Narrator: Kate Reading

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Review (minor spoilers)

gatheringofshadows
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Review (minor spoilers)A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #2
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 16 hrs and 9 mins
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab is the second in the Darker Shade of Magic Series which centres on Kell, an Antari magician who has the ability to move between different worlds, and Lila, a young woman from “our” London who has ended up in Kell’s magical home world.  I really enjoyed the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, and was very much looking forward to this next instalment.  I LOVED this book and am happy to recommend it.

What I liked

The characters.  Right from the beginning, Lila had me chuckling along with her sassy attitude and I sympathised with Kell and Rhy as they tried to come to terms with the events of the previous book.  Some new characters are introduced, notably Alucard Emery.  This is a particularly interesting new addition as both our protagonists have very different attitudes towards him.  This leaves the reader somewhat torn about how to feel about him.  He’s rather a mysterious characters – It’s clear that he’s a lot more than just the pirate – excuse me, privateer – that he claims to be.  I really hope we learn more about him in subsequent books.

The romance.  The relationship between Kell and Lila was so cute and beautifully done, especially given how little time they actually spend interacting with each other in the book.  There were so many adorable instances of Lila thinking things like “oh, that guy’s hair is almost the same shade as Kell’s”  or Kell’s seeing something pretty and thinking of how much Lila would enjoy it.  Of course, if confronted both would vehemently deny being in love.  A clear case of showing, not telling.  Brava Victoria.

Interesting pacing.  As the book blurb indicates, a significant focus of this book is the Element Games, a magical equivalent of our Olympics.  Yet, they do not provide much dramatic tension.  They are generally non lethal, and the outcome of winning is little more than achieving bragging rights.  In fact, until about 85% of the way through the book very little actually happens.   Towards the end, it was very clear that this story would not be self contained in the way that the first one was, and that I would have to prepare for a cliffhanger.  The wonderful thing, however, is that I really didn’t care.  I was having too much fun following these two crazy kids and their mixed signals romance and the magical world in which it takes place.  The last few chapters of the book really speed things up though and I can’t wait for the next book.

What I didn’t like

Lack of variety in the Element Games.  Each level of the competition follows the same format. I would have welcomed some changes in structure for the subsequent bouts.  Also I did have to suspend my disbelief at certain participants.  Did Stasion really think he could compete at Olympic level with his limited experience of magic?

Despite those minor gripes, I adored A Gathering of Shadows and it gets a well-deserved five stars out of five from me. 

five-stars

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Full review – SPOILERS

Reading Roundup – 7th March 2014

Reading Roundup – 7th March 2014Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Also in this series: Words of Radiance
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 48 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The biggest release for me this week is Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance.  This is the second in the Stormlight Archive, Sanderson’s proposed 10 book epic fantasy series.  That was my biggest issue with The Way of Kings – Sanderson has planned it to be an epic tale right from the beginning so the large scope is readily apparent.  I’ve much preferred tales which have “grown in the telling” as the saying goes.  The Wheel of Time, for example, starts off focussed on our heroes from the Two Rivers and it’s not until later on in the series that we have epic battles and world changing consequences.  

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Way of Kings, although in all fairness I used Tor.com’s excellent Way of Kings Reread and Where We Left Our Heroes article to catch up with it.  I am enjoying Words of Radiance which I am listening to in audiobook format rather than reading.  I do enjoy Kate Reading’s and Michael Kramer’s narration.  However, this audiobook weighs in at a hefty 48 hours and 15 minutes.  I don’t expect to read much else in the next couple of weeks, so please don’t expect many other reviews over the next few weeks.

I understand that as Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, this second entry focusses more on Shallan.  I look forward to hearing more about her and Jasnah.  Given the title I also imagine the Knights Radiant will play a large part in this book.  I shall, of course, give you a review of Words of Radiance once I’ve completed it.

