The Wheel of Time Keeps Turning: A Primer
Let Tears Flow All Ye People Of The World/
Weep For Your Salvation
Robert Jordan, The Great Hunt
It’s taken two authors, nearly a quarter of a century, and enough trees to make The Lorax weep to tell the saga of The Wheel of Time. Yeah, A Song of Ice and Fire might get all the sweet, sweet HBO money and casual fans, but they just can’t match the fervency of the true Wheel Of Time junkies. Robert Jordan: Making fans wait an ungodly amount of time between books before it was cool!
Well it’s finally happened. As the saying goes, “The end is extremely freaking nigh.” The Wheel Of Time tells the story of a reincarnated Messiah who has been sent to save the world and just might destroy it in the process. Well, Tarmon Gai’dan draws near and this week the story ends. With A Memory of Light released this Tuesday, the last book in the saga is here. So consider this your crib notes, your primer to world of The Third Age that…bwahaha who am I kidding? The world of The Wheel Of Time is far too intricate and geek-intensive to explain anywhere near coherently in a single article (or even fourteen books for that matter). But we will try the best we can.
R Is For Robert Jordan: Say what you will about Robert Jordan, but one cannot help respect the man’s passion. I’m not merely writing about the passion it took for a man–who up until this point in his career was a fairly unremarkable historical novelist–to envision, execute, and then sell what became the most popular high fantasy series this side of Middle Earth. We’re talking about the kind of passion that drove Jordan to dictate the final chapter and much of the final outline of what became the last three books, from his own deathbed. Robert Jordan believed in The Third Age.
So if I poke a bit of fun, please know that my tongue is firmly in cheek, and any quip I make is built on a bedrock of deep respect and affection for Mr. Jordan, and my sincere delight at seeing his endgame finally come to fruition.
B is for Brandon Sanderson: Brandon Sanderson has accrued one of the best reputations in modern fantasy, writing character based, deeply heartfelt epics. But when he was chosen to complete The Wheel Of Time (a.k.a. the most thankless task in genre fiction), he was just a fairly green author who hadn’t even finished his own fantasy series yet, let alone anyone else’s (That series was Mistborn by the way. You should read it. It’s spectacular.)
Tasked with bringing one of the most infamously unending series to an end, Sanderson has by all accounts done so with great aplomb (a.k.a. he hasn’t been lynched yet). It’s so easy to imagine the dozens of ways that this might have gone wrong, that it is truly incredible that it has gone so right.
Though the modest Mr. Sanderson has taken great pains to say that the story of ending of The Wheel Of Time is all Robert Jordan’s, the achievement of pulling it off is at this point all Sanderson’s.
O Is For Overwriting: It can’t help but be frustrating that Jordan died before completing his opus. Simply because it seems he so easily could have, had he ever met an editor he didn’t distrust on sight. Originally conceived as a downright svelte three-volume epic, The Wheel Of Time quickly ballooned into the fourteen-book elephant in the room we all know and love…er, tolerate.
It’s not just the fact that Jordan felt the need/compulsion to describe every vest worn by every innkeeper of Tier down to the embroidery. It’s that it’s tough to see how the last three or four books he wrote couldn’t have been put into one volume with even the most minimal of narrative jostling. Though Jordan’s imagination was incredible, one would be hard pressed to find an author who was more his own worst enemy.
T Is For Tugging On One’s Braid & C Is For Crossing Ones Arms Under One’s Breasts: Be prepared to read those two descriptors. A lot.
T Is Also For The Taint: THE TAINT!!! THE TAINT!!!! THE TAINT!!!! You should also be prepared to read that one. A lot.
H Is For Head: Everyone in the Third Age (an age long past, an age yet to come) is exactly one head taller or one head shorter than everyone else. No one is sure how this works.
B Is For The Bene Gesserit: They are the sacred sect that keeps the ancient wisdown. And know the things that menfolk knowe gnought!!!
A Is For Aes Sedai: Aw crap I went and mixed up my unfinished genre sagas again didn’t I? A is for the Aes Sedai. THEY are the sacred sect that keeps the ancient wisdom and know the things that the menfolk knowe gnought!!!!
D Is For Damn It, Something Cool Is Happening: Because make no mistake my friend, just when you’re feeling smug, just when you’re sure you’re ready to walk away from The Wheel Of Time forever. That’s when Jordan will whip out a mind-blowing set piece that will guarantee that you read through the next volume. It may be in The Great Hunt with Rand viewing an unearthed relic of the age past, and suddenly being swept away by his true nature in a wave of messianic fervor, vowing to “spit in Sightblinder’s Eye on the last day.” Or possibly, the abrupt apocalyptic ending of The Dragon Reborn. Rest assured, each volume of The Wheel Of Time, no matter how padded, contains a hook that will drag you deeper into the saga.
Rarely has Michael Corleone’s “Just when I thought I was out…” adage been so very apt. Not that we’ve ever really minded.
The Wheel of Time: the Robert Jordan Story: