Monday, February 25, 2013
After reading Third Shift, I was looking for something lighter to read. I really want the new Sophie Kinsella book, but it isn't out until April. Anyway, I was searching through my kindle when I stumbled on this book. I don't remember when I bought it or why I bought it but it was pretty much what I was looking for: a girlie, breezy book. Sort of.
Attachments follows Lincoln, a 28 year old who is still reeling from a bad breakup with the love of his life, Sam, who he dated in high school through the start of college. Since then, he has been a bit lost. He still lives with his mother somewhere in the mid-west (I can't remember where) and has gone through school so many times to get multiple degrees (his student debt was never mentioned but he is also described as being really smart so maybe he got scholarships?). He starts working at a newspaper called the Courier, which only recently started using the internet. His job is to work the night shift in IT, doing computer security work and monitoring emails. It's a boring job and he feels like he never has enough to do.
Not long after he starts working, he starts noticing that emailed between two women, Beth and Jennifer frequently get flagged because of inappropriate language or content. Since their emails show up so much, Lincoln gets pulled into their lives and starts reading their emails whenever they show up, without sending a warning note to the two women.
Beth is a film critic who is in a long term relationship with Chris, an emotionally unavailable musician. She desperately wants to be engaged but it's clear to the reader that this will never happen. Jennifer is a copy editor who is married to Mitch, a high school band conductor who really wants a baby. Jennifer however is not ready.
Lincoln starts to fall for Beth while trying to navigate his own life. He plays Dungeons and Dragons with a group of long term friends, recounts his failed romance with Sam, starts going to bars with a guy named Justin and befriends Doris, a co-worker his mother's age who he begins sharing food with. He is really caught between his mother, who wants to do everything for him, and his sister, who wants him to break free and be independent. Lincoln starts evolving as a character, going to the gym and eventually confronting Sam and finding his own apartment. All the while, he keeps developing stronger feelings for Beth, who he has never actually met. Beth's own relationship is clearly falling apart at the same time. She starts emailing Jennifer about someone she refers to as "My Cute Guy". It's no surprise to the reader that her cute guy is actually Lincoln.
Eventually Lincoln pieces things together and also eventually sees Beth for the first time. His love continues to develop, but he doesn't think he can get anywhere with her because he's technically been stalking her email over several months. However, she's a bit of a stalker herself since she spotted him at the movies and followed him in. She is drawn to him physically, while he is drawn to her personality through the emails, although he is attracted to her when he finally sees her.
And of course there's a happy ending.
This wasn't a great book. It was cute, though. It also took me a chapter or two to figure out that this book took place in 1999, as Y2K is a big concern for the computer guys. The date was clearly listed at the top of Beth and Jennifer's first email but I sort of skimmed over that. I have to say that I was amused by all the pop culture references from 1999 since I was a senior in high school/freshman in college that year. It was a little ridiculous reading about the Y2K fears over ten years later. I found it funny that a book would be set in that year, but I guess it makes sense more or less given that the internet was still relatively new and people were very concerned with security. Lincoln was a bit wishy washy as a character. I was like, dude get over your high school love and move on. Most of the story was fairly predictable, but I got through it quickly and now I need to find something new to read!
Rainbow Rowell's website (the author)
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Third Shift: Pact is the third and final book in Hugh Howey's Shift trilogy, which in turn was a prequel to Wool. I previously reviewed First Shift: Legacy, which I loved and Second Shift: Order, which I was not so crazy about. Third Shift more or less carries the story up to the "present", by which I mean Juliette's storyline from Wool (parts 2-5).
Like the previous two Shift stories, Third Shift has two separate plots. One follows Donald, the congressmen who unknowingly designed the silos (well, he didn't know the purpose of them) and who ended up being separated from his wife in the rush to get into the silos when the Democratic National Convention was bombed (by the Democrats! See my review of First Shift for details). At the end of Second Shift, Donald had been trying to leave the silo when he was caught and brought back in and cyropreserved. However, when he was woken up, everyone assumed that he was Thurman, the senator who initially came up with this whole silo plan. Someone switched the bodies in the cyropods and apparently no one had ever served on a shift with Thurman before so they just assumed Donald was the senator. Suddenly Donald finds himself in charge and with access to the entire silo.
