Final rating: 3.5 stars
After an early and unexpected death of Robert Jordan somebody had to finish his magnum opus. A relatively new and unknown at the time author was chosen: Brandon Sanderson. Fortunately for the series' fans Jordan left enough notes regarding further plot developments and it is said the final chapters of the last book were entirely written by him. So did Sanderson succeed in continuing the biggest epic series in fantasy? It really depends on what you expect from Wheel of Time.
The first and foremost complaint about Sanderson's writing was about the characters: they did not feel right and became somewhat two-dimensional; the latter is my own opinion. I will give a detailed picture of each of the major people below.
Rand has his emo moments practically non-stop; I was reminded of Sazed in the last two books of Mistborn trilogy: he was in exactly the same mood most of the time. Rand's last development in the book came up completely out of blue and without any good reason or explanation. He has his moments, though.
If you heard anything at all about the series and Sanderson's writing, you know that he completely missed writing the most interesting character in books 3-11: Mat. Basically Jordan's Mat used to be a lovable rogue, but Sanderson's Mat is a foul-mouthed rude. The less is said about him, the better.
I am happy to say that Perrin felt exactly the same as before. The guy had his last exciting moment in book 4 before Faile firmly wrapped him around her finger: he cannot have two thoughts without one of them being about his wife anymore. Sanderson's Perrin is as boring as Jordan's, but this is really not his fault.
Nynaeve became interesting when she decided to become useful. She does not have a lot of screen time, but she still keeps pulling her braid as usual. I really cannot say anything bad about her.
Egwene spends first half of the book pretending to be a character from a BDSM themed book (the one with heavy spanking); she practically enjoys it. She started being fairly close to Jordan's vision; I feel as her plot-line developed, she became more and more distant from that vision. She also became quite hypocritical by the end, but I suspect it comes with having a lot of power. The majority of the book was spent with two Aes Sedai fractions: rebel and the White Tower which means we get to see a lot of Egwene. I was never a big fan of petty intrigues by obnoxious magic users who do not know the meaning of humility (there are only two exceptions for this), so this is one of the influencing factors the book did not get a higher rating from me.
A couple of more notes on the characters: Elaida used to be a fairly complex character, but she became a psychotic while Tuon is a lovesick puppy all of a sudden.
I also need to mention one of the biggest reasons I like the series was the sense of wonder when I read it: whether some ruins of the ancient forgotten cities, giant statues built in times forgotten, uncovered relics serving unknown purposes, some magic constructs - something was always there to stimulate my imagination. Even in the slowest book of the series - Crossroads of Twilight - one of the towns visited by Perrin impressed the hell out of me with its creepiness. Well, this sense of wonder is completely gone from the first Sanderson's book. I can literally feel him rushing to reach the end of the series and completely ignoring such trivialities along the way.
I need to be very generic in this part of the review to avoid very big spoilers as I am about to talk about some of the plot resolutions. Some of them felt forced and way too simplistic after the monumental buildup. I am talking about the whole Verin help and the confrontation with one of the Forsaken. I could go on and on, but I cannot be more specific.
The first part of the book was slow - slower than the last Jordan's book. In the second part the pace picked up considerably and different subplot resolutions kept piling on the top of each other.
Do you expect a typical summer blockbuster movie: a lot of huge explosions, fast-moving plot and flat characters? You got it here. Do you want continue enjoying the world full of wonders at a leisurely pace, or interesting cases of character developments? Look somewhere else. Even with all the problems I mention the book is good enough to warrant 3.5 stars; the widespread opinion is that the last two books are improvement of this one, so I am eagerly await to continue with the series.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/832916/sanderson-picks-up-where-jordan-left-does-he-succeed-