Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy

LegendsLegends by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The eleven stories with in this first “Legends” anthology are by some of the best writers of fantasy and science fiction, both in prose and sales.  Edited by Robert Silverberg, who also contributed as well, the stories range within their established fictional worlds from stand alone either connect with the main series or in-between main series books or prequels with mixed results.

The best stories whether, stand alone or prequel, had the same things in common.  First the reader did not need to know anything about the fictional setting from any previous location as the authors used the stories to introduce the audience to their written creations.  Second, the story usually followed just one character, at most two if change of perspective was easily denoted, allowing the narrative to be tight given average 65 pages each story took.  Those that were on the bottom end of the scale were the exact opposite as they relied too much on the reader already knowing the story’s universe and too many characters or point-of-view changes to keep track of (or both!).

Unfortunately two of the weakest stories are at the very beginning and the end of the anthology, however of the nine stories in the middle of the anthology seven were at the least very good and make this fantastic purchase for anyone who gets it.

Individual Story Ratings
The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King (3.5/5)
Discworld: The Sea and Little Fishes by Terry Pratchett (4.5/5)
The Sword of Truth: Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind (3.5/5)
Tales of Alvin Maker: Grinning Man by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
Majipoor: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg (3.5/5)
Earthsea: Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5)
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: The Burning Man by Tad Williams (5/5)
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin (5/5)
Pern: Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (4.5/5)
The Riftwar Saga: Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist (5/5)
The Wheel of Time: New Spring by Robert Jordan (2.5/5)

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New Spring (WoT Prequel)

New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading the expanded novella version of New Spring three years ago today, but the intervening years haven’t taken away my recollection of the novella and after finishing the short story I can say that even with it’s faults the novella was better.

The action follows fan favorites Lan and Moiraine surrounding tragic events in the Kandori royal palace which leads to them becoming Bonded and searching for the Dragon Reborn. However each opens up in what seems to be halfway through their narrative and that automatically hurts the overall effort. There were numerous secondary and tertiary characters that were a detriment of the whole piece because space had to be made to make them relevant which took away from the main plot thread. I was finding myself filling in the “holes” with memories from the novella.

Unlike Debt of Bones and The Burning Man, which were prequels as well this prequel relied heavily on the established series and as a result was probably the “worst” story of the anthology.

A Memory of Light (WoT #14)

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14)A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Memory of Light brings an ending in The Wheel of Time for the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, and his adversary The Dark One, along with their collective allies and forces.  Throughout the 1148 pages, good and evil vie for an advantage in the lead up to and during ultimate confrontation between all involved whether during The Last Battle or the inside the Pit of Doom itself.  But one of the most striking things about the book is that there are two narrative structures in play, the first with the book itself and the other of the entire series.

The conflict between both sides in A Memory of Light literally takes place on the battlefield, which spans over a third of the continent at one point before settling in two locations.  In previous books, battles have occurred and were well written, however they pail in comparison with what occurs in A Memory of Light.  The apocalyptic Last Battle that has been mentioned since The Eye of the World occurs at the Field of Merrilor, between the forces of Light and Shadow, and within the Pit of Doom, between Rand and the Dark One itself.  The majority of it takes place within chapter 37, aptly entitled The Last Battle, take up an eye raising 248 pages and chronicling over 24 hours worth of battle action and strategy.  It is truly a worthy battle between good and evil given all the build up.

In the end A Memory of the Light and The Wheel of Time comes down to Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One, which is more a mental than physical battle.  Foreshadowed events early in the book once again play a role in the climax to help Rand in his destiny, but as the book’s climax is one and the same with the series it turns out that its events in the Two Rivers in The Eye of the World do foreshadow the resolution in the Pit of Doom.  If this series is about cycles and patterns, then Jordan succeeded in giving one to his entire series.

A Memory of Light is an apt title for the final Wheel of Time book, as from the beginning of the series things have been getting continually darker.  The book ends with a lot of the characters just dangling as their stories and lives aren’t at an end, however their connections to the appearance, rise, and destiny of the Dragon Reborn is just like the story.  Not only as a book, but as the final installment of a series as long as The Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light is excellent and leaves one satisfied once they close the cover for the last time.

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Towers of Midnight (WoT #13)

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; A Memory of Light, #2)Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Towers of Midnight, Brandon Sanderson’s second outing in The Wheel of Time series, built upon foundations laid in The Gathering Storm to set up the series’ final volume in outstanding fashion.  The main story arc of the book was that of Perrin, not only seen through his POV but also that of Galad, Faile, Egwene, and Graendal to sum extent.  The two major secondary story arcs were of Egwene in the White Tower and Mat in his own unique preperations for The Last Battle, each told not only by their own POVs but by other POV characters as well.  Other arcs that where touched upon were events in The Black Tower, Rand’s movements in his own preparations for The Last Battle seen mostly by other characters, and the opening fighting of The Last Battle.

This book brought the timeline for Perrin and Mat along with a few others up to where Rand and Egwene’s had ended in The Gathering Storm, knowing this fact helps when both see visions of Rand and when Perrin witness’ Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount in The Wolf Dream.  Sanderson introduces a few new POV characters to help bring to life event that will supposedly be important in A Memory of Light, the series final volume.  If there are any negatives in this book, it’s the reference to events that supposedly happened in previous books that I don’t remember reading making one think you’ve missed something in the previous 12 books.

As the penultimate volume of The Wheel of Time, Towers of Midnight is a excellent book not only in it’s own right but also as a set up to the finale A Memory of Light.

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The Gathering Storm (WoT #12)

The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, #12; A Memory of Light, #1)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Last Battle looms as seen in the shape of a “gathering storm.”  The twelfth installment of Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series marked not only the beginning of Act Three, but of Brandon Sanderson’s involvement to help finish the series after Jordan’s untimely death in 2007.  The Gathering Storm is an appropriate title not only for the foreshadowing to the series’ upcoming climatic battle nor the seemingly permanent overcast sky mentioned repeated throughout, but it describes the story arcs of the two main protagonists of the book: Rand al’Thor and Egwene al’Vere.  Rand and Egwene both face a massive conflict unique to each of them, for Rand it is an internal struggle of being the Dragon Reborn while for Egwene the problem is more external and political as she attempts to reunite the Aes Sedai.

Both Rand and Egwene’s story arcs began in previous installments, but in The Gathering Storm their problems come to ahead as the world races towards the prophesied Last Battle.  In-between chapter focusing on Rand and Egwene from their own POV, are other important characters who add to primary story arcs: Nynaeve, Min, and Cadsuane for Rand; Gawyn and Siuan for Egwene.  Both Mat and Perrin do appear, but of the two only Mat’s is given good detail while the reader is left wanting about what is happening with Perrin based on the visions of him from Rand’s POV.

The only complaint about The Gathering Storm is my last point above, in which events for Mat and Perrin are frustratingly hinted at but left the reader wanting to know what’s going on with them.  But considering that is the only complaint I have after a nearly 1100 page book, it speaks volumes about how well this book was written.  This of course brings up if there seems to be any difficulty with writing style of Brandon Sanderson compared to the earlier books in the series.  To this I have to say, “NO, at least I didn’t see any.”  I found The Gathering Storm a really easy read and enjoyable, building upon my experience with Knife of Dreams (the last complete book Jordan wrote).  Of the complaints I’ve seen about Sanderson word usage or how Mat seems different, I did not see it in this book.

Overall, The Gathering Storm is an excellent addition to The Wheel of Time series and an amazing way for Sanderson to start off his completing of this epic series.  I’m giving this book 5 stars only because I can’t give 4 1/2 as I believe the tad frustrating visions of Mat and Perrin take a little away from this book.  Either way, The Gathering Storm reminds one of the quality of earlier in the series and is a must read for WoT fans.

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Knife of Dreams (WoT #11)

Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time, #11)Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knife of Dreams, the eleventh installment of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and the last he completed before his death, is a return to earlier in the series.  Throughout Knife of Dreams, events that had been boiling around many primary protagonists for several books finally came to fruition.  The Perrin-Faile-Shaido storyarc throughout the book led up to a combined assault upon the Shaido by Perrin’s forced and the Seanchan in Malden.  Elayne’s quest for the Throne of Andor came to a successful conclusion, but a perilous one for her going forward especially after an attack by the Black Ajah.  Mat’s unusual courtship with Tuon came to a ‘successful’ conclusion, but not without battles not just martial.  Finally, Rand and Egwene continued on their respective paths to leadership though Egwene found herself undermining the White Tower from within as an ‘lowly’ novice while Rand continued struggling with his internal demons as well as unruly nobles just before a brutal meeting with Semirhage.

While there were negatives, one being unnecessary padding early in the book, they were quickly forgotten as events in the book picked up.  Of the last four books before Knife of Dreams, only Winter’s Heart provided anything substantial (at least to me) while the others seemed mostly a collection of story lines with little happening.  With Knife of Dreams, events seemed to be building and three words kept on appearing, more so further along in the book, the Last Battle.  After finishing Knife of Dreams, it felt like the series had completed it’s long 2nd Act and was gearing up for the 3rd and final Act.

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Crossroads of Twilight (WoT #10)

Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tenth installment of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Crossroads of Twilight, has been maligned from readers since it’s publication and with understandable reasons.  The story arcs of Perrin, Mat, Elayne, and Egwene are given the emphasis throughout the book with only a touch of Rand near the closure of the book.  The majority of the book’s time period leads up to and during the climatic final chapter of Winter’s Heart before finally advancing when Egwene’s story arc begins.  Though out the book, everything seems to be moving pieces into place for something big to happen but it never really materializes. In each of the last chapters for Perrin, Mat, and Egwene a dramatic turning in the plot happens but leaving the reader to wait until the next installment to find out what happens resulting in frustration.

Crossroads of Twilight is a mixture of positives and negatives, with the latter emphasized because of the two year wait and the fact that Prologue was almost a tenth of the book even though some of the bits within that were interest.  However, even though this book can be frustrating at times (my came in about three-quarters of the way through waiting for something to happen) it is a necessity to read as The Wheel of Time draws to it conclusion.

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