He encounters both Anna, Thurman's daughter, and Thurman himself through the story, but also follows the events happening in Silo 18. We see the conversation that Lukas had with a nameless voice in Wool 5 from Donald's perspective (of course Lukas was speaking with Donald). He also enlists his sister Charlotte to help him fly drones as far as they can. The drone starts to crash but before it does, Donald is such he saw grass outside of the boundary of Atlanta where the convention had taken place. So potentially there is a functioning world outside of Silo land. The final book in the series, Dust, will pick up this storyline. However, Donald seems to be suffering some affects from his journey outside the silo. His hand has a rash and he keeps coughing up blood, so he's probably a goner! He also stumbled across the Pact, which revealed the true, rather dark purpose of the silos. Read to find out what that is!
The other storyline follows Jimmy, who later becomes Solo, who Juliette met at Silo 17. As a 16 year old, his parents tried to protect him during a rebellion within his silo but he ended up essentially alone in a bunker for years. He finally got out and grew up to some extent although he really will always be a lonely teenager at heart since he lived by himself for about 30 years before Juliette showed up. Jimmy's storyline wasn't that interesting; his character's voice never evolved that much. And he always seemed younger than 16... or a little bit special. I get that he was alone for most of his life but I wasn't crazy about his chapters, although towards the end, we eventually catch up to his meeting with Juliette.
Overall this was okay. Not as good as Wool, which my Dystopian Lit kids are reading now and loving but it did set fill in a lot of history of the silos and even better caught the story back up to Juliette's time. Hopefully all will come together with Dust!
Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also buy the Shift Omnibus with all three stories linked together.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
I'm getting reading to teach a three and a half week elective on dystopian literature. Before I even know what that genre meant, I always was a fan of dystopian novels. I adored The Giver as a girl and obsessively read Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. I got back into the genre when The Hunger Games came out, which I loved. After that I got really into Wool (I'm reading the 8th part of the series now), but there are so many young adult books out now that fit into the dystopian theme. I've been disappointed with a lot of them though like The Maze Runner series (although I apparently gave the first one at least a good review at the time; my memory is soured by the horrible fourth book) and the Matched series. But my co-worker raved about these two books so I finally got around to reading them to get ready for my class next week.
Divergent is the story of Beatrice Prior, who lives in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where society is divided into five factions based on the characteristics they most admire: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite and Candor. Beatrice is in Abnegation, the group that is supposed to be extremely selfless and therefore are in charge of the government. Beatrice, however, feels dissatisfied with her life. At the age of 16, all children are put through a test to show which faction they are best suited for, but then they can choose the faction they wish to join, although to be truly accepted, they must get through initiation.
During her test, Beatrice has a strange experience. She does show aptitude for Abnegation but also for Dauntless and Erudite. This makes her a Divergent, a dangerous presence in the world. She is told to keep her Divergence a secret. On choosing day, she decides to defect to Dauntless, a shocking decision for someone from her Abnegation background.
The Dauntless are a wild, chaotic group who thrive on physical and mental challenges. Beatrice, or Tris, as she calls herself when she moves to Dauntless headquarters for initiation, is smaller than many of the Dauntless and not as strong. The first part of initiation is physical, and she struggles to keep up. However, her Divergent nature, and the help of her close group of friends, assist her in surviving to the second stage, which focuses on mental strength.
There are only 10 spots open for Dauntless initiates so the competition is fierce and violent. One character is eliminated when a butter knife is driven into his eye. Another commits suicide. There are shockingly violent physical fights and lots of gun use, which surprised me a bit. Tris develops a few close friendships but also a strong attraction (which she does not realize is an attraction at first) for her trainer, known as Four. Over time she learns his background and they develop a sweetly adorable but also very intense relationship that took me back to memories of my own first boyfriend. Tris struggles to survive the initiation throughout Divergent. One of my friends said she was a bit of a Mary Sue, which is true, but clearly it wouldn't be much of a story if Tris wasn't able to overcome all the challenges she faced with her hidden talents and abilities. Maybe I was comparing this story to Matched and The Maze Runner, but I thought this was a way better written story and so I enjoyed it much more.
