I’d heard the warnings. “Beware the middle!” they exclaimed. But I’d enjoyed the first few books so much, perhaps they were wrong?
Nope. They were right.
I’ve been tremendously impressed with Wheel of Time thus far, and I’ve written a fair amount about books 1-5. Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve even written about how Robert Jordan does an excellent job of maintaining tension throughout, which seems particularly funny given this book.
Here, I almost clawed my eyes out.
I mean, I came really close to reading the Wikipedia summary instead of finishing the book.
Here’s the short version: This book is a thousand pages of repetitive nonsense.
I’ll try to be more fair, as for the last few days I’ve been sitting with my thoughts and trying to understand how this book has a four star rating on goodreads. Even given selection bias, that’s just ridiculous.
It seems like the consensus is this: pretty much everyone can agree this book lacks almost any action. It’s almost entirely character development and moving people from one place on the map to another to prepare for future stories. Those who love the book love the character development aspects and love the depth of the world.
I can respect that. Character development and worldbuilding are both great.
But by themselves, they do not make a story.
The way I look at it, there are two ways to evaluate this book. The first is as part of the larger Wheel of Time series, as one entry among fourteen. Most of the positive reviews seem to take this tack, arguing that the character building present here result in a more dramatic payoff down the road.
But I disagree. I believe that if you write a book, you need to tell a complete story within, even if it is just one part of a series. The arcs need to close, even if there are a few open loops. Nothing like that happens here. As a story, Lord of Chaos is horrible.
I would also argue that great character building doesn’t require a thousand pages. Same with great worldbuilding. The best writers can give us powerful characters and worlds through small glimpses, not pages and pages of exposition.
I’m a completionist, though, so I’ll keep slogging forward, even though I know I’m in for more of the same.