The End of an Era and the Wheel of Time

WheelOfTimeAnd so an era comes to an end.

I started reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan in the early 90’s. Last week… over two decades later… I finished the 15th and final book in the series. I find myself already missing the world of Two Rivers, Tar Valon and Andor.

If you enjoy fantasy fiction and are ready for a real reading challenge, The Wheel of Time is waiting for you. The series includes 15 books (one of which is a prequel that was written toward the end) and 11,916 pages. Would you rather listen to the audio books? No problem… it’s only 461 hours and 25 minutes long. That’s over 19 days of non-stop listening.

The Story

Before you jump in, let me tell you a bit about the series. First off, the scope of the story is so far reaching it is impossible to sum up in one page of writing. It starts off simply, focusing on just a handful of people in one geographic area called “Two Rivers,” a small hamlet in this new fantasy land. Before all is said and done, Jordan takes you through a multitude of lands, countries and continents exploring their culture, customs, people and leadership/royalty. Not only that, Jordan introduces you to over 700 characters, the majority of which have recurring roles. It becomes increasingly hard to keep up with who is doing what. He must have kept copious notes to be able to craft such a detailed landscape and cast.

In the time in which the novels are set, humanity lives under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One (Shai’tan) will break free from his prison and the Dragon will be reborn (Rand al’Thor) to face him once more, raining utter destruction and chaos on the world in the process of saving it from the Dark One. The Dragon Reborn is accompanied, mostly, by his companion ta’veren (those born with unnatural, influential luck) – happy-go-lucky Matrim Cauthon and blacksmith/wolf Perrin Aybara. Also coming out of Two Rivers and intertwined with the three in the story are Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara. These two go on to be extremely important characters throughout the storyline along with Lan Mandragoran, the Uncrowned-king of fallen Malkier, Moiraine Damodred, an Aes Sedai sister of the Blue Ajah… and 695+ other people. As I said… this is a challenge. The series moves ever so slowly toward Tarmon Gai’don, or the Last Battle, which is the topic of the final book (A Memory of Light).

The Author

Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan, released the first book in the series (The Eye of the World) in 1990. He wrote voraciously, releasing one novel per year through the first seven volumes… keep in mind that each book averaged around 800 pages. After that, he slowed to one volume every 2 years. In late 2005, Jordan was diagnosed with terminal heart disease. From that point on, he worked tirelessly to finish up his notes on the direction the series was to take. He wanted to make sure that his story was finished utilizing the vision he had set. After his death in 2007, Jordan’s widow chose Brandon Sanderson to complete the anthology. Sanderson stepped up to the plate and hit a home run, expanding the outline for the final book into 3 full novels to completely flesh out the story that Jordan had begun.

It’s hard to adequately express the scope of this series and the job Jordan has done. As with anything even approaching the size, there are slow moments in the series. Some books are better than others. Some are shorter, but not many. All in all, it’s a great ride and I would strongly encourage fans of the genre to read it. Most likely, if you enjoy fantasy fiction, you’ve probably already read it. Even if you’re not into fantasy, give the first book a shot. It will hook you.

If you like e-books, this is where you start. I will end with the quote that appears at the beginning of every book of the series:

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not a beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.