New Year, New Series

Nothing like starting a new year, so why not start a new books series as well? Below is a list of book series I’ve read in the past few years which I enjoyed and have recommended to friends. Another list, below the first, includes several series I hope to read this year. These are books I’ve been hearing a great deal about or have always intended to read but have not yet gotten to them.

1. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the WorldI read this series last year and it was an incredible ride. This series begins with The Eye of the World and includes a total of 15 books, one of which is a prequel. The series started in 1990 and was completed in 2013. Brandon Sanderson completed the final novel (which was published as three novels due to length) after Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. If you enjoy fantasy and are up for an epic adventure filled with great characters, magic, several unique societies, and a genuinely friendly and non-toxic fanbase, then look no further. The series may take you a while, it took me 9 months, but the journey is worth the investment.

 

2. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

TNotWBeginning with The Name of the Wind, this trilogy first arrived in 2007. The sequel arrived in 2011 and there are rumors that the third installment will arrive later this year. There is a novella and a short story that are supplemental to the main story, which you likely will devour as I did after being pulled into the series. This series is considered fantasy due to the use of a detailed magic system, supernatural elements, and a few fantastical creatures. The story is beautifully written. If you don’t like waiting, I may recommend starting this series after the last book arrives. However, if you are a fan of great stories, don’t pass this one up.

3. Dune by Frank Herbert

DuneDune is a series I must admit I have not completed. I have only read the first book, which can be read as a standalone novel. Frank Herbert wrote 6 Dune novels and 14 more were written by his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson. This brings the total to 20 books should you be interested in a long series. You can simply just read the first one, like I did, as it is a great story which ends without leaving you hanging like some installments in a series do. You therefore have the option of moving forward into the longer series if you want.

 

4. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

princess-of-mars-tpEdgar Rice Burroughs is best known for his Tarzan series, but he wrote a fun science fiction series that follows the protagonist John Carter. He is a former american civil war soldier who gets unexpectedly transported to Mars where he finds that it is inhabited by several species. There are 11 books in the series, but only the first three follow John Carter himself and is called the first Barsoom trilogy. I have only read the first four, and therefore can only recommend the first three as a trilogy to read. The first book is titled A Princess of Mars. It was first written in 1912 but reads as if it were written recently.

5. The Inhuman Trilogy by John Marco

Eyes of GodThis trilogy begins with The Eyes of God. A fourth book actually came out fairly recently which extends this trilogy, but I have not yet read it. Mostly because I would likely reread the trilogy before reading the new book. This story has elements of the Arthurian tales and follows a knight named Lukien who falls in love with his queen, Cassandra. This is just the beginning and the story goes well beyond simple court politics. It is an adventure into realms of ancient sorcerers and magical weaponry.

 

Series I hope to read this year.

1. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
Books of the New SUn.jpg

Starting with The Shadow of the Torturer, I first discovered Gene Wolfe from a book of nonfiction by Neil Gaiman. I later purchased the New Sun series after I learned Gene Wolfe passed away last year. I’m exited to read it.

2.  The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Murderbot-novellasI’ve been hearing a lot about this series and they are all great things. This series consists of four novellas. Therefore, I will likely read through the series pretty quickly. The fifth installment comes out later this year as a full novel. I may wait to read the first four until closer to the release date.

 

3. The Tales of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Books of EarthseaI’ve become a huge fan of Ursula K. Le Guin since I read her book The Left Hand of Darkness. I know the Earthsea novels have been well-loved by many, but I never knew about them until recently. My wife bought me the entire illustrated series as an anniversary present and I hope to read it soon.

 

 

4. The Imperial Radch Series by Ann LeckieAncillary-trilogy.jpg

This trilogy begins with Ancillary Justice. I first discovered this series when I went to see Ann Leckie. I saw her a second time at a library event. Despite attending two events, I have yet to sit down and read her series. I hope to change that this year and read all three.

5. The Binti Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti Trilogy.jpg

Binti has been on my radar for awhile now. I hope I can read the series this year. This is a another series of novellas, so I should be able to read them quickly.

 

Well there you have it. Several series I recommend, and several series I look forward to reading myself. I hope you have a bountiful year of books and great reading. I’m sure I will discover new favorites myself.

Happy Reading.

My Writing Year in Review – 2019

Well…this year’s writing plans went askew rather quickly I’m afraid. I originally had two goals for 2019, and they were to read more books and focus on writing short stories with the hope of getting five accepted for publication by the end of the year. I can happily say I accomplished one of these two goals.

I read more this year than the past five years combined (I think). This was in part because I read the entirety of The Wheel of Time, which accounted for nearly half of the books I read this year and approximately 75% of the “pages” read in total. The other part is that I decided to try audiobooks for the first time. I now listen to books on my commute and while doing yard-work. I completed an additional ten books by using the audiobook format.

I, unfortunately, did not get much writing done this year. I started off strong and wrote a few short stories, but then my writing tapered off. I was no longer writing on certain nights of the week, which I had done to create weekly posts for this blog in 2018. I think this was a big part of it. It just goes to show how discipline is more important than motivation. Another reason was likely because I was reading so much (not really and excuse though). I would sit down with a book instead of sitting down to write. This is also a discipline thing. I intend to write every day this next year, even just a little bit, to restore that discipline and ensure progress toward my writing goals. The last reason my writing halted involved something I learned about myself. Apparently, when I get stuck on a story, I tend to halt writing altogether. This is a terrible thing to do and I will need to overcome this issue. However, I now know it is a problem and can recognize when I am falling into this trap. I already have ways to prevent this from hindering my progress.

Aside from accomplishing only one of my 2018 goals, I did manage to maintain a fairly consistent presence on this blog. I averaged about one post a week even though nearly all the posts were book recommendations or part of my “reactions” to The Wheel of Time.

