Book Review: Wheel of Time, Book 13: Towers of Midnight

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Wheel of Time, Book 13:

Towers of Midnight

The thirteenth installment in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was an overall excellent book with a great balance of action, exposition, character development and plot progression. This balance has been the bane of many books throughout the middle of this series, but since the eleventh installment it has fully returned to form.

My full video and written analysis can be found below.

With that said, I would argue that the first third of the book built up rather slowly, but this is compensated for in the blazing speed of the final two thirds. Perrin makes incredible strides forward in terms of his character development in this book, almost to the point of making me regret there is only one last book to enjoy his character as it is now. He plays a huge role in this book, and that role is incredibly enjoyable to read. Mat continues to be the most enjoyable character for me, presenting the greatest balance of heroism and levity that make him feel more relatable on a human level than any of the other characters. Rand also changes in quite a drastic way and provides a well-deserved turn in the long trudge toward fully realizing what he is to represent in their struggle against “the darkness”.

However, there were narrative decisions made in this book that I did not agree with. The two that stood out to me where Egwene’s reaction and decisions toward Rand and his plans, and Perrin’s trial. Both story lines, in my opinion, were designed to create false tension that ultimately lead to nothing of real value. Neither Egwene’s decision nor Perrin’s willingness to face the trial could end anywhere other than where they do, ultimately. I fell that this is one area where the series has fallen short for me. Some tertiary plot lines are overdeveloped to create tension, but in the end are simply dropped or ended in a cliched manner.

Nevertheless, these are only two minor story arcs in an otherwise stellar book. This book is a solid addition to this series and an enjoyable read. Even at nearly 900 pages (Orbit 2004 edition) I tore through it much faster than I though possible. I highly recommend this book, though it comes with the caveat that one must trudge through some truly mediocre books to get to it. As the saying goes, nothing in life worth having comes freely, and the price of getting to this gem is reading the middle section of this series!


 

That ends my spoiler free section. What lies beyond goes into deeper detail of some things that take place in this book, so consider yourself warned.


Arcs I did not enjoy


The Trakands

Elayne

Her romance with romance makes less and less sense as the book progress. She kissed him a few times between book three and the start of book four. She did not seem him again until around book nine. Now, she continues to have no contact with him. This was a poor narrative decision in my opinion. I do not care about their relationship because there’s been nearly no time to see it developed. The only time it’s addressed is in their internal ponderings, which is not enough to establish it as a plot point the reader should care about in my opinion

She is also insufferably arrogant, continually flings herself into danger, usually with only haven given half a thought to the possible outcomes, and almost never pays a real price for it.

Then there was her immediate response to dealing with Perrin and the Two Rivers now that the people there think he’s a Lord or a King. Her idea? Executing him would be the easiest way. I understand this may be a toss off comment thought only by her Queen half, but it was still infuriating. She then followed it by asking Perrin directly why she shouldn’t execute him.

She just feels like a spoiled child who just wants all the shiny things because she’s a Queen and she deserves them. I will grant that this is a true presentation of what nobility often thinks of the world around them, but the book also has the audacity to expect readers to still enjoy this character as well. When George Martin did this with Cersei, he at least went all the way and said, “Hey, she’s the Queen B^%$#”. This series is giving Elaine all those same condescending traits while also trying to make her seem cute. It does not work for me.

So much of her story in this is about her grabbing at more things for her kingdom, and it never struck me as a move that would better the kingdom for the kingdom’s sake. It was about doing what was best to solidify her position. This was not interesting for me, with everything else happening in the story, her grab at better weapons and more thrones was ill placed for me.

Gawyn

He continues to be insufferable for me. I believe less and less in his romantic storyline, and the conversation he has with his sister in this book was infuriating to me.

  • “What is truly unique is someone who does what I tell them. Better, someone who does what they know I’d tell them, if I had a chance”  … So, Elayne’s perfect partner is a servant.

What makes this worse, is that he accepts it. No relationship, however powerful one partner may be, should be based on one person simply doing whatever their told. This was poorly conceived in my opinion.

