I have spent most of my reading time since summer rereading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan in time for the release of the twelfth book of the series. In hindsight, that was not necessary for the enjoyment of the book as I remembered all the characters pretty well. I had forgotten most details of the plot, but since most of the plot is spent building and introducing characters, the details of what they do is not that important in the long run. That is not to say that it is not still exciting to read.
I would probably have had a just as good time reading this new book if I had only reread the previous, book eleven, but I felt when I started that I would like to finish this series in a proper way. They have been with me for more than ten years now and have brought many good reading moments.
Mostly I would still say that the books stand out high above the average Fantasy literature. The books are not great literary fiction all the way through, but the first book is one of the best Fantasy books I have read and Robert Jordan's gift of story telling is on the whole quite unique. Through the series the characters are allowed to grow and become rich in numbers and complexity. It is the character moments I liked the best on the reread. This is not because I knew the story and was bored with the plot. I had forgotten large parts, but I knew the overall plot, as any who has read the first couple of books will know or at least suspect. This makes all the characters actions, reasoning and motivation with the main plot as the backdrop the way I prefer to read the books.
The series starts out as ordinary, but very well written, hero's journey Fantasy and spreads out from there. The conflicts are many, there are viewpoint characters of many different world views and motivations. No one gets anything for free like in some novels where the main purpose seems to be to show of how great the main character is. Indeed the main character is more and more flawed as the series progresses and this is one of the reasons why I am eagerly awaiting book thirteen. There is most likely some resolution on that part in the beginning of the next book. There will be fourteen books in total with one year between the last tree, so there are only two to go!
So, did the book live up to expectations? Yes, in most parts it did. It has a different pacing than the previous books, except perhaps for parts of book eleven where the pace of events picked up a lot. There is plenty of story lines coming to their conclusions. Before the book I wondered if it was possible to tie it all up in just three books while still keeping the rich storytelling. After having read the book I worried about there not being any story lines left for the last two books except the main story. It did not feel very rushed, but it is definitely more packed that any of the previous books. Luckily, as the story arches are coming together and merging there is also some new story lines that appear as more and more characters are drawn together and meet up after months or years apart. These will also need to be concluded in time for the big ending, so there's plenty to look forward to.
So, what's not to like, a.k.a. did Brandon Sanderson pull off the feat of pulling together the story left sketched and half finished by the late Robert Jordan? For the most parts, yes he did. There was only one chapter where I felt pretty clearly that Sanderson was the main author. Unfortunately that chapter in many ways pulled me out of the story. Still, overall it was a good read. Heartily recommended for the three or four WoT fans that still have not bought the book. All others can consider picking up the first book, The Eye of the World, but be forewarned; it will take you the better parts of a year to go through the series if you get hooked.