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Today I stand on a precipice.  For the last 18 years, I have followed Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, waiting for Tarmon Gai’don (the Last Battle).  Back then, between the release of Lord of Chaos (book#6) and Crown of Swords (book #7), we thought the end was near.  Another couple books (released every year), maybe.  Boy were we wrong!

In 2005, he release book #11 Knife of Dreams.  I was able to go to a book signing after its release.  There Mr. Jordan announced that there would only be one more book, A Memory of Light, which would be enormous.  Tor might have to invent a new binding, he quipped.

And then we heard that he had an illness which would likely take his life.  He worked on through his illness, though, determined to complete this last work.  He fought the illness, too, determined to beat the odds.  And then, in 2007, he was gone  (A bare 10 days after the passing of another literary icon, Madeleine L’Engle).  We fans were left in limbo.  Would we ever see the ending?  Would we ever know for sure who killed Asmodean?  What about Moiraine?  A thousand questions remained unanswered, even before we would see the Last Battle.

Harriet McDougal brought Brandon Sanderson to the rescue.  What did we know about him?  For most of us not much.  I for one, hunted down a copy of Elantris, his first published work.  It was better than decent, good enough for a first novel to leave me cautiously optimistic.

Then came the inevitable announcement.  Not one more book, but three.  Some fans grumbled and complained.  Most who had been reading the books for as long as I had  rolled our eyes and shrugged.  We had expected as much.  The Gathering Storm was released in 2009, and it was good.  There were points, maybe, that seemed just a bit off from how Jordan would have written it, but this was just subtleties.  On the whole, though, it felt right, and I can give no higher praise.

The second inevitable announcement came after Towers of Midnight was released in 2010, just a year after The Gathering Storm.   The final volume, A Memory of Light, would not be released in the fall of 2011.  We eventually found out the release wouldn’t come until early 2013 (tomorrow, specifically).  And there was (from some) a great wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And there was (from others, like myself), eye rolling and shoulder shrugging.  If Jordan hadn’t been able to maintain releasing a book every year, why should Sanderson?

Tomorrow, the last book will be available for purchase.  There will never be another.  I will actually be waiting until Thursday to purchase my copy at a book signing in Dayton – the same store where I saw Jordan more than seven years ago.  And I find myself apprehensive.  The ending is Jordan’s – almost verbatim, though Sanderson had a lot of set up work to do.  The reveiews I’ve seen of the ending all say it’s wonderful.  But I’ve seen some (and I’m thinking particularly of Sanderson’s reaction to the ending) calling it “somewhat controversial” and “not how I wanted it to end, but how it needed to end”.  And I worry that this won’t be the ending I want – not that I’m sure what that is exactly.

Regardless of how it ends, though, I will be saying goodbye to friends that I’ve known longer than my wife.  Longer than my children have been alive (combined).  I’ve known them since before I had heard the name of the college which is now my alma matter.

“There are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time”, but it is an ending.  And so now, as the Aiel would say, it is time to wake from the dream.

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