Towers of Midnight is book 13 in my all time super-favorite fantasy series, called the Wheel of Time. If you don't follow epic fantasy, and/or have been under a rock for a few years, the original author, Robert Jordan, died before completing the series and chose Brandon Sanderson to finish it for him. There is one more book after this (January 2012 expected release date) and the whole series is done. That will be a sad day for Wheel of Time nerds like me!
I will avoid spoilers, except to the extent that I bring up characters' names as part of Towers of Midnight.
I think that Sanderson is doing an admirable job of continuing Jordan's incredible story and intricate world. I can't even imagine all the research and reading and re-reading Sanderson must have done to maintain Jordan's style so well. It really feels like the same guy wrote it all. I didn't think it would be possible for the series to be finished in an acceptable manner when Jordan died, but I was apparently wrong.
Sanderson is very good at writing clever, natural sounding dialogue. For that or some other reason, there were a lot of borderline-snarky conversations in this book. It seems to me like Jordan's books were not very dialogue-intensive so this is one way the styles of the authors diverge. I can't decide how I feel about that. On the one hand, it's generally amusing, well written and engaging, but on the other hand I feel like it's not how Jordan would have written it or how the earlier Wheel of Time books were written. It's hard to say if it's an improvement or a distraction. Maybe it's both.
Sanderson actually manages to improve a few characters that were among my least favorite points of view previously. Notably, Nynaeve doesn't have much screen time but seems to gain depth, and become a more interesting and intriguing character. Galad becomes really, really cool. I never thought he had much potential to be an awesome character, previously. Perrin and Faile are the focus of Towers of Midnight, and are surprisingly tolerable. Yes, even Faile. Weird, right?
That brings me to my major problem with Sanderson's take on Wheel of Time. Mat. Sanderson is ruining my favorite character. Maybe I missed the part in Jordan's writing (across my 2 - 4 readings of the series...) where Mat suffered EXTENSIVE BRAIN DAMAGE. Sanderson makes Mat really, really stupid, cocky, and unlikeable. Egregious misspellings in a letter? Was it really necessary to do that? It doesn't make any sense for someone in Mat's position, with his (spoiler intensive) skills to be that stupid. That was my only major problem with the book. I had a problem with Sanderson's take on a few other characters, but nothing big except poor, lobotomized Mat. Jeez.
If you like epic fantasy, I can't recommend this series highly enough. The world, cultures, people and plot are incredibly intricate and deep. If you, like so many others (including you guys, Emily and Bret) stopped reading halfway through because things slow down around book 7 or 8 I strongly suggest you try again. The more times I read the series the more I get out of it, and it *does* pick up again in book 9 or 10. Plus, now there is an end in sight with book 14 expected to come out in January 2012.