on August 8, 2002
When the word 'epic' is used, we modern day readers think of 'The Iliad' or 'The Odysey'. Unfortunately, it is becoming fashionable to consider a long book series worthy of the term. Thus, the word 'epic' becomes shortened to mean 'a long series of books'. Dictionary.com defines 'epic' as '(A story), Narrated in a grand style; pertaining to or designating a kind of narrative poem, usually called an heroic poem, in which real or fictitious events, usually the achievements of some hero, are narrated in an elevated style. '
Unfortunately, Robert Jordan's series the Wheel of Time has become an overdrawn and rather mundane collection of books, detailing a group of characters that have ceased to be interesting a few books ago. A long story this may be, but somewhere along the way, the potential for readers to feel that each book and each book matters has faded.
A funny thing happened last year. 'Winter's Heart' came out. I bought it in hardcover, and proceeded to read through it over a period of three months. I was surprised to realize that after five years of being a fan of the series, I just didn't care anymore. Maybe it was the plodding sense of the last few entries into the series, but between the hordes of minor characters, annoying descriptions of every dress every women wears, and the frequent absences of one or more major characters in certain books, I began to wonder why everything seemed so trite.
My review for this book is rather low. I am puzzled as to how other readers can defend Robert Jordan's choice to draw the series out by saying that the series demands patience and maturity. In my opinion, a key benchmark of a good writer is to express themselves in a way that is both entertaining and meaningful to those that read their books. The Wheel of Time has become an unpleasant pass time for me and I empathize with those readers that feel cheated after years of buying these books.
Let's get things straight here. Something very important does happen in this book. But by the time you get to it, there is no attention given to this achievement. Instead, you must sufffer through almost 700+ pages of the usual repetitive descriptions and childish characterizations. A number of inconsistencies can pop up (which is par for the course in WoT these days). For one, if there is a city that is enclosed in a stedding, how is it possible to use the Power at all? Oh, Jordan doesn't really care about that. He circumvents that by introduces yet another new ter'angreal that makes it very convenient for our heroes to succeed in landing themselves in another hackneed scenario. And his characters? He doesn't care about that either, apparently. Cadsuane seems written into the story for the express purpose of knowing everything and having a number of advantages to move the plot along. As for Perrin and Faile? Oh, she was kidnapped in the last book, and while she is gone, he is still worrying about Berelaine.
These characters don't have priorities. It is as simple as that. Forsaken escape, and Egwene doesn't care. After all, she is still consolidating her power. Nynaeve is almost killed by another Forsaken. She doesn't care. She is worried about looking good in front of Lan. Rand is surrounded by enemies? His friends don't care. As they remind us again and again, he is always getting into trouble somehow or another.
At this point, I miss the simplicity the quest had when it was Egwene, Nynaeve, Mat, Perrin, Rand, Lan and Moiraine. Between the shabbily written court intrigue and half-baked machinations of the enemies, the series has become a continuos soap opera that more resembles a romance novel in fantasy clothing than a Tolkien-level work of strong writing. Robert Jordan, to put it bluntly, just doesn't care about turning out quality work, having compromised that for quantity of pages and characters. And it shows.
This books deserves no stars, though as a reader and a writer, I wish another writer would take the reins after book three and redo the series.
