Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

I finally did it. I finished the Wheel of Time. It is only fifteen years since I embarked on this quest but those who joined at the beginning waited twenty three years for the conclusion of the monumentally epic saga. A saga that spans 14 books (plus a few short stories) and that has even survived the death of its creator.

Should you read the Memory of Light? Well that question is superfluous. If you have read the other 13 tomes in this story then you have no choice. You must read the conclusion. You can rest assured however that Sanderson has done a masterful job at bringing all the threads of this vast story together. All is tied up and all is finally resolved. Long time readers of the series will know that Jordan himself excelled at creating a rich believable world infused with complex characters and their equally complex and entangled storylines. He seemed almost unable however to close off any storyline. thread. Each new book introduced new characters and new plot threads to the despair of those of us who longed to see how the story turned out. Well Sanderson, working from Jordan's notes has finally told us. 

The bigger question really is whether or not I would recommend a new reader to start this saga? What is it all about really?

Well it is the story of a humble farm boy from a backwards village who finds his simple world disrupted by evil and who is led away on an adventure by an experienced magician (albeit a female one). The once humble farm boy discovers that he is the subject of prophecy and that he must develop his own latent powers to eventually confront a terrible evil that lives in a dangerous mountainous region in order to save the world. 

Sound's original? Of course not. But I believe that Jordan's re-telling of the monomyth is the most important version since Tolkien.  Jordan lacks the scholarly erudition of Tolkien but he makes up for it with incredible depth and the complexity of his world and his story lines. Yes the saga has flaws. Some of them deep. While the first few books of the series are completely enthralling it loses its way a bit in the middle. Even the confusing middle books however are rich with details and depth. Now of course with Sanderson's help the series draws to a stupendous conclusion. Of course you should read this. If you care about fantasy you should read it. If you care about storytelling you should read it.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Magician's Apprentice by Trudy Canavan

This book is apparently a prequel to Canvasbacks successful Black Magician  trilogy. There is a lot to like about the book. War, wizards and magic make a compelling setting. Canavan also writes well and her characterisation is strong. However certain niggles got to me. Given that the while theme of the book is about t a small nation pulling together to fight ought an invasion from a large aggressive neighbor the strategic and tactical ineptitude of all involved is upsetting. Some of this can be attributed to the unpreparedness of the nations involved but I can't shake through the idea that Canavan reality hasn't thought through the idea of warfare.

For example the countries rely for offence and defence entirely on a simall group of wizards. The book does emphasise how powerful wizards are, effectively invulnerable to conventional weapons while capable of wreaking enormous damage. Invulnerable that is until that is until they run it of magic which typically happens a short while after the start of a major battle. A few cavalry men with lances could prove handy at running down these exhausted wizards or even some archers to apply pressure to their magical shields. Yet Canavan chooses to employ her glass cannon magicians without any escort of conventional troops at all. That is ridiculous. These magicians are supposed to be aristocracy. They should at least have personal guards for dealing with non magical threats.