He also finally decides he’s done with Rand in this book… for a stupid reason. Then he has another big fight and out duels some characters that I don’t feel he should have been able to. Overall, he only made my lack of connection and belief in his motives less in this book.

Morgase

She did not deserve the ink she got. This character did not need to live, in my opinion. She only muddied up plots and is a boring character for me. She plays a part in possibly the worst story line in this book, and it only made me dislike her more.

Galad

Wheel of Time’s “Sexiest Man Alive”. He was equally annoying and honorable in this book, and his logic contradicted itself more than once. However, he found his way to the best possible decision in the majority of cases. The role he took over in this book is oddly befitting.

He gets a relationship in this book and it’s…. Mr. Beautiful meets Mrs. Beautiful. How utterly boring. Still, I don’t hate it near as much as Gawyn’s relationship, so there is that.


Summary


All in all, I could conceive of a version of The Wheel of Time with all the Trakand’s dying off one by one, and I would not mind in the least. This family is incredibly proud, vain, and uninteresting to me.

Egwene

I was on the fence about her after the last book in terms of believing all that her character has become… and she shoved me right off in her first chapter of this book, but in the way I am sure the writers weren’t intending.

To her credit: she fights another awesome battle in this book. That is where her good points end for me in this installment.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am fully aware that this is a fantasy novel and that it is meant to stretch the bounds of belief… that said:

Egwene is a 20/21-year-old woman. Unlike Mat (who had his battle knowledge vastly enhanced), Perrin (the wolf brother), and Rand (who is the bloody dragon) the main thing Egwene had going for her was the dreamer thing.

Yes, she’s a powerful channeler. However, I do not believe that in the span of two years she became the master or political maneuvering. Nor do I buy that she can intellectually dominate women that are up to five and six times her age. I get that they’ve based their ranking system on strength in the power, but that does not make her intellectually superior.

She has also turned into a bastion of knowing what is best for the world… despite a complete lack of possible exposure to all the knowledge she would need to make such decisions. Prophecies and history are not something you can just ‘pick up’. Egwene spent a few months with Siuan studying about the history of the Amyrlins, but this was on top of dealing with all the political backstabbing. This is another problem with that whole convoluted story line, the Aes Sedai have spent some much time trying to one up each other, I find it incredible that they can still claim to have given enough time or thought to how the last battle should be fought.

Egwene cannot know what the best approach to the last battle is. I do not for a second believe, however boss b***h she has become in the White Tower, that she has the accumulated knowledge to speak with any authority on that matter. It’s simply ridiculous. The story is trying to equate “strength” with “knowledge” … but that comes with experience… and she’s had round about two years of it. Rand approaches her with the collective experience of all the dragons and her response is, “He’s insane! I’m the Amyrlin. I will stop him and decide what is best for the world.” No, little girl, you won’t. Everyone reading the book knows you won’t. This is a waste of ink because there is no possible way you could, even if you wanted to, stop him.

However, this just highlights what I feel is the inherent flaw in Egewene’s character development. I get she is powerful, but I don’t believe her as a tactical master with a wealth of accumulated knowledge to stand at the head of the White Tower. That I don’t believe. Her reaction to Rand only magnifies this point. She’s just a child imitating every other woman who’s she’s ever known to be on her seat: secretly manipulate every important decision, that is what makes us relevant!

Finally, I feel like her words and her deeds don’t match. She wants a better tower and to change the image of Aes Sedai, but then she manipulates and treats others just like Siuan.

I also found it amusing that it turns out, in dreamer land, Perrin is likely more powerful that she is. That was funny.

Aes Sedai intrigue also turned out to not be finished, which I did not appreciate in the slightest. I get it won’t die that fast, but I am tired of reading about it. Going on 10 books of the same intrigue tropes is getting old.

 


Arcs I did enjoy


 

Aviendha

Her sojourn is quite interesting in this book and I am really looking forward to seeing where it goes. She heads back to Rhuidean to complete her Wise One training and gains some intriguing insights. I am also really hoping to see her and Rand back together on page (not to indicate in any way that they have “separated”, simply that they have not interacted on page in too long). That was a relationship I enjoyed seeing develop.