My goals for the upcoming year (and new decade) are to:

  • Write every day (even if it is just one sentence)
  • Read even more
  • Use my local library more (I haven’t used my libraries much since I was a kid)

I don’t want to place specific writing goals on myself because I have several in mind and my writing can often take me in directions I had not previously intended. Such as a short story turning into a longer work or vice-versa. I do hope to finish the first draft of my first novel before I am 30, which means I will need to write the majority of it this next year as I am turning 29 in a few months. Writing every day should help me complete a draft. Should I get ambitious, I could write a few first drafts. I have plenty of stories that are nearly fully planned-out so it’s not impossible.

Another goal I hope to achieve is to begin a PhD program. I am currently working on the application materials for a specific program. Should I be accepted, I will begin the program in August. This will of course put more strains on my time, but I know I am capable of accomplishing all of my goals. I just need to be persistent.

My last, somewhat-writing-related goal is more a change in my interaction with the community. It seems like a lot of negative things are put out into the world these days. I’m not terribly active on social media, but I hope I can become more of a positive force and focus on lifting others as they pursue their dreams. I know how little things can make big differences and I know that lifting others can have a positive impact on the one doing the lifting. It may be a bit selfish, but I want to surround myself with more positivity and I want to reciprocate that positivity. The world is a better place when we support each other.

With that, I would like to thank you for reading my blog, and I hope you aspire to your own creative endeavors this next year. Feel free to give me updates on your projects as I’d love to support you. And, as always…

Happy Reading.

On Robert Jordan

At the start of this year, Robert Jordan was merely a name to me. I was aware of his works but had yet to read any of them. Now, as we near the end of this year, I must say that I have joined millions of others who are inspired by him. Those who have lived the many lives he weaved into his stories. It is incredible how a life can change within a year as well as what can be the catalyst to that change. We all change over time of course, but this year held an unexpected change for me in the form of The Wheel of Time.robert-jordan

The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan’s magnum opus. He wrote several other books, seven in the Conan series and a few other standalone novels, but he is best known for this series. I read all 4.5 million words across 15 books within 9 months and must say that I was more than impressed with his vision. I have since made many friends online because of the shared interest in this story (I love when books bring people together). However, I was hesitant to begin the series. My grandmother bought me the first book over ten years ago and it sat on my bookshelf waiting for me. I had a friend rave about the series and tell me I needed to read it since I like Lord of the Rings. And I had a second friend who had just started the series himself tell me I needed to read it. All three of them were correct. I did need to read this series because once I started it, I was enraptured and it in turn consumed a lot of my time. I could go on for ages about the series itself, and I did as I tracked my way through the series on this blog, but this post is about the man behind the writing.

Robert Jordan. I’m ashamed to say I know little about him outside of what is provided in the “about the author” section from his books. He seems to have lived an interesting life by the paragraph that is provided. I’ve learned a little here and there (such as his real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr. and Robert Jordan was a pen name), but I plan to learn more about him in the near future. However, though I know they are not the characters they create, authors do leave a bit of themselves within each book they write. I like to believe that The Wheel of Time is an accurate representation of who Robert Jordan was. Not in the grand fight of good versus evil or even in the subtleties he threaded into the story arcs but the very fabric of the story insofar as it showed his incredible understanding of the world he lived in. He created incredible characters, yes, but even more impressive were his creations of different, fully-developed societies and customs. He created a realized world that has become a home to many people.

If I knew nothing about him, knowing how he has influenced generations of fans would be enough. I can now say that I have been influenced and that I recommend his books to anyone I know who would enjoy the journey. I am greatly looking forward to the television adaptation currently in production. Many fans are excited to see this story on-screen. Perhaps there will be fun behind-the-scenes information. Perhaps some of them will include discussions of Robert himself by show-runners and script writers.

Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. I would have been 16 at that time and I can’t help but feel as though I missed an opportunity in my ignorance. I doubt I would have been able to see him in person, but I would have known he was alive when he influenced my life. Too often we don’t get a chance to appreciate that. Especially with literature, but that is the magic of books. They remain to continue their work after their creators are gone. Though I spent nine months reading the series and finished only a month ago, I cannot help but be thankful I had the opportunity to experience the world he lived in and shared with the rest of us.

A Memory of Light

A Memory of Light


The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.


Thus we enter A Memory of Light. The final installment to the Wheel of Time. I’m going to hop right into this one because so much happens. I will be changing the format for this final post. Instead of covering each character, I’m going to go through the book in order of events. Mainly because this is the end of it all.

Before we begin; one, last, obligatory Spoiler Warning. If you haven’t read the series, do not read further. I encourage you to read the series and experience this all yourself as it is a wonderful journey. I would hate to be the one to ruin something for you. The same goes for anyone who is currently reading the series but hasn’t yet made it to this book. If you fall in this category, go check out my thoughts on the books you have read. I was able to avoid many spoilers during my first read-through of this series, but I did end up having a few things spoiled. Luckily, they turned out to be different than what I thought they would lead to and some were not terribly surprising, but spoilers are just not fun for anyone. It’s best to experience everything yourself without anything being ruined.

Okay…

here we go

Prologue

One final, longish prologue. We see Isam/Luc/Slayer in a town in the Blight near Shayol Ghul. He was born here. Survived in this ruthless place and developed a unique skill. Since almost all Shadowspawn are creatures of evil, and all Darkfriends were lured or forced to serve the Shadow, I never even thought that there would have been a town or anything living in the Blasted Lands where life would be allowed to continue. This almost makes Slayer’s story a bit tragic because all he knows is the Shadow. Almost.

Talmanes is defending Caemlyn. He gets cut by a Myrddrall blade and is certain he will die, but he persists. He meets up with Guybon and they do what they can. He is determined not to let the dragon cannons fall into enemy hands.

