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Let’s Talk Fantasy: Wheel of Time

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve been having an excellent first couple of weeks of 2021 so far. For today’s blog, as you can probably tell, I am reviewing the Wheel of Time. For those not in the know-how, Wheel of Time is a collection of epic fantasy novels comprising a whomping twenty-four books, including short stories and a prequel. The main series is fourteen books long. So yes, it’s a lengthy set of pages for your eyes to watch. While I enjoyed the Wheel of Time books, my primary reason for the review is the upcoming TV series based on the books coming out this year. Started by Robert Jordan, the first book—the Eye of the World—was published in 1990. Brandon Sanderson took over writing the series after Robert Jordan’s death in 2007, using an expansive collection of notes written by Robert Jordan before his passing.


Plot:


For those who may have guessed by the sheer amount of books (I’ll be reviewing the fourteen of the main series, as I haven’t read the others), Wheel of Time is filled to the brim with plot and story arcs. Due to the sheer length of the series, there are a few infamous examples where the plot drags on, and on, and on, and on, and okay, you get the point. The three primary offenders are the White Tower Civil War, the Andor succession, and the conflict with the Shaido. While all three plot points have areas of interest and satisfying conclusions, each lasted several books, much longer than they should have. While the Andor succession was essential to the novels, as it chronicled Elayne’s succession to the throne, it still lingered around longer than it had the right to. I’m not saying the plots were filler, unneeded, or abysmal, just that they dragged on for too long.


Those problematic aspects aside, the story Robert Jordan told was spectacular. Fight scenes, history, character development, and world-building was made near masterfully. While a couple other areas could have been cut down, my attention was captivated for most, if not all, of the series. However, many of the prologues and much of the middle books were a slog to read through. If you’re a first-time reader and find the prologues boring or the middle books a drag, don’t worry, the rest of Wheel of Time is phenomenal. And even the middle books have memorable parts, too!


The biggest complaint some may have is the cliché aspects such as a chosen one, the chosen one being born on a farm, the chosen one finding out the person they believe to be their father isn’t their birth father (somewhat subverted as Rand is quick to accept Tam, his adoptive father, as his real father), a magical sword (somewhat subverted as Rand cannot use it by himself. I won’t spoil anything, but it isn’t the typical fantasy sword), and a prophecy (I’ve always loved prophecies anyway, and the Wheel of Time presents them as vague and having multiple possible meanings). To those claims, I’d say they aren’t cliches but are tropes. Robert Jordan crafted them to tie in well with the world of the books. How he presented them had a spin on their typical usage.


Characters:

Ah, characters. Here it gets interesting. First, I loved most of the characters, both the protagonists and antagonists. They have gripping stories, vast histories, and they all work well with the fabric of the world created by Jordan. I will admit, Rand, Perrin, and Mat’s almost constant complaining about being forced to be heroes and how they didn’t want any of this, and Rand’s better than thou attitude (he does get a little better) did wear on me. Of the three, I enjoyed Perrin the most, partly because he complained the least about his situation. Don’t get me wrong, all three are great characters, but I’d prefer to have less whining and moaning. On the plus side, all three of them work their butts off (even Mat once he realizes that you know, the fate of the world is more important than trying to get away from events because you want no part of them.)


Rand, Perrin, and Mat each have strong arcs, and the different character powers they have are very intriguing such as Mat having advanced luck and Perrin being a Wolf Brother (in simple terms, it allows him to communicate with wolves, lets him smell emotion, and allowing him to into what he call Wolf Dreams). While Rand is a typical chosen one, he does have moments of growth, has evident flaws, and his characterization is not at all the stereotypical fantasy hero. Also, one thing I like about Rand is how he goes a bit crazy with his past reincarnation, Lews Therin, in his head.


Now, for the antagonists. First, it should go without saying, but if you think a character is done well does not mean you agree with their actions or think they’re a good person. The Forsaken themselves were interesting. I wish there had been more explained about their pasts from the Age of Legends before becoming the Forsaken. I’ve always been a sucker for great villains, and the Forsaken do not disappoint. Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, and Graendal each have interesting personalities and stories behind them. Throughout the series and the final battle, their actions show that they throw their weight around and played a significant role. Demandred led the armies against the heroes and nearly won, Graendal was able to sway and manipulate minds, and Ishamael, along with the Dark One himself, battled Rand. While some of the Forsaken are introduced in one book then later killed off, many show why they were counted among the Dark One’s most powerful servants.


As for the Dark One himself, I did enjoy his battle against Rand. Reading the possible futures that both he and Rand wanted to make, along with him tormenting Rand, was an enjoyable experience. I won’t spoil everything, you should all read them if you haven’t, but I will say the entire final battle was a gripping experience. Now, back to the Dark One. While he is the typical evil for evil’s sake antagonist, his inclusion in the story and the world’s history makes sense. In essence, he and the Creator (the God of the world) are in an eternal struggle for control. For those put off by antagonists who are evil for evil’s sake, don’t worry, the Forsaken and other characters make up for that, and the Dark One’s reason for existence is explained in the world-building.


Favorite Characters:

  1. Aviendha

  2. Perrin

  3. Moiraine

  4. Lan

  5. Demandred

  6. Rand

  7. Thom

  8. Ishamael

  9. Egwene

  10. Min


Ranking: B+

Before other fans of epic fantasy and the Wheel of Time kill me, let me explain. I love the Wheel of Time series. The characters and world are vast and complex, and the books themselves are a thrilling read. I couldn’t give this an A due to the slow pacing of the middle books. Combined with plot points slogging on, even if some are critical to the story, it can be a chore to read for some readers.


With that, there are countless positive aspects of the Wheel of Time. The lore, history, and world-building are exciting, and I loved hearing about the different cultures and how people interacted with each other. While some characters were a bit over the top, it doesn’t subtract from the fact that many felt like real people with their own wants, needs, and desires. While powerful, I did enjoy the magic system Robert Jordan introduced, and I found the Aes Sedai an intriguing part of the story.


I love the Wheel of Time and gladly read the last couple of books and the first few over and over again. For fans of fantasy, I highly recommend sticking your nose in these massive books and start reading. I hope you enjoy them as I have, and more importantly, I hope they convince you to watch the TV series coming out this year. Let’s all hope it’s good!


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