I went to Barnes and Noble this morning to pick up the final volume in the Wheel of Time series. I felt a strange mixture of emotions as I picked up the final book. My mind flashed back to all of those years when I would eagerly anticipate the next volume, discuss the plot, the characters, and theorize about what was going to happen next with people online.
In fact, that was using a service called Genie Online which was very similar to Compuserve. I lost track of those people when I switched to AOL (ha ha).
In the years since, a huge culture of readers has blossomed various forum groups and websites. I didn't take part, probably because I was starting a career and a family, and really my only interaction with that world was when a new book came out.
When Robert Jordan died, I was, of course dismayed like so many of his fans. And not simply because the story would go unfinished but because his death was way too early and it seemed a crime that he didn't get to finish telling this huge tale himself.
When it was announced that Brandon Sanderson would finish, like many others, I immediately went to buy whatever he had available. Which at the time was Mistborn and a novel called the Elantris. I read them with great interest and I decided, you know what? I think this guy can probably do it.
I had no expectations that the new WoT book would read just like Robert Jordan. But when I got The Gathering Storm and started reading it, I quickly forgot that someone else had taken the reins. Now, I know there are many who can tell differences between how certain characters are presented and the tone of their narrative. But I wasn't that perceptive, and to me, there was much about Brandon's style that I actually liked better.
In fact, there were some plot lines (the Prophet) that I wasn't particularly excited about, and I was thrilled to see how quickly he wrapped those up. Towers of Midnight followed that up and I zipped through it very quickly and was very happy with the pace of the story telling and also just the quality of it.
And so here we come to the final book, the final chapter. Brandon insists that the final scene is pretty much exactly how Robert Jordan wrote it, but that doesn't matter to me so much as long as the ending is satisfactory.
But I wonder, can the ending be satisfactory? I don't read them for endings. I read for that middle part where you know the characters so well and you are rooting for them and the ending is always a bit sad even when it's happy. So there is a part of me that wants to take A Memory of Light and put it up on a shelf for some later day.
But I am not going to do that. I am going to finish it and take solace in the idea of the book: that time is a wheel. That ages come and go and then return. And so, I know that the story doesn't really truly end because this is an age that will come again every time I reread it.