Aviendha tells the Wise Ones of the visions she saw in Rhuidean. Bair decides to go to Rhuidean to see if she has a similar experience.

Mazrim Taim has, for some time apparently, been using 13 channelers and 13 Myrrdraal to Turn Asha’man to the Shadow creating Dreadlords.

We get one last meeting of the remaining Forsaken. Graendal was killed and reborn as Hessalam. She is reborn in a hideous body as punishment. Taim has become a Chosen under the name M’Hael, for his work for the Shadow. I had originally thought Demandred may have been Taim because we never know what Demandred is doing (though we find out soon enough), but I was wrong. I was right, in a way, knowing that he did serve the enemy.

Chapters 1-10

Nynaeve is able to Heal Talmanes and Elayne, Egwene, Rand, and Perrin learn that Caemlyn is under attack. Caemlyn is officially lost, as is Kandor which is also under attack from an immense Trolloc force.

Taim has Logain captured and plans to Turn him into a Dreadlord, but his loyal Asha’man plan to save him. Pevara and Androl bond each other and create a new type of bond where they can communicate telepathically. They are the ones who are going to lead the resistance against Taim in the Black Tower. They decide to save Logain from Taim even though they are not certain, at this point, that Logain is held captive. They search for him and find him beneath the Black Tower is a secret area Taim had built. He hasn’t been Turned yet. He has been fighting it and holding out. They get trapped then captured during their attempt.

Aviendha and Rand hook up on the eve of the meeting at Merrilor. Min saw that she would have quadruplets and this was basically the last chance for her to get pregnant, so I’m assuming she does. Rand visits Elan/Moridin in the dreamworld again. He tells Moridin to tell the Dark One that he is going to finish things.

Rand holds his meeting on the Field of Merrilor. He thinks King Roedran is someone else for some reason and I don’t think this is ever explained. Rand presents his Peace document and asks everyone to sign it or he won’t fight the Dark One. The negotiations start to break down when Moiraine walks in. She helps convince the leaders to sign the agreement. He makes additions before everyone signs that the Aiel will be the peacekeepers, so they are in the agreement now at Aviendha’s behest (to avoid her visions from coming true thought technically that future could still happen with how they are included). Rand hands over the Seals to Egwene during the meeting after Moiraine helps her realize she would be the one to break them. They all agree to sign it, but it wouldn’t be valid unless the Seanchan sign it.

Elayne is given command of all forces. There are four battlefronts: Caemlyn, Kandor, Tarwin’s Gap, and Shayol Ghul. They plan to retake Caemlyn first to reduce the fronts to three and get rid of the enemy behind them. They put a Great Captain at each battlefront: Bashere goes with Elayne to Caemlyn, Agelmar goes to the Gap to help Lan, Gareth Bryne goes with the Aes Sedai to hold off the forces in Kandor, and poor Ituralde gets to go to Shayol Ghul with Rand. This guy can’t catch a break.

Lan is about to lose the Gap when the Borderland forces show up and help turn the tide so they can hold the area. Faile is given charge of the supply logistics with a secret mission to get the Horn of Valere from the White Tower to the Field of Merrilor where they will need it. Mat is on his way to Ebou Dar at this point. Loial, my man, shows up with a force of Ogier to help fight the Shadow.

Elayne is having trouble with the Trollocs in Caemlyn. She tries to draw the Trollocs out so she can set off her trap in the Braem Wood. Eventually it works and that fight begins. They use the dragon cannons here to help funnel the Trollocs. Dreadlords show up at the Gap making Lan retreat from the area.

Chapters 11-20

Mat arrives in Ebou Dar. He sneaks into the palace and is almost killed by Selucia, who is playing bait for assassins. She tells him where to find Tuon. He goes to her and sits in some bushes while she practices kung fu surrounded by Deathwatch guards. He is the only one to see the Gray Man and flings a knife at him. Tuon sees the knife but shows her trust in Mat by looking backward trusting that Mat is not throwing the dagger at her even though it is close. Mat and Tuon hook up right in the courtyard (lots of baby-making before the Last Battle, which I believe is common). Tuon believes the omens that she will have Mat’s baby. We find out much later that she succeeds from this attempt.

Moiraine goes with Rand. Rand begins his visits to each battlefield to keep his location random to the enemy. He goes to fend of the forces at the Gap but is pushed back by the Dreadlords. These are presumably led by Taim (which turns out to be true). Rand decides he can’t openly fight on the battlefields because they will track him and try to capture or kill him. He later goes into the dreamworld and ends up speaking with Lanfear. She seems like she is going to end up helping Rand, possibly, but she still only cares for herself and holds a grudge against whoever is punishing her, which I think is technically Moridin and not the Dark One.

Perrin enters the Wolf Dream in the flesh to go kill Slayer. Gaul goes with him and quickly learns the basics of the transitory nature of the place. Perrin discovers there is another Dreamspike and it is what is preventing Traveling around the Black Tower. It is in the dream at the Black Tower where Perrin meets Lanfear. She decides to help him. She claims she lost her title as Forsaken because the Dark One discovered she was going to help Rand at the Last Battle. She helps Perrin locate the Dreamspike and even shows him how to turn it on and off.

Graendal was with Taim when he tries to Turn Logain. Androl gets free from his bonds and is able to fend them off and free Logain mainly because Perrin removes the Dreamspike so Androl can use his Talent with gateways. Taim and Graendal escape. This leads to Logain retaking the Black Tower. All Darkfriends get removed. Taim goes to fight at the Gap.

Loial fights with Elayne near Caemlyn and his force of Ogier are absolutely insane. They are a force to be reckoned with and completely destroy some Trollocs.

