February 10, 2017

Wheel Of Time

I can’t remember exactly who bought me The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan, or when, but I definitely started reading it around May 2014. Since then, I have worked my way through the entire series, on and off, and today I finally finished reading the 14th and final book of the series.

It’s been quite a journey, with its highs and lows. While I was able to read the first three books back to back, and likewise the last few, the middle of the series was sometimes quite the slog, and I’d have to take a month or two off to read something else for a while.

The series is the very epitome of high fantasy, with plentiful magic and sword fighting, numerous religious and mythological references, the whole light-vs-dark thing going on, and an utterly flabbergasting cast of characters. Indeed, this is perhaps one of its greatest failings, as during the middle books in the series you see many characters introduced and subsequently removed with only a glancing impact upon the overall series. While it has a similar number of named characters to the Song Of Ice and Fire series (WOT has 2,782 ((The Compendium of Wheel of Time Characters)), whereas ASOIAF has 2,102 ((How many named characters are there in A Song of Ice and Fire?)) ), 147 are so-called “POV” characters ((Statistical analysis)) whereas in ASOIAF the count is only 25 ((POV character)). It can be very hard to keep track of all these names, with their distinctive personalities and motivations. While in ASOIAF there is a fairly clear distinction between the important characters and the wallpaper, in WOT there’s much more of a continuum.

As you may or may not know, the series was originally written by Robert Jordan, who passed away in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the 12th and final book. The mantle was then taken up by Brandon Sanderson, who decided to split it into three books, and I have to say that he did a truly excellent job. Admittedly there were some missteps, with one or two characters apparently changing personality overnight, but in my opinion the series really picks up when Sanderson takes over. Admittedly, since the series was nearing the end, this was probably going to happen anyway. One notable change is the welcome absence of Robert Jordan’s obsession with the size of his female characters’ breasts.

The series has a fairly low death count throughout, until you get to the final book and the Last Battle, when all hell breaks loose. Still, most of the principal characters somehow survive – I won’t tell you which ones. Unfortunately, I had one of the main character deaths spoilered for me by the official Wheel Of Time wiki, so I’d advise steering clear of that.

It’s a series that I’d struggle to recommend without reservations. It’s got a very tough middle third, and sometimes I felt like the story was shooting off in various directions that weren’t leading anywhere. Some of the less essential subplots could have been excised completely, and others tightened up a bit, and the overall story would have been healthier for it.

That said, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I will return to re-read the series from top to bottom in a few years. With the benefit of hindsight, I think I’ll be able to get much more out of the story second time round, most notably that It’ll be much easier to keep track of the various characters.


6 thoughts on “Wheel Of Time

  1. I gave up on this after about four books (and the tip-off from a friend that the middle-section was a bit of a slog… although he thought it was just about worth it too). I found the first one something of a Tolkien re-tread (the flight from the ford, etc.), but there was enough to keep me interested…. but I found it getting harder and harder to follow and less and less worth it, so I just stopped. I am full of admiration that you pushed through and even more so that you haven’t ruled out the possibility of going through the whole thing again!
    Kudos to you!

  2. You’re spot on – the first book tricks you into thinking it’s going to be a LotR style road trip story, with the fellowship setting off together and being split apart. But then it turns into something a bit more like ASOIAF with all the politics and the such like.

    If I were to re-read, I wouldn’t rule out the possibly of skipping some of the boring chapters, now that I know where they are. And on the flip side, there are some subplots that I paid little attention to first time round, which I might follow a bit closer now that I know their ultimate significance.

  3. It’s frustrating, because some of it is brilliant, and the bones of a great story were clearly there.. but he was his own worst enemy and would sabotage you with something utterly tedious to completely derail his own momentum. I was reading on a kindle, and dutifully downloaded book 5 as I approached the end of book 4 (or 5 and 6, wherever I was)… and something made me stop and I’ve not picked it up again since. I can’t quite believe that the pay-off would ever be worth it!

  4. The genius of ASOIAF (in my opinion, even with the rather stodgy bits in the last couple of books where not much happens) is that GRRM uses POV characters really well, generally managing to shift your perspective on even the most hopeless case. The only exception being Cersei, where she’s so batshit that she can’t be recovered at all.

  5. I don’t think that that’s so much a case of clever use of perspective, rather that the “evil” characters gradually learn to mend their ways.

  6. Hm. I honestly think that Jaimie is a good example of how your view of a character can be changed with a POV. He definitely grows across the books, but seeing the world through his eyes forces you away from the simplistic view of him as the guy who dropped Bran off the tower at Winterfell.

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