Okay, so I'm about 2/3 into Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight (Canada, USA, Europe). But you should know by now that there is an embargo on reviews, so I won't get to post mine until November 2nd.
Still, since many of you have been bugging me with emails and PMs on Facebook and various message boards, here's a little update that will either annoy you or whet your appetite. . .
First of all, regarding the title, there has been no sign of the Seanchan thus far. Hopefully that will change, for I was hoping to see some progress concerning that plotline and how it would affect the rest of the world with the coming of Tarmon Gai'don.
Because the last battle has officially begun, folks. The invasion of the Borderlands has finally started, and Rodel Ituralde POV provides front row seats to the main event!
Stylistically, Towers of Midnight is quite different from The Gathering Storm. You'll recall that Sanderson didn't attempt to imitate Jordan's style in TGS, but instead he tried to adapt his own writing style to The Wheel of Time. On the other hand, ToM is told in Brandon Sanderson's own narrative voice. Which, unfortunately, doesn't always work well. Hence, for better or worse, Towers of Midnight reads more like The Way of Kings than The Gathering Storm.
Structurally, ToM reads much like its predecessor. Meaning that, in my opinion, there are some cool and very important scenes we've been waiting for years to see happen. Yet in order to get to the good stuff, one is required to sift through a lot of extraneous plotlines or scenes that don't always have that much of an impact or influence on the principal story arcs of the series. The Last Battle has begun, damn it!
Insofar as I have read, it's pretty much Perrin's book. Which, as you well know, doesn't quite do it for me. And yes, more Faile. . .
You will be happy to learn that Mat is not off the way he was in TGS. Sanderson doesn't try so hard to be funny all the time, so Mat is no longer an issue for me. It's not the original Mat, but it works for me. And Jordan wrote most of what is probably the Tower of Ghenjei sequence prior to his death, so we have a lot to look forward to, methinks!
Sadly, I feel that you can add Lan to the list of characters that Sanderson has trouble with. I have to tell you that my eyes actually watered when I discovered what Nynaeve had done to him in Knife of Dreams. This had been foreshadowed since The Eye of the World, after all. But now that the end game of that plotline is within reach, I'm not feeling it at all. . . =(
Egwene's characterization is uneven in ToM. I felt he got her right in TGS, but in this second volume she goes from high school drama queen to a cool, manipulative leader, and you never know who you'll get. The same thing can be said of Elayne, who sometimes sounds more and more like Naynaeve. Sanderson has an easier time with Galad and Perrin, not surprisingly.
I've always felt that Brandon Sanderson can't quite manage shades of grey all that well. The same goes for emotional scenes or sequences that are meant to convey strong emotional impact. It's still the case in ToM, but the author did surprise me a few times. That's a good thing!
The pace, however, remains an issue. As was the case in TGS, the rhythm is sluggish in certain portions of the novel, yet extremely rushed in other sequences. I was a bit dismayed by the fact that the narrative focus can remain on what I consider secondary plotlines or unnecessary details for pages and even chapters, and then rush through scenes that we've been waiting for for well over a decade. I think it's now obvious that A Memory of Light should have been split into two volumes instead of three. Too much filler material sort of take the power away from the killer stuff. And believe you me: There is some killer material in there! =)
Still, Tarmon Gai'don is underway, yet the narrative (thus far, anyway) doesn't convey that sense of doom, of urgency.
But in the end, though some scenes/characters feel off and the pace is too slow for my taste, so far everything more or less works. And no, no sign yet of Asmodean's killer!!!
Only two more weeks before the book hits the shelves of bookstores everywhere! ;-)
There you have it! Now stop bugging me! :P