Rand makes peace with Tuon. He does kneel before her, but he isn’t blinded like the Seanchan prophecies stated he would be. I was curious if the “blinded” part of the prophecy referred to Mat since he lost his eye. Or did it refer to a different, possible future that didn’t come to pass?

Rand then goes to Egwene and discovers that the Seals are fake. Someone stole the Seals from him before he gave them to Egwene.

Sharans show up and ambush Egwene’s army. Out of nowhere. They Travel right behind their lines and take over their camp and they have to retreat while losing many forces. Egwene gets trapped in the area with Gawyn. The Sharans have One Power users aplenty. Where did they come from? Why are they fighting for the Shadow? Who recruited them? All we know about the Sharans is that they stay fairly isolated on the other side of the Spine of the World.

Chapters 21-25

The answer is Demandred. This is where he has been the whole time. He practically became king of the Sharans and brought them here for the Last Battle. He takes over as the commander for the forces of the Shadow. He senses and captures Leane who is also hiding in the camp. He sends her as a messenger to tell Rand to come fight him. Egwene watches this interaction before going with Gawyn to escape the area. Gawyn, being the dumbass he is, has activated one of the Seanchan rings. He uses it to get out of the Sharan camp, which is a legit reason, but by activating it he will be killed by it.

Perrin faces Graendal/Hessalam in the wolf dream. She escapes. Lanfear speaks with him again and tells him he can learn to enter and exit the dream whenever he wants, like Slayer. She also tells him that Graendal was peeking into Davrim Bashere’s dreams. Perrin fights Slayer and Slayer escapes. Perrin places the Dreamspike within the Bore near Rand so no one can Travel into the area and interfere. Including Slayer.

Rand enters Shayol Ghul and his forces take control of the area. Aviendha goes with him and leads a small for of One Power users. Ituralde begins a defense of the valley into Shayol Ghul. He uses walls of thorns to slow and slaughter the Trolloc forces. Impressive.

The Seanchan prepare to help Egwene’s forces. They are still questionable at this point since Tuon states she can break the treaty any time she wants because she is Empress. She starts to rub me the wrong way at this point. I liked her when she was with Mat, but without him, I don’t really care for her. She reminds me a lot of Elayne in the way they both think more about securing and expanding their influence/rule instead of doing what is right. This is understandable considering the positions, but they could both be great rulers without making poor, selfish decisions.

Elayne falls back to Cairhein as the never-ending Trollocs keep attacking. They got a lot of forces through the Ways and into Caemlyn. Which reminds me of one thing that never gets resolved. What is the Black Wind/Machin Shin? We never really know and it never comes back into play. Anyway, Elayne’s forces are doing okay for now and the dragon cannons are wreaking havoc.

Lan and Agelmar begin their retreat across Shienar. They burn all cities and farms to deny resources to the enemy. Lan is concerned Agelmar is making mistakes.

Rand goes into the Bore with Moiraine and Nynaeve. He confronts Moridin there. The corpse of Shaidar Haran is behind him. Apparently Shaidar Haran was the Dark One and he has been released from that particular vessel. He is now just a wall of darkness behind Moridin.

Chapters 26-30

Elayne, through Tam’s insights, discovers Davrim Bashere is a Darkfriend. I was skeptical of this and was later rewarded with the discovery that Bashere was under Compulsion to make minor mistakes that would eventually let the Trolloc forces win. I was not sure about Agelmar, but I knew for certain that Bryne and Ituralde couldn’t be Darkfriends. It eventually all comes out that the Great Captains were all under subtle Compulsion to make them lose. Loial is fighting like a beast but Elayne’s forces are losing. It was around this time that I started to wonder where Logain is since we haven’t seen him in a while. He then shows up to help Elayne’s forces. He was deciphering Taim’s notes about the enemy’s plan. He came to Elayne first with his Asha’man. Androl leads a large circle of men and women to make a giant gateway that spills a river of lava into the Trolloc forces which then lets Elayne’s forces regroup and rest as the Trollocs have to regroup.

Lan is still doubting Agelmar at this point. He sets up an order to find out for sure. His order eventually shows that Agelmar is acting in a way that would help the enemy, so he assumes command. He suspects Agelmar is under Compulsion because Agelmar wants to do the right thing but cannot act on it. Agelmar tries to take his own life but Lan prevents him because he knows Agelmar is still good.

Egwene and Tuon form a shaky alliance to fight the Sharans and Trollocs. Tuon “claims” Min after she learns of Min’s viewings. I never liked the Seanchan as a people, but I thought I could like Tuon. However, her simply taking Min was a deciding factor for me. She is ignorant and hypocritical (as a lot of ruler can be). She believes she can do whatever she pleases and can act like a spoiled rotten child. I understand Min could be valuable asset, but Tuon is too quick to “take” her and basically claim her as property.

Bryne makes a mistake on his battlefield. Mat gets into the battle, literally, and realizes that Bryne is losing. He suspects Bryne is a Darkfriend because he can see the subtle mistakes that are leading the battle to ruin. Mat takes over command of these forces.

Perrin spies Graendal leaving Ituralde’s tent in the dreamworld. He figures out she is doing something to the captains. Elyas, in wolf form, is the one who helped Perrin track her to Ituralde’s tent. Perrin sends Elyas to warn everyone the captains are compromised. He then goes to fight Slayer.

Chapters 31-36

Ituralde is resisting the Compulsion placed on him because he knows his objective is to defend at all costs. He isn’t trying to defeat the enemy, just hold them off. He is about to make a vital mistake when Elyas shows up and takes him away. Ituralde is relieved to have been stopped.

Egwene relieves Bryne from command and requests they let Mat take over. Bryne is also happy to be relieved from command. He sensed something was off. Egwene guesses it is Compulsion and sends warning to the other battlefronts.

