When an author of a long-running book series passes away and someone else picks up the mantle to complete the series, there is understandably some concern from the fan base. Here you are, committed and eager to see the conclusion of some epic story, and someone else who had no hand in shaping that story, takes over.
For the Wheel of Time series though, Robert Jordan took great pains to document and outline how he saw the conclusion to the series shaping out. He left detailed notes and ideas for that next author to use, and it’s obvious, when reading the last three books in the series, Jordan really worked hard to make make sure the story flowed continuously.
I’ve written before about my long journey with The Wheel of Time series and how I picked it back up after a long hiatus. My main form of WoT consumption these days is through audio books since it’s easier to get through them at work or while plodding around the apartment doing chores. With books 12 and 13 it was no different. And considering that it was read by the same actors as the other audio books, it didn’t feel off or vastly different. It felt comfortable and familiar which was exactly what I was looking for when I started it.
Book 12 really revitalized the series for me. I enjoyed books ten and eleven and was looking forward to Sanderson’s twist on Jordan’s plotting but it really exceeded my cautious expectations. We had some good twists, and a call-back to the earlier books that I hadn’t been expecting but that was much appreciated as a means of tying together plots. It’s nice to see all the books in a series this long tying together, which makes the long trip through them seem worth it. Book 12 felt like the start of something new and exciting, a good beginning to a concluding trilogy of books that need to perform and end what has been a very long and extensive story. Book 13 only continued that sense of continuity.
As a reader of the series, seeing the growth of the main characters has been awesome. To get through as long a series as this, you have to become truly invested in their stories and in their development. It’s not enough to be fascinated by them, you have to care. Comparing where our rag-tag group of world savers has started to where they are now is like looking at a high-speed video of someone’s life. Frame one is them as a small child, you blink, and here they are as adults showing a maturity and strength of character that had previously only been hinted at.
As much a series about fantasy, politics and war, I am finding that the Wheel of Time series is, at its core, a coming of age story. Yeah, I know how that sounds but really. Our main six characters (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Elayne & Nynaeve) are forced to grow in such drastic ways with literally the fate of the world thrust upon them. We read about their struggles, their triumphs, their pain and smiles. We follow them through mistakes and the lessons learned. I found it to be more than just a great fantasy story with magic and strange creatures roaming about. More than the solid mythology and world-building that Jordan had spent so much time creating. It’s a story about people, and how those people adapt and mature. Even the dumb way our Six talk about the opposite sex is, in its own way, endearing. Men are “wool-heads” and woman are manipulators. Their silly viewpoints only emphasize the fact that these are the same kids who so many books ago were tending sheep and stressing over the concerns of a small town. As much as they’ve changed, they are still our characters. The ones we’ve known for eleven books before. (Though I will say that the sexist way men and women think of each other is one of the only lazy feeling tropes the books have.)
I’m not really one for retelling a plot in a review like this. If you want to know details, you can find one of the many wiki pages devoted to it. I for one relied on the WoT Encyclopedia site while listening to the books as a means of keeping track of all the comings and goings. What I am interested in is, why people should read this series at all. Why I found it so compelling that I’ve spent the better part of two years reading it. For all the slow parts, the books that seemed to crawl through their plots, I think the main redeeming quality to the series is that it was all worth it. It all ties together. Events in one book affect events in another and that sort of consistency and forethought is awesome. Especially to someone who aspires to write his own novels and stories.
I’m well into the last book, as I write this, and it is engaging and dramatic. It’s going to be kind of sad to reach the end, I may just go back and skim through book one for the hell of it.