Blog Tour Winners / I finished Wheel of Time (Part 1 of many, probably)

27 May

Sorry for the delay, busy busy as always it seems:

Winners for the Witchslayer’s Scion/Mermaid and the Unicorn Gift Cards

Angel’s Guilty Pleasures

Kit’n’Kabookle

Bea Rocca

Anita Yancy

Congratulations to everyone who participated; I have self-published another book this month but I’m going to make a few changes to the back cover. I have more books I could self-publish, and I am going to hire someone to help me edit Underman, but as of right now my plan is to get Titan’s Ascent to Champagne Books soon(ish) and try to enjoy the summer. I will do more books for younger readers, but I feel like I could get burnt out with how poorly our healthcare system is being run, so right now I need to do stuff to try to stay sane.

So after a year and a half of listening to probably 500+ hours off audiobooks, I finally finished Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. To recap, the Wheel of Time is the story of a chosen one fated to save the world, only in this case, he’s fated to go mad and die. It spans fourteen volumes and has multiple POV’s, story threads, and basically takes one aspect of the fantasy genre and runs it hard. It’s one of those Hallmark works of fantasy pretty much everyone’s read.

Except for, up until about a year and a half ago, me.

I do remember one of the guys telling me I should read it when I was working at Pizza Hut, so I was somewhere between the ages of 17-19 when I first made the attempt. Between my senior year of high school and early university I was stupid busy, not to mention I was being super anal about what I was reading because I was an aspiring writer at the time. People were really giving me the gears because they had a very narrow idea as to what fantasy consisted of, so I was trying to avoid anything that was too similar to Tolkien or what people expected for fantasy. Ironically, this is also around the time The Lord of the Rings had their theatrical release, so I wasn’t as gung ho for them as I am now.

I’m really glad I got to revisit this series as a writer, because it goes into world building and is very consistent with its rules. Basically, at the very beginning of the story humans are living in a sort of utopia, but there’s still evil in the world. Humans are able to channel magic, but it’s divided along the lines of gender. The men decide they’re going to lock away the dark one’s influence in the world, but the women decide the plan is foolish. The men somewhat succeed, but their half of the power becomes corrupted, leading any man who channels to go mad. Their leader, a man so powerful with the One Power known as Lews Therin, in his insanity kills his wife and family, realizes he’s plunged the world into darkness and kills himself. Humanity is left picking up the pieces until he’s reborn some three thousand years later, and is destined to cleanse what he did.

The world went from a vaguely higher-tech one to a medieval era matriarchy, where women have taken the lead for the most part on the world stage because they’re the only ones who can safely channel. They’re not immune from the darkness that has enveloped the world, as they’ve lost their ability to do some spells (weaves) and ample knowledge has been lost, and their central tower where women who can channel go to be trained has become fractioned and their original purpose misguided.

And that’s the main part of the world. People treat those who can channel differently in every country, but there are folk who live outside this as well. From the harsh desert-dwelling Aiel to the overseas conquering Seanchan, everyone has their own way of dealing with those who can channel. Oh, and there’s also powers that manifest in ways outside the one power, as well as a dimension of beings who are able to make talismans where magic won’t effect the bearer.

I think depending on the maturity of the reader, it’s fine for an audience around 11+ as there’s intense violence, but it’s not gory. There’s love, but it’s not Smexy. It’s not written in a way that you need to make notes; at first characters can come across as one-bit from their community, but this is a series with a cast of thousands, and while I’m sure super-fans can tell you about some obscure character’s past in some detail, there are characters who you won’t see for books and books and I needed to look up to remember. It’s not all that bad; I’d say there are maybe a dozen principle characters that you need to know; five of which come from The Two Rivers and another three are introduced there too. You get to know them right away but you don’t really get to know the *real* them for several books, because while there’s growth and especially the main character Rand is put through the ringer, they’re put in situations that would not be realistic for people growing up in a small community would have any notions of dealing with it.

What I really liked though is that while it does have a Chosen One story line, the story is also smart enough to build up other characters as being important. Rand for instance, is the reincarnation of Lews Therin and has to make up in this life his mistakes in the one previous. There’s only a handful of other characters who were hinted as to who they were and why they were chosen. If you don’t like plot armor, or even the chances of not only the most powerful male channeler but potentially the most powerful female channeler being born in the same backwater neck of the woods, (I know two characters can bypass her, but still given her track record…) this story may irk you. Rand and two others are Ta’alveran, which basically means they are so intrinsic to the Wheel of Time that the pattern will bend around what they are doing. Also leaving his village are two female channelers, one of which is without a doubt the most powerful one that’s been seen in centuries, and the other is no slouch or even average. Consider the Plot Armor to be divine providence and the story does take time to slow down, and show what normal, and even below average channelers can do, and it makes the story make more sense. I thought some of the best parts of the final book was where we went to the black tower and one of the male channelers has a talent for making portals. Tiny, almost insignificant portals, which normally take a lot of power but most of the others consider him useless. The portals aren’t big enough for anyone to travel, but he can make portals that spells/weaves go into, and the portals reopen behind their caster, making this guy not dangerous by himself, but intensely useful when provoked.

This is taken to its logical conclusion with how different cultures interpret the use of magic. For instance, in Rand’s village, they treat Aes Sedai with suspicion, though it’s shown that their wisdom and other women channel but use it in such light amounts it’s paramount to them getting what they want. They are also somewhat at the mercy of The Children of the Light, a group of Crusaders/Inquistor types who search the land for Dark Friends – those who have sworn themselves to the shadow – and they consider all Aes Sedai Channelers to be Dark Friends.

Taking a step back when they leave the two rivers, they find that different countries treat girls who can channel differently. It’s considered a gift by some and others keep it silent, and the Aes Sedai themselves have a code of conduct that prevents them from using their powers as a weapon. Another step back, you have The Windfinders (sea farers) Aiel and Seanchan. The seanchan are from overseas and conquer, and their ‘solution’ to the problem of women who have power is to chain them and not allow them to channel with the exception of at the command of their handler. These women are treated like animals.

Men on the other hand tend to be hunted down and ‘gentled’. People with the ability can be severed from it, and often times, people kill themselves because they’re cut off from something glorious, and a part of them doesn’t recover. The Aiel on the other hand send their male channelers to go fight monsters in the waste alone, knowing that if they’re mad they can’t hurt anyone who’s not a dark friend.

I’ll probably talk about aspects of the series more in the coming days as there’s plenty to talk about. Overall, I’d say if you’re going to be upset with the magic lines being male/female then this story will irk you again and again, but I think it’s a great read for writers, at least to consider world building. I also think that other writers have no doubt borrowed from the stories, so I think it was ground-breaking for its time, but it’s been around long enough where it’s caused a cultural influence, even if most of us don’t acknowledge it.

Oh, finally I will say that the author died before finishing the series, but Brandon Sanderson was hand-picked to finish the books. This didn’t particularly bother me, but if a change in tone or direction or voice would irk you, it may be a deal breaker. When I started reading the books, at least two people told me they couldn’t finish the series because the voice shifted too much.

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