Most helpful critical review
An Ok History Book
on December 27, 2003
This is a nice, big illustrated coffee-table book that gives background on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time fantasy series.
It's not that bad. However, since the series is ongoing, it doesn't focus on characters or plot details, so it aint much help in clearing up questions about the series. The most revealing thing you'll get is the occasional picture of a main character. Instead, the book heavily focuses on providing a history of the fantasy world depicted in the series. In this regard, the book breaks new ground by covering the events before and after the Breaking of the World, pictures of the Seanchan creatures, and hints of what other lands (Sea Folk islands, Shara, Isle of the Madmen) are like. There is also a rather nice section on the Forsaken and Shadow creatures.
The major flaw of the book is that the history can get pretty boring at times. There's a lot of unnecessary repetition and political history. The book doesn't just focus on the political background of kingdoms such as Andor and Illian, but on the long-forgotten kingdoms that preceded them as well. This attempt to make the land more complex just falls flat. Mantheron, once hailed as a mythic empire, is shown just to be one of dozens of tiny blobs on a map. Even more annoying, while the maps show dozens of lost kingdoms, Malkier is missing in action. Malkier was supposed to have been claimed by the Blight. Yet every map in the book dating back to the Breaking of the World shows the Blight as unchanged. Unless it was a tiny dot the size of Mayene you would think a kingdom that was supposed to intrude up into the Blight would show up.
All in all, despite its flaws, the book is ok. If you're a die-hard Wheel of Time then go for it. But if you're just a casual fan, or are looking for answers to plot details about the series, then don't bother with it. At most, you can pick it up and glance at the pretty pictures while killing time in a bookstore or library.