The author, Veronica Roth, also wrote a short story called Free Four, which tells a specific moment from Divergent from Four's point of view. That's definitely worth reading. It comes in some special edition of Insurgent.
I didn't like Insurgent as much as Divergent, but it was still entertaining. SPOILERS AHEAD!!! At the end of Divergent, Tris is initiated into the Dauntless. However, tensions have been bubbling between Erudite and Abnegation for a while. The Erudite teamed up with Dauntless and injected transmitters into their skin that activates at the end, turning the Dauntless into sleepwalking killers. They go to Abnegation quarters and just start killing everyone they find. Due to her Divergent status, Tris is not affected by the transmitter but she is discovered and brought before Jeanine Matthews, the head of Erudite, who is desperate to get rid of Abnegation to prevent them from revealing some life changing information to the rest of the factions. She also wants to study Tris and Four (aka Tobias, who is also Divergent) to develop a transmitter that the Divergent are susceptible to. In the course of escaping, Tris ends up killing her friend Will, which traumatizes her completely in the next book.
So in Insurgent, the brave, stubborn Tris that I liked so much became more introspective and surly, much like Katniss in Mockingjay, which drove me a bit crazy. A wedge is driven between her and Tobias. The factions are a mess and Tris is constantly sending herself into stupid situations. This book mainly focuses on the war between Erudite and whoever is willing to team up against them - the remainders of Abnegation, half of the Dauntless (the other half are traitors who ally themselves with Erudite) and the factionless, a growing population who are without faction and essentially appear to be homeless but actually show their true side during this book.
The ending reveals an explosive, game changing piece of information to the main characters, so the third book (due this fall, I think) should be exciting.
Overall, I liked both of these books a lot and definitely recommend them to anyone who likes dystopian fiction. I will definitely be recommending it to my students next week. Two of my friends who liked the book also recommended Delirium so that'll be on my list soon!
Divergent at amazon and Barnes & Noble
Insurgent at amazon and Barnes & Noble
Free Four at amazon and Barnes & Noble
Speaking From Among the Bones is the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley. I thought I had previously reviewed the fourth book but apparently since I read it in 2011, I never reviewed it.
So anyway, Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl who lives in a huge old mansion (called Buckshaw) in the English countryside (in a tiny town called Bishop's Lacey) in 1950. Her mother, Harriet, died when she was only a year old so she lives with her father, an obsessive stamp collector who is barely present, and her older sisters Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne (Daffy). Poor Flavia is the odd one out. She's brilliant and spends most of her time in her laboratory in the unheated wing of the house where she also lives. She is obsessed with chemistry, especially poisons and spends much of her time alone.
In the first book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (all the books have these ridiculously awesome titles), Flavia stumbled on her first dead body, which launched her into her detecting career. Flavia is ridiculously observant for the most part, while irritates the local inspector, who Flavia develops a bit of a crush on, even though she constantly suceeds in one uping him.
Flavia's world is populated by quirky characters in her tiny town, from Dogger, her father's manservant (who was deeply affected by being a prisoner during WWII... or actually maybe WWI - I can't remember off the top of my head) to the family's awful cook, Mrs. Mullet, to the local vicar. Alan Bradley, for an older male writer, does an amazing job at capturing Flavia's character. She is vivacious, intelligent and very much a young girl who always gets into scrapes despite her brilliance. She adores her bicycle which she named Gladys and takes everyone. She is constantly off on her own adventures and her family doesn't seem to pay too much attention to her.
In this novel, her father is on the verge of losing Buckshaw. The estate was in Harriet's name and since she died suddenly without leaving a will, the family is poorer than they should be and in danger of being turned out of their home.