Mat suggests a unified, final fight. Elayne has won her battle outside of Cairhein thanks to the Asha’man. She was going to reinforce Lan at the Gap but Mat convinces everyone to make a stand at the Field of Merrilor. Elayne agrees and gives/shares Mat command of the entire operation.

Faile gets the Horn of Valere from Tar Valon, but gets hit by a bubble of evil before she can Travel to Merrilor. They enter a gateway to escape the bubble and end up in the Blight. She starts making her way to Shayol Ghul, which is nearby and has friendly forces that can help her Travel back to Merrilor, when someone tries to take the Horn. It turns out to be Vanin and Harnin. They take off and Faile thinks they are Darkfriends. Egwene learns that Faile is missing and has people searching for the Horn.

Aviendha senses channeling and goes to see who it is. She finds three Blight Aiel with the red veils. One could channel and captures her, but Cadsuane saves her (likely because of her ter’angreal that let’s her sense saidin). The Blight Aiel may have originated from the tradition that Aiel male channelers were sent into the Blight alone to fight the Dark One as a means to die with honor before going mad. The person Aviendha sensed was Graendal who escapes. I thought she escapes into Tel’aran’rhiod like Slayer does, but she is apparently Traveling using the True Power instead of the One Power.

Rand, while fighting Moridin, backsteps and his foot goes into the darkness that is the essence of the Dark One. He and Moridin become frozen as Rand confronts the Dark One in the void outside of the Pattern. Nynaeve finds Alanna chained inside the Bore. She is stabbed and is bleeding out. Nynaeve works to save her. She cannot Heal her because she is in a circle with Rand. If Alanna dies, Rand will go mad from the Warder bond.

Perrin fights Slayer in the dreamworld but gets an arrow in the shoulder. He is bleeding out when he awakes/travels out of the dreamworld. Gaul is still in the dreamworld guarding the entrance to the Bore with some wolves.

The Trolloc forces arrive to fight Mat and everyone else. They momentary respite is over.

Chapter 37: The Last Battle

The Last Battle begins and it is incredible. The chapter is nearly 200 pages long in the hardback addition I have. It is ~81,200 words and is popularly compared in length to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which is ~78,000 words. Therefore, this one chapter is longer than that entire first book.

Anyway, let’s get into it.

Demandred is running around linked in a full circle of 72 One Power users. He is also using a sa’angreal and hurling balefire at random. He keeps calling for Rand to come face him one vs. one.

Logain has orders from Rand to find the seals. They believe Taim has them, so they don’t necessarily join in the battle plans and instead hunt for Taim and other Dreadlords.

Rand is facing the Dark One in the void. They are showing each other alternate futures.

Gawyn makes another, final, dumb decision and walks off to fight Demandred alone. He puts on all three Seanchan Bloodknive rings. He fights Demandred and, although doing okay because of the rings, gets stabbed through the middle and left to die. He is able to find a horse and sneak away. This was such a dumbass move. What did he think would happen? He was too busy trying to play a hero while convincing himself that is was actually for Egwene’s benefit. His recklessness will impact Egwene negatively.

Perrin is found and brought to Mayene for healing. He passes out for a bit and actually gets some rest after being in the dreamworld for so long.

Androl reveals that he knows Jain Farstrider/Noal as some point, which I thought was interesting. This is never explained outside the fact that Androl has let a varied past.

Rhuarc gets Compulsion placed on him by Graendal. She gathers a small force on the battlefield at Shayol Ghul. If only she could get killed so her Compulsion will dissipate from all those affected (this unfortunately does not happen).

Mat gives Logain the go ahead to fight Demandred whenever he wants to. Mat’s command tent is attacked. He has already realized there is a spy nearby and plans to use them. Min saves Tuon during this attack and Mat gets them out, but Siuan was there and gets killed. She saves Min at the beginning of the attack and Min tells her to get back to Bryne since her viewing still showed they would both die if they didn’t stick together. Suian then gets killed “off-screen” since we don’t see what happens. Min then knows Bryne will die. He will go mad because of the Warder bond. I liked Siuan and am saddened she dies. I wish we could have seen her fight though. It would have been tragic to see her last stand, and have it revealed she loses because she is not as strong in the One Power as she once was. It would have solidified that fact that her misfortune led her to that moment. I don’t know. I just wanted a little more before she was gone.

Demandred “beastmasters” into a falcon to survey the battlefield. Taim was with the forces blocking off the river upstream. He Travels to Demandred using the True Power. Demandred shields him from both sources and settles a small dispute. Apparently Demandred is the one who convinced Taim to join the Shadow.

Androl learns where Taim is by accident. He is disguised as a Turned Asha’man and is brought to Demandred.

Mat sends Galad hunting Sharan channelers after giving him one of the replicas of his medallion. Mat is using gateways creatively and sometimes with comic relief to provide orders. Galad goes hunting and this is where he discovers Gawyn. He tries to get Gawyn to safety and to be Healed. Gawyn reveals to Galad that Rand is his brother. Then Gawyn dies.

Mat and Tuon have a little fake fight to fool the spy in their ranks. Tuon withdraws from the battle taking her Seanchan forces.

Rand continues his battle of wills with the Dark One. The Dark One shows him a world without compassion. Rand shows him a world without the Dark One.

Tam holds off forces near the dry riverbed until Lan can come in and finish the Trollocs off there. Berelain then shows up by gateway with a bunch of refugees who want to help. They can’t do much, but they can help a little. Like gathering arrows for Tam’s archers who just ran out. We later see that Aram’s parents are among these refugees along with many other Tinkers.

Elayne finds Gareth Bryne’s body. She knows Siuan is dead because the descriptions of Bryne’s behavior before he died. We don’t see how Bryne dies either. I think they both deserved to have their final stands described on the page. Gawyn gets an on-page death. And Egwene becomes incapacitated because of it. She gets taken to Mayene.

