I have had mixed feelings about reading this book for a long time. Brandon Sanderson is not Robert Jordan. If you have ever read books by both authors you would see that they don’t really write the same way either. On one hand this is a very good thing – Sanderson is not nearly so patient in describing detail that has already been given. On the other… — Sanderson is a master at fitting the story into the amount of space originally planned on.
No detail is given about which sections of the book Jordan wrote before he died, which he left notes on and which Sanderson made up from whole cloth so any comments about such things are pure conjecture. That said, however, there are phrases in the book, little moments that feel awkward. Usually they are phrases that would not be noteworthy in a different series but in the Wheel of Time they flash bright red signs that say “Jordan would not have said it that way.” The moments are few (I can recall maybe three) so I got over them.
Sanderson does an admirable job of portraying Jordan’s characters the way Jordan does. In fact for most of the book I could read and forget that a different author was at the helm of this book.
Things that would take at least three chapters of detail to build up to under Jordan’s hand are done in a single chapter, plot threads come together seemingly one after another, twisting and ending so that the book feels almost rushed, even though most of these conclusions have been building for several books and more than a decade.
Rand heads down his darkest road, being twisted by the Dark One in ways previously unforeseen. Nynaeve, becomes more mild than before, and also takes back seat to a lot of the action – a little bit of a twist as she seems to be given the most moments to be awesome in previous books. Aviendha acts like an idiot – which is to say like an Aiel – and then runs away. Elayne, thankfully never appears. Perrin, thankfully, only has a couple of chapters. Mat acts like Mat and has a really bad time but comes out ahead anyway. Gawyn seems to have lost the three brain cells he had to start with but it doesn’t matter because he has mad skills. Egwene, however, owns this book. She proves to the reader and to her peers that she really is the Amyrlin Seat, in spirit as well as in name. Not surprisingly the only person who doesn’t believe in her by the end is Gawyn (see above), which is a little condescending on his part. You’d think he would have a little more faith in the woman he thinks he’s going to marry.
Nobody gets spanked – except one of the Forsaken and, honestly she had it coming – and the requisite description of women’s bosoms seems to have faded away.
In all I think Sanderson has done a remarkable job of writing this book. I could not ask for it to be better. Jordan’s weaknesses are definitely Sanderson’s strengths and it appears that either Jordan’s outline, his assistants and editor or Sanderson’s increased experience points have largely reduced his weaknesses to negligibility. Personally, this book was worth the wait and worth reading the previous books to get to. I can’t wait for the next one.