The Wheel of Time – Series Review Part 1

A little less than two-and-a-half years ago, I was wanting read fantasy again. It had been a really long time since I’d cracked open a fantasy novel, and I wasn’t sure where to begin. I knew I wanted something epic, and that led me to three options to consider: The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Stormlight Archive. After thinking about it and asking a few friends their opinions, I opted to start reading The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan as the series had recently been completed. I included a review  of The Eye of the World in a blog post I made in April 2014. To sum up, what I found was a solid, though imperfect, start to the epic series. Now, after almost two-and-a-half years, I’ve finished the fifteenth and final book in the series, and I’m ready to review the series as whole. So let’s get started!

Book 1 – The Eye of the World

Eye of the World

The Eye of the World, Book One of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan. Published by Tor Books.

Three thousand years before the start of The Eye of the World, it was a time of peace and knowledge. Humanity lived in a veritable paradise that later became known as The Age of Legends. During the end of this age, a scientific/magical experiment went wrong and drilled a hole in the prison of the Dark One, the source of chaos and evil in the universe. The Dark One reached through the hole and began to directly affect the world plunging humanity into a bitter war. As hope began to die, a man named Lews Therin Telamon, also known as The Dragon, managed to seal the hole in the Dark One’s prison though imperfectly and at a great cost. The Dark One had corrupted the male half of the One Power, the source of the world’s magic, driving all male channelers (magic users) to madness. In their insanity, the male channelers wreaked havoc, caused chaos, and reshaped the world in what became known as The Breaking. Lews Therin, The Dragon himself, was not immune to the corruption of the male half of the One Power, and, after killing his own family in a fit of madness, he killed himself in an explosion of the One Power. But that was not the end. Prophecy speaks that The Dragon will be reborn when the time is right. When Lews Therin’s imperfect seal on the Dark One’s prison begins to slip, he will return and confront the Dark One in The Last Battle. 3000 years later, male channelers are hunted down, gentled (a term for having their magical abilities stripped away), and often executed by female channelers known as Aes Sedai (pronounced as eyez seh-dye) to prevent their going mad and devastating the world. During this time, young Rand al’Thor lives a peaceful life as a shepherd near the small village of Emond’s Field. He has two close friends, Perrin Aybara and Matrim Cauthon, and it is assumed he will marry the daughter of the mayor, Egwene al’Vere, in the near future. These plans are interrupted by the arrival of Moiraine and Lan, two mysterious strangers seeking a young man Rand’s age. Not far behind Moiraine and Lan are the servant’s of the Dark One. The seal on the Dark One’s prison is failing, and his servants search for the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, The Dragon Reborn, who is the only one who can stop the Dark One from remaking the world into a place of suffering and pain. Rand and his friends must all leave their homes and face their respective destinies if they are to have any hope to stop the Dark One from destroying all that they know and love.

That’s the series premise in a nutshell, and The Eye of the World begins in earnest. From the beginning, Jordan creates well-crafted and developed characters and plops them into a large, dangerous, and fully realized world. The result can disorient new readers, and they’ll all likely be making good use of the glossary included at the back of the book to keep track of various characters, terms, countries, and etc. But the characters, the mysteries, the opening of the world with each turn of the page are enough to keep readers absorbed as Rand, his friends, as well as Moiraine and Lan leave the peaceful Emond’s Field behind to evade the Dark One’s forces. Unfortunately, pacing issues that will plague the rest of the series also begin here, and at times there are several hundred pages where it seems the plot and characters stagnate while Jordan starts weaving numerous plot threads that will continue through the first three books in the series. However, despite the pacing issues, when Jordan finally starts bringing the book to its conclusion, it quickly becomes exciting. The last 150 pages of The Eye of the World are excellent and will easily make you forget about all those pages where it seemed nothing was happening, and it comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.

Book 2 – The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt, Book Two of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan. Published by Tor Books.

The second book in the series, The Great Hunt, begins shortly after The Eye of the World. Rand and his friends have evaded the Dark One’s servants for the time being, but the battles are far from over. A man revealed to be a Darkfriend (a servant of the Dark One) escapes his prison and fixates on Rand. During his escape, he steals two items. The first will have extreme importance at The Last Battle, and the second is tied to the fate of Rand’s friend, Mat, and without it Mat will perish. Feeling a duty to his friend, and a duty to The Last Battle, Rand begins his pursuit of the Darkfriend. He is joined by new companions, including a mysteriously beautiful woman, in his travels across the continent. But when he arrives at Falme along the continent’s western coast, he finds that he must not only confront the Darkfriend, but also an invading army from across the ocean, the Seanchan.

The second book has an explosive beginning, but the pacing issues of the first book also plague this one as Rand slowly makes his way across the continent. New cities and places are visited, new plot threads are woven, and new characters are introduced. Despite the pacing issues, this book is more exciting than its predecessor, and comes to an ending just as explosive as Rand tries to help the save the world and the life of his friend, Mat. Still not perfect, but an exciting read regardless of some slow parts.

Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn


The Dragon Reborn, Book Three of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan. Published by Tor Books.

The burdens of destiny have begun to weigh on Rand al’Thor. He has saved the life of his friend, Mat, and retrieved an item of utmost importance to The Last Battle, but the battle has already begun in his soul. In order to learn if he is the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, The Dragon Reborn, Rand ignores the advice of his friends and companions and sets off alone in a desperate flight to the Stone of Tear on the southern coast of the continent where Callandor, the legendary sword that is not a sword, resides. Callandor can only be wielded by The Dragon Reborn, and Rand seeks it to discover the truth about who he is. His friends, fearing not only for his safety, but also for the fate of the world should he die, pursue him. But they aren’t the only ones chasing Rand, and before him the mysterious Aiel have left their desert homeland in the east to meet him at the Stone of Tear with intentions as enigmatic as their veiled faces.

The third book deviates significantly from the first two. The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt mostly follow Rand,  but The Dragon Reborn mainly follows his childhood friends, Perrin and Mat, who are also learning of their own destinies. While developing the supporting cast is a nice, fresh approach, the pacing is once again not great, and most of the book is spent by the various characters wondering where Rand is. As a result, this book turns into a bit of a repetitive slog. On top of that is the fact Jordan may have written himself into a corner here. He had written of so many prophecies of the Dragon Reborn in the previous books that fulfilling all of the prophecies becomes a bit of a chore for readers. Still, it isn’t as bad as some of the books that come later in the series and comes to another explosive ending that again makes reading through the slower parts of the book worthwhile.

That’s enough for this post. I’ll tackle the next three or four books in another post.

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