I was first introduced to the Wheel of Time Series by my old boss, Brian, when I worked at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. I was stubborn in my assertions that I “knew” fantasy because I had read Tolkien, which was woefully ignorant. I had almost no relationship to the wider world of fantasy literature and was, as a result, completely unprepared for the experience of reading “The Eye of the World,” the first book in the series called The Wheel of Time.
Fourteen (that’s right, 14) books make up the series. Each is roughly one thousand pages long, and they are (for the most part) jam-packed with action and intrigue, magic and mystery, light and shadow, and love and hate. They are compelling, addictive, and without a doubt my favorite fantasy books. Ever. I read the first four that summer, and now have an entire shelf dedicated exclusively to the series.
My introduction to the series in late 2010, twenty years after the publication of The Eye of the World, and The Wheel of Time (WoT,) has been followed by an obsessive and voracious pack of readers since the very beginning. The eagerness, anticipation, and anxiety I experienced in waiting for the final volume of the epic must have been little more than a candle compared to the inferno of passion felt by those who were fortunate enough to follow the series for years.
Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, leaving extensive notes for the completion of his series and his wife (and editor) Harriet McDougal, to select an author to complete the series. She chose Brandon Sanderson (I’ve reviewed another book of his on this blog,) an up-and-coming writer from Utah who cites WoT as one of the most powerful influences on his career. In my opinion, Brandon excelled at capturing Jordan’s voice, and brought the powerful conclusion to life in a way that would have most certainly made Robert Jordan proud.
Prior to the release of the last book, I had read through (and listened to) the entire series four (maybe five?) times. I know the world like I know my hometown, and the characters are old friends. The series coming to an end, as such, is a bittersweet occasion. I have wanted desperately to know what becomes of Rand, the Dragon Reborn, after fighting off madness and the pressure of overwhelming responsibility. I wanted to know what would become of Perrin and Mat, Rand’s friends, each of whom blossomed into a deep and fascinating character who had incredible stories of their own. Of Egwene, Nynaeve, Thom Merrelin, Moiraine. These people exist in my mind, because they have been with me for years. The ending was electrifying and, I’m not ashamed to admit, had me fluctuating between laughter and tears, exclamations of joy and gasps of horror. It was beautiful.
The last three books of the series (written by Sanderson after Jordan’s death) were initially proposed as a single volume, one that would have been three hundred thousand words long. Sanderson, McDougal, and the folks at TOR decided that it would be best to split the book, a decision I believe to have been wise. This means that almost the entire final book covers the events of a single battle (appropriately called The Last Battle,) in which the forces of humanity fight to preserve themselves in the face of chaos and destruction. It is a brilliant and creative approach to an already existing trope, primarily because of the way the interpersonal relationships, politics, fear, trust, and personalities color the story. At times it is raw and visceral, at others mischievous and surprising, but at no point does it let go. I read the 909 pages as quickly as I could, forsaking food and hygiene (gross, I know) to push through the last 400 pages on a beautiful Sunday morning. Of these 400 pages, some 200 were a single chapter, in which the bulk of the momentous Last Battle takes place. It was absolutely riveting. I hardly noticed the time passing while I read.
And now the series has ended. Rand was given the justice I hoped for, and characters I loved perished while others barely survived. I spent the rest of that sunday reeling from the emotions that consumed me when I closed the book’s cover, shuffling around town, shocked that people could go about their days as if nothing had happened. (Turns out nothing happened in real life, but what I’m trying to convey here was that it was intense, guys.)
I loved this book. I can’t wait to read it again. If you are a fan of fantasy, I urge you to give the series a shot, because it absolutely floored me.
Thank you, Robert Jordan, for putting your life into such an incredible story.
Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for doing the series justice.
May you always find water and shade, my friend.