What I Read – March 2016

This month again is very spoiler heavy as I parse my feelings on wrapping up the Wheel of Time series. Be forewarned.

Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time, Book 10)

by Robert Jordan

In the tenth book of the Wheel of Time from the New York Times #1 bestselling author Robert Jordan, the world and the characters stand at a crossroads, and the world approaches twilight, when the power of the Shadow grows stronger.

Fleeing from Ebou Dar with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, whom he is fated to marry, Mat Cauthon learns that he can neither keep her nor let her go, not in safety for either of them, for both the Shadow and the might of the Seanchan Empire are in deadly pursuit.

Perrin Aybara seeks to free his wife, Faile, a captive of the Shaido, but his only hope may be an alliance with the enemy. Can he remain true to his friend Rand and to himself? For his love of Faile, Perrin is willing to sell his soul.

At Tar Valon, Egwene al’Vere, the young Amyrlin of the rebel Aes Sedai, lays siege to the heart of Aes Sedai power, but she must win quickly, with as little bloodshed as possible, for unless the Aes Sedai are reunited, only the male Asha’man will remain to defend the world against the Dark One, and nothing can hold the Asha’man themselves back from total power except the Aes Sedai and a unified White Tower.

In Andor, Elayne Trakland fights for the Lion Throne that is hers by right, but enemies and Darkfriends surround her, plotting her destruction. If she fails, Andor may fall to the Shadow, and the Dragon Reborn with it.

Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn himself, has cleansed the Dark One’s taint from the male half of the True Source, and everything has changed. Yet nothing has, for only men who can channel believe that saidin is clean again, and a man who can channel is still hated and feared-even one prophesied to save the world. Now, Rand must gamble again, with himself at stake, and he cannot be sure which of his allies are really enemies.

The books really hit a new pace for me by this one. I was very excited to get back to Mat’s story, and his courtship of Tuon funny and a bit touching as well. I wish the books had really dealt with the fact that Tuon could be taught to channel beyond what they address. I feel like the story could have played out more there. Perhaps it does.

Egwene’s capture was disappointing at the end of the book, but she’s far from a favorite character at this point anyway.

I really got back into Perrin fandom as well. The first time through, I did not enjoy his character’s internal struggle with violence; I just wanted him to get on with saving his wife. I appreciated it alot more now, though.

Rand didn’t do anything here. Really.

Elayne takes over again in her struggle to secure the throne. I feel like with all the times she rushes into all these horrible situations that she might learn some restraint or planning.

 

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book 11)

by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns, and Robert Jordan gives us the eleventh volume of his extraordinary masterwork of fantasy.

The dead are walking, men die impossible deaths, and it seems as though reality itself has become unstable: All are signs of the imminence of Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, when Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, must confront the Dark One as humanity’s only hope. But Rand dares not fight until he possesses all the surviving seals on the Dark One’s prison and has dealt with the Seanchan, who threaten to overrun all nations this side of the Aryth Ocean and increasingly seem too entrenched to be fought off. But his attempt to make a truce with the Seanchan is shadowed by treachery that may cost him everything. Whatever the price, though, he must have that truce. And he faces other dangers. There are those among the Forsaken who will go to any length to see him dead–and the Black Ajah is at his side….

Unbeknownst to Rand, Perrin has made his own truce with the Seanchan. It is a deal made with the Dark One, in his eyes, but he will do whatever is needed to rescue his wife, Faile, and destroy the Shaido who captured her. Among the Shaido, Faile works to free herself while hiding a secret that might give her her freedom or cause her destruction. And at a town called Malden, the Two Rivers longbow will be matched against Shaido spears.

Fleeing Ebou Dar through Seanchan-controlled Altara with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, Mat attempts to court the woman to whom he is half-married, knowing that she will complete that ceremony eventually. But Tuon coolly leads him on a merry chase as he learns that even a gift can have deep significance among the Seanchan Blood and what he thinks he knows of women is not enough to save him. For reasons of her own, which she will not reveal until a time of her choosing, she has pledged not to escape, but Mat still sweats whenever there are Seanchan soldiers near. Then he learns that Tuon herself is in deadly danger from those very soldiers. To get her to safety, he must do what he hates worse than work….

In Caemlyn, Elayne fights to gain the Lion Throne while trying to avert what seems a certain civil war should she win the crown….

In the White Tower, Egwene struggles to undermine the sisters loyal to Elaida from within….

The winds of time have become a storm, and things that everyone believes are fixed in place forever are changing before their eyes. Even the White Tower itself is no longer a place of safety. Now Rand, Perrin and Mat, Egwene and Elayne, Nynaeve and Lan, and even Loial, must ride those storm winds, or the Dark One will triumph.

I had not read this book previously. Completely new content! This is the last Jordan book, and knowing that I tried to go into it to savor as much as I could. So much happens in this book. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Elayne, Elayne, Elayne. Why do you do this so often? See previous book entry.

I like Egwene again. This whole prisoner undermining Elaida’s rule is a brilliant solution to the White Tower mess, and I really love what Jordan did here.

Rand falls into a trap. Again. I guess he and Elayne are just meant for each other. So much hubris. His truce with Lews Therin was an interesting development, and the battle at the manor house was pretty cool at least.

Mat and Tuon married! Yay! Their guerilla campaign against the Seanchan was also great. I wish there had been more of it.

Perrin finally rescues Faile. Therava takes Galina with her into the waste to fulfill a life of servitude. Just desserts, I think.

Loial gets married and is going to speak at the stump. I wish we had a transcript of his speech there. I would love to see those scenes at least.

