So, as some of you reading this know already, I’ve never read the Wheel of Time series. Robert Jordan’s massive epic is often considered the ‘seminal’ fantasy series, although that distinction is a controversial one. For every person who claims to love it, you get another who claims they can’t through it. For me, I’ve always been intimidated by the sheer scope of it. And I’m not easily intimidated, I’ve read through all the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books, I’ve sat through marathon screenings of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ director’s cut movies back-to-back. But, despite it hurting my fantasy-cred, I’ve avoided the Wheel of Time.
Then a couple of months ago I decided, I’m going to do it. I’m going to force myself through this and see what all the fuss is about. I downloaded the entire series on my Kindle, got myself ready, got myself through the (admittedly slow) first half of the first book, and then…my Kindle died. And I guiltily breathed a sigh of relief that I had some excuse to continue on.
Until one of my friends and member of my Tabletop group decided to bring this over just for me.
So, with no more excuses and a big box of books taking up space, I set to finally reading. As of this writing I am well into the second book, but for now I will stick to my impressions of the first book. By this point the plot and its strong / weak points, the characters, and …well everything has been talked to death by the fantasy community (fortunately I have remained fairly unspoiled) so there’s not a whole lot of reason to treat this like…a review. This is more going to be me feelings as I try to go through this…journey.
The first thing you get is that Robert Jordan’s world is large. Large isn’t enough of a word…vast. Not just in the scope of the continent (the maps included in the books are lifesavers in this regard) but in terms of its history, its peoples, its cultures, the magics that exists there, and so much more. It’s easy to see why so many people struggle with the books. Very few writers try to do so much all at once. I can keep the three-hundred characters Martin writes about in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series straight (gods know if I will still have them straight should ‘Winds of Winter’ ever be released, but that’s another story) but I had trouble keeping tabs on everything and everyone in Jordan’s world, even though it doesn’t seem like it should be as much. Perhaps it’s the pace at which the information comes at us, or perhaps its because at no point does it seems that we are going to get a moment to let up on receiving new information and be allowed to just absorb what we have already given. We’re introduced to a place, given loads of information on a place’s history (even the crappy little village the protagonists are from is loaded with history), introduced to a variety of characters who live in that place, introduced to the place’s culture, and then we move on to the next without much pause, all while also being give the grand overview of the world itself, the magic, the legends, the prophecies, the ancient history that set all this in motion. It is a lot to take in. Perhaps in the next books, after the groundwork is laid, there will be more focus on the story itself as opposed to the setting, but I’m thinking that might not be Jordan’s style, I think the title of the series itself “Wheel of Time” promises us the the history of the world is as important as the present-day story and there will always be more history to tell. Not that this is necessarily bad but … history can be a dry subject, even when magic is involved.
I was told that Jordan had trouble sometimes writing for female characters, and though I tried to go into the books with an open mind I have found I have to agree with that assessment. Are Rand’s looks supposed to be the equivalent of a medieval-fantasy Leonardo DiCaprio or something? It seems that every non-Aes Sedai woman he meets is in love with him. Well, besides the one who immediately falls for Lan for non discernible reason. I’m hoping as I see more Aes Sedai and our two lead females are trained by them I will see more varied motivations from female characters than “I am mysterious and you should listen to me” and “I like this guy.”
I like Perrin. I hope he comes to terms with being Wolf-blooded (or whatever the term for people who can talk to wolves is). Seems like a useful ability, but we get that strong X-Men like denial of his gift cause it’s ‘unnatural.’ I understand Rand being afraid of his powers, considering they are supposed to drive him mad, but we don’t get anything like that from Perrin’s ability, and the other guy they meet with it seems to be happy (and sane) enough. So I don’t quite understand the problem.
Does Moraine survive this series? Don’t actually answer cause I don’t want to be spoiled, but I’m kind of hoping not. I’m sure she has good reasons for what she does and what she’s going to do, and her “I know better than you don’t question me” attitude, but I really dislike those kind of characters. Though the series is freaking long, so there’s plenty of time for Jordan to endear her to me, I guess.
The scene in which Rand accidentally meets the royal family of Andor is pretty hilarious. His one job was to not draw attention to himself, and he couldn’t have done more opposite.
I had a tough time imagining what an Ogier looked like. My first impression was they were kind of furry creatures, cause of a misreading when their eyebrows were described, but that didn’t seem right. They are large and have tufted ears and big mouths and snout-like noses. I’ve tried looking up pictures but there are many different renditions and no one seems to agree on a definitive picture of what one looks like. I think the man on the cover for “The Great Hunt” is supposed to be Loial, but he looks too human-like.
As I said, I am well into the second book and should have my thoughts on that by next week. I can go through a book about the size of these in about a week and a half to two weeks, depending on my schedule. I’ll keep posting my impressions for as long as I have something to say.
I don’t have any updates on ‘Die by the Sword’ this week. Next week I want to discuss the audiobook for ‘Lesser Evil’ and my new producer. Later, till then.