Towers of Midnight does not fail to impress, and does much of what I expected in the book. The last book centred mostly on Rand and Egwene, and while Egwene makes many important appearances, the storylines more fully develop arcs around Perrin, Mat and Elayne.
The past finally catches up with Perrin, and he is held account for the killing of two Children of the Light whilst in wolf form. The new Lord Captain Commander Galad Damodred is bent upon ordering his execution, but in true ta’veren style, his Morgase is discovered among Perrin’s people and this leads to a clearer perspective on the kind of man Perrin is. After a huge battle againts Shadowspawn (where Perrin must learn to master the wolf dream and inadvertantly helps Egwene destroy the forsaken Mesaana), Galad and Perrin become allies and Galad even swears to be led by Perrin to the Last Battle.
As newly appointed Amyrlin, Egwene not only demonstrates the political sassy needed to run the White Tower, but also as an international leader towards the Last Battle. At the beginning of the book, a newly calm and collected Rand visits Egwene and tells her he plans to break the rest of the seals on the Dark One’s prison. He instructs her to meet him ready for this task at a designated time and place. Egwene responds to this in two ways – firstly, she seeks out the kings and queens of the lands and brings their armies to the meeting place to dissuade Rand from an act she sees as madness. Secondly, she steps up her search for Mesaana, a forsaken that Verin Mathwin, an infiltrater in the Black Ajah, claimed in the last book was hiding in the tower. She survives several assassination attempts – denying Gawyn Trakand, the man who would become her husband and warder – a chance to help her. He leaves Tar Valon feeling unappreciated, but soon discovers the assassins are not linked to Mesaana, but rather the Seanchan. He returns just in time to save her physical body from attack, whilst the real attack from Mesaana occurs in Tel’Aran’Rhiod, the world of dreams. Perrin coincidentally brings a dream spike into the dream Tar Valon, which traps Egwene’s chanellers as well as Mesaana’s in the dream world. Mesaana fails to recognise Egwene’s talent as the first true Dreamer in hundreds of years. She attempts to leash Egwene with a dream a’dam (which we all know is Egwene’s greatest fear since being made damane by the Seanchan) but Egwene’s mastery of the dream world allows her to unlock the a’dam and break Mesaana’s mind.
Elayne solidifies her claim to the throne of Cairhien through political machinations. She spends much of the novel risking herself to attempt to discover the Black Ajah, mistakenly believing she is protected by one of Min’s viewings, promising the safe birth of her twins. The learns the hard way just how fragile she really is, especially as her pregnancy makes her ability to channel unreliable at best. She bands together with Mat to create Alludra’s explosive Dragons, which she believes may help them win the last battle.
Mat and Thom spend much time in Caemlyn (without much reason if you ask me) and then make a rather quick journey to the Towers of Ghenji to rescue Moiraine – remembering that is was foretold in a previous book that Rand could never be victorious at the last battle without Moiraine. Mat relies on his luck to traverse the strange world of the Aelfinn (Snakes) and Eelfin (Foxes) which much success, but ultimately a sacrifice must be made in order to take Moiraine and Mat promises the Eelfinn ‘half the light of the world’, as prophecised. The take one of Mat’s eyes, and one of their travelling companions dies, but Mat, Thom and Moiraine escape using the Ashanderei Mat was given during his visit to the Aelfinn so many books ago. Moiraine reveals that the Eelfinn drained her of much of her power to channel, but she now has an angreal that allows her to channel slightly more strongly than she did without it. She declares her intention to marry Thom and make him her warder. Cant help but be a bit suspicious here.
A few other important bits of information are revealed, maninly pertaining to the Last Battle, which the wolves believe has already begun. The mass of armies called by Egwene to wait for Rand also seems to support this. Tuon, new Empress of Seanchan, discovers travelling from one of her new damane (ironically, deposed Amyrlin Elaida) and declares her intention to use it to enter Tar Valon and leash all the Aes Sedai. Aviendha completes her Wise One training at Rhuidean, and sees how her children (foretold quadruplets fathered by Rand) will bring about the destruction of the Aiel, and determines to find a new purpose for her people. This will need to be a large part of the final novel. We also get glimpses of a darkness within the Black Tower – the Shadow definitely has a foothold among the men training to channel.
All the threads are finally about to be drawn together. More and more is revealed in this second-to-last book, leaving me once again with bated breath for the final chapter. I can only hope Sanderson is equally as quick in his writing of A Memory of Light proper.