Long ago while doing my undergraduate work, one of my English professors had us read an unusual book for class, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. We read a lot of interesting things in my different classes, but this was the only fantasy novel , so it really stuck out. I was hooked and started reading the rest of the series, but got bogged down and stopped for a few reasons.
I’ve revisited the Wheel of Time series starting last year and this time I am determined to finally finish it. Friends who have read the entire series tell me there’s a huge payoff for pushing through the books in the middle. As I’m writing this post, I’m just starting Winter’s Heart and the journey so far has been arduous. It’s gotten better recently, but I’ve had to intersperse the series with reading other books more than I was even anticipating.
This time around I’m reading with a much more critical eye than before. After all, I’m a full-time writer and editor, so I just don’t see writing the same as when I was a college student. As a result, there are a few things about how this series is written that just drive me nuts, while other things are great.
For starters, I’m amazed at how many sentence fragments the editors allowed. There’s usually a story with something like that left in the text and I’d love to know what it is. Every time I run across one it’s a small annoyance on my part, even though I completely understand the meaning of what he’s saying.
A bigger complaint of mine is Jordan constantly talking about female characters either smoothing out their dress or folding their arms beneath their breasts is horribly repetitive. I’m not sure why the editors didn’t smooth these fillers out of the final copy instead of leaving them in.
Also, Jordan portrays each of the three main protagonists constantly thinking or even saying how much more adept one or two of the others are when it comes to understanding and dealing with women. Only, like the smoothing of dresses, this is done in every situation where it could possibly fit, particularly in the first few books. The horse is dead, it doesn’t need any more of a beating, the readers get it.
Maybe some people are really into intricate love triangles, political intrigue among all kinds of nation-states and the history of such conflicts, or the weird and intricate idiosyncrasies of a civilization which has been largely isolated from those surrounding it for hundreds if not thousands of years. I admit, these topics can be interesting inasmuch as they further an engaging, character-driven plot. Like salt, sprinkled in they add some nice flavoring, but when poured on heavy it’s just too much. If you’ve read the series you probably know why I’m saying this. In the first book I felt like the balance was perfect. Even the second book didn’t go overboard, but it starts to increase in book three. By the seventh book I felt like I was drowning in the stuff and I’m really hoping it thins out again.
Also, the covers are meh at best. I’ve heard Jordan absolutely hated them but haven’t gotten that from an authoritative source, so don’t quote me on that. Despite what people think, most publishers commission artwork for a cover and don’t consult the author at all. It would seem that was certainly the case with the Wheel of Time series. But yes, readers and others judge a book by the cover, so taking these out in public can elicit some interesting responses.
On the positive end of things, Jordan built an interesting, vibrant world. I think sometimes he gets a little lost in the intricacies of it, but it does provide a rich backdrop for the story, when it isn’t front-and-center. I also really enjoy his brand of “magicians” or whatever you want to call them. The fact the males and females can do wondrous things when linked up is a strong statement about the petty “war of the sexes” we deal with in today’s society.
While some people complain about all the plotting characters in the books, particularly the Aes Sedai, the fact is there are individuals who look at all human relationships from a transactional standpoint. They’re constantly analyzing how they can get leverage over others and twist any situation to their advantage – trust me, I’ve known some of these people quite well. Yes, they’re annoying to deal with in real life, if not downright excruciating, so if you don’t like them in the books it’s a testament to how well Jordan nails the personality.
There are more things I enjoy about the books, like how Perrin struggles with his ability to communicate with the wolves and Rand dealing with Lews Therin Telamon talking in his head. I’ll probably post about the series again, but for now this is my love/hate relationship with The Wheel of Time.
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