Elayne takes command of the battle since Mat goes missing after his command tent is destroyed. He actually goes to fight and get a feel of the battle with Furyk Karede and the other Deathwatch guards ordered to go fight the front lines for “failing to prevent the attack on the command tent.” Elayne retreats from the front lines to avoid being killed by Demandred’s balefire. Demandred is trying to attack her to draw out Rand. She doesn’t do much when in command because Mat really never loses the command.

Galad then goes to face Demandred one vs. one. He calls out Demandred and they fight. Galad has the medallion that protects him from the One Power so they fight mainly swordsman to swordsman.

Mat runs into Davrim Bashere on the battlefield. Davrim agreed to relinquish command and fight as a soldier. Apparently Tenobia had died earlier sometime between the fight at the Gap and the fight at Merrilor, so Davrim technically could become king. Mat then gathers Loial and the Ogier forces, along with the Dragonsworn and some of his Band of the Red Hand, to attack Demandred’s forces to prevent the forces of good from being surrounded.

Egwene convinces Silviana and Rosil, the Yellow in Mayene attending her, to let her return to battle. She bonds Leilwin as her new Warder to help relieve the pain from her recently lost Warder bond and to keep an eye on her in the battle. Rosil advises using stronger emotions to overwhelm the emotions of loss so she won’t be hindered by the loss of the bond. Egwene uses anger and hatred for the Shadow.

Galad scores a hit on Demandred after taking a hit himself. Demandred cuts off Galad’s arm and we are led to believe he kills Galad. We later find out Demandred leaves Galad to bleed out as another attempt to draw Rand out since Galad is Rand’s brother. Galad fought (and almost dies) as he lived. Honorably and with a purpose doing what he believed to be right. Though he was annoying in the beginning, he grew on me as he grew as a person. He fought well.

Androl finds Taim. He is still disguised as a Turned Asha’man. Taim disguises Androl’s disguise so that Androl looks like Androl. The irony. He then orders Androl to go kill Logain. Androl is able to pickpocket the Seals from Taim before leaving.

Rand shows the Dark One a world without Shadow, but it is slightly off. There is no fear or conflict. Everything is perfect, but that takes away from who the people are. The Dark One states that he would win if Rand chose this future as it would be similar to the world without empathy.

Faile impersonates an enemy caravan outside of the town in the Blasted Lands so they can travel through a gateway to the battlefield at Merrilor. Once they get through, she discovers Aravine was a Darkfriend and betrays her. Olver stabs the Black Ajah who captures Faile and the other soldiers. Doing so puts the area into chaos as the other prisoners are released. Faile chases down Aravine and gets the Horn back with the help from Vanin and Harnen, who had impersonated other prisoners to go through the same gateway but a little earlier. They orchestrated the release of prisoners for when Faile came through. They thought they were stealing Mat’s tabac and were surprised to find the Horn when they finally got hands on it. This doesn’t explain why the ran off though after being accused of being Darkfriends. They get separated in the chase. Faile gets the Horn, but then gives it to Olver as he hides and tells him to get the Horn to Mat. She then draws the Trollocs away from Olver knowing she won’t make it to safety. Olver tries to escape riding Bela. Bela goes down and Olver hides in a crack in the landscape. Trollocs try grabbing at him.

Egwene returns to the battlefield like a boss and ends up facing down Taim. She almost shields him but he uses the True Power to escape.

Then Logain confronts Demandred and quickly gets his ass handed to him. He escapes via gateway and gives up on his dream of killing a Forsaken.

Taim goes to Demandred and Demandred gives him the sa’angreal he was using so Taim can go kill Egwene. It is apparently tied to Demandred some way so Taim can’t use it against him.

Annoura burns herself out of the One Power after saving Galad from the battlefield. She takes him to Mayene and to Berelain.

Rand sees everyone dying on the battlefield. Davrim Bashere, Hurin, and many others. He wants it all to end, but he doesn’t give up.

Elayne is commanding her forces when she is attacked and captured by Mellar and other Darkfriends who were disguised as refugees. Mellar kills Birgitte, which totally sucked because I like Birgitte. She had lost all of her previous memories at this point so I think that her death was actually okay as she could then return to the weave of the pattern and be with Gaidal. Mellar is about to cut the babies out of Elayne (wtf?) when the Horn of Valere is sounded.

Egwene finds a way to make a weave opposite of balefire, which she uses to kill Taim. She then realizes she is spent. She tells Leilwin to break the seals when she sees “the light,” then Egwene severs her bond with her new Warder and sends her to safety through a gateway. Egwene then uses the remaining strength she has to kill the remaining Sharan channelers. She dies, but is still within the Pattern. Her body is never found but the sa’angreal she was using is encased in the crystals her anti-balefire weave creates. Egwene became one of my favorite characters in this series. Outside of her poor choice of a husband, she was admirable and strong. She did what she had to for the good of the world.

Berelain realizes Galad is telling her to take the medallion back to Mat. She does so at the same time Mat asks Lan to check if any soldier in Mayene are healed enough to return to the fight.

Lan charges the enemy line alone in his now typical suicidal behavior. Loial goes to witness his charge. Lan is wearing the medallion from Galad. He goes straight for Demandred. He fights him one vs. one and is able to kill him by “sheathing the sword.”

Chapters 38-45

Lan is mortally wounded but he holds Demandred’s head on the battlefield as Mat fights his way to Lan. Mat gets to him and has Narishma heal him.

Olver blows the Horn of Valere. Apparently, not sure how, Mat’s death in Rhuidean broke his link to the Horn. I guess it makes sense since he actually “dies.” So Olver is now linked to the Horn but likes it. Noal actually shows up as a Hero of the Horn and saves Olver.

Birgitte is reborn with the Horn and kills Mellar, thus saving Elayne one last time.

