The Wheel of Time – A book review

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan us a sequence of 15 fantasy books set in a late medieval world.  The series is epic in its scope. The world Jordan is rich and deep. Its mythology is well developed and well seated into the customs of the people. Jordan’s approach to fantasy combines the winding plot of the Lord of the Rings with the politics of the Game of Thrones.

I first read the first book in the sequence, The Wheel of Time, in the late 1990’s after finishing Lord of the Rings. I was bowled over by Jordan;s descriptive prose. Some my find the way he describes everything too laborious but for me the detail was eye opening and made the world more approachable and real.

The charm of Jordan’s work his is characterisation, and what a lot of characters he has. The sequence is one you have to persevere with as it can become difficult to keep track of the lead protagonists as they split up across the continent. Jordan manages to create interesting countries in the world and creatures without resorting to the old fantasy tropes of Orcs and Goblins. Instead the world is threatened by the Dark One with his army of Trollocs and Myrrdraal led by the Forsaken.

The hero is your usual reluctant chosen one predestined to greatness but Jordan spends time developing Rand Al’Thor into a hero and looks at his struggle to become what he must become. He is supported by his local friends and many others he picks up along the way on his journey from simple villager to de facto Emperor of the continent and last hope against the darkness.

Some may think 15 books is a long time for a pay off but each book in itself is like a separate chapter with its own beginning middle and end. Indeed the ending is longer on coming than perhaps intended. Robert Jordan sadly died after writing the Knife of Dreams (Book 11, discounting the Prequel New Spring). He had already started on the last book which he expected to run to several thousand words. The publisher had his notes and his wishes to see it through and so commissioned Brandon Sanderson, a writer in his own right of some stature to finish it off. In doing so they split the last book into 3 further volumes, perhaps this was to do justice to the series or perhaps to stretch the profit.

Like all sword and sorcery fantasy the books contain magic but Jordan employs strict rules and his description of the inner workings of the One power and channelling is intricate and well thought out.

It is apt that I review this series at this moment as it was announced recently that Amazon has commissioned a television series from the books. It is with some trepidation I await this, I am unsure of the approach they will take, I feel it will be done to capitalise on the success of Game of Thrones, but even if it under performs I will still have my original books to read again and again.

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