The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
For a very, very long time this series has intimidated the hell out of me. I first started hearing about it sometime in the late 1990s. At that time there were seven or eight books out (less than the fourteen that finalized the series), but I was scared as hell because they are DOORSTOPPERS, and there was NO END in sight. I worried that the series would never end. I worried that it’d suck and I’d be stuck reading thousands of pages of books that I hated (this was back in my MUST FINISH EVERYTHING stage of life). But most of all, I worried that I’d love it and be stuck waiting forever for the end (also back in my no-bigger-than-a-trilogy stage with a few exceptions). So I put it off, waiting for the right moment. I’ve had this book on my to-read shelf for nearly 2 decades.
Honestly, I’m glad I waited. I’m not sure 15-year-old me would have appreciated this in quite the same way that adult-me does. Even though I thought I knew it all and read far beyond my age at the time, I know there are ideas and concepts that just wouldn’t have held the gravitas that they do now. I wouldn’t have missed them because they’d have flown right over my young head, but it wouldn’t have been the same experience.
I still should have read them long before now, but by that time the length of the series started to intimidate me for a whole other reason. It is SO LONG. Good gods, we’re talking over ELEVEN THOUSAND pages in total. Eleven thousand. That’s an epic story if ever there was one.
Thankfully, I have some friends that praise the hell out of this series and finally convinced me to pick up the first book and start my journey.
This last month while reading this book has been one of the best book experiences of my life. I’m not sure I can do a review justice, which is probably why I’ve spent so much time talking about my journey to this book. What I can, definitively, say is that it is very worth it. Maybe a bullet-review will help…
**The World: I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read my fair share of fantasy, even. I’ve never, never entered a world that is so intricate, well-built, and detailed as this one. One book and we’ve already seen and learned so much of it, but I feel like we’ve barely touched the surface. Not only is there a vast amount of geography to cover, there’s a ton of cultures, races, species, and magic. The history here is so intricate that I have a hard time imagining Robert Jordan being able to keep it all straight, but he does, beautifully in this first installment. I never floundered over what or who something was, never felt like I was reading info-dumps of information, and was always glued to the pages to learn more, more, MORE.
**The Characters: I tried, the other day, to say my favorite character and ended up with a list of about fifteen. There’s such diversity and complexity to the characters that I can’t help but be interested in almost everyone that I meet. I’m rooting for them, worried for them, and hoping that I get to see a lot more of each of them (with 11,000 pages, I should certainly see a bunch of some of them).
**The Prose: This writing. Holy shit. It’s lyrical and beautiful, sparse and pointed. It’s everything it needs to be in every place it needs to be it. There are some passages that are so arresting I had to stop and re-read them several times before I could even move on. Not only is the prose gorgeous, but the writing itself is tight. You’d be forgiven for thinking that such a long book has some (large) amount of fluff, but you wouldn’t be right. There’s nothing extra here, just what’s needed, and it makes the book fly by. Hell, when a story within the story, Manetheren, makes me cry, you know this is good stuff.
**The Plot/Pacing: All I can say here is that I never wanted to put it down. I always resented work, sleep and my commute for getting in the way of my continuing this story. The pacing is spot-on, the plot is amazingly suspenseful, and in the end it’s everything I could have hoped for.
That’s all I’ve got. The rest is fangirl squeeing, and incoherent muttering about how fucking amazing this book is.
Now excuse me, I have to go start The Great Hunt.