Darkhounds show up at the fight at Shayol Ghul. The wolves are fighting there too, but they can’t do much against the Hounds. No one can.

Aviendha finds Graendal and calls for Cadsuane and Amys to help fight her. She kills Rhuarc who was still under Compulsion. She then turns her anger onto Graendal. She is able to land a hit with a spear made of the Power as Graendal tries to Travel using the True Power. Aviendha is hurt badly when she charged Graendal. Her feet are basically destroyed. Which means she can’t move much when she gets to the ledge Graendal Travels them to where they continue their fight. Both wounded.

Androl tricks some of the remaining Turned Asha’man and Dreadlords into chasing him through a gateway into a Stedding, where they are captured by Ogier and help prisoner. Alviarin was among this group of Darkfriends.

Moghedien ends up being the spy in the Seanchan camp. Min finds her out from her viewings. Moghendien then travels to Merrilor where she disguises herself as Demandred and tries to take the command that was lost. She then gets blasted by the dragon cannons which are now firing from gateways. Talmanes is leading the dragon canons with Aludra pointing out targets.

The Seachan return to the battle at Merrilor and start squeezing the Shadow’s army. The soldiers Mat sent to defend the river from being dammed were from Hinderstap. Mat gave Grady orders to open at gateway to Hinderstap at dawn, which he does, and all the people who had died at the river come storming out and continue the fight. I thought this was a really cool move. Using the Shadow’s evil as an asset. Grady then releases the river which will split the Trolloc forces down below.

Logain is looking for the sa’angreal Taim was using when he died. Logain hasn’t done much during this battle honestly and now he just wants to gain power so he can rule when the battle is over, which makes me not like him. He kept out of the danger, except when getting whipped by Demandred, despite being a powerful user of the One Power. He does end up listening to Androl though when Androl asks him to go help the refugees who were now being attacked by Trollocs at Moghedien’s command.

The Sharans retreat and Mat cleans up the Trollocs. The Battle of Merrilor is over. Mat feels the pull to Rand and he asks Artur Hawkwing to go talk to Tuon before he leaves for Shayol Ghul.

Perrin returns to the fight, shifting to the Wolf Dream in the flesh again. He goes to hunt Slayer. Gaul has been defending the Bore with the wolves. They prevent Slayer from entering and attacking Rand. Gaul retreats after Perrin shows up.

Thom has been defending the entrance to the Bore this whole time. He kills five Black Ajah who try to impersonate other Aes Sedai.

Padan Fain shows up to Shayol Ghul under the name Shaisam.

Mat arrives via raken to the battle ensuing at Shayol Ghul. He takes Olver with him. Olver blows the Horn again.

Chapters 46-49

Rand returns from his battle of wills with the Dark One and he continues his fight with Elan/Moridin. Elan throws a dagger at Alanna to kill her. Alanna is able to release the bond with Rand before she dies. Moridin does something to Rand. He stabs his own hand but it hurts Rand too. I’m not sure what that is about, but it causes Rand to drop Callandor. Moridin picks it up and Nynaeve and Moiraine use the flaw in the sword to take control of Moridin. Callandor is apparently a sa’angreal for the True Power. Rand then pulls immense amounts of the True Power from Moridin, saidar from Nynaeve and Moiraine, and saidin from himself. He turns that power against the Dark One. He effectively reaches through the void/Bore and grabs the Dark One by the throat. This energy also releases a bar of light into the sky that can be seen from everywhere. Logain is helping the refugees when he sees it. He then breaks the Seals.

Perrin chases down Slayer and kills him. It was an epic rundown as he shifted between man, wolf, and the real world and dreamworld. He then gathers some Aiel and fights to defend the Bore from the Darkhounds. The Horn of Valere calls back the hero wolves this time and they help Perrin fight the Darkhounds. Perrin is able to kill Darkhounds with his Power-wrought hammer. Perrin gets Gaul out of the wolf dream and takes him to Merrilor for Healing. He also wants to try and find Faile, but he knows he needs to return to Rand.

Mat gets speared by a tendril of mist from Padan Fain/Mashadar/whatever-he/it-is called. He goes down, but uses it as a fake to draw Padan Fain to him. Mat then is able to kill Padan Fain with his own dagger. The dagger from book one that had consumed Mat.

Aviendha pulls apart her gateway to try and kill Graendal. She does so and Graendal weaves Compulsion. The gateway explodes but not in a big way. It somehow reversed Graendal’s weave so she now has Compulsion toward Aviendha.

Perrin goes to Rand by traveling in the wolf dream. He finds Lanfear sitting inside the Dreamspike barrier. She guides Perrin to where Rand is unleashing power on the Dark One with Moiraine, Nynaeve, and Moridin. She wants to kill Nynaeve and Moiraine to take control of Rand. She is still loyal to the Dark One. She had somehow used a little Compulsion on Perrin as well because he reaches toward Moiraine to do as Lanfear wants. he is able to break the Compulsion in time and he kills Lanfear.

Rand reforges the Dark One’s prison. He doesn’t kill the Dark One or seal him away again. He reforges the prison so he cannot directly touch or influence the world. Rand sees that the Dark One isn’t really an enemy and let’s it live imprisoned where the Creator originally put it.

Epilogue

Rand gets out of the cave. He hauls Moridin with him. Rand is then in a recovery tent for a while but he is dying and can’t be healed. Elan lies next to him and eventually starts to mend.

The dice stop rolling in Mat’s head when he kills Padan Fain. The dagger melts away. Mat returns to Tuon to learn she is pregnant. Confirmed via Min’s viewing.

Perrin starts to believe Faile is dead, but he finds her through the wolf dream. A falcon leads him to a spot on the battlefield, where he goes to in the real world to find Faile barely alive beneath a few bodies. She lives.