In other news, Tor.com has started a reread of the Harry Potter books.  Check it out here.  These rereads are always excellent.  Generally, these are written by people who are already familiar with the books, who are rereading it for the umpteenth time.  They are usually expert at highlighting the key themes and foreshadowings of the specific chapters and I’ve often picked up a lot of nuances I’d missed on my own readings.  A notably different kettle of fish is the read of A Song of Ice and Fire by Leigh Butler.  This is Leigh’s first time reading Martin’s opus and so we get to experience her reactions to such significant events such as The Red Wedding.  It’s also fun to see which of her predictions are correct and where she is a little wider off the mark.  If you’ve not checked out these rereads I encourage you to do so.

Added to my library this week

In addition to Words of Radiance in Kindle and Audible format mentioned above, I also picked up Grave Assassin, the first in the His Fair Assassin series by Robin Lafevers.  I had been keeping an eye on this – assassin nuns sound intriguing – and this week it was on special offer on Kindle and with the special Whispersync for Voice deal, I was able to pick up the Audible format for a couple of dollars too.  Bargain!

Well, that’s all for this week folks.  You’ll hear from me again at some point once I have absorbed the Words of Radiance.

four-stars

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna TrollopeSense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
Series: The Austen Project #1
Also in this series: Northanger Abbey, Eligible
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading
Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Classics, Women's Lit
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope is the first in The Austen Project series of books in which contemporary writers rework Austen’s classics to bring them into the modern day.

In a world without the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Emma Approved and Clueless, Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility might appear fresh and fun.  In comparison to these other modernisations, however, it comes across as unimaginative and safe.  Too often it appears Trollope has simply transposed the characters and situations from Regency England to the modern day without using more up to date equivalents.  A few references to Facebook and Twitter don’t make a modern adaption.  In all fairness, perhaps Trollope was given a tight brief by HarperCollins to keep it close to the original.  

What I liked 

Faithful to Austen’s characters. Trollope stayed true to Austen’s characters.  Elinor is still the level head of the family, Marianne is still a hopeless romantic, Willoughby is still a cad.  The relationships between them remained true to the original – the interactions between the characters still follow the same themes.  The characters follow the same development arcs.  It’s clear Trollope understands the motivations of her characters and the main themes of the original.  

Timeless story and themes.  The conflict of head vs.heart is universal and is beautifully described by Austen.  Trollope brought this across to the modernisation very well.

The narration.  Kate Reading was the narrator for this, which is one reason I bought it also from Audible.  Kate is one of my favourite narrators, and she didn’t disappoint here.  With Kate you get a sense of the character just from the voices she uses.  Here’s a sample

What I didn’t like

Characters transposed not reimagined.  While it’s true that the characters are true to their Austen versions, they should have been updated more to reflect the world in which they were living.  In our 21st century, women of Elinor’s and Marianne’s ages cannot and should not expect to have a man support them – a major focus at their age should be how they are going to support themselves and pay their bills in future.  I didn’t feel that was adequately reflected in this modernisation.  I mean, what the heck does Marianne DO all day other than moon around over Willoughby?

Out of date settings. Trollope retained the grand estates – Norland Park,  Delaford,  Allenham – and even some servants.  I felt this made the book somewhat harder for a modern readership to relate to. Other modern Austen adaptations have successfully updated the grand estates to large corporations with no ill effects to the themes of the books.

Modern references for references’ sake.  There are several references to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, mobile phones etc scattered throughout the book, yet none of them are used to progress the story in any way.  That feels rather unrealistic in our always-online modern world.  For example, it would have been far fresher – and would not have harmed the theme in any way – for Elinor to have learned about Lucy Steele’s marriage from her Facebook profile or a tweet. 

All in all, Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility was an OK read, but lacking in creativity and imagination.  I gave it three stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible

three-stars

Reading A Memory of Light – SPOILERS

Reading A Memory of Light – SPOILERSA Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 41 hours 55 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

So, I have just finished reading A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time. I thought the best way to review it would be to show and discuss the various texts I sent to my friend Natasha while reading. The texts were written as I was reading, the comments after I’d finished the book. I started reading from Chapter 3 as I had already read the prereleased prologue and first two chapters. There are of course spoilers for the entire book here. Proceed at your own risk:

Random thoughts Surprised how much impact Moraine had on the negotiations at the Fields of Merrilor. Thought her Crowning Moment of Awesome would be at the end at Shayol Ghul

Certainly, she did have a big influence on the discussions, and it’s true the Dragon’s Peace would have failed without her. However, I’m not certain these actions were worth Mat’s eye to save the world.

