I spent the summer of 1996 camping in various places in the Targhee and Gallatin national forests while working in West Yellowstone Montana. My average day included going to work, then fishing until I caught dinner, then relaxing with a book until bedtime.
At some point during that summer I decided I needed to start reading a good multi-volume epic fantasy. I am very picky about writing styles. I spent over an hour in the little book shop in West Yellowstone reading through several first pages and judging many books by their cover.
So it was that I found myself purchasing Robert Jordan’s The Eye of The World.
The first few books in The Wheel of Time series, imprinted a few important truisms on my mind. While I did enjoy the characters and story, I always felt like there was no re-readability to them. Another impression was how vast this world could be; I imagined all sorts of side stories and novels unrelated to the main series, the world was that rich to me. And, lastly, I’ll never forget the most powerful impression from those early books. Call it inspiration, or something else, I don’t know, all I can say about it is that I knew that Robert Jordan would die long before the main series could come to a natural end.
To be honest though, the series had all ready died for me. By the time book nine had finally been released, Jordan had started cluttering the stories with long prologues that never added anything new or interesting, often times focusing on enemy plots. Not a single one of which progressed the story or contained anything the reader would need to know to clarify something in the story proper.
When I managed to trudge through those prologues, I realized quickly that now the first several chapters were just repeating what had happened in the previous books. By the time I reached the point in the book that the reader was all caught up and the story moving forward, I would notice the pages were opened half way through the book.
That frustrated me. And to top it all off, there was no Matrim Cauthon. His story had ended with a major cliff-hanger and he wasn’t even in the next two books.
It was then, I decided to stop reading the series. I figured I’d takeoff from there once, if ever, the series was completed. I don’t even remember reading the rest of Winter’s Heart. I may have simply put it down and walked away, never again waiting years to be disappointed by Robert Jordan. It was the last Wheel of Time book I ever purchased.
When did I buy Elantris? I do not even remember. I do recall, that I had exhausted all interesting fantasy series’ available at the time, and that Brandon Sanderson had only the one book published. I bought it at a book store, though as I try to remember when or where, using the publication dates, the memory escapes me.
I loved Elantris. It was so refreshing, and I enjoyed Sanderson’s style. The book became an instant favorite for me, and I hoped the author would not be another one-hit-wonder which is so prevalent in the fantasy genre. It is a book I have read twice, and will read again, yes, I consider it re-readable.
Like many wheel of time fans, I was devastated when my premonition of his dead came to pass. Although the publisher did attempt to pacify our worries of a truly unfinished story with statements declaring Jordan had left behind extensive notes, I was apprehensive none-the-less. I honestly had no hope until the announcement came that Brandon Sanderson had been selected to finish the work.
Still, I never reread the first nine books or made any attempt to finish reading the series. I simply had no desire to reread Jordan’s books. Also, I had lost everything I owned in a bad winter, and replacing all The Wheel of Time books at once was too much of an undesired expense.
So it was that I found myself at the end of 2016 still unaware of the fate of some of my most loved and cherished characters from one of the richest fantasy worlds I had ever adored. It had been almost four full years since the end of the series was published, and over nine years since Robert Jordan had passed away, and about 19 years since I had last read from any of The Wheel of Time books.
It was time. An opportunity arose in December of 2016 to borrow the audio book versions of the entire series. I took it. With a great deal of trepidation, I started the audio book series from the beginning with the intention of finally completing it.
I have mentioned the re-readable aspect of these books before, and should clarify at this time. I consider some books non-re-readable for a myriad of reasons. Some are just written bad, others aren’t interesting enough to reread. There are, however, two series’ that I thoroughly enjoyed that I consider non-re-readable: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Why? Well, because I memorized them the first time. That’s the simplest straight forward answer I can give. In the case of these two series’, it isn’t a bad thing to not be re-readable.
I could expand of course, and shall try a bit. Robert Jordan’s writing style is very simple and easy on the mind. His story is gentle and leaves just the right amount of the reader’s imagination, not to fill in blanks, but to… coauthor. As a coauthor, I know the story and remember it. I cannot think to myself, ‘oh, I should reread that book,’ because I remember all of it. Over 20 years had passed since I read the words that make The Eye of The World, yet as I listened to Kate Reading and Michael Kramer, I often found myself quoting Jordan verbatim before they spoke. There wasn’t much, if anything that I had forgotten in those long years.
Egwene’s story is the most heart wrenching of the series. Even though I had not read past the ninth book in the series, I had read, since the publication of A Memory of Light, online fan pages and character synopses. So, I already knew what was going to happen, just not the words used, or the exact place in the story. I can say that Egwene’s death was a major reason I put off reading the series for so long.
As the end of what I had all ready read drew closer, my trepidation grew unbearable. Knowing Egwene’s fate, and being in the process of rehashing her accomplishments thus far, just tore me apart inside and I totally broke down. I had to stop listening everyday, and relegated the audio readings to the one night a week I spend at my other job. In between those nights, I had to cast out all thought of The Wheel of Time.
That distancing worked. It only took a few weeks before I started slipping the audio reading back into my daily life, a couple hours there, a few here. It was much like the time I would have spent reading a book anyway. By the time Jordan’s last book, Knife of Dreams, had ended, I was able to start Sanderson’s The Gathering Storm immediately, without any trepidation at all. In fact, I even looked forward to Sanderson’s turn.
I finished A Memory of Light last night right at my normal bed time. I did not like Sanderson’s ending, but I did enjoy much of the final epilogue, which as it turns out, was written by Robert Jordan himself, for the most part. I could tell the difference, but I’ll get into that next time.
Robert Jordan is gone now. The Wheel of Time series has ended. I feel like I have a huge hole in my heart. The past several weeks has been an emotional roller coaster. I’m not glad it’s over. For now that will have to do. Next time I’d like to compare Jordan’s portion of the story with Sanderson’s and offer my own take.