Spoilers for the entire series | More info and previous posts |
Please no spoilers for future books/events I’m spoiler proof now!
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m done with the series!
I started reading the Wheel of Time almost nine months ago. Since then, I’ve been reading and posting about the series almost exclusively. Fourteen books and almost seventy blog posts. My own word count across posts is enough for a decent sized novel!
So yeah, WoT is huge. That’s no surprise – that’s sort of the series’ thing. It’s the big huge epic sprawling mega long fantasy saga. You can’t be a fantasy buff and not hear about it. I mean, the series has it’s own meta-story of sorts, with twists and turns like the slump in the middle, RJ’s death, the worried fandom and then Sanderson coming through at last. For people who read the books as they came out, it must have been quite the ride.
Well I had quite the ride too, but in a different way. Coming to the series, I had no worries about delays – all the books were already out. Partly because of this, I felt the middle books weren’t nearly as bad as they’re made out to be. Yeah, Perrin could’ve rescued Faile a bit faster, and leaving out Mat for a whole book was too much, but people had me dreading a solid three books where nothing happens. That was the case with other stuff too – the braid tugging and the skirt smoothing and sniffing. It felt odd at first – I mean, who sniffs when angry?! But it was never annoying. In fact, it became a bit endearing with time. I missed Nynaeve’s braid once it was gone.
What no one warned me about, and got to me, was the first quarter of each book summarising the events of earlier ones. And the general reminders about everything. I swear I’ve read a thousand times about how holding the One Power feels or the raging torrent of saidin, the filth of the taint and so on. Yeah, I understand RJ did it because most people don’t marathon fourteen books in a row, and reminders are needed. But still.
While I’m on the subject of things that annoyed me, let’s get the rest out of the way as well. The worldbuilding was excellent, but it had some spots. Like the Sea Folk. I mean, everyone of the exotic foreigners is exotic in their own way, but the Sea Folk have like zero redeeming qualities. Even the Seanchan have some things going for them, and I like Tylee and Tuon. But I can’t think of a single Sea Folk character that didn’t annoy me. Their haggling and overbearing nature was just overkill.
And the sheer numbers of Darkfriends and Black Ajah. Damn traitors were springing out of the woodwork! And what made it so bad was there was no way of knowing. I mean, besides the obvious ones at the start like Liandrin, you’re thinking “Oh this person is so nice and I hope they make it okay” and then “Bam! Darkfriend!”. Notable examples include Ingtar (RIP) and Sheriam.
But all these niggles are just that – niggles. Because the series had so much cool stuff! I remember, when I finished Crossroads of Twilight, people commenting that you’re through the slump now, as if I could stop. But I never even thought of giving up.
And the biggest reason for that – the biggest draw and surprise of the series for me, were the people. I’m a plot and information oriented reader – I care less for the characters as people and more for things like story, cool magical stuff, surprising twists and gotchas etc. But with WoT, it all went upside down. Sure, I wanted to know what happens next and it was always nice to see new worldbuilding and lore, it was the characters that made me fall in love with the series.
When EoTW opens, they all seems like standard issue fantasy archetypes. Rand, the simple farmboy, Perrin and Mat his sidekicks. Moiraine the mysterious magic mage, Lan the brooding warrior. Perhaps that was part of the LOTR-iness of the first book. Anyway, I put them all into neat little stereotype boxes and left it that.
But then with time all these people broke out of their roles and became – well, people. Rand, of course, with his becoming the “Dragon” and then the horrible downward spiral that spanned several books, and then Veins of Gold. But it is not unusual for books to spend time developing the hero.
What was truly different were the sidekicks. There weren’t any. Mat and Perrin are their own people with their own issues and plot arcs and whatnot. They’re not just part of the scenery. You start out thinking that Mat is the “funny one”. But while he is certainly that, he soon develops so much depth, with all the things he goes through affecting him and changing him but he’s still Mat, until he supplants the “hero” as your favorite character.
Then there’s Nynaeve. I get the hate about her – but I really got to like her. Once you understand that the overbearing outside is something she had to develop as a young wisdom that no one took seriously, and put aside the braid tugging and woolheading, she’s a kind person who’s always trying her best to help people. I mean, she set out on this whole affair because she wanted to make sure Rand and co. were alright.
And so many more. Moiraine. Egwene. Lan. Siuan. Aviendha. Elayne. Min. Thom. Juilin. Bela. Too many to list. In the end, Rand really was right. It’s not about him – it’s about all of them, their lives and struggles and triumphs.
So what I’m trying to say is that the feels were real, and no one warned me about them.
And the foreshadowing and slow burns! Tiny little threads that start off and just keep going and going and they all build up until the last three books were brackets closing like boom boom boom! Verin is perhaps the best example. But even little stuff that shows the amount of planning that went into series, despite it’s sometimes meandering appearance. All the little prophecies and connections that I noticed and the many more that I missed which I’ll be looking for in the inevitable reread. What makes it even better is that a lot of stuff is open to interpretation, and I had my mind blown multiple times by the theories people had.
That is not to say, of course, that WoT didn’t have its share of the usual stuff I look for. There were so many huge set pieces. Falme, Dumai’s Wells, Rhuidean, the Cleansing, Veins of Gold, Perrin v. Slayer extravaganzas… And of course, the biggest of them all, the Last Battle. It was a stroke of pure genius to have that huuuuge chapter in the book to make the readers feel the scope of it all.