on April 6, 2004
It's amazing to see all these one and two star reviews still lingering around this late into the series . . . don't get me wrong I don't say that because I feel those folks don't have a point (they do) but I figured by now, this late in the game, Jordan would have whittled his fanbase down to the diehards. It's a testament to the strength of the early books and the promise that people still see that so many are sticking around to see how it ends, whether it's from honest interest or just morbid curiousity. Reviewing these books is a bit of an odd task these days because I'm mostly writing this to people who have already read the book and want to see if I hated or loved it as much as they did (or conversely, they've given up on the series and want to confirm they made the right decision). Any potential new readers should take these reviews with a grain of salt . . . the series really is very good, but has some serious flaws which may or may not do it in by the time it finishes. Best to wait until it's near the end and then read the whole thing straight through. This novel, book nine in a series that maybe possibly might be a total of twelve books (so he says currently, only time will tell) and unfortunately this tends to follow the same pattern left by the previous couple of books . . . characters tread water for the bulk of the novel and then in the last chapter something important happens. Really, if you were try to summarize the novel through events you'd really only be able to name the last chapter as crucial and after six hundred pages of epic fantasy, I think the reader needs more than that. However, this novel bodes well for the closing sections of the series . . . for one thing, something does actually happen that will make a difference in later books, which is probably more than the last two novels combined. Secondly, Mat returns to action after being totally ignored in the last novel . . . he doesn't do all that much but it's nice to have him back in the story itself . . . although that does come at the cost of losing Perin, who makes an appearance early on and then vanishes with nary a mention again (though to be honest, he's getting less and less interesting as the novel winds on). Jordan remains as readable as ever, his penchant for over-description never bothers me so much since when I sense it's starting to overtake the narrative, I just start skimming . . . chapters really do fly by and I managed to finish the book in only a few hours of reading. A bigger problem is that there are just too many stinkin' characters, cutting the glossary down to bare bones was a terrible idea since Jordan tends to keep exposition to a minimum and some chapters only feature supporting characters, most of whom are just people with funny names talking about stuff I don't understand (it's like visiting a foreign country only we're all speaking the same language) . . . I've found the solution to that, other than getting angry, is to simply go with it . . . the trick here is that very few of the supporting character subplots are really vital to the main story, it's just there to give the reader an idea of what's happening in the world and thus I just simply breeze through it without trying to understand and if it becomes important later by some odd chance, I'll just figure it out then. This highlights yet another problem with the book though . . . the beyond glacial plotting. Rand announces his main goal at the end of the prologue and then proceeds to putz around for the rest of the novel right up until the end. It's the same with the other characters, they fiddle about and then as the novel starts to close stuff starts to happen as if the characters all realize they're running out of space. The problem is that most people are reading because of the main narrative, of Rand getting ready to either save the world or crack it in two . . . and any chapter not dealing with Rand is mostly just taking up space and killing time, ensuring that any steps the plot takes are baby steps toward the end. Awash in characters not doing anything too important, most readers just stop caring. On the plus side, the male-female politics are toned down a bit to a more reasonable level (though Rand manages to achieve the ultimate male fantasy, it stretches credibility a bit, but hey he is the Dragon Reborn) so at least the characters aren't as annoying as they were threatening to become. What the novel (and the series at this point) is missing, I think, is a sense of momentum, what made the early books so fascinating (besides the shock of the new) was that the End felt imminent, that the world was really racing toward the Final Battle and it could happen at any second and time was running out. The series has sort of lost that "running for their lives" aspects of things and has traded it for a more leisurely pace, and yes this allows Jordan to stretch out and show a nice crosssection of a world in turmoil, but at the same time it sacrifices nearly all the drama from before. Even the Forsaken no longer seem scary, once they were terrible and fearsome, now we're not even sure how many there are, and most of their appearances involve them sitting around talking about evil things they might do. If there is anything that brings hope for future books, it's the final chapter, which should have served as a template for the rest of the novel, with a dozen things happening at once, with important things at stake . . . but even then the biggest action seems to happen off-panel and there's still a sense of momentum missing, I liked it but it still felt by the numbers to me. So what's the verdict . . . readable but lacking that pressing sense of "I gotta know what happens next" . . . I bought this when it came out and haven't read it until now, simply because all the urgency is gone, I get to it when I get to it. And while this means I don't get as agitated as some others do when it doesn't live up to my expectations, at the same time, it's clear that something is awry. It's good, solid fantasy, but I really can't recommend people start it until the whole series is finished, lest they be trapped in limbo like the rest of us.
on August 23, 2002
I read all of the Wheel of Time books over the course of seven months. I devoured the first few books in a week or less. But as the series went on, I found it took longer and longer to finish each page, up until 'Winter's Heart', when I had nearly lost interest in the story altogether.
