Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Wheel of Time Review

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is the greatest epic fantasy series written, and will be embraced that way for decades to come because it is not simply about one hero’s battle against evil, it is the inspirational tale of how to battle evil.

The story centers on Rand al'Thor, a kind, intelligent and responsible youth from a remote farm. Narrowly escaping a brutal raid on his home, Rand learns that the malevolent Dark One is seeking him, and he ventures into the world to save his village and ultimately, to fulfill his prophesied destiny and save the world from destruction.

For Rand is the reincarnation of the most infamous man in history, the man titled the Dragon, who pridefully led mankind against the Dark One in a past Age and brought the curse of insanity upon all men who would use the One Power. As his own innate abilities with the One Power grow, Rand too will eventually go mad and endanger everyone he loves.

Rand travels to faraway cities and through hostile wilderness where he meets dozens of complex and well-realized characters from a wealth of distinct cultures.   The Children of the Light see only another madman to be put down, while the factions of One Power wielding women of the White Tower intend to control Rand or sever him from the One Power forever. Kings and Queens seek to capture Rand, subjugate him, exile him, or follow him. Opposing him, the Dark One’s forces include half-animal Trollocs, eyeless Myrddraal, otherworldly tricksters, and thirteen powerful beings released from an ageless prison, all of whom knew Rand in his previous incarnation as the Dragon.

Only a small group of childhood friends and a handful of dedicated allies can help Rand stave off the forces of the Dark One: Perrin, an apprentice blacksmith whose quiet loyalty is continually tested; Egwene, an ambitious young woman who strains against any limits placed upon her; Mat, a rascal who disregards as many rules as he can; Nynaeve, a wilful healer whose stubbornness is matched only by how much she cares about people; Moiraine, a mysterious sorceress from the White Tower who set aside a fortune and a throne to find Rand; Lan, a warrior king sworn to serve Moiraine and avenge the destruction of his kingdom; Thom, a despondent bard who can't resist helping some boys who are in trouble well over their heads. Some of them develop special abilities of their own which combine familiar myths in original ways.

The Wheel of Time balances the narrative between these heroes and many others, expanding to bring in hundreds of characters, all of whom struggle to control their lives against insidious opponents and the tumultuous forces leading Rand towards his ultimate confrontation with the Dark One. Robert Jordan skilfully intertwines the heroes’ quest to shape their identity with the epic scale of a war that puts all of reality at stake, Even the structure of the series matches the characters’ development, as they come face to face with a world that is stranger and more diverse than they ever imagined.

Men and women are equally prominent in principal roles, each sex certain having abilities which are restricted to the other, relationships between the sexes acting as a pivotal part of the plot. Romances play straightforward roles, and are resolved well before the series conclusion, allowing each character to concentrate on defining themselves instead of being defined by their love life.

Robert Jordan developed wonderfully subtle tools to make his world believable, including a highly structured and understandable magic system, repertoires of lost knowledge, inexplicable magic devices with near limitless variations, and characters that bend the laws of probability. Using these tools deftly and sparingly, resolving problems is almost always a matter of character, not magical ability.  Readers have engagingly filled in the blanks where explanations aren’t presented, crafting elaborate theories based on the pieces secreted in the text. Brandon Sanderson brings the series to a resounding climax, easily maintaining the story’s original themes and successfully capturing the elements that made the series beloved to readers.

Each character’s journey mirrors parts of the others’, and each must face the Dark One’s might in their own way, learning the true nature of evil and how to overcome it. Through their violent thrust into adulthood, their loss and fear, their victory and hope, readers will thrill to the adventures of these heroes. The Wheel of Time is rich and exciting, thought-provoking and engaging, and surpasses other epic fantasy stories by being not only enjoyably rewarding, but by establishing a successful model for how to overcome obstacles in life.

This reader’s life turns with The Wheel of Time.