This worries Flavia, but she has bigger concerns - the local saint's body is going to exhumed (I forgot why) but in the process (which of course she just wanders into the church to observe) the fresher body of the former organist in the church is found. This launches Flavia into a complicated investigation (these books are always a little bit complicated - but in a good way. You have to pay attention but really, every moment is so interesting, even if the rhythm of the book is sometimes confusing). And being Flavia, she has so much going on at all times that she gets distracted from one theory/mission and is onto another one quickly.
If you're a fan of mysteries, this is a fantastic series. Flavia is a really compelling (and unlikely) detective but the real joy is her as a little girl, wandering around this town by herself and getting into all kinds of adventures. She's absolutely delightful. These books seriously make me so happy. And this one ended with an awesome cliffhanger; one which was not entirely unexpected but still a bit shocking. I finished the book and immediately looked up book 6, which I was really sad to learn won't be out for another YEAR!
Do yourself a favor and pick up these books. They are a truly fun and exciting read!
Alan Bradley's Website
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As a kid I was a huge Tolkien fan. My mom read me Lord of the Rings when I was about 7 and I fell obsessively in love with fantasy. After that I tried to find other series that I loved as much, but I was pretty picky. I didn't like any fantasy books that started off with the protagonist in our world (although I've gotten over that by now). I did discover David Eddings' Belgariad series when I was 14 or 15 and read all of those, including the prequels and sequels and finally his other series the Eleniun and its sequel. Eventually though I realized that Eddings just kept reusing the same archetypes and so I stopped reading his books. I also read Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, which I subsequently read several times. However, I didn't immerse myself in anything as seriously as I did when I discovered Robert Jordan's Eye of the World, the first of the Wheel of Time series.
The main premise of the series is that thousands of years before the present time, the world was basically a utopia. Brilliant men and women who were able to use a source of power performed miraculous deeds. However, one woman was greedy and sensed another, stronger power out of reach of the world. So she somehow drilled a hole in the fabric of the universe (don't ask) and tapped into the True Source, which apparently came from the Dark One and released all this evil into the world. One of the heroes of the time, Lews Therin Telamon, led a group of men to the bore to seal it up. The women refused to accompany them. The men succeeded in sealing the bore, but the Dark One released a counter stroke and tainted saidin, the male half of the power, so all the men went insane.
Fast forward many thousands of years. Women who channel saidar, the female half of the One Power, are called Aes Sedai and are some of the most powerful people in the world. Prophecy says that the Dragon, Lews Theron Telamon, will be reborn and save the world. Moiraine, an Aes Sedai, and her Warder, Lan go to an isolated farm country in the mountains called the Two Rivers, where they find three young men: Rand, Mat and Perrin. All three seem to be ta'veren, people around whom the wheel of time structures the pattern of life. Moiraine leads all three boys out of the Two Rivers into a world of adventures, also bringing along Egwene al'Vere, a young woman who seems to have the ability to channel as well as Nynaeve al'Meara, the local healer who also has talents. Of course Rand turns out to be the Dragon Reborn but the whole crew from the Two Rivers get swept into tons of dangerous and exciting adventures, even though some of them (like Mat and often Rand) try to avoid their fate. Rand is infuriating most of the time but I really liked the other characters (many of whom get introduced outside of the Two Rivers). Anyway, the main plot is for Rand to survive until the Last Battle where he will fight the Dark One.
I was completely obsessed with these books for a few years. The first seven were out in paperback when I first started reading them so I ate them up. I loved the female characters (although I've since realized that they are a bit ridiculous - the general line is that women are constantly annoyed at men for something and men are completely befuddled by women), the love stories and the plot in general. I spent ages trying to predict how the series would end. I was sort of in love with Mat. There were moments in the series that moved me to tears (the Battle of Emond's Field still gets me). However, once book eight was published, I noticed that the series was seriously slowing down. Book eight from what I remember was really focused on war, which bored me. The following books just seemed really stretched out. More and more characters and plot lines were added. Some main characters were left out. It was hard to keep track of everyone, especially since I now had to wait for the hardcovers to come out every couple years. I still read each book but it wasn't as pressing or as thrilling as it used to be.
