You’ve read the preview from A Memory of Light, but do you know what else Brandon Sanderson revealed on Sunday at DragonCon?
The question and answer portion during the packed Memory of Light preview yielded some stunning new facts, especially in regards to what portions of the final three Wheel of Time books Robert Jordan left for fans of the series. Do you know where Brandon cameos in the books? And what huge surprise is waiting for readers at the end of A Memory of Light?
Video and exact wordings from the Q&A is forthcoming later this week, but in the meantime, here’s a summary to tide you over!
First, the Read and Find Outs (RAFOs):
- Will we see cannons and gateways used in creative ways during the Last Battle? Brandon: “You will see me playing with gateways.”
- Will we see a Green Man in A Memory of Light?
- Will we find out what all of Cadsuane’s ornaments do?
A good amount of the questions weren’t concerned with the plot of the final book but with Brandon’s writing style, his struggles in adapting the material, and how it was melded to the work that Robert Jordan left behind. The audience wondered whether we might see future annotated versions of the final three books, with Robert Jordan’s work and Brandon Sanderson’s work marked out.
Brandon responded that it’s highly unlikely, due to it being against Harriet McDougal’s wishes and to the fact that annotations would have to be down to the sentence level, as it was often the case that one sentence would have been written by Robert Jordan, then altered by Brandon, then edited for content and style by Harriet, then copy edited by Harriet’s assistant Maria L. Simons.
Brandon did reveal several doozies in regards to what Jordan left behind, however. Each prologue to the final three books contains a scene written by Robert Jordan. One already known is the scene with the farmer in The Gathering Storm, for Towers of Midnight, Jordan wrote the prologue scene involving the soldiers in the Borderlander tower. And for A Memory of Light? We’ll see.
Perhaps the biggest admission, and one that brought a hush over the crowd, was the reveal that Jordan wrote the chapter in The Gathering Storm where Verin reveals she is Black Ajah to Egwene and the sequence in Towers of Midnight where Moiraine is rescued by Mat. Two of the most important elements in these final books came directly from Jordan’s hand.
Additionally, Sanderson pointed out that the Rand and Perrin viewpoints in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight are more of his work, while Egwene and Mat’s viewpoints in those books are more Robert Jordan’s work.
Brandon also revealed that he makes a cameo in the books, in much the same way that Robert Jordan makes a cameo as an item in Knife of Dreams. (He appears as a ter’angreal of a fat man holding a book in the chapter “A Different Skill.”) A few years ago Sanderson was gifted one of Robert Jordan’s swords, choosing a katana with red and gold dragons twining around the hilt and handle. This gift from Robert Jordan’s family is now present in the series, and represents Brandon’s own cameo, for those who wish to look.
When an audience member asked the author what scene from the entire series really stuck with him, Brandon provided three that were particularly resonant; his favorite being when Rand visits Rhuidean. A close runner-up was the sequence at the end of A Crown of Swords, where Nynaeve loses her block and Lan rushes to her aid. And another reliable favorite for Brandon? Perrin during the siege of the Two Rivers in The Shadow Rising.
The audience was also curious as to what characters he had the hardest time grasping. “Aviendha and Tuon are the ones I worked the hardest on, but I expected them to be hard. I wasn’t expecting Mat to be hard. That blindsided me.” Brandon explained that in general the Andoran characters are the easiest for him to write as, “They feel like friends from high school.” So it surprised Brandon when he sat down to write Mat and discovered that he didn’t have an immediate grasp on him. Brandon eventually realized it was because, unlike the other characters, “Mat is an untrustworthy narrator. He doesn’t always believe what he says and he doesn’t even always believe the thoughts in his own head. He’s a character I’ve struggled to write but I think I’ve gotten as close to him as it’s possible for me to get.” (The positive reaction to the Mat chapter he read certainly put weight to this statement.)
He also, tongue-in-cheek, admitted that before he wrote Cadsuane she was his least favorite character. “She was just too mean!”
Brandon also spoke about the aspects of his writing that have improved due to his work on The Wheel of Time. Sanderson praised Jordan’s abilities with prose, considering it unmatchable in regards to his own writing style, but noted that Jordan was responsible for Brandon’s growing skills in dealing with multiple character viewpoints, and for Jordan’s remarkable subtlety in regards to foreshadowing in the Wheel of Time series. Brandon also noted how differently he and Jordan approach battles in regards to their personal histories. Jordan, having experienced warfare firsthand, wrote battle scenes with a sense of dread while Brandon’s battles have a cinematic design to them.
The discussion of multiple viewpoints prompted one audience member to ask about the growing amount of secondary viewpoints in the series itself, most notably in the prologues. Brandon pointed that Jordan himself began that trend in the prologues; “Embers Falling on Dry Grass” being among Sanderson’s favorite uses of that device, and revealed that readers should expect even more in the final volume.
How many more?
Upwards of 80. In a single chapter. That’s around 70,000 words and which takes place near the end of A Memory of Light. (We’re very curious to see if that chapter is titled “Tarmon Gai’don.”)
Brandon spoke further on the ending of the book and the series. For example, was the fanboy inside of him satisfied with the ending? “I really like the ending. When you get to what Robert Jordan wrote at the end of the book there’s a serenity that arrives. Everything clicks into place.”
There was a lot more in the Q&A, including a great speech from Brandon about the emotional toll writing the Wheel of Time has. Stay tuned for the video later this week!
Update: There’s now video of Brandon reading Chapter 11 below. Click the below link to watch a larger version, courtesy of Kristen Nedopak!
Chris Lough is the production manager at Tor.com and has heard way more about Trolloc pants this weekend than he cares to.