Elayne as Commander-in-Chief of Team Light? I think not.

Yes, I know she’s been trained in politics since she was a babe in arms, and I know there’s a precedent with Egwene as the youngest Amyrlin Seat ever, but really?

Hold on, Lan. Team Light is coming. Lan’s last desperate ride. Beautiful, just beautiful. “Malkier lives on this day” YESSSS!!!

For me this was one of the most beautiful and memorable sections of the book. It was wonderfully written and I’m so happy Rand finally got round to sending aid.

It appears Lan is the Aragorn of the WoT

I was referring to his stirring speech and valiant attempt to take a few Trollocs with him if he were going to die rather than retreat.

LOL Elayne and her bloody goat’s milk

This amused me, but it’s this kind of cosseting from her aides that made me doubt her suitability as Commander in Chief.

Am at a boring part. Lots of military and tactical planning

I understand this is important, and starts to set up the Great Captains’ Compulsion storyline, but yawn.

Hah, the Dagger of Invisibility makes an appearance

Many fans speculated this would be important when Aviendha identified it several books ago. Well spotted.

Heh heh, Uno and his swearing

Nice to see you, Uno :o)

Oh crap, the first Dreadlords have just turned up.

At this point they didn’t really do a great deal.

Hmmm, apart from Dreadlords on the defensive, things seem to be going too well for Team Light. I fear the smelly brown stuff is going to hit the ventilator very very soon…

How right I was.

It’s fun spotting the Memories of Light. Came across a few already

I would just like to say how much I enjoyed the Memories of Light, the little snippets released on a daily basis by Tor prior to release. They were a wonderful way of whetting the appetite and generating discussion without spoilers. Well done, Tor.

Aw Rand and Perrin’s final farewell

Rand has clearly come to terms with the fact that he is going to die.

Really enjoying the Black Tower storyline

Or to be more specific, Androl and Pevara. After goodness knows how many books, it’s good to finally start dealing with this storyline. I really enjoyed the character development of all of the major protagonists, Androl, Pevara and Logain. It was lovely to see Androl grow into his leadership role despite his lack of strength in the One Power and subsequent lack of confidence. I really felt for him early on when Taim removed his pin. Pevara too was also one of the least offensive Reds, and it was fun to see her loosen up and accept the new role of her Ajah. Logain’s dealing with the trauma of his imprisonment and near Turning was also well done.

You go Androl! Nice use of gateways

Androl is definitely one of my favourite new characters and I was fascinated by how he compensated lack of strength with creativity.

LOL Rand’s oneupmanship chat with Mat

“I’ll see your rescue of Moraine, and raise you one Cleansing” I enjoyed this bit of levity before things start to get really serious.

OK, pre-Battle crap is starting to get serious now

Team Dark has certainly upped its game this book. The Compulsion on the four Great Captains nearly winning the Last Battle before it even started was a master stroke. It also neatly sets up Mat’s role in the book. It did rather bug me though – I thought the Warder Bond was supposed to provide some sort of protection against Compulsion type attacks, although maybe I’m wrong. In any case, why didn’t Siuan at least suspect something was wrong?

Oh, Alanna, you stupid, stupid woman. You should have seen that development coming a mile off. In her shoes I’d have ditched that Bond five books ago and got the hell out of Dodge. And why didn’t Team Light have her under lock and key and 24 hour protective custody? Thank the Light superhealer Nynaeve is on hand

It didn’t take a lot of imagination to predict Alanna’s kidnapping. She has always been a real liability for Team Light and I’m surprised they didn’t take care of her sooner, especially when it was apparent the risk was far greater than the benefits Team Light received.