Nynaeve tricks Lan when we decides to ride to Shienar to fight. I love how she did it and Lan’s realization of what she did. This was the beginning to some epicness, though I feel reflecting now the end of the series didn’t deliver on this build up.

I would really love if someone would just put Taim down. For everyone’s good. We know this guy is up to no good; just take care of him, Rand.

 

 

The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, Book 12)

by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.

The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor–his wife, Harriet McDougal–to complete the final book. The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will cover the outline left by Robert Jordan, chronicling Tarmon Gai’don and Rand al’Thor’s final confrontation with the Dark One. This short sequence will complete the struggle against the Shadow, bringing to a close a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.

In this epic novel, Robert Jordan’s international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle. As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward–wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders–his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.

Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader. As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair. Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower–and possibly the world itself.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Egwene again has a great story throughout this book. What was one of my least favorite of the arcs really came back around to take the spotlight for some of the later books.

I also love Verin after this book. She’s a badass character. I want to go back and read all of her scenes again just to see if there are any hints about her revelation.

Rand is a total dick again. There’s just way too much of this in the books sometimes. Some very big things happen throughout the series because of the way he acts, but he becomes extremely unlikeable when he’s like this. I understand the arc, but I think it sways a little bit too far for my taste. The wrap up at the end shows the “light” at the end of the tunnel, but still.

Don’t banish Cadsuane.

Elaida is captured by the Seanchan and will serve as a damane. Just desserts again.

As the first Sanderson book, I couldn’t really tell the difference. There were definitely some emotions when finishing Knife of Dreams, just knowing that the Jordan journey had truly ended, but I love Sanderson’s work. This book just flowed for me.

 

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, Book 13)

by Robert Jordan

The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One’s prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight.

The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.

Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel’aran’rhiod and find a way–at long last–to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever.

Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways–the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn–have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men’s lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.

This latest novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series–the second based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007–brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.

Dovie’andi se tovya sagain. It’s time to toss the dice.

Rand returns after his journey to Dragonmount. He is still aloof Rand, but one that can smile and laugh. I guess that’s good, but I miss the Rand we actually got insight to. He becomes this messiah figure a little too much, and I think we lose who he is by the end.

Rand has a momentous visit to the White Tower, but it was as momentous as I thought it would be. Still a fun scene though.

Gawyn is a freakin’ idiot. I want him and Egwene to be a thing, but he’s such a whiner sometimes that I don’t. Her battle with Mesaana was great.

Hopper is killed! I was really sad for Perrin. He has an exciting arc this book between the battle with Isam and the White Cloak trial.

Matt finally takes down the gholam. I love how that turned out. It was so clever. I had been wondering a lot how they would defeat the thing. That wasn’t the biggest event for him in the book, though! I loved the trip into the Tower of Ghenjei, and the final reveal that Noal is Jain Farstrider. Moiraine is alive and rescued!

 

 

A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time, Book 14)

by Robert Jordan

Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.
What was, what will be, and what is,
may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Last Battle. It’s here. I had trouble starting this book at first because I didn’t want the story to end.

BIG FREAKIN SPOILERS AHEAD

Egwene dies. Gawyn Dies. Siuan dies. Bryne dies. I’m sure someone else bit the bullet too, but these ones crushed me. I don’t think the ending was fitting for Egwene, and I felt Taim was given too much power. I would change all of these if I could.

I understand the three pronged battle, but I think it was distracting at times. I think more of the characters in the same place working together would have been more satisfying for me. Elayne’s battle kind of fell flat for me, not that there weren’t cool moments. Lava out of portals anyone?

Androl quickly became one of my favorite characters with Pevara in these last books. Their story was awesome, and the characters were great. THE BEST side story in the series.

I liked Logain’s resolution at the end. I wish Nynaeve and Moiraine had more to do. Poor Alanna!

Perrin’s battle with Slayer was very cool, especially when Gaul joined the chase, but the pacing felt off a bit.

Mat reaches his culminating role as general of the Last Battle. Bela dies, and fans wailed. Olver’s role was unforseen by me, and I should have seen it! Felt like a dolt when it finally happened. Of course.

So many characters! This book just launched into the action and didn’t quit.

I was okay with Rand’s death, but sad that he lost channeling. Still, it’s hinted that he has something greater still. We will never know for sure because that was Jordan moment and Brandon Sanderson said that he didn’t himself know what it meant. I believe it means he can still alter the pattern.

Overall, it was a good ending to the series, and I don’t know that I could truly imagine one better for all my complaints.

Cadsuane as the Amyrlin was great. Still so sad about Egwene.

The end, and some of the middle, was met with tears and emotion. I’ve never read anything so massive as this series. I feel like I lived with these characters for the two and a half months I was reading. I was sad that it was over. I was sad for some of the characters. I was also overjoyed in reaching my goal of finishing it. My wife looked at me weird for about a week after I finished, because I was moping around one moment then ecstatic the next.

I took a very long two week break away from books after finishing this one. I just didn’t feel like anything would satisfy again.

I have a myriad of questions and hopes/fears for the characters where they left off. It was an ending, but it wasn’t the ending. The Wheel of Time turns. I’ll read these again in a few years and come back to a world and characters I love so much. Thank you, Robert Jordan.

 

 

Creativity, Inc.

by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

This is an incredible book, not just because of the very interesting revelations about the animation industry and how Pixar’s amazing films are made, but because of the insights made by Mr. Catmull while reflecting on the company’s journey to where it is today.

This man is driven to improve the processes and health of the company just as much as the animators and writers are driven to produce a good film. His observations are invaluable to anyone who works in a “creative” industry and even those who don’t. I highly recommend it.