Monday, 9 March 2015

Lev Butts Reviews The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (Well Most of Them)

Before I became a literature teacher, this was an afternoon's reading.
I first came across this epic fantasy series during the second half of my senior year of high school when the first book, The Eye of the World, was released in paperback and the second, The Great Hunt, was released in hardback. The series tells the story of three young men and two young women from a backwater nowhere named the Shire the Two Rivers who find themselves at the center of literally world changing events.One of the young men is destined to be The Dragon Reborn, a male wielder of the One Power (this series version of magic or the Force or whatever), who will destroy the world when he defeats Shai'tan, the ultimate personification of evil (Shai'tan, Satan; get it?).

Several critics of the series decry its obvious debt to Tolkien, and they aren't wrong, especially in the early sections of the first book. However, I defy them to find a work of epic fantasy written after 1955 that doesn't owe something to Tolkien. I would argue that Jordan borrows far more from European and Asian mythology, especially the cyclical nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism, the concepts of balance, duality and a respect for nature found in Daoism, and the Islamo-Judeo-Christian creation story. More importantly, Jordan manages to take these concepts, as well as historical events, personages, and folklore, and weave them into a tightly written (though expansive) epic tale of good and evil. 

I loved it from page one, and despite my somewhat snarky plot summary above, I still do.

At the time, the series was supposed to span six books. By the time I was a senior in college, Jordan had just published the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven, and the series showed no signs of wrapping itself up at the end of the next installment.

I decided to wait to read it until Jordan finished the story before I tried again. Six books became seven; seven became nine. I know his author's bio at the back of every book claims he "intends to continue writing until they nail shut his coffin," I often thought, but surely he doesn't intend to be writing the same book!

Well damn.
Thankfully, his estate hired fellow fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson to complete the last three books of the series based on Jordan's notes, and in January of 2013, almost 30 years after Jordan first began writing the series, A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book (fifteenth if you count the prequel novella, New Spring), was released.

I restarted the series over last October. I aim to finish before they nail shut my coffin.  

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