Déjà vu. “we need to make a desperate last stand to give Frodo… er, I mean Rand… time to do his thing”

Typical fantasy trope.

About to start the chapter entitled The Last Battle. I fear the body count is about to rise exponentially :o(

And I was right

Ah, I’d forgotten the Seals had been stolen

For me that was one of the first real “oh, crap” moments when Rand met with Egwene and realised Team Dark had stolen the Seals. It’s funny how, with so much else going on, i could have forgotten about that.

He could cut a Trolloc with a gateway at 300 paces, and summon fire from Dragonmount itself and he still wanted to carry a sword. It was a male thing she decided.” LOL

I adore Androl and Pevara and their strange double Bond. I could quite happily read an entire book of their adventures.

Sigh. Those fool-headed Trakand boys. As Leigh Butler said, bringing a knife to a global thermonuclear warfare fight indeed

So much for Gawyn’s promises to obey Egwene and stand in her shadow.

“Androl, you are wonderful..” Hear, hear. Gotta love a man who can destroy your enemies with volcano fire and then will go and make you a nice cup of tea. With honey of course.

LOL, well my husband has been known to make me a cup of tea, but I’ve not seen him bring down volcano fire on any enemies yet. I’m so glad both Androl and Pevara seem to have survived the Last Battle. I loved their relationship.

Oh damn, the Siuan/Bryne viewing is still pending despite the events of The Gathering Storm. I have a bad feeling about this…. Oh damn, poor Siuan. First of the major players to die :o(

I was sorry to see Siuan and Bryne die, and with such little page space too. She deserved better, much better.

Uh, oh. Pevara and Androl being dragged off to see Demandred. YOU KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY PEVANDROL YOU NASTY FORSAKEN, YOU!! Is it bad that I’m more invested in these two newish characters than in some of the original ones?

I’m so happy they got away.

Mother’s milk in a cup, Berelain, you’re a nurse in a field hospital in the middle of the Last Battle and you’re wearing a diadem?!?

I know it’s the symbol of your status, but really?

Huh. Surprised it took Team Dark this long to make a concerted effort to focus an attack on one of Rand’s lady loves

Team Dark is acting rather more effectively this book, but I would have thought they would have exploited this fairly large weakness.

And it looks as though Demandred is going for a twofer on Elayne’s brothers

Sigh, those two, what can you do?

Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about Faile and the Horne of Valere. Wish I could forget her sinking us into the Plotline of Doom for three books as easily

Faile was surprisingly not too annoying this book.

Wow, so Egwene Bonded Leilwin. Didn’t see that one coming

For me, this was definitely the weakest part of the book. Egwene’s overcoming her hate of Seanchan and trusting Leilwin enough to Bond her should have been a wonderful final character development for her, and it was botched. I appreciate there was a lot to fit into this book, but I do believe it could have been handled better.

Damn you Taim, leave my Androl alone!

Good man, Androl. Not only do you escape with a whole hide, but the Seals as well!

Classic! Androl is disguised as Nensen to get close to Taim, and Taim disguises “Nensen” as Androl to get close to Logain!

Nice fun moment in the middle of the chaos.

Aw, bless you Leane. Last Battle is raging around you and you have time to discuss cosmetics and seduction?!? If I liked you less I’d be annoyed.

Heh.

Sigh. Only Aes Sedai could stick to the strength-in-the-power hierarchy in the middle of the Last Battle

Sigh, indeed.

Aw, go Talmanes, leading everyone in a rousing chorus of Jak of the Shadows as the world turns to custard

Reminiscent of earlier, less traumatic times.

Poor Olver, so out of his depth. Grudging respect for Faile for using herself as bait.

The whole Olver storyline – so beautifully written.

WTG, Androl, promoted to full Asha’man :o) But how in the Light did Logain come by the Seals, or did I miss something?

I really had a broad grin on my face for Androl when Logain promoted him, and was so happy for him. It’s really a bit strange to feel so delighted for a literary character, but it shows how well Brandon had done his job. I’d really felt for him earlier when Taim had taken his pin.

