Welcome to the March edition of Reading Rachael! This month’s genre has been a long time coming for me – I’m reviewing Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, The Wheel Of Time!
This series is near and dear to my heart because I started reading it when I was fourteen years old. I had always dabbled in fantasy, but The Wheel of Time was my first introduction to a truly sprawling masterpiece of fantasy literature. I was devastated when Robert Jordan died in 2007 with the series unfinished, but thankfully he had left extensive notes on how the series was to end, and the masterful Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series in his place.
Although I’ve been reading the series continuously since I was a teenager, I only finished the last installment of the Wheel of Time saga, A Memory of Light in March. Despite the fact that the final novel has been out for over a year, every time a new novel is released, I like to re-read the entire series over again, which is incredibly time-consuming as they are incredibly dense novels and there are fourteen books in the series.
There are many things to love about this series, and only a few things I can criticize:
1) The women – Epic fantasy series have not always had the best relationship with women, and there are several epic fantasy series that I refuse to read because of how they depict women, but The Wheel of Time is not one of those stories. The women portrayed in this series are wonderful because they are so real. They are strong, and weak and selfless and greedy, and brave, and cowardly, and sometimes they are all of these things at once. It was an excellent read, particularly for my teenage self, to read about such dynamic and diverse women.
“Beauty flees… Years will make your breasts sag, your flesh grow slack, your skin grow leathery… Will you no longer be you? Your body is only clothing. Your flesh will wither, but you are your heart and mind, and they do not change except to grow stronger.” – Winter’s Heart
2) The details – As one should expect in any series that is fourteen novels long, the world building in The Wheel of Time is absolutely incredible. The level of detail, from clothing, to hairstyles, to food is intricate. Jordan’s descriptions of architecture, and art, culture, music and etiquette are amazing. His writing truly made me see the worlds he was describing; he made me feel as though I was there, living and breathing it all with the characters.
3) The core concepts – As with most good stories, there is nothing truly original about this story – it is a tale of good versus evil. But there are so many themes tied to that concept in the series. I enjoyed how the story looked at how good informs evil, and vice versus, I enjoyed reading how the characters and their relationships changed over time, shaped by their experiences.
1) The length – I don’t know that I would truly consider this a ‘con’. If you’re not interested in lengthy tales, you really ought not to be reading epic fantasy in the first place. I truly enjoyed all fourteen novels, and I loved how much detail and care was put into describing all of the aspects of that world. That said, there were definitely aspects of the story that became cumbersome. It sometimes felt as though the story became bogged down in places, particularly after the ninth novel.
2) The ending – Again, I don’t know if I would truly classify this as a ‘con’, but the ending felt slightly anticlimactic to me. My working hypothesis is that the pacing of the story was off for my taste, perhaps due to Brandon Sanderson taking over the series. As I mentioned, the pace of the story could sometimes be bogged down with insignificant details, which meant that when Sanderson began writing, the story moved at a faster pace. Although I initially appreciated this, I felt the ending required more gravitas and time than it was given.
Reading the final installment in the series, A Memory of Light, truly felt like the end of an era for me. I feel like many parts of my personality, and my values have been shaped and influenced by this series. I aspired (and still aspire) to be as courageous as Egwene, as selfless as Perrin, and as determined as Nynaeve. I learned, just as Rand did, that there are very few absolutes in this world; nothing is black and white. And I learned that people, and relationships cannot help but change, because experiences change them.
“The Wheel of Time turns, an Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” – Eye of the World
For anyone who loves good storytelling, strong characters, and a brilliantly descriptive wolrd, this series (despite its length) is absolutely worth your time.
Have you read The Wheel of Time? What did you think?