Literature: My Experience With The Wheel Of Time… So Far…

By James

A little while ago now, my cousin recommended to me a series that blew my mind, The Wheel Of Time by Robert Jordan; it’s quite possibly the best fantasy series since The Lord Of The Rings. Not only that - it is also, roughly, 7 times longer... Hence the ‘So Far’ in the title and as I’m not the most avid reader, it is a task that is not all that easy. So, just as another example of perspective, out of the 14 books that make up the series, I have read 4, which is the page equivalent of all 7 Harry Potter novels...

Now that you know what an undertaking it is, I’ll try and explain why I felt the need to write about it after reading only one-third of the set.

Firstly, the people: What I think sets them apart from most other novels, films, stories and the like is their humanity. The core characters are, for the most part, likeable but even they do things that make you question your liking for them. They make mistakes, they say stupid things, they do the wrong thing, they have selfish tendencies; none of the characters are perfect and it’s brilliant. As the saga is so enormous, you are there to witness each and every aspect of an individual’s growth: Decisions that define them, heartbreak, loss … it’s all in there and it’s presented beautifully and gradually like a new friendship. You’re with them for that long you feel like you really know them. I’m only on book 4! They’ll be brothers and sisters by the end!

What’s also nice is that Jordan does not make the series male-heavy. There is a myriad of strong, weak, tall, short, creeds and colours of female characters. As far as I can tell, the split is nice and even. It is so refreshing as too many mediums explore male personas in this day and age. To have an unbiased, equal playing field adds a richness and realism to the books. Although, the treatment of women in the books is questionable; the representations used and the descriptions that have been included. Jordan is either very clever in his commentary on the under-appreciation of women and their fight and victory over oppression - or he has inadvertently allowed external influences to shape the opinions shown. I prefer to think it is the former.

So, then we move onto the world that has been created here. The detail and flesh that each and every corner of the universe has is superb. There is the turning of time, a grand, far-reaching phenomenon that is only going to become more and more important as I read on. Each town, city and landscape is thought through, like Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, to present different cultures, species, races, challenges, obstacles, religions, governments, you name it. If you enjoy the extensive lore and background behind Tolkien’s masterpiece then, like me, you’ll have ample to invest yourself in with this series.

Magic, as per usual, is a subject of great controversy. The system itself is uncomplicated in its accordance with traditional or stereotypical features: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit being the predominant ‘powers’; but is in-keeping with a gender binarism (female + magic = good, male + magic = bad), that I quite like, as I have not come across it this fiercely asserted before. That being said, Jordan is imaginative in its exploration and is undeviating in its use throughout which successfully integrates a believability in the sorcerous fantasy.

With regards to the plot and story, I can’t comment too much as I seem to barely have gotten started. I was worried that with such long books and intricate plots, I would become lost or disinterested like many sagas or the traps that TV series tend to fall into; drawn out stories that lose their way or forget what they were doing in the first place. So far, I can safely say that it’s all moving in one clear direction, the twists and pulls of the narrative closely linked with the overarching plot and just writing this article has made me want to dive back in. I’ll admit I have given reading this monster-series a long hiatus but I will jump back in and I’m sure there will be another article to follow in the future...

After the next 8,000 pages...

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