One thing I totally forgot to talk about in the last post – what about the future of Randland? Specifically, about Aviendha’s visions? It’s never talked about again, so I’m hoping that Tuon making a deal with Rand and the Aiel becoming a part of the Dragon’s peace will be enough to avert it. On the other hand, the Seanchan are certainly the biggest military power left in the world at this time, and with their aggressive and imperial views, it’s not a stretch to imagine them waging war against the other nations in the years to come, Rand’s peace notwithstanding.
In any case, RJ wanted us to arrive at the end with the WoT world as a still ongoing thing, and he certainly got that.
tl;dr: Excellent series, had much fun, 10/10 would recommend.
But this whole experience was more than just my reading WoT. When I started out (thanks to /u/MikeOfThePalace for the initial idea) I had no idea how much more fun this would make my journey. All you guys commenting and discussing on my posts, pointing out things I missed and explaining stuff I didn’t get, you’re like the bookworm friends I never had. If you looked forward to my posts, I looked just as eagerly to your comments. And I hugely appreciate you all treading ever so carefully around me so as to not spoil stuff.
Also thanks for bearing with all the Egwene/Elayne and Gawyn/Galad switches I made. You’d think after fourteen books I’d learn to keep them apart!
I’d like to give special thanks to Nygmus, MikeOfThePalace, orru, SageOfTheWise, Parraz, Paragona, Halo6819, cornballin, Braakman, tocf, retsam19, GrimnirOdinson and all the others on /r/WoT and /r/Fantasy.
For the future, well – this is a book blog, not a WoT blog. Though it did kind of become that over the past months. So yeah, I will be posting other stuff. As for more “Big Reads”, there’ll be more of them for sure. This was too much fun for me not to want more. But I’ll be taking some time off from big series, so that’s still in the future.
Finally, someone in the comments suggested I do the EoTW prologue again. This feels really apt thematically, with the whole cyclical motif of the series. So here we go:
A palace in ruins, slaughter and ruin all over the place. It’s interesting to note the mention of lightnings that had flashed down every corridor – reminds me of what Rand did at the Stone of Tear during the Trolloc attack. There’s mention of something called “mind-twisting” causing part of the destruction. Is this some sort of weaving Lews Therin did?
He’s mad, of course, looking for his beloved Ilyena, who lies dead at his feet. This all feels so much more significant now that we know the context, compared to the first time I read it, like the ancient Aes Sedai symbol on his cloak. Also, it’s the only time we actually get to see something in the Age of Legends. Quite fitting for a prologue.
A man, presumably a Forsaken, appears by True Power Traveling. Lews Therin invites him to Sing – likely the tree growing sort. I wonder if having the Voice is a matter of the Soul, kind of like one’s ability to channel.
Hang on. All through the series I assumed the White Tower was dying and they couldn’t find enough new novices because the Reds were hunting down men with the ability to channel, so it was sort of enforced natural selection that was making the ability rarer. But that doesn’t make any sense if you consider that the ability is not a matter of genetics but of the soul! It doesn’t matter if your parents or any of your ancestors could channel.
Anyway, the man seems upset that Lews Therin is nuts and so he can’t gloat, which I assume is what he came to do. He mentions that he is Elan. Ah, Moridin. Or rather, Ishamael. I’d have though Demandred would be here first, seeing as he was always the one who was really mad at Lews Therin/Rand. He mentions that unlike Lews Therin’s title of Dragon, he’s embraced his title as the Betrayer of Hope.
Where did these people get the idea of the “Dragon” anyway? Complete with a dragon as the banner? Did the WoT world at some time have actual flaming dragons? Would’ve been cool to see some in the books.
Another interesting mention is Lews Therin wearing the Ring of Tamyrlin, which rhymes nicely with Amyrlin.
So, Ishamael says that he will make sure that Lews Therin fully understands the horror of what he’s done. So he uses the True Power to “heal” Lews Therin, to give him a few moments of lucidity so he can fully appreciate what he’s done.
And Lews Therin remembers everything – the attack, the counterstroke, the taint. Everyone he loved, all his kin, dead around him, killed by him in his madness. Unable to bear it all, he Travels. Somehow he’s able to tell that there’s no one around.
There, Lews Therin draws saidin, more and more and more, beyond any normal limits, until there’s a huge bolt of lightning, everything goes boom, and ta-da, Dragonmount. I’m not expert on this stuff, but now that I think about it, a huge explosion should’ve left a big ass crater, not a super tall mountain. In his death, Lews Therin is also responsible for making the island that will one day become Tar Valon. I wonder if locating the White Tower there was a deliberate choice by the Aes Sedai, to remind themselves of the taint with Dragonmount.
And Ishamael is left to scream that they’re not done yet. And he’s right. Before this is done he’ll be killed by Rand, brought back, be instrumental in defeating his master and be the sacrifice to save Rand’s life. Until the Wheel turns and it all happens again.
I wonder how, if everyone forgets everything about old things across ages, until it’s like as if it never happened, how do people know that there’s this whole Wheel thing going on?
Well, I’m almost tempted to start the reread right here and now. But now is not the time.
Thank you again, all of my readers, for riding along. This is it for now.