Nynaeve

Continues to be the healing master. Heals yet another major malady in this book, and it’s a big one. She had another great scene in this book with Rand in chapter 15, and she has slowly shifted toward being a character I really enjoy. The scene with Rand though, his parting words about what it means to be Aes Sedai and who some of the best of them was a truly gratifying scene for me. When she hugs him at the end of that too, not going to lie, I had a moment.

She goes through a test in this book as well, and her way of handling that was also awesome. I must be honest and say I lost a bit or respect for Siuan when she commented that it was good to have Nynaeve back in the tower because Rand was poising her. This made me angry at Siuan.

Perrin & Faile

Perrin finally stops brooding and has some serious character development. He is involved in two epic battles and helps develop a new kind of weapon. As a reader, I was excited to start liking this character again. It has been far too long in this series where I felt like his character development was trapped in a rut, seemingly going nowhere. His mastery of the dream, and his meeting with Egwene amidst that, was another enjoyable moment for me.

Faile as well had one particular moment to me where she acknowledged her character flaws from the earlier portions of the story, addressing her childishness, and seemed to progress into a more mature version of herself. She will always be Saldaean, but her tendency to fly into a childish fit over nothing seems to be at an end.

Mat, Thom, and Noal

I cannot say enough about how much Mat and the characters he accumulates around him bring to this story. His story arc has been the most enjoyable to read (once we got that knife off him). He too is involved in two epic battles in this book, and he also brought a wealth of great comic lines.

I also laughed to the point of needing to put the book down at two points in Mat’s story in this book: his letter to  Elayne and the sweetbuns. Comic gold both.

Noal also grew into an extremely likable character in a short time, and it was a great piece of turnabout to learn who he really was. This was a great addition to the story and worked well in this book.

Finally, Thom has always been an enjoyable character, and he really shines when he is with Mat. They work very well as a pair. The move they make with his character in the final chapter I am still on the fence about. I don’t know how I feel about it, so I will reserve judgment until I read the final book.

Rand

I found it hard to put into words how different his character is in this book without detailing it too much. A lot of people make Jesus references to him. I can see where those comments come from, but at the same time it feels correct for the story. It’s a bit away for most readers, but he explains the phenomenon to Elayne in A Memory of Light in a way that I think justifies it. He states that it’s about balance, a theme they have touched on repeatedly in this series, and as the dark one is touching the world more and more, Rand represents the opposite of that. Thus, as he walks about trying to course correct by his presence, he comes off a bit Jesus-like. I appreciated the changes in his demeanor and his overall progression. I felt like this was the point, as a reader, we’ve slowly worked toward and it’s nice to have finally arrived.

Additionally, His scene with the borderlanders was amazing. I loved both halves of that interaction.

 


Bits and Pieces


 

Lan and Ituralde

Lan’s story in this book is not earth shattering. He’s moving toward the battle for the gap and, as expected, he picks up more people along the way than he wanted to (initially). This isn’t a bad bit of the story, nor does it add anything overly interesting. It’s set up for the final book.

Ituralde is similar in some ways. He’s fighting the first wave of shadow spawn with rapidly declining success. Then the tide turns. This is not a main arc of the story but is threaded through to set up what is coming in the final book.

The Black Tower

The inevitable confrontation with Taim builds further in this book as the Black Tower continues to split into two factions. The troubling thing seems to be the ability to come and go, as well as what happens to people when they end up on Taim’s side. Again, this is laying groundwork for the final story.

Forsaken / Dark Friend Action

Another Muhaha meeting. Another failure. Actually… that failure lead to DOUBLE failure, so if getting even worse at their job was the goal… nailed it!

An important Aes Sedai is kidnapped… or a seemingly important Aes Sedai. This is TBD in the next book. Smells of possible false tension.

Tuon

Finally learned the trick everyone was worried she’d learn. This can only mean more violence from the Seanchan is coming. With the last battle seeming set to move forward, the existence of this threat is far less tension raising than simply annoying to me.

 


Final Thoughts and Rating


 

This book is an overall great read. I give it 4.5 stars out of five, and the half point is only because the two poor story lines are just bad enough to drag it down a notch. I would highly recommend this book.

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