And then Robert Jordan died. Seriously. The man had a rare form of cancer and died, not long after publishing book 11. He was sick for a while though, and had copious notes and outlines prepared for the 12th book, which he always insisted would be the last. I believe he tape recorded the ending (or maybe even wrote it), telling only his wife, Harriet, and an editor what the end would be. And then he died. Harriet handpicked Brandon Sanderson, another fantasy author, to use Jordan's finished scenes, notes and outlines to finish the book. They decided to publish it in three separate volumes for a total of 14 books.
And weirdly enough, the series got better. Gone was the plodding story lines. Finally things started happening. Characters moved forward, plots were resolved; the action moved towards a definite conclusion. A lot of people complained that Sanderson didn't quite get some voices right. Other people applauded his swifter stories. Personally, I thought he did a great job, but at this point, I hadn't been reading the books over ten years so I wasn't really doing a side by side comparison. However, Sanderson had a lot of respect for the story and I went with it and enjoyed his writing.
So finally, in January, book 14 was released. However, Harriet, Jordan's widow, is old fashioned and in an effort to preserve her husband's legacy, she decided to wait until April to release the digital version of the novel. This is because she wanted the book to be on the NY Times best sellers list and for those numbers to be based on hard back sales, not e-books. Sanderson didn't agree but it wasn't his decision. Again, a lot of people were mad. I had every intention of waiting until April because I really wasn't in a rush. However, my eighth grade advisee, who loves the books, wanted me to read it immediately so we could discuss it. I finally agreed to borrow it when his family was done reading, happy that I wouldn't have to buy a hard cover. And then I fell in the street, on a rainy night while carrying it, and several pages got wet and muddy. Clearly I could not return this book to them so I had to buy a new one. Lame! I'm not planning to buy the e-book now though. Maybe someday I will reread the entire series but every time I say that, the thought exhausts me and I don't end up doing it.
Ok so after that very long intro, here are my thoughts on the final book. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
A Memory of Light is essentially one very long battle. It picks up where the last book left off, with most of the armies and rulers of the world at the Field of Merrilor to the north. Rand has gathered everyone there to explain that he wants to break the seals of the bore, which have imprisoned the Dark One for thousands of years. Egwene, the Amyrlin Seat, keeper of the seals, wishes to stop him. Essentially they come to an agreement known as the Dragon's Peace. In exchange for Rand giving up his life to fight the Dark One, he demands that all nations of the world, including the Seanchan (who are not at the field) sign a peace treaty that must be held for at least a century. It forces all kingdoms' borders to remain where they are at the current time and includes other rules that leaders balk at initially. Aviendha steps up to demand a role for the Aiel, who were left off. They end up being named a neutral peace keeping force, which will hopefully prevent the destruction of the Aiel that Aviendha saw happening in the future in a vision at Rhuidean. In a nice touch, the Ogier show up, ready to fight, with Loial. And Elayne is named the ultimate general of the battles to come. Caemlyn, her capital, is already overrun by trollocs, so Andor will be on of the fronts of the war. First though, Rand sends an army to Tarwin's Gap to help relieve Lan, who has been fighting a massive horde of trollocs and losing most of his men. Tarwin's Gap will end up being the second front. A third will be between the Aes Sedai and another group of trollocs who try to push south. The fourth front is in the Blasted Lands in front of Shayol Ghul, the mountain where the Dark One is imprisoned. Obviously, Rand will be there with an army made up mostly of Aiel. Mat is not at this meeting. He is off with his Seanchan wife, although later Rand shows up and gets Tuon to agree to fight. They end up teaming up with the Aes Sedai, after swearing not to take any good Aes Sedai captive (as they do).