I read 'Eye of the World' in three days. I read 'Winter's Heart' in three months- and that included the parts I skipped because I just didn't care what the minor characters had to say.
Personally, I think Robert Jordan figured out after about book four that people were still buying his books, and so he decided to drag them out as long as possible in order to stretch his fame and fortune.
Between a myriad of annoying, minor characters, page after page of the main enemies thinking about how much they hated each other and the protagonists, endless descriptions of the women's clothes, and constant reminders of how the world of Tel'aran'rhiod works, the story got put into the background.
It's a shame, really. Jordan started out strong, but he seems to have forgotten where he was going.
on March 15, 2004
Well...I'd have to agree with the critics. The first six books of the series were awesome, and I liked the developments in book 7 (Nynaeve's block...etc.). Book 8 was the most horrible creation I've ever had to endure in my life. By book 9 you become very good at...skimming. I mean, seriously, is it necessary to describe it every time Elayne changes her shirt? Just say she's wearing silk. While the story itself is very good, the descriptions makes you want to throw the book out the window. And never see it again. Especially the battle scenes. Ack, those are the worst. Anyway...Jordan needs to work on shortening the descriptions a little bit, and put a few more interesting parts BEFORE THE CLIMAX. If that gets fixed, it will be fine.
on March 2, 2004
The 'action' and 'movement' in this book were just to set up book 10 so RJ could sell a few more copies ala "When we last left our intrepid hero." (Something he's been in the habit of doing since Dumai Wells at least). Knowing what we know now, the story isn't a decology, and faced with the crisis of being caught extending this series ad naseaum and not being able to sell book 11 he rolls out a prequel to prove to us he can still advance a plot. The problem is he won't do too much in book 11 or the series will be done before he dies/book 30 (whichever comes first). Jordan is playing us for suckers. This series is a train wreck and the engineer is still asleep.
on July 4, 2004
Ok, so I'll admit to being one of those who picked up this series after it had begun, yet not long after. When I first began reading, The Dragon Reborn had just been released in Hardcover. So it's been, what, 13 years? I'm looking for some closure. I'm not suggesting quick hits to wrap up the series, but some consistency in releases, without these tangential leaps to prequels or other supplementary information. Personally, while those stories are entertaining, they serve no functional purpose to driving the plotline(s) in the WoT series.
Of course, come Valan Lucas' Menagerie, the story began to lose my interest. I'm at the point now that if the story doesn't demonstrate significant drive to completion, I may opt to buy the books when they hit the bargain racks and not worry about the first editions anymore, abandoning my 13 year pursuit of the first releases. I've waited this long, why not another few months (in perspective) to allow the less costly version to be available?
My fandom began early on, as stated, when a college roommate left his Eye of the World out and I picked it up. I was enthralled by the prologue, and waited eagerly to get my hands on new books. I also served to spread the word and recruit my core group of colleagues and friends, and eventually about 25 new readers were as die hard as I was. Yet that number has dwindled to about 3, most of us opting to apostatize the series in favor of others who seem to have a more finite concept of a storyline. I won't go into detail about that as it is probably a more appropriate topic for another discussion.
To conclude, I appreciate Robert Jordan's contributions to the world of Fantasy writing. However, I'm growing disappointed at the pace at which the story is advancing. Books one through four, amazing. Five and on? Less than amazing. Therefore book nine, Winter's Heart, receives from me a less than amazing rating: three stars.
on January 26, 2004
The Robert Jordan series started off with a bang. I read the first three books in under a week and looked forward to the next books in the series. (At that time I had no idea that Robert Jordan had no idea what he was going to do with his series). I don't remember how many Forsaken were left after the first three books but it seemed like a good number to show up at a great final battle. At this point we had one, maybe two, books to go. Then Jordan plodded on. There were some memorable scenes, but the books were so bad that I don't remember which book had which scene.