And yes, I had missed the point when Androl sneakily cut Taim’s belt with the pouch containing the Seals ;o)

Aw, no, not Bela the horse. Damn you, Team Jordan, she came through too much to end up in a Trolloc cook pot.

I suspect that this is the death which will cause the most adverse reaction from fans of the series. That horse saw more epic moments in her brief history than many of the other less main characters. Some people were even having fun speculating that she was the Creator’s avatar since she so often turned up just when a horse was needed.

Aw no, now Birgitte :o(

I guess that’s what you get for being at the last book of the series – all bets are off about character survival. And this is not even a George R R Martin novel!

Well played, Min, well played.

I have always considered Min one of the smarter characters in the series, and I enjoyed seeing her totally own Fortuona and browbeat her into helping Team Light.

Flame of Tar Valon. Cool weave, crap name

I imagine Brandon was trying to come up with a name reminiscent of balefire hence flame, but Flame of Tar Valon just didn’t work for me. I really liked the concept though, and I don’t agree with some fans who complain Egwene just pulled this out of the hat at the last minute. Throughout the series she has been shown applying logic to weaves to extrapolate new ones, and she did test the FoTV in miniature earlier.

Goodbye, Egwene, Amyrlin Seat. Sorry to see you go, but a fitting end. One more Chosen down

I was sorry to see Egwene go, but repairing the Pattern, taking out the bulk of the enemy Dreadlords and a Chosen does seem a fitting end. Of all the main characters, Rand excepted, she seemed to have the least planned post Last Battle. Nynaeve hopes for a future with Lan, Perrin wearing the Broken Crown of Saldaea with Faile, Mat dealing with the Seanchan and his marriage to Tuon. For the last few books Egwene’s main focus has been reuniting the White Tower and preparing it for the Last Battle, and she has completed that goal.

And Lan takes down Demandred. Lan has to survive to have babies with Nynaeve, doesn’t he?!?! Please?

Lan proves himself to be the badass sword fighter he is. This was a nice use of the fox head medallion to force a sword on sword duel without the Power.

Aw Olver blew the Horn :o) Excellent! Birgitte remains a Hero of the Horn :o) Tearing up. Jain Farstrider came back for Olver as a Hero of the Horn

This, for me, was one of the most beautifully written and emotional parts of the book. Many fans had suspected that Mat’s connection to the Horn by his death at Rahvin’s hand and subsequent resurrection, but I hadn’t seen any speculation of Olver’s role.

Ah crap, Darkhounds. Come on wolves, we need you.

My bad. I forgot that even wolves fear to fight Darkhounds.

Heh, Hinderstap makes a cameo appearance.

This was a fun shootout.

Touching scene between Master Luhan and Perrin

This was a nice scene to show how far Perrin has come in his personal development.

Very clumsy resolution of the Massouri/Masema mystery

I didn’t really care about this particular mystery, and it was very clumsily written. It was as if Brandon had been told he had to include a resolution to this somewhere, and just couldn’t figure out where and how to stick it in.

Nice Thom/Cadsuane fakeout. I guess the Warder Bond told him it was a Black Sister

Heh

And Gollum, sorry Padan Fain approaches the Cracks of Doom, sorry Shayol Ghul. Better move your arses Mat and Perrin.

The parallels between Gollum and Fain have been long discussed by the fandom.

Heh, Mat on the raken. Hilarious!

Nice to get a last few moments of levity before the final push. But, Mat, if you’re married to the Seanchan Empress, better get used to those raken…

Excellent! Hero Wolves called by the Horn! But where is Hopper? He of all wolves deserves to be a Hero.

I do love the wolves, and Hero wolves are just a bonus. Good to see someone can take on the Darkhounds. I am disappointed Hopper wasn’t there, though. I got really attached to him after 13 books.

Lame end for Padan Fain. I guess it was foreshadowed. Slayer’s ending was more fitting

With hindsight, it seemed logical that Mat would be the one to take him out. However, it just seemed too easy; Fain has been a walking horror becoming more and more creepy as the books continued. I also wasn’t too happy with Mat’s exposition about how he realised he was immune to Fain’s miasma. That could have been handled better.

