I was a bit hesitant to read the latest two books in the Wheel of Time series. On the one hand, I wanted to know what happens to these characters I love. On the other hand, I wasn’t really comfortable with another author finishing Robert Jordan’s work. This isn’t the first time I’ve read another author’s take on a deceased author’s work. But it’s different when the deceased author passed away before I ever became aware of them, and even more so when the new author had written the sequel before I was even aware of the original.
It’s not that I am unfamiliar with a fan’s grief. I still remember the first time—I must have been thirteen or fourteen—I wanted to write a letter of appreciation to an author. So, I picked Robert Heinlein and wrote my letter, trying to craft it in such a way that it would get a response. I put the letter in an envelope and sealed it up. I brought the letter to my father and asked him how I could find Robert Heinlein’s mailing address. Only then, with my letter all ready to go, did my father break the news to me: Robert Heinlein was dead. I went through several more authors, all who had passed, some before I was even born, before I gave up.
The grief of those surprise discoveries doesn’t quite compare to grief experienced by a fan looking forward to the next book in a long, decidedly incomplete series, only to re-discover that while a great author’s work may be timeless, his time to produce that work is not. Having someone else step up and, in some vague sense, take his place…I was grateful that the work could be finished, but resentful at the same time. Inner turmoil. Action stubbornly postponed. Finally, I re-read the series and then, eagerly and reluctantly, picked up The Gathering Storm, the next installment of Robert Jordan’s story as told by Brandon Sanderson.
Of course, I was so caught up in the story that, when I reached the end, I moved straight onto Towers of Midnight.
After Towers of Midnight, I had to stop, but only because the last book isn’t out yet. So, if you’re still holding out, I have to say it’s definitely worth getting past that inner conflict and reading the books. Brandon Sanderson does the stories justice, and he shows his respect for Robert Jordan in the quality of his work.
The main story line of The Gathering Storm ends with Rand undergoing a major transformation, and the nature of this transformation and the consequences thereof are revealed in Towers of Midnight. How does Rand become the tool the Creator needs and what kind of tool is that? The answer to this question is remarkable, enlightening. How the stories of these characters unfold is, for anyone who has loved the series, an important point. For example, does Moiraine get out and why is Thom so determined, anyway? Even Mat was surprised by that answer!
From a writer’s perspective, however, I find it compelling to see that while the story is definitely Robert Jordan’s, the writing is definitely not. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Brandon Sanderson’s style, but it’s definitely not Robert Jordan’s. The surprising thing was how comforting I found that to be. The integrity of the story remains, which is
always good, but somehow this difference in writing also retains the integrity of the authors—both of them. And that’s good, too.