The whole book is the Last Battle, which the series has been building up to from day one. Elayne and Perrin (along with Tam al'Thor and a bunch of Two Rivers archers and Loial with the Ogiers) use a massive cavalry charge to lure the trollocs in Caemlyn out into the woods to start picking them off. This goes well at first but slowly they have to retreat, especially when they find out that a second force of trollocs is heading their way. Eventually they end up at Cairhain where they finally (but barely) win, but only with the last minute assistance from the Asha'man who finally escaped the Black Tower, and the Aes Sedai who were with them. Lan also constantly has to retreat, destroying much of Shienar as he is forced south. The Aes Sedai, under Egwene's leadership, do fairly well at first, until Demandred, one of the thirteen forsaken, shows up on the scene. Out of all the "Chosen" (former Aes Sedai who work for the Dark One), he has been seen the least and therefore plays a huge role in this book. He shows up with a huge army of Sharan channelers (both male and female), a mysterious people from the far east, across the Aiel Waste. Essentially he just wants Rand dead. But Rand is off fighting in Shayol Ghul so Demandred just spends a lot of time shouting for Rand to come get him. Eventually, each army realizes that the four great generals who have been leading each front have been compromised. Using the world of dreams, one of the Forsaken, Graendal, has been essentially controlling the four generals, so they start making massive mistakes. And here's where Mat comes back into the picture. He basically gets control over the entire army and decides to make a last stand with everyone left back at the Field of Merrilor. Way back at the beginning, Mat lost a lot of his memory (long story) and had the holes filled in around book 4 by memories of soldiers, generals and battles (convenient, right?). And he has this fox head medallion that prevents channelers from manipulating him with the source so he is immune to any Forsaken manipulations. So three of the four armies meet back again (the fourth stays at Shayol Ghul), essentially trusting everything to Mat.
Like I said, this whole book is essentially one long battle. A lot of it is exciting, some of it is a bit boring. If warfare isn't your thing, this is a hard book to get through, especially because a lot of the characters are skimmed over. I got the sense that Sanderson was trying to fit in as many people as humanely possible and some people simply got shafted. I was annoyed that Mat spent all this time (and lost an eye) trying to get Moiraine back from the Tower of Ghenjei in the last book only to have her make the briefest of appearances in this book. Same with Nynaeve, who was always one of my favorites. Poor Min barely appears in the story until several hundred pages in (the book is about 900 pages all together), but when she does, she gets conscripted into serving as Tuon's Doomseer (since she can see omens over people). That was pretty funny. Faile, Perrin's wife, is in charge of getting the Horn of Valere to Mat but a bubble of evil sends her, Olver and some of their crew to the Blight where they have to figure out how to get to the battle in time for Mat (or someone else) to blow the horn and summon the ancient heroes to fight with them. The fear is that is the horn falls into the hands of the Shadow, the heroes would fight against Rand's army. Essentially, everyone has a role to play in the Last Battle - some have major importance and some minor. The murderous townsfolk from Hinderstap even make an appearance in a crucial scene.
Rand makes it to Shayol Ghul and steps into the mountain with Nynaeve and Moiraine (who then spend their appearances essentially frozen, although Nynaeve plays a slightly important part) and confronts Moridin, before getting sucked into an existential confrontation with the Dark One. Rand wants to kill the Dark One entirely so the two of them keep showing each other different scenarios, during which Rand realizes that evil cannot be killed entirely because that would prevent people from choosing one side over another. Meanwhile Perrin and Gaul spend most of their time in the Wolf Dream, dealing with Lanfear, trying to kill Slayer. However, Perrin ends up missing the battle entirely until the very end when he has to go to Shayol Ghul. Mat, after the harrowing victory at the Field of Merrilor, also ends up at Shayol Ghul. Both men perform an important, although relatively anti-climatic act to save the day at the end. The women all perform important tasks as well (except Nynaeve... sort of). Aviendha fights Graendal, one of the final Forsaken, at Shayol Ghul. Elayne helps to lead her army, along with Birgitte. Egwene fights viciously with the Aes Sedai.
And people die. One of the biggest criticisms of the series is that characters never did. The big death in book five, Moiraine, turned out to not be true in the end. But here (again, SPOILERS AHEAD!) Gawyn dies, followed by Egwene who goes out with a bang, while Siuan Sanche and Gareth Bryne die during one of the battles. Obviously I was thrilled that Mat and Lan lived. Lots of other people died, but no one that major with the exceptions I said before. At the end all remaining Forsaken are dead or got what was coming to them in a fitting way.
