With the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan set out to do something truly epic. Although he set out to write a six-book series, he would eventually write 11 books and a prequel before he passed away, with another author finishing the series’ last 3 installments. At the time of it’s arrival the series was extremely popular, becoming the second most successful fantasy series after Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now nearly 25 years later, after an onslaught of brilliant fantasy literature that constantly evolves, builds upon itself, with strong deviations from clichés and stereotypes, the first work of Robert Jordan’s long-winded series struggles to keep up.
The first and most egregious err on Jordan’s behalf was his attempt to try and fix Tolkien. He attempted to beef it up with more factions, with more realistic scenarios. But the parallels between the Wheel of Time and the Lord of the Rings are truly astounding. If only his lack of understanding language didn’t show so clearly, this may have been a more manageable copy. It feels like he ripped off the entirety of the layout for The Fellowship of the Ring, switched the team dynamics (sans Boromir) and turned Gandalf, Pippin and Legolas into females.
And that’s where Jordan’s greatest accomplishment lay, believe it or not. He does a really good job of making strong female characters. Actually, I’d say the majority of the novel’s most capable characters are women. In fact, females are far more receptive to the book’s magic system, known as the One Power. Moiraine Sedai is essentially the all-knowing, all-powerful wizard who leads the
Hobbits out of Emond’s Field-ers out to Mount Doom The Eye of the World, in Mordor The Blight, and she ends up making plans to tutor some of the other gifted females in the group to use such an ability. The monarch is also a queen instead of a king, and her daughter the princess is also a very strong character. Stuff like this was very forward thinking for the turns that fantasy fiction would take in the years to follow.
That said, despite enjoying myself very much throughout the book, not a lot happened. To be fair, the beginning 200 pages or so are important, as are the last 150. The other 500 pages in the middle? Fluff I had to sit through. Very poor character development. It seemed all the characters were good for was getting themselves in trouble and then out of it, only to find themselves in even graver (yet still no more perilous) danger than the last, in repeat succession. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the characters. But being such archetypal copies of Tolkien roles… There was very little for me to get out of them. Very little growth.
This review is proving harder for me to continue writing as I literally have nothing to say about it’s ingenuity, creativity, or other. I enjoyed the romp. And perhaps the series gets better from here. But I was more than a little relieved to move on after I finished it. It’ll be a bit before I pick up the next.
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Or listen to it on Audible, as narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading.