I wasn’t going to do an introductory post to this series because honestly, I’m still not sure I will read the whole thing. But, then I began an outline for the reviews of the two books I’ve read so far, and it just got out of hand. It’s for the best; no one wants to read a 10K book review.
THE WHEEL OF TIME SERIES
The Wheel of Time Series is a legendary, iconic, fantasy series, spanning fourteen books published between the years 1990 and 2013. It was written by Robert Jordan. Unfortunately, Jordan was diagnosed with a terminal illness and passed away in 2007. Before his death, he composed detailed notes and outlines about how the series would end. Brandon Sanderson, another acclaimed fantasy author, complete the last three books. Fans seem to be in (somewhat) agreement that he did a good job and that the series came to a satisfying conclusion.
It’s described as High Fantasy in the tradition of J.R.R Tolkien, meaning that the worldbuilding is detailed and intricate, filled with mythology, languages, political fractions and history. This is not an easy read. If you’re new to fantasy and want to dip your toes into the genre, you might want to start with something a little easier to complete.
The Wheel of Time Series consists of close to twelve-thousand pages and roughly four and a half million words. If you choose to take on the series by audiobook, it will take you almost twenty days in total to listen to the entire series.
(There is a standalone prequel to the series, but from what I’ve been able to tell, the general recommendation is that you don’t read it until you’ve completed at least book ten to avoid spoilers.)
The series takes place in an unnamed, medieval(ish) world filled with magic, political intrigue, a complicated history, several cultures, and races. The world is complex and deals with concepts of physics, parallel universe, and the movement of time.
The world has two central concepts: The Wheel of Time which represents the passing of time; time moves in circles, and things are destined to repeat themselves. The Pattern is a combination of people’s destinies and the physical world; everyone has a place and purpose, and The Pattern controls it all. (This explanation is, as you can imagine, extremely simplified.)
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” Robert Jordan
These two concepts form the basis of a battle between good and evil that repeats itself. There have been multiple battles, multiple manifestations of the characters prophecized to partake in them, but there has never been a definitive conclusion.
When you enter the story, the prelude to that battle is about to start again. It follows a large cast of characters who all have predestined roles to play. The series has a central protagonist but that person, by no means, carries the whole story. This is an adventure story, but it’s as much a coming of age story. The series starts out relatively light in tone, but as you progress through the series the themes become more intricate, and the mood darkens.
One thing that is often pointed out about the world is the reversed gender roles. As a woman, I can’t say that I find them reversed, and I don’t find the portrayal of the female characters groundbreaking in any way, even considering the series age. However, there are many women in positions of power, and there is an interesting explanation for the matriarchal power structure that controls some aspects of the world.
Before I started reading, I did some research; if I’m going to commit to a book series spanning twelve thousand pages, I want at least a hint that A. it’s worth it and B. the end won’t be an enormous disappointment.
The most common advice I came across was to read the series in installments of three, so, book 1-3, break, book 4-6, break and so on; I think I’ll stick to that advice.
With series this detailed and lengthy, there is a real chance you’ll burn yourself out and abandon the series if you try to tackle it all at once.
The Wheel of Time is one of many fantasy series that suffers from ugly book syndrome. It seems as if publishing houses generally believe that fantasy books should have horrendous cover art. The number of book covers with youths in half undone shirts and fur lined, knee-high boots are staggering. Unless the protagonist is a magician; then there’s hoods, and robes, preferably billowing ones. Also swords, so many swords.
I mean, look at this:
This is, of course, my personal opinion, but if you open Google and type: “Fantasy books; why are the covers so ugly?” you’ll see I’m not alone.
I did find one edition I didn’t hate; so far I own the first five books of Orbits 2014 UK Paperback Edition. This series has a standard size for all books, and the covers are simple and uniform, with a color variant for each book. The spines are uniform as well and form a pattern when you own the complete series. It’s priced as an average paperback at around eight British pounds. This is the UK edition, and it’s easily available on amazon.co.uk. I bought my copies at a Swedish retailer.
If you live in the US and don’t want to try and find the UK edition, the least ugly US edition (in my opinion) is the Tor Fantasy Large Paperback Edition; it appears to be readily available at stores like Barnes & Noble. There’s still half open shirts and other fantasy cliché cover art, but it isn’t garish. Each separate book has a nice color variant, and they’re the same size.
I listen to the books on my Audible account, the audiobooks are published by Mcmillan Audio. These audiobooks are PRICEY, one book will set you back from around forty up to sixty dollars regardless of your chosen retailer. If you plan to buy the audiobooks either try to get them second-hand or get a subscription with Audible (or any other service that provides a better deal than sixty dollars per book).
This series has two narrators, Kate Reading & Michael Kramer. The switch between them is fluid and makes sense since the books follow serval POV’s, male and female. Michael Kramer narrates the male POV’s and Kate Reading the female ones. When you first come across the female narrator, it can surprise you somewhat, but as I got further into the book, I found it very helpful to have a change of voice and tone since the books are very long, spanning from twenty odd hours up to over forty.
I enjoyed both narrators, but I was initially a little thrown by their accents. Contrary to most High Fantasy I’ve listened to, always read in a British accent, this narration is in an American accent. It really makes no difference, and my initial reaction was based purely on a subconscious expectation that High Fantasy is read by a posh Brit.
The audio quality is decent. I do think the sound is a bit boxy, but I’m a snob when it comes to audio quality and to be fair the recording is thirteen years old.
ONE LAST THING
I’m not a hundred percent sold on this series. The first book was a frustrating struggle, but I saw the potential between the lines, so I completed it. I devoured the second book, and coming into the third book I believe it has the potential to live up to the praise. However, I honestly don’t recommend you begin your journey into fantasy with this series. This is a difficult, frustrating read on many planes; it’s a good read, but challenging. The author is wordy, sometimes to the point of being annoying, the worldbuilding extreme and the pacing and character development agonizingly slow.
I don’t know if I’ll reach the end of this series. It’s undoubtedly epic both in size and style, and I will give it my best effort, but I’m not convinced this is the masterpiece people claim it is, not yet. I hope I’m wrong.
Update June 2018: Unfortunately, I was right. Obviously, it all comes down to personal taste but I’ve now read and reviewed three books in this series. I tried my best, tried really hard to like it, I wanted to like it. I wanted to love it, but I’m not enjoying the series. Not enjoying as in, I spent the better part of the third book rooting for the antagonist. I will not continue reading this series. I give a fairly detailed explanation why I’m giving up on the series in my review of the third book: The Dragon Reborn, if you’re interested you can find a link to that post below.
BOOKS I’VE REVIEWED IN THIS SERIES
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