The Slayer/Perrin battle really couldn’t have gone any other way.

And there you have it, Rand’s true plan revealed. Well played, sir, well played. But Moridin was a lame villain at the end.

I was referring here to Rand/Moraine/Nynaeve’s use of Callandor’s flaw to trap Moridin. I had expected more from Moridin at the end though. He has been portrayed as a major villain throughout the latter half of the series and this was rather meh.

Sigh. I guess this is the book of Compulsion. Throw it off, Perrin, you can do it.

And of course, for love of Faile, he does.

And there you have it, the prophesied second time Perrin has to be there for Rand. Bye bye Lanfear and your puny Compulsion.

I was pretty happy with the way this one turned out.

Aw, Rand’s dead :o(

:o(

So Faile lives. I’ll grudgingly admit I’m OK with that.

Her actions saving the Horn of Valere grants her a pass in my eyes. I do admire her courage giving herself as bait to draw Team Dark away from the Horn. This is nice irony as she first met our heroes as a Hunter for the Horn!

Oooh is Birgitte being reborn as one of Melaine’s twins?

This was just a random thought I had.

Tearing up, Tam’s mourning over Rand’s body

This was so sad. It was nice that both Rand and Perrin had some nice moments with the father figures in their pre-Moraine life.

Hah. The Bond. I knew Rand wasn’t dead 😀 The prophesied body swap switcher. Alivia “will help you die” or fake your death at least. Another prophesy down.

This whole sequence was pretty well foreshadowed in hindsight. I would have liked a bit more detail on how Alivia accomplished the switcheroo, though.

Hah. Cadsuane Sedai as the new Amyrlin… Light help the White Tower!

Light be with you Aes Sedai. You’re going to need it…

Nice ending for Rand and his harem

This was another of the most beautiful parts of the book. I hear this was written by Jordan, not Sanderson.

“There are no endings, and never will be endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was AN ending.

The end of the Last Book of the Wheel of Time.

Aw. Sniff. It’s the end of an Age. Despite assertions to the contrary from Jordan, many people speculated that this would be the last turning of the Wheel. However, it’ clear that the Wheel keeps turning. It seems clear that, although Rand resealed the Bore as good as new with a blend of saidin, saidar and the Dark One’s own Power, there is a new weakness at the place where Egwene strengthened the Pattern with the Flame of Tar Valon. That will be the new point of the Bore in a future age.

Conclusion

From some of my comments, you may have thought I was unhappy or disappointed with this book. Far from it. I felt it was a fitting and appropriate ending to the saga of the Wheel of Time.

Among the many highlights for me were Lan’s storyline, Olver’s new role and the conclusion of Rand’s tale. All of these sequences were beautiful, exquisitely written and emotionally satisfying.

I also really loved the characters of Pevara and Androl – it’s been a while since I’ve felt so invested in literary characters. Often I felt more invested in their relationship than in many of the main characters. Real kudos to Brandon. I enjoyed the real character development of these two. The whole Black Tower storyline was a joy to read.

The fact that Team Dark finally brought its A game to the table this book was much appreciated. This was the first time I felt that Team Dark was actually in with a chance to defeat Team Light. Graendal’s efforts in particular were a master stroke.

Having said that, I was unhappy about certain aspects of the book. One of these was Egwene’s character development and her relationship with Egeanin. Egwene’s long-standing, bone-deep hatred of the Seanchan was dealt with far too quickly and easily. This should have been built up better.

Another aspect I didn’t feel came off as well as the authors perhaps hoped was the battle of wits between Mat and Demandred. I have the impression that this was intended to be a chess match between Grand Masters, but it didn’t quite come off. I’m also not sure if it was intended to be like the battle at Falme where the physical battle mirrored Rand’s battle with Ishamael in the sky, but I didn’t see that.

All in all, I was delighted in how this book unfolded, and give great kudos to Team Jordan for a satisfying ending to one of my favourite series.

five-stars
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