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Towers of Midnight    by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson order for
Towers of Midnight
by Robert Jordan
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Towers of Midnight is the second (following The Gathering Storm) of a trilogy with which Brandon Sanderson is completing (aided by Jordan's 'notes, outlines, completed scenes, and dictated explanations' the Wheel of Time. Sanderson continues to do a splendid and seamless job of concluding Robert Jordan's lauded life work.

While The Gathering Storm was largely Rand's and Egwene's story - and they continue to play significant roles (Egwene against a powerful Forsaken hiding in the White Tower) - Towers of Midnight puts Perrin Aybara (who fights dire enemies both in and out of the fascinating wolf dream) and Mat Cauthon on center stage, with exciting action for Elayne Trakand and her brothers Gawyn and Galad as well. And with the Last Battle looming, many characters manage to resolve their romantic entanglements this time around, including Gawyn after he defeats Seanchan assassins.

As the episode opens in Ghealdan, Perrin Aybara, his wife Faile (with Morgase Trakand hiding in plain sight as a servant) and their army come upon the Children of Light, led (after some conflict) by Elayne's half-brother Galad Damodred. Since the Children believe Perrin to be a murderer and Darkfriend, battle seems inevitable. But Perrin hopes to avoid fighting those who should be Rand's allies in the Last Battle. Tension as to how this will work out (which it does late in the episode) pulls reader/listener interest through the story.

In Trakand, Mat works with Elayne to create powerful artillery dragons, for use in the Last Battle. He defeats a gholam via a cleverly engineered trap. Along with Thom Merrilin and an aging folk hero, Mat goes on quest to the perilous Tower of Ghenjei (inhabited by Eelfinn foxes and Aelfinn snakes) in search of Moiraine, who has been long imprisoned there. In the meantime, Rand has announced that he plans to break the crumbling seals on the Dark One's prison, in order to control the timing of the Last Battle himself. Egwene disagrees and marshalls allies to attempt to stop him.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition of Towers of Midnight (38 hours in 30 CDs), brilliantly read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. Though it's wonderful to have both male and female narrators (especially ones with the talent these two have) I wish they would stick to male and female parts - instead (I assume for cost reasons) Kramer reads entire sections where the male lead is most significant and Reading those where the female part is dominant. That minor quibble aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Towers of Midnight and was happy to see further development of Aviendha's and Tuon's (now Seanchan Empress Fortuona) stories which have had scant attention in recent books.

This penultimate episode ends on a cliffhanger with Tarmon Gai'don like a sword of Damocles, leaving readers/listeners more keen than ever for the long awaited conclusion, A Memory of Light. Like a multitude of other fans, I can't wait for the last book in this remarkable epic fantasy series that has maintained its high quality for two decades.

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