The year was 2006 and Oprah Winfrey had selected James Frey’s memoir about his stint in rehab, A Million Little Pieces, as her book of the month. I cannot recall if that was the first I had heard or seen of the book, but I do remember wanting to read it: it had a neat cover. You’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but we all know we do anyway. But then it was revealed that this bestseller was less biography and more fantasy, and although I maintained an interest in the book, it was far more muted and other works took precedence.
Flash forward to the present and I have finally read this controversial piece of fiction. My verdict? I still like the cover. My opinion on the insides are less positive.
It starts off okay, once you get used to Frey’s stylistic choices, specifically the utter lack of quotation marks and run-on sentences. But around page 150 or 200 the constant repetition starts to feel less artistic choice and more akin to someone trying very hard to be artistic. The further along the story goes the more ridiculous it gets.
Jimmy is a Tough Guy™. He beat a priest (maybe to death!), had multiple root canals done at the same time with no drugs, got in a billy club fight with a bunch of cops, had a hooker snort a line off his neither region, etc. He is smarter than the rehab counselors and doctors, too. Twelve Steps? Phaw! Jimmy is stronger than those puny programs. Don’t think too hard about if willpower is enough to over come addiction why he never did it before; just focus on his being super Tough™.
Far too many pages of this nonsense unfolds until finally, without any real warning, a light bulb goes off and he “gets it”. He is cured from his ills, his past is behind him, everything is starting to look bright. Most of his rehab buddies do not get a the same sunny afterlife, having instead rather dramatic deaths. The latter part of the book felt like really bad fanfiction: that’s how melodramatic their deaths are written. Of course the reason almost everyone dies is because then there are no witnesses to confirm or deny everything you just read!
Even so, I find myself curious to read the follow-up novel.
A Memory of Light. The end of what has been a very long journey (although not so much for the characters), and what a disappointing ending it is. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it; it was by far a better read than the previous tome, but that’s not really saying much, I suppose.
The book is fast paced, I will give it that. Upon further reflection, however, it feels as if the pace is there to mask underlaying faults. Not to mention, more time could have been spent on characters and characterization/interaction if we hadn’t wasted so much time in the previous two books. More specifically the huge Perrin love fest that went on in Towers of Midnight. Even so, the fast pace helped give the battle scenes a sense of urgency which could be very exciting at times. Every few pages the point-of-view would change so you were constantly hopping from one battleground to the next. There was a point when I realized that the breaking up of chapters seemed to be almost arbitrary given this type of set up.
The action does take away from The Wheel of Time‘s strong point, that being the characters. Little time is spent with anyone, including Rand. So I might as well go ahead and gripe about the lack of Moiraine.
There was no reunion between her and Lan. We know they are distant with one another but not really why. Oh, we can guess, but that’s not the same. Besides, given the crap load of Lan point-of-views we get you’d think he would reflect on the Aes Sedai once. But nope. Nothing. Moiraine thinks of nothing important ever. Not of Lan, not of Thom, not of Siuan, not of hugging Nynaeve. Oh yes, Siuan. No reunion there either and that tingle they had I suppose was just pointless like so much else.
Speaking of Siuan, here is a death that left me shocked. I had never considered whether or not Siuan would die. She just didn’t seem important enough to kill off. Turns out, her and Egwene were pretty much it for deaths. Well and my girl Romanda. 🙁 Clearly I do not care about Gawyn. Or Bela. If Bela was a cat I would be a bit sadder. I was, however, sadder about Bela than Gawyn, so there is that.
But yes, no one really died. For a moment in the book I thought this was it, that Jordan/Sanderson were going to go all George R.R. Martin and kill everyone. When Egwene bit the bullet I actually had to re-evaluate my belief that Moiraine was safe. But I got over it as I realized she and Nynaeve were in the safest spot in the book: the Pit of Doom. I have to give the writers credit for at least making the rest of the world look like it was in such dire straits that being at the literal end of the world was a safety zone.
But they didn’t do anything! Moiraine and Nynaeve clung to rocks while everyone else fought and not-died. Nynaeve helped Alanna who somehow was in the cave. And who released Rand’s bond without there being any downsides. Which then makes one (ok makes me) wonder about what the heck happened with Moiraine and Lan’s bond. Anyway. Alanna died. But it was so anti-climatic I just don’t care. And I liked Alanna. Even if she was a mind-rapist.
