Reflecting on the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan

Reading through the Wheel of Time (WoT) series by Robert Jordan is a bit weighty, like those metallic balls women shove inside of themselves to tighten everything back up to sixteen. The paperbacks span almost twenty-three years and 11,916 pages. Having just concluded the penultimate book, it’s time to pause for reflection.

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I’ve been slogging through WoT — that’s what the back-to-back, non-stop reading feels like — for two months, eschewing an ever-increasing to-read pile. The fourteenth and final book, A Memory of Light, is queued up in the eBook reader on my phone, but I couldn’t make myself go straight to it. I need a break. Instead, I started reading J. K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, which is quite good, and will give me a chance to take a breath or two before climbing the summit of the mountain that Jordan’s books make.

Unfinished, But Not Forgotten

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, I must admit to feeling a hint of despair. WoT was planned to end after twelve books (before that it was six books), and I’d set my psyche up for the twelve book commitment. Jordan’s death between numbers 11 and 12, and knowing that the end of the tale was sucked into the void of a dead man’s mind, was not something I was prepared for. I won’t say that all was lost, but damn, I’d read those books for years.

When it was announced that Brandon Sanderson was tapped to finish the series, utilizing the copious notes left behind by Jordan, as well as having Jordan’s editor — to whom he was married — as a resource, I was hesitantly optimistic. When I found out that the last books were being turned into a tripartite telling of three novels, I was pissed, thinking the publisher was taking financial advantage of readers. Thankfully, that was not the case. There was too much story for one book, and they’re quality reads.

The first of Sanderson’s efforts was The Gathering Storm. I could hear his voice butting up against Jordan’s, and it felt like when protagonist Rand al’Thor was reconciling the two halves of his being. It was functional, interesting, but something was off, like a tracing askew of the original. When Towers of Midnight was published thirteen months later, the writing was in alignment.

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Through the years, I’ve read these books, some once, others more, but going through them this time, it was apparent that Sanderson’s writing was tighter. He followed the original narrative and style, invoking Jordan’s love of ellipses and italics, but Sanderson’s prose is stronger, capitalizing on better metaphors, similes, and vocabulary.

One of the main reasons I’m blasting straight through the Wheel of Time series is because of the massive amount of detail that needs to be kept inside of my head to follow the story. This isn’t a just “me” thing. The books have dedicated dictionaries in the back of them with names, places and a fictitious language. WoT is an immersive wonderland.

Again, these books are a major commitment. Listening to the audiobooks straight through would take 19 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes. And while I’m able to read at a decent clip, I have stuff to do, like eat, sleep and — I was going to say “shit,” but I can read on the pot. However, the hours spent with all of these characters is worth it. Some of them I love, some I loathe, and either way, that works for me, because Jordan’s story is enveloping.

I lament the novels Jordan didn’t get to write, am thankful for what he did, and am glad Sanderson picked up the task of finishing off the years-long story for future lovers of the series, and for those of us who followed along since the era before “texting” was a thing people did. It’s been great re-reading this epic fantasy series, and I recommend that people check them out — but they may want to do it in smaller increments.


Originally published at www.governmentfishbowl.com on July 4, 2015.

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