Book 14 of the Wheel of Time. An era has ended. A voluminous triumph of epic fantasy done and dusted. It’s a sad time. I’ve been living with these books for years. With a cast of characters so expansive, even Stephen King would be drawn to envy, there was no shortage of people to love and people to hate. And boy did I love and hate. Perhaps, at times, the romance seemed a little puerile. Perhaps, at times, the narrative lost out to the tropes. Perhaps, at times, the story slowed to a nigh-unbearable crawl. In the end though, Robert Jordan crafted something wonderful.
Yes, there are tropes in abundance. I imagine these tropes were not always so stygmatised. Though they may have been, I can’t say. I wonder if the Eye of the World would have enjoyed the same success if it was released in 2013. The orphan, the prophesied one who comes to power, a sweeping battle between good and evil. It’s high fantasy in every way, and exemplifies all that I love about the genre. Robert Jordan had a knack, a knack not often seen in these parts. Not only did he bombard us with questions, some of which have gone unanswered, but continue to draw theories, he threw at us countless characters, all of whom tried their very best to jump off the page. Yes, there was black and white, good and evil, but the shades of grey birthed some wonderful memories that I will cherish for years to come.
Robert Jordan’s death meant we would never see the Wheel of Time come to a climax in exactly the way he intended, but I dare say Brandon Sanderson was the right man for the job. His handling of the characters felt clumsy at times, especially early in Towers of Midnight, the Seanchan and the Aiel seemed less and less frequently to use those patterns of speech that set them apart as foreigners, and there was an over-abundance of similes that kept drawing me off the page. All in all though, when the Trollocs flooded south, when the Forsaken started pulling those final strings, when M’Hael took Logain and Gawyn put on the rings, when Mat suggested Galad leave men with quarterstaffs to others, when Egwene countered balefire and fell from the pattern in a blaze of glory, when Rand nearly bit off more than he could chew, when Perrin sniffed out Faile and when Lan defeated Demandred once and for all, I was right there with them, cheering them on, shedding tears (in a manly way), and grieving for those lost.
I don’t imagine I will ever become so fond of a character, or characters, again. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve, Thom, Moiraine, Lan, Min, Elayne, Aviendha, Loial, Gaul, Rhuarc, Logain. The list just goes on and on. I’m quite sad that I won’t ever get to read it for the first time again.