I’m picking a big one for my first review. Go hard or go home, isn’t that what they say? I took on the challenge of reading Jordan’s Wheel of Time series well over a year ago, and I’m just finishing book ten of fourteen. I certainly didn’t see it as a challenge at the beginning; I’ve read plenty of series in my time; I enjoy them much more than standalone novels. I prefer the connection I form as a reader with the characters, and watching their stories grow over a longer period of time. The realisation, however, that reading The Wheel of Time was a little bit of a challenge dawned pretty quickly. I would jokingly describe it as Game of Thrones on steroids. I don’t think they have many similarities past their length and massive scope, both in sense of storyline and characters. Yes, they would both fall under the fantasy genre, but The Wheel of Time is more traditional. While Game of Thrones uses fantasy like a chef uses salt and pepper to flavour a meal, The Wheel of Time has a much stronger flavour of the fantasy world – magic, prophecies and strange creatures. It has your traditional good guy-bad guy storyline at the very heart of it. You’ve got your damned, reluctant Chosen One, in this case the Dragon Reborn, and a Devil like character, in this case the ominously named Shai’tan, previously locked away in a supposedly permanent prison, now out and hell bent on destroying all around him in his quest for total world domination.
I didn’t decide to review the series until I was more than half way through it, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little bit sketchy on the details as a whole, but I remember enough to know that it’s been one hell of a ride so far. I’ve never had to get to know so many characters in my life; they just never stop coming, and bringing with them a constant onslaught of information (along with names that often leave you tongue-tied). You can’t lose concentration for a single paragraph; a plot change comes swift and unpredicted in the world of the Dragon Reborn, and woe to you if you miss it. Because if you do you’ll be left gawping in confusion and flicking desperately through old pages frantically trying to discover what’s happening in the now. It’s happened to me more than once, and Google is your worst enemy at times like this. Spoilers. Spoilers everywhere. So I’ve had to learn to take my time, and focus. Savour every word, process it, and remember it.
Do I enjoy the series? In a word: Yes. But I honestly feel that the answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no. The Wheel of Time is an immensely vast series, (I read that it was originally only meant to span the length of six novels, before being pushed to twelve, and then fourteen by Sanderson when he took over the writing after Jordan passed away) and has an incredibly layered plot line.
At times I think that the series does drag on a bit too much; I’m fond of descriptive language, but when it becomes too flowery I start to lose concentration, and I’ve felt more than once that the author could have made his point a bit quicker. Another criticism I have for the series would be that he focuses on one character’s storyline for too long at one particular time. While everyone has an interesting sub-plot surrounding them, focusing on the on goings on Mat Cauthon or Egwene Al’Vere for any longer than three chapters becomes too much for me. I start to get bored reading about them, and begin to flick forward to discover when I’ll get a change of scenery. But then the problem is, once the book leaves Mat or Egwene behind, and shifts its focus to Rand Al’Thor or Elaida Sedai, there will be no mention of poor Mat or Egwene for quite some time, maybe not until the next book. And by that point I’ve almost forgotten what they were doing when we left them.
For all its faults, however, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is beautifully crafted. It’s expertly written, and if you have the patience for it, will draw you in to its world. There have been plenty of occasions when I have almost thrown the towel in, announcing to myself that I will just look up the ending online. But there is something about this world that just pulls me back in every time I’m on the brink of letting go. It’s a series that has me sleepily reading one minute, and then hungrily taking in the words the next as though my life depends on finishing the chapter. I’m excited that I’m nearing the end of it, but on the flipside I think I’ll be lost when it’s all over. I expect I’ll be wondering with confusion why the next book I read has no mention of Aes Sedai, the Dragon Reborn or that icy filth which taints the male half of the Source.
I’m curious to see if I’ll notice any difference between the styles of Jordan and Sanderson, and with four books left, I still have a ways to go before I can close the door on the world of the Wheel of Time. I’m nearing the end; the peak of Dragonmount is in sight, the seals on the Dark One’s prison are starting to break and Tarmon Gai’Don is fast approaching. The only thing left to do now is wait and see what happens.