The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
Thus opens The Wheel of Time series, with its gut-wrenching plot, glittering cast, and brilliant concept. With this series, Robert Jordan captured my imagination as no other author has done in a very long time.
Last year I gave the similar (and ever-popular) Song of Ice and Fire series a try, and while SoIaF is utterly brilliant when it comes to character development it misses something Jordan didn’t.
My main problem with George Martin’s work is the hopelessness. Within a few books you quickly lose sight of the fantastic worlds and characters Martin creates because you’re forced to give up on rooting for anybody or anything. You can’t root for goodness or honesty because it never triumphs. You can’t root for the underdog because he always dies or fails. Not that good always wins, because it doesn’t. However, Song of Ice and Fire is actually unrealistic because it swings the pendulum too far the other way.
A great novel shouldn’t just be about realistically portraying the unfairness and brutality of human reality. It should also offer hope, even if it’s just a glimmer. Because part of what it means to be human is to have the ability to hope.
Hope is what makes a chronological series of events a story that continues to move forward and be something worth remembering. It is the difference between a tale worth rooting for and words on a page. Even if that hope is never realized. Robert Jordan’s world is filled with loss, mistakes, death, and violence; yet, I am compelled to keep turning the pages because there is always hope for another chance, for success after someone fails.
The other thing I love about Robert Jordan’s work, something that sets him apart from other fantasy authors, is the detailed world and philosophy behind his stories. He crafts ideas and concepts from Judaism, Christianity, Hindu mythology, and many others into a fantastic world that deals with its own version of the ever-present battle between good and evil.
Fantasy is an area where it is possible to talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face. In mainstream fiction and even in a good deal of mystery, these things are presented as simply two sides of the same coin. Never really more than a matter of where you happen to be standing. I think quite often it’s hard to tell the difference. I think that quite often you can only find a choice between bad and worse. But I think it’s worth making the effort and I like to expose my characters to that sort of situation” – An interview withCNN
The interesting thing about WoT is Jordan’s concept of time as a wheel. What happened in the past, must and will happen in the future. The creator does not interact with the world but causes, with each turning of the wheel and passing age, the Dragon to be re-born in order to fight the Dark One, the epitome of everything the Creator is not. Sound familiar?
I have intended from the beginning that these books should be a sort of source for all of our legends and myths.” interview with USA Today
In the age of WoT, Rand al’Thor discovers that he is no simple shepherd. He a man who can channel saidin (the tainted, male half of the One Power) in an age when all male channelers go mad and must be killed. And Rand is the dragon reborn, destined to save the world and to die doing it. It’s a thrill ride to say the least.
I can not stress enough how wonderful these books are, totally worth the all-nighters and weeks lost to their pages. So join Rand and his friends as they are woven into (and weave others into) the great pattern of the wheel of time.
Legends are about to be born.