So I'm giving the Wheel of Time one final re-read. And, much like Brandon Sanderson, I'll be making a post here after I re-read each book. Unlike Sanderson, however, I don't have Harriet and Tom looking over my shoulder, so I'm able to talk both about the good and bad aspects of the books. And there's a lot in each category, believe you me.

A few notes before I get started. First, I'm not going to rush through the series. I read The Eye of the World on the bus to and from the university at a pace of about two chapters a day, three if the construction was bad.

Second, I will not be re-reading New Spring, partly because it's not necessary for the narrative, and party because it's my least favourite in the series (yes, it's even worse than the infamous Book Ten). I suppose I could make a post defending why I think so, if people want. But I don't really feel like it.

Third, I'm going to try spread out my compliments and criticism over the course of the series. Otherwise, I'd make one or two hugemassive posts at the beginning, and then burn out. So if you think I should have talked more about Jordan's worldbuilding, or his treatment of female characters, or how he implements the Hero of a Thousand Faces, or how the series is full of cruft... don't worry. I'll get to it.

Fourth, the majority of the posts will be in a spoiler section, and in the spoiler I'll be assuming you've read all the way to Book Twelve. It would be nice if others could spoil their comments appropriately as well, especially as I don't want Books Thirteen and Fourteen spoiled for me. As always with WoT, we know how the series is going to end, but I'd like the path there to be a mystery for now.

Finally, Brandon Sanderson's blog posts and Isam's summaries are to be considered required reading.

Ladies and non-ladies, I give you the Wheel of Time, in all its glory, in all its horror.

Okay, first off, let's make it clear: this book is very Tolkien. Very, very Tolkien. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with LotR derivatives. Not only was The Sword of Shannara the first fantasy novel I read, it was the first work of adult fiction I read. And I loved it to bits. Was I too young to know better? Perhaps. Still, the basic model of "inexperienced young male hero(es) are plucked out of their quiet village by a mysterious mystic and are set against a seemingly insurmountable evil" works.

The problem is that the rest of the series doesn't really follow that model, and thus the first book might set up false expectations for the rest of the series. Some other aspects of the first book also differ quite strongly from the rest of the series. For instance, almost everything is told from Rand's POV (there's one arc from Perrin's POV, and a couple of chapters from Nynaeve's). While Rand is the central character of the series, it becomes more and more of an ensemble cast as the series progresses. People who viewed WoT as "Rand's story" were probably not too thrilled with Book Three.

I'll page through the book now, and make the rest of my comments as they appear chronologically:

The prologue remains one of my favourite of the series. However, now that I'm familiar with WoT's system of magic, it has a different effect. The prologue throws you in a pool of references that are impossible to understand on your first read of the series, which gives it an 'exotic' atmosphere, for lack of a better word. As for the rest of the book, you're fed information about the history of the world and its magic system slowly and steadily, and you're also being fed biased and incorrect information as well. I find it a very good way of doing worldbuilding; you don't get the fact dumps that other series have. On the other hand, most series don't last for fourteen books, so they have to reveal their information a bit more quickly.

The pace of Book One (and the pace of the rest of the series) is slower than most other fantasy works. However, I didn't mind the speed, at least for this book. We need the detailed description of Hobbiton Emond's Field. I did enjoy the writing style. Again, I'll probably be sick of it soon enough, once I get to the dress descriptions.

Like Sanderson, I actually liked Nynaeve in Book One. Well, I didn't hate her. Right now, she's the mama bear out to protect her cubs. There's still some parts that are dumb ("Arg! All men are stupid! Grr! I will destroy you, Aes Sedai!"), but other segments are alright (Rand's reunion with her in Baerlon). Somewhere along the way, her character became 'tug on braid', 'complain about dresses', 'argue with Elayne'. And it's sad, because it's a waste of potential. While she's still a younger character, she's served as a doctor for an entire village, as well as being in a position of civil authority. She should have had some degree of maturity over the other Emond Fielders.

As for Emond's Field itself, it fits with the Tolkien model: the main heroes should come from a rustic society whose strength is in their simplicity and stubbornness. Why do 'hobbits' in fantasy always have 'stubborn refusal to give up' as their greatest attribute? There was one BoA scenario I had planned, way back when, where the singleton's townsfolk surrendered easily to enemies... but were resourceful and shrewd. Not going to go into all the story details here; I didn't have things fully fleshed out anyway. Would it have worked? I dunno; there's probably a reason why the status quo is the way it is.

At least Mat fits the Trickster archetype. Later on in the series he becomes one of my favourite characters. Too bad he's oh so very annoying now.

Let's see... chapter five...


Ahem. Moving on...

Apparently, WoT was originally supposed to be a trilogy. I don't see it. Maybe, in the original drafts, but by the time Book One was written, a lot of the series must have already been plotted out. For instance, take Min's visions in Baerlon. Some of them are historical and are revealed in Book One (Lan is a Malkieri king, Thom's nephew was gentled). Others are revealed very shortly (Mat picks up the dagger, Perrin becomes a Wolfbrother, Rand get Callandor). But others don't become fulfilled until much later (Rand becomes king of Illian in Book Seven, loses his hand in Book Eleven -- remind me to talk about Tyr, Odin, and Thor sometime). And as of Book Twelve, Perrin has yet to take the Broken Crown, Mat has yet to 'lose half the light' and gamble away his eye, and Rand has yet to go BeggarMode. Or die.

Of course, the obvious explanation is that Jordan just threw in a bunch of hooks without planning ahead, and as the series continued, tied things into previous prophesies he put in. I dunno. Reading Book One again, I found that almost every historical aside became relevant later. Compare this with, say, the Sword of Truth series, which is much less planned. Locales, events, and characters are introduced at the beginning of a book, only to be discarded at the end. Only rarely are they ever referenced again.

There are a few inconsistencies that I think I found, however; mostly to do with the Power. A couple are small things, such as Moiraine wielding a staff for most of the book. It's explained that this is just a 'focus', and Moiraine is clearly able to channel without it. We know from New Spring that Moiraine was the next closest thing to a wilder, so maybe the staff was just some mental crutch that she used. Even then, why don't we see other wilders with similar fetishes? Maybe they're there and I just forgot. There's also a whole lot of weird stuff Ishy does in this book and the next two. We can handwave a lot of it away and say that he's an experienced Forsaken and that anything can happen in T'A'R. Even then, the rules for T'A'R seem to be a lot looser in the earlier books.

Elayne and Gawyn are introduced in this book, but they really only have one scene, so I'll talk about them later.

As for the climax... Jordan was able to give most of the books in the series great climaxes. This one, though, is probably my least favourite. I think it's because Rand is, well, clueless as to what's going on for most of it. The Ishy confrontations in Books Two and Three are better, as I recall. We'll see if my opinion has changed. I did like some segments; Rand's horror when he realizes what he's doing when he's in Tarwin's Gap, and is unable to stop.


  • Achievements for Team Light: Stopped Aginor from using the Eye to release the Dark One, using the Eye to destroy the largest Trolloc army seen in the series.
  • Forsaken Count: Balthamel (killed by an Ent), Aginor (killed by Rand)
  • Seals Count: One (destroyed)

See? Not hugemassive at all.