so very much. The book definitely left almost all the players in a state of readiness to move toward Tarmon Gai'don.
I'm putting the rest of this under an LJ-cut. Major spoilers ahead! You have been warned.
I am going to try to be coherent, but some of this ... my reactions feel like flashes of emotion. I don't mean to sound melodramatic: it's just that I'm still processing it, and don't yet have enough distance to offer an overview of the whole book.
- I was utterly delighted that we saw so little of Faile in this book. Ye gods and little fishes, her rescue dragged on worse than the "Harry and Hermione still in the woods" segment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Rand using the True Power. How on earth is he accessing it, and what does that mean? I have to wonder if that plays into the Karatheon Cycle's prediction regarding Callandor:
He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one.
Supposedly, the way to use Callandor safely is within a circle of two women and one man, with one of the women melding the flows. That's a way for the three to be one, but I wonder if it isn't possible that it could end up with a woman channeling saidar, a man channeling saidin, and Rand channeling the True Power into the sword, uniting the three aspects of the power against the Dark One. I have no idea, I'm pulling this out of thin air ... I'm just thinking that it's clear that saidar and saidin weren't enough last time around.
Or the three could be Rand, Perrin, and Mat. Or Elayne, Aviendha, and Min. There are far too many sets of three in these books. :/ I still think the three powers make the most sense, in terms of the sword being a weapon to be used against the Dark One.
And by the way, has anyone besides me wondered if there's a connection between Callandor and The Crystal Throne? The prophecies say that Rand will kneel before The Crystal Throne -- what if the throne is an angreal that's connected to Callandor in some way? They are both crystal, after all, and I know the throne is believed to be a ter'angreal.
- Rand bothered me a lot in this book, as he was meant to do. Just when I thought I'd been repulsed beyond belief (that he could be so callous to Nynaeve about Lan!), he attacked Tam. He may now be laughing, but all isn't suddenly forgiven, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, he bears an incredibly heavy burden, but he needs to apologize to the many people who have supported him through thick and thin. He has much toh.
- WTFBBQ on the whole Rand/Daughter of the Nine Moons/Seanchan situation. I agree with my husband: her reaction seemed illogical. I can only assume that this is A Plot Point That Must Be Obeyed to get to the conclusion.
- There were heavy indications toward the end of the book that this is it: this is the last battle. Whoever wins this time, the Wheel stops turning and something new begins.
- Egwene completely rocked. Sanderson did a beautiful job with her character, I thought: I loved the way she was truly a combination of her experiences ... her time with the Aiel seemed mirrored in her handling of the rebels and the loyalists during the reuniting of the White Tower. She sacrificed so much for her belief in this institution. I truly believe the transformation of the girl from the Two Rivers: she is the Amyrlin Seat.
- I was extremely happy about all the "Hey, remember Moiraine?" foreshadowing in this book. I think my favorite character will finally return in Towers of Midnight. It is way past time.
- The most powerful moment for me in the entire book:
Verin. Verin, Verin, Verin.
I get choked up all over again thinking of it.
There are many heroes in the Wheel of Time. I cannot think of one more selfless than she, more unsung, or more sacrificing.
I always found Verin fascinating, but despite her mystery and certain ... questionable activities, I always really liked her. This was a wonderful resolution for that character. Her character will probably never be as famous as Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter, but if you ever wanted to meet a truly good INTJ, one who gave everything she had for the betterment of all, Verin is it. Just so admirable. I was genuinely moved.
Things I'd still like to know:
- Backstory on Cadsuane. We know she's very old and has caught a lot of false Dragons, but we lack information about her history and her motives, and she's been fairly important.
- What the black knife over Beldeine's head means (I'm certain we'll learn this in one of the remaining two books.) Speaking of Min's viewings, will they all be resolved? How many were red herrings?
- What's going on with Loial.
- It would be nice to know a little more about Ilyena. She's mentioned so frequently.
- I'd like to see Machin Shin cleansed/banished/killed ... I thought the Ways were interesting, and would love a full exploration and mapping. I have serious doubts that this will happen.
- I'd like a little more resolution of the portal stone worlds. This may get munged in with this being the very last battle.
- I know we're going to find out who killed Asmodean. Sanderson has said as much.
- I look forward to Birgitte's resolution, and finding out who Gaidal Cain is. Reports are that RJ said it wasn't Olver. I suppose it could be Elayne and Rand's bairn, but I don't like that conclusion. Elayne's having fraternal twins, anyway.
- What's currently happening with Padain Fain, now Jeraal Mordeth?
- I know we'll see Lan and Nynaeve's ultimate resolution, and I look forward to it. Lan might well be my favorite male character in the books. I worry that he's going to die, though. :(
- More on Thom Merrilin's history. I doubt we'll get much, unless it gets monologued to Mat on the way to rescue Moiraine. I'd be fine with that. And what was so special about his best daggers? RJ said they were "very special indeed."
- I'd like an update on Mazrim Taim. I know Jordan said he wasn't Demandred. Okay, but who is he?
- I assume we'll have a last confrontation with the gholam.
- In Crossroads of Twilight, Min says that there's something dark in the images she saw around Davram Bashere. Will this get resolved?
- Shaidar Haran: what is he? Super myrddraal, or avatar of the Dark One? Plot resolution?
- Will Shara ever play a role? This kind of feels like something that RJ planned to do something with, but ran out of time.
- What will happen with the Tinkers and the Aiel? Will all be restored to the Way of the Leaf, or will something else occur? Will they return to Rhuidean and live in peace? (The Rhuidean segment is one of my favorite parts of all the books. I need to re-read the whole series.)
- I'd like to know so much more about the Age of Legends, but I suspect we'll never get that compendium now.
I'm sure there are many more unanswered questions, but it's late, and I need to get to bed.
- Wheel of Time wiki
- The Wheel of Time FAQ (no longer maintained, but still contains some useful information)
- Encyclopaedia WoT
Towers of Midnight is expected toward the end of October 2010. I can hardly wait: we're in the home stretch.
Tarmon Gai'don approaches.
EDIT, 05/09/2010: It appears that I was wrong about Mat, and I fully apologize to both my husband (who got it right) and to Brandon Sanderson for misperceiving his characterization. It appears that the exaggerated depiction of Mat was entirely intentional:
The change in Mat’s personality that many of us noticed in TGS was deliberate. He’s reacting to being married, which was the last thing he thought would happen to him. RJ’s notes said specifically that “Mat refuses to become husbandly" and he’s doing that by trying to go back how he was in TDR. This is part of where the silliness with the backstories comes from – he knows that he was less serious and more of a joker at the time, but can’t really get back to how he was then.