There also wasn't much development beyond the battlefield. Earlier in the story, Rand got to spend some one on one time with Aviendha and Elayne (not at the same time). He didn't really get to hang out with Min, although they've been together during basically every book. I was expecting Aviendha to learn she was pregnant or have Elayne deliver her twins, but nothing happened there. Also early on, Egwene and Gawyn got married. This was such a footnote to the whole story. And then it was like they were barely married. I was a bit disappointed in their storyline. It's fine if they died, but there was barely any romance between them. Yeah, I know there was a war going on, but still. Oh and Faile's parents died. I liked her dad a lot so that was a little sad (and technically, it means she is queen of Saldaea!)
Here's what I did love: Tam al'Thor leading an army and using the famous Two River bows. Lan kicking serious ass when he fought Demandred. Mat being Mat. The Hinderstap people showing up. Morgase helping wounded people after the battle, just when I was wondering what happened to her. Androl the Asha-man and Pevara, the Red Aes Sedai who bonded each other, fought together and started developing a little romance. Thom guarding the entrance to Shayol Ghul but really watching the battle below to write an epic ballad. The lovely moment when the Dark One seemed to have won but Rand showed him that there was always hope - as they watched the Merrilor battle and saw Lan stir despite thinking he was dead from fighting Demandred and little Olver blow the Horn of Valere despite being attacked by trollocs.
So there was some really good stuff here and really, it was a fitting last book for the series. Well done if you made it to the final volume (and to the end of this insanely long review... this is why it took so long for me to write this. I knew it would take ages!).
Now about that ending... there was always a bit of a Harry Potterish "both can't live" idea hanging around here. I always theorized that Lews Therin Telamon, whose mad spirit lingered in Rand's mind, would die but Rand himself would live, maybe without the ability to channel any more and he could go back to the Two Rivers and live a normal life with Min. However, then he and Lews pretty much blended together so that wouldn't work. However, at the end, Rand charged out of Shayol Ghul after completely sealing away the Dark One, with Moridin's body. I'm not entirely sure what happened here but Rand's spirit somehow transferred into Moridin's body. So to the world it looked like Rand died, but no one except Min, Elayne and Aviendha knew that for sure. They used Alivia to "help him die", meaning to leave "Moridin" clothes and money so he could leave.
There's an epic party at the end near Shayol Ghul, which is already becoming alive again. All the heroes gather in one place (with a couple exceptions like Perrin going off to find Faile and Mat going to Tuon - if I'm remembering that correctly). Poor Tam al'Thor has to watch his son's body burn and no one tells him. Everyone is surprised that Rand's three women do not seem phased by his supposed death. Nynaeve is devastated... although she gets to reunite with Lan and be queen of Malkier so she'll be fine. At the end, Rand examines his new body and thinks of all the things he can do in the world now that he has no responsibilities. He learns that he can no longer channel, but call "will" things into existence. He lights a pipe just by willing it to do so (sort of like the Belgariad's "will and the word"). The three women watch him leave and then that's it, he's gone.
I felt like this was a bit of a cop out. I wanted a real epilogue. This ending did not show how the three women dealt with sharing Rand. I seriously thought that the Tinkers' "Song" would be found and used to make the world grow correctly again, getting rid of the Blight and the desserts (although that happened anyway due to Rand). Elayne did not have her kids and Aviendha did not get pregnant. Is Min still tied to the Seanchan? What the hell happens next?! Did Androl and Pevara help facilitate a rejoining of the male and female powers? What was Cadsuane like as the Amyrlin? I think having a short chapter at the very end that takes place a couple years after might have been nice. Supposedly a massive encyclopedia is going to be published at some point so maybe that will have some hints in it.
If you've made it this far, well done and I'm assuming you're a WOT fan. As I said earlier, someday I might reread the entire series to really judge every book together and follow the story really well but at this point, that just exhausts me. Maybe in another 10 years!
The e-book controversy
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