Elayne got kidnapped again. How many times is that now? At least this time she realized she could in fact die and wasn’t so over confident. I have a tiny hope she will not remain queen of Cairhien. I also liked how Egwene recognized that Elayne could be just as power hungry as any other ruler. But she is dead now, so she can’t tell that to the ninny’s face.
There were some very nice moments. Lan riding his way to battle a Forsaken with sword and the Two Rivers men lighting the way with Trollac corpses. Very cinematic. Very strange that Lan didn’t die. Also, this was Demandred’s third sword fight. It felt like a video game: Let me keep throwing players at you to wear you down, then summon my mighty fighter to finish you off.
Perrin vs Slayer was interesting but way too long. Perrin vs Lanfear was more interesting, because for a second I actually thought she found the Light. And then he snapped her neck.
Rand not dying and living to be a harem master. Mmm.
One pleasent surprise was Androl/Pevara. I had no interest in them in previous books but I loved them in this one. Yeah, the telepathy was a bit strange. Okay a lot strange. But they were adorable enough and human enough I didn’t mind. Apparently there are other readers who hated their sections. But again, I usually skimmed or skipped them previously so that might be the difference: I had no expectations besides boredom.
Nynaeve and Moiraine being buddies is cool. And Thom actually did something useful during the Last Battle. Color me surprised on both fronts. Now they can all have babies and the babies can marry each other and there’ll be Moiraine/Nynaeve grandbabies. *cough*
Cadsuane becoming Amyrlin made up for a lot of disappointment for me. First off, she lived! Hahahahaha! YAY. Second, that scene when she realizes she has been selected for the job she wanted least was just great for me. I can now admit to myself that she is my favorite Aes Sedai and character. Yes, Moiraine has been booted and has been for awhile. Cadsuane Melaidhrin is just awesome. AWESOME.
Okay, anyway. After finishing the book I felt rather elated. I knew it wasn’t a home run but it was still fun. Now approaching a month after I can barely remember what happened. I liked it better than Towers but less than The Gathering Storm. If I had to give a number score it would be 7/10.
It took me over two months to prowl through it. I cannot recall the last time a book took me that long to finish. The Farseer trilogy is truly a wonderful collection of books, and I am glad I took their recommendation to heart. The same cannot be said of the Tawny Man trilogy.
The first two books were a bit slow and showed some of the cracks in Hobb’s approach to the story: because we only see things through Fitz’s eyes, she had to contrive a bunch of opportunities for him to be spying or hear second-hand info. Fact is, most of the action and plot politics don’t really involve him; he’s just a spectator. The biggest issue for me, however, is that what we know, Fitz knows. Therefore if I can figure out what the undercurrent is in regards to Prince Dutiful’s engagement and why the Fool desires to preserve the dragons in the world, why can’t Fitz?
It isn’t until the fifty percent mark in “Fool’s Fate” that Fitz or Chade finally get a clue. It should not have taken that long. It should not have taken that long for the concluding book to start moving towards a climax. The first half is spent in drudgery of watching Thick complain about sea sickness and Fitz moan about his lot in life. The man is almost forty: what one could excuse in a twenty year old is just plain annoying in a man whose children are on the verge of becoming parents themselves.
Powerful moments are ruined by the ending. Burrich’s saving of his son Swift was wonderfully written, but his sacrifice seemed only needed so that Fitz could finally get his Molly. Who, almost twenty years later, he still thinks of as “Molly with her red skirts”. My god, man, get over it! They didn’t even have a real relationship.
Oh yes and the Fool’s fate. Fitz reverses it, nullifying any impact it originally had on the reader, and ultimately his true fate is never known because Fitz is too concerned, once again, with Molly.
If Hobb had had the courage to actually make the Fool female, now that would have been a nice twist. If one could call it a twist with all the hints she dropped. But it felt like in the end she didn’t want to do anything to shake Fitz’s world too much. So make the Fool disappear, give him Molly back (but with Burrich out of the picture), and everyone live happily ever after. Except the Fool. Oh and Kettricken.
I find it a bit of double standard that Kettricken, whose six month marriage was arranged, and didn’t really have a true love with her husband until near the end, remains a devoted widow until the end of her days. But Molly, who was with her husband for sixteen years and raised seven (!) children with him is able to move on within a short frame of time. It’s actually quite disgusting how eager Fitz was when Burrich died.
Frankly, it was one of the most disappointing books (and by extension trilogies) I’ve ever read.