Nynaeve and Lan are reunited.

Ituralde is alive and is asked to be king of Arad Doman.

Moghedien somehow survives but is quickly captured in a Seanchan a’dam.

A funeral pyre is created for Rand when he dies. Nynaeve guesses that Min, Elayne, and Aviendha know something because they all are not saddened after he dies.

Cadsuane guesses at the funeral that Rand is still alive somehow. She is then confronted by a few Aes Sedai and requested to become the new Amyrlin. I thought this was hilarious.

Rand isn’t dead. He, somehow, gets body-swapped with Elan. He survives. Alivia, who was supposed to help him die, prepared his new body and gave him resources to start his new life. His bond with Min, Elayne, and Aviendha remains intact. New Rand, as I call him, cannot channel the One Power or the True Power (which shouldn’t exist now with the Dark One fully imprisoned). However, he can make things happen as if the real world were Tel’aran’rhiod. He thinks it and it can happen. New Rand rides south in his new body. He plans to travel the world.

And that is the end of this incredible, epic, journey. I was satisfied with this ending. I am okay with how things wrapped up. I may re-read the series, but it will be long time before I do. It will likely be a while before I read another series. I’ve spent the past 9-10 months living in this world and, though I’m sad to leave it, I’m grateful for the experience and for everyone who welcomed me as a fellow fan who I can now share this world with.

Thank you.

How Audiobooks Allow Me To Read More Diversely

I never had anything against audiobooks. I just never tried one. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the medium, and to be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure why. My main reason was because I love reading physical books. I love holding a book in my hands, turning the pages, reading the print on paper. There is just something magical about it, and it remains my preferred medium for reading.

Another reason I think I was hesitant about trying audiobooks was because there are a lot of factors that go into them that I believed may alter my experience of the book. Would I like the voice reading the book? Would they do different voices for each character? These questions stem from other readers’ experiences. I follow a few book-related groups on social media and some of these topics had come up. Some preferred one reader while others stated they didn’t like others. Some discussed many different readers for the same book. Then it hit me.

Audiobooks are like an in-between of movies and books. With a book, you imagine the voices and build the scenes in your head as your brain interprets the words into images. Movies do all of the imagination for you. They provide the characters and dialogue and locations and scenes. Everything is done and you can just sit back and enjoy. But have you ever seen a movie based on a book you’ve read and just thought “Hmm, I didn’t picture that character as looking like that” or “I pictured that building/location totally different in my head”? Audiobooks do only a bit of the work while letting you keep much of the imagination. You listen, and the voices may be provided, but you get to conjure up the locations and action sequences.

I tried my first audiobook about six months ago. It was a book of nonfiction that I greatly enjoyed. There were two reason I chose this book to start with. One, it was read by the author, Neil Gaiman, who I knew had a great voice I could listen to forever. Two, it was a collection of speeches, introductions, articles, etc., so it was split up into short sections and I could easily listen to one or two on my commute.

What I discovered was that with nonfiction you could zone-out or get distracted for a moment without missing valuable information. Of course, since it is an audiobook, I could easily rewind a bit to listen to any part I miss, but usually I never needed to. I could pick up anything I missed from context.

I don’t zone out often when listening. I only say this because I started listening to audiobooks during times I would normally listen to music or was doing something physical that didn’t require much attention. I first started listening during my commute to and from work. I now use that 30-40 minutes a day consuming a book instead of listening to a mindless radio show or to music. I then started listening to audiobooks when doing yardwork. I would normally listen to music. This is another handful of hours each month that have been transitioned from music to books. I will listen to them when going on walks (I absolutely need to go on more walks). I have even listened to audiobooks while taking a shower.

Audiobooks have allowed me to increase my reading and make better use of my time. Mainly the time I otherwise would spend without getting much out of it. Now I can learn more and “read” more by letting my mind consume material when my body is busy doing something else.

I have not yet listened to fiction. My weird agreement with myself is that I will keep reading fiction through physical books. Mainly because I know I retain more when reading it on the page versus listening. It is easier to follow characters when you see their name (how it spelled can be important) versus listening to it. Also, I’m afraid I may miss something important. Like if I were landscaping when a crazy plot twist happens. I like to focus my full attention to stories I can really get into. I’m not saying you can’t get into nonfiction. I’m just saying you are less likely to have an insane plot twist in a history book.

Also, though I do like memoirs and histories, I don’t read them as often I would like. I read mainly fiction. Therefore, audiobooks allow me to read more nonfiction than I normally would. So far I’ve read an additional ten books this year simply because I started listening to audiobooks. I’m slowly going through most of Malcolm Gladwell’s books via audiobook. Every one so far has been narrated by the author and have been extremely interesting. I’m currently listening to Educated by Tara Westover.

Audiobooks can be extremely expensive, but I have yet to purchase one. I listen to audiobooks through the Libby app on my phone, and I have borrowed each audiobook through either my local library or my university library. I wanted to start using my libraries more and buy fewer books. Not only does it save money, it saves space (tsundoku), and most libraries have a great audiobook collection.

Of course, stories and many histories were passed down orally for hundreds or thousands of years before being written down or lost. Audiobooks are kind of like modern bards, right? Instead of going to a gathering and listening to someone tell the story in real-time, we are able to choose whichever story we want with a tap and listen to bits and pieces whenever we wish. We can pause them as often as we like.

Imagine living thousands of years ago listening to a story surrounded by your entire village and standing up to ask the bard to stop where he is because you need to go to bed. As if the world centered around you. It wouldn’t happen. You’d have to have someone fill you in or simply miss that part of the story. Nowadays, you simply keep your headphones in wherever you go and pause it if something comes up (the world still doesn’t center around you). Technology can be useful. I wish I would have started using audiobooks a long time ago.