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Wheel of Time series - Robert Jordan

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Posted by Simon Clay (1st Jan 2001, 19:11)

The "Wheel of Time" is a fantasy series, totalling nine books so far, with more to come. Jordan claims he will be finished by book thirteen. Although each book generally finishes with a major event they are in no way self-contained, but are one story, probably upwards of ten thousand pages long by the end.

There are a fair number of clues (for example, the story of the giants Mosk and Mirk who fought with lances of fire that reached around the world) that the story is set on a future Earth, though the geography has been changed during the Breaking of the World, some three thousand years before the books. The story follows many characters, and doesn't really have a single definable "lead". The man the plot revolves around is Rand Al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, a shepherd who can channel the One Power that drives creation and use it to do magic. Unfortunately, during the last battle with the Dark One, the male half of the One Power became tainted, dooming all male Channellers to a wasting sickness, madness and death.

As the story progresses, Rand faces more and more challenges. Many people have read one or another of the Prophecies of the Dragon, and most of them seek to control him for their own ends. The Prophecies are vague and often contradictory, but all seem to agree that he'll die, win or lose. Various disgruntled dispossessed nobles seek to destroy him out of revenge. His army of male Channellers are loyal to his second in command, who may or may not be loyal to him. A previous incarnation of himself, Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon, sets up housekeeping in Rand's head. The question remains unanswered, both to Rand and us: Is it paranoia when they really are out to get him, or is he going mad and hearing voices?

As you would expect in a work of this length, it is enormously complex. It is rare that a problem arises and is defeated. They usually trail on for a few books, spawning complexities as they go. Sometimes it becomes very hard to follow all the details, which makes it worth acquiring the Wheel of Time FAQ, an unofficial but thorough (2MB or so) guide to all that goes on in the world. It includes such things as all of the prophecies and prophetic dreams in one place, and whether or not they've been fulfilled or even understood. Obviously, the whole thing is one enormous spoiler for all the books (it hasn't been updated for book 9 yet).

In places, patience is needed to read these books. They tend to be slow to start, but don't start reading the last two hundred pages of any of them if you have anything to do in the next three hours or so. They occasionally suffer from internal inconsistencies (balefire, which destroys its target a few minutes or hours before it hits, being the classic), but surprisingly rarely. The major criticism of the books is the scarcity of genuine trust between characters, and abundance of bloody-minded stubbornness. The Dark One would be back in his prison and the whole thing dealt with if only the Good Guys would talk to each other, or admit "I was wrong" once in a while. Then again, broken balances are the theme of the books. The Aes Sedai (the Channellers) in the pre-Breaking world had the Yin-Yang as their symbol (a circle, split into two teardrop shapes, one black, one white). Post-breaking, the Aes Sedai use the "White Flame of Tar Valon", the white teardrop. The "Dragon's Claw", the black teardrop, is a symbol of evil. The Dragon Reborn marches under the Yin-Yang returned to its original state, balance regained. If he wins.

All in all, the series is well worth the investment of time. If you start reading now, you'll probably finish book nine just as book ten is due out. And if you can come up with a convincing explanation of who killed Asmodean, let me know. It's bugging me.


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- Wheel Of Time: The Eye Of The World

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- Jordan, Robert

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