A Review of the Wheel of Time Series

A Review of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

wheel of time use

When Rachel asked me to write a guest review on The Wheel of Time series, my first thought (after Great!) was how do I even start to review a 14 book series?  It turns out that it’s kind of difficult and I have to be pretty general.  But I will give it my best!

I started reading The Eye of the World (Book 1) back in 2007 during the summer after I finished high school.  When A Memory of Light came out in January (Book 14) I was at the bookstore as soon as it opened and spent the next three days devouring the final installment.  I’ve read the entire series three times (with the exception of AMoL) and I am devastated that the series has ended, but I am also extremely satisfied at how it all ended up!

One note to mention before I begin:  Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 before finishing the series.  In the last few months of his life—with the help of his wife, Harriet McDougal—he penned the final scene of the series and recorded a copious amount of notes in order to provide enough information for someone else to finish the series in a way that stayed true to his vision.  Harriet selected author Brandon Sanderson to finish the series, which he did in books 12-14.  You may notice a slight variation in writing while jumping from book 11 to book 12, but I think Brandon Sanderson captured the characters dispositions, mannerisms and thoughts perfectly while at the same time making the last three books a little bit easier and faster to read.

Here’s a list of the 14 books in the series, plus a prequel.

The Eye of the World

The Great Hunt

The Dragon Reborn

The Shadow Rising

The Fires of Heaven

Lord of Chaos

A Crown of Swords

The Path of Daggers

Winter’s Heart

Crossroads of Twilight

Knife of Dreams

The Gathering Storm

Towers of Midnight

A Memory of Light

 

New Spring (prequel—planned by Robert Jordan to be a trilogy, but there are currently no plans to complete books two and three)

The Good:

The world-building in The Wheel of Time is fantastic.  I’ve read some series where the magical system and the world in which it is placed don’t work well, or are too complicated to make it realistic.  I’ve always thought that a magical system that seems natural and doesn’t take long for the story to effortlessly explain is the best—and of course it also has to be unique.  Robert Jordan does a great job with this.  The Wheel of Time takes place in our past and our future—in the series they are currently in a time in which they use horses and carts, but by the middle to end of the series changes are taking place and some of the inventions from before the Breaking of the World are being reinvented.  The magical system consists of a vat of energy or power called the True Source—only a very small number of people can actually channel the One Power from the True Source.  They use this power by weaving a combination of the five elements (Air, Earth, Wind, Fire and Spirit) to accomplish different things; for example, one weave may be used to put a bubble around a group of people so outsiders cannot hear what they are saying, while a different one may heal a wound.  Men and women use different parts of the One Power—saidar for women and saidin for men.

The core characters of WoT (forgive my use of abbreviations, but saying The Wheel of Time all the time is tiresome!) all come from the same part of the WoT world—the Two Rivers.  Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Nynaeve al’Meara and Egwene al’Vere all eventually leave the Two Rivers—the small country community in which they grew up and the place they thought they’d never leave (except perhaps for Mat).  Robert Jordan weaves a tale of youngsters leaving home and gradually gaining knowledge of the world and growing as individuals and leaders.  I think it is amazing going back and reading The Eye of the World after reading A Memory of Light.  The characters develop so much and Robert Jordan does a great job of taking the characters from one step to another.  It also seems as if characters are always misinformed or they come to the wrong conclusion about something.  They always still act based on what they know, think they know, or believe is right and while it can be challenging as a reader to see them do something you know is wrong (because you’ve seen another character’s point of view) it is fantastic to see how they adapt, learn from mistakes and finally embrace who they have become.

The overlying theme or conflict of WoT is one you find with most fantasy novels—good versus evil, light vs dark—in this case it is the world as the Creator made it versus the Dark One and his Chosen.  This is a tried and proven method of telling a great fantasy story and I think Robert Jordan made it work so well partly by being one of the first to make women a dominant part of the story.   A major theme throughout the series is one of gender roles and relationships.  Destiny versus free will and story decay are also themes that increase the value of the stories and make everything more interesting.  With the series being so long, it is fascinating to see that as the characters grow and develop, the themes also grow and take on a new meanings.

The Bad:

There are fourteen books.  Fourteen.  For some of you this may be great!  For others…not so much. The first few books get you going and the last three or four are a rush towards the end, but the books in the middle—while all their stories are necessary for plot and character development—can get tedious to read.

There are over 3,000 characters in WoT.  Many of them are mentioned in passing and you never see them again, but even I still get confused with characters that had large roles.  For example remembering where and what Hurin the sniffer versus Juilin the thief-catcher does.  In addition to the many, many characters, most of the books are also very focused on the characters.  Unlike many fantasy novels that are full of battles and action, there is a lot of character development (which I mentioned above as a good thing).  Unfortunately many readers may be disappointed that much of the full-charge action seems to be limited to the last 100-200 pages of each book (with AMoL being one exception).  I frequently found myself taking a long time to get through a book, but by the last 150 pages I couldn’t set it down because I felt so much was happening so quickly.

For those who detest detailed imagery about clothes, you may not like WoT.  I didn’t think it distracted me or made me annoyed at RJ at all, but I know many readers don’t enjoy being told repeatedly about the color dress that Nynaeve is wearing or the amount of lace Mat has on his coat sleeves on any given day.  There are many different countries in the world of WoT, and they all have different cultures, fashions, and other differences that can be interesting for some and tedious to others.

The Verdict:

Read:  If you love long, epic fantasy series in which you get heavily invested in the characters and their world, read this series!  The Wheel of Time is very detailed and draws you in—if you enjoy the first book, you will have to keep reading.  As a side notes, if you find yourself having a hard time getting through some of the books, try listening to the audiobooks as I’ve heard this has helped some people enjoy it more.

Don’t Read:  If you don’t enjoy long books in which there are a lot of detailed imagery or the characters are not constantly fighting in battles, don’t read this series.  With so many books and so many characters, you may get lost or bored along the way.

As an aside, I want to put in a good word for Brandon Sanderson.  If you enjoy The Wheel of Time, or fantasy in general, PLEASE read his independent work.  He is excellent at worldbuilding and creating unique magical systems that are completely believable.  He is currently working on the second book of his planned epic series The Stormlight Archives.  The first book, The Way of Kings, is currently one of my favorites.

Thanks to Rachel for letting me write a guest review!  If you want to talk about The Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson or have or want any great fantasy recommendations, send a tweet my way!

Written by Heidi V

Heidi is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She is an avid reader, a die-hard Badger fan, and knows from experience that a good hike can solve almost any ailment. Follow Heidi @heidi_5 and DNFB @not4birds.

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