Over 4.4 million words
Over 100 POV characters.
There’s no doubt that Wheel of Time puts the “epic” in epic fantasy. I began reading the series as part of NPRs top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books of all time. I spent two years working my way through that list, and read the first three books of WoT as part of that, enjoying them a fair amount. I pledged to myself that I would eventually return to the series, and in 2018, I made it my goal to read the rest of the books. I completed my challenge, and finally have the space to think and write about the experience.
Perhaps more than any other emotion, I am astounded. As an avid fantasy reader, I’m no stranger to worldbuilding, but Jordan’s work feels to me like it is a step beyond anything else I’ve ever encountered, including Tolkien and Martin. WoT has both breadth and depth, and although I probably will never read the series again, it feels to me like one that will reward readers with multiple read-throughs.
But the worldbuilding has been mentioned often enough. The aspect of the books that still resonates with me, weeks after reading, is how the story of good versus evil has perhaps never been done quite so well.
I know that in my own writing, I try desperately hard to avoid the simple good vs. evil. Most of the modern writing I encounter does. We prefer complexity, where competing valid viewpoints strive for dominance.
But WoT, at its core, is about good and evil, light and dark. But it manages to be that without overly simplistic storylines. Both light and dark feature complex, interesting characters with varied motivations. Nowhere is this better represented than in Rand’s character and the slow transitions he works his way through throughout the series.
I left this series tremendously pleased. I made no secret of the fact that I really disliked books 8-10, and I think I still stand by my argument. When considered as a whole, yes, the books are necessary and tell important parts of the story. But as a writer (and avid reader), books are also commercial units. It’s my belief that each should contain at least some complete arcs. I know that plenty of people will disagree, but it’s definitely my personal preference. Had there not been such an overwhelming number of people telling me to stick it out, I absolutely would have quit the series right before it returned to glory.
But at the end, I am tremendously thankful to have read this series. Jordan deserves an enormous amount of credit, and I’m extremely grateful to Sanderson for finishing the series – somehow managing to give everyone a conclusion and role to play in the finale. It’s a staggering achievement.
Now for 2019: Malazan.