But I kept reading. Each book was good to bump off two Forsaken (I think that is the mean number of forsaken dead per book) but Jordan began the habit of brining the dead back to life. And his characters didn't go anywhere- apart from wandering all over his imaginary world. I will give Jordan that he has created an interesting imaginary world. He is obviously so excited about what he had created that he now requires his main characters to tread every last inch of it.
They have too much to go.
I finish the books I begin to read. There are very few that I don't. I have even finished books so that I could give an educated negative review. I was unable to finish Winter's Heart. The book was long and unbearable. And I don't use the word long lightly. A Song of Ice and Fire series by Martin are as heavy in the hand as Jordan, but reading them is exciting and by the end of one you wonder why 700 pages only took a few hours (until you look at the clock, realize that instead of going to bed you will now be getting up and going to work). Neal Stephenson's Cyptomonicon is over 1000 pages and only took me a weekend. Something was wrong with Winter's Heart when I was at it over a week and was only about halfway.
Jordan has succeeded in proving the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy will always increase with time). Jordan's plot has become so spread out as to be unrecognizable from background noise. And I have given him too much of my time. I want it back.
on December 13, 2003
Please stop with the 2 page descriptions of a womans dress or the type of food the character eats!
I am sick of the characters because they are showing no growth through all of the tragedy and experiences they have. The only 2 characters that have really developed since book3 are Rand and Matt.
Jordan wastes your reading time with pages of descriptions and very little story or character dialouge
Sometimes I can't tell the difference between any of the women characters because they all say and think the same thing!!
Whats with every male character acting meek around women? Why is there no difference in thought and attitude between Seanchan,Aes Sedai, Two Rivers and Aiel woman? Where is the variety of character development?
There is way too much repetition of characters thoughts and actions. How many times do we have to be reminded that Nynave has a temper and all men are wool headed and Elayne acts like a princess,Rand wants to protect women and Perrin hates his axe. . .blah. . blah. . .blah.
Do what I do wait a year, buy all of the books used, skim through the pages of repetitive descriptions and finish the sbooks in no time.
on December 2, 2003
The operative word for this book, along with the previous few and apparently the next one is... FINALLY. As in: when is Egwene FINALLY going to get to the White Tower to (hopefully) consolidate her power? And FINALLY Elayne lays claim to the throne of Andor, only to be beseiged by multiple plots and problems. Does any main character in this epic ever just DO anything? Obviously NOT, everything is extremely complicated with gobs of details, most of which should have been left out to move the plot along. Jordan should learn from the movie makers who have taken this art to new highs (or lows: DUNE, 2 hours, come on now).
Thankfully, Jordon does include one significant event at the end of the book. That being, of course the cleansing of Saidin.
I've got a great idea, in the future we can take the significant parts from books 6-10 and combine them into one smaller book. It will make Jordon look like the literary genius he was supposed to be after he wrote the first few of this series.
on October 26, 2003
Robert Jordan's ninth instalment of the Wheel of Time series is a delight to read. Having taken the decision to not read this until the Crossroads of Twilight came out to provide immediate continuity I was instantly reminded (after such a long time away from the books) of the easy familiarity that Jordan provides. Whilst some epic fantasy authors suffer from a sense of vagueness about people and events after the long periods between instalments, not so Jordan.
And so, we find ourselves, in the Winter's Heart, opening with the first ta'varen, Perrin, as he slogs through the snow on his mission to bring the fanatical Masema to Rand and is subsequently diverted south to chase the Shaido sept who have kidnapped Faile, making her gai'shan. We then race across to Caemlyn where Elayne has entered the city as the Daughter-Heir laying her claim to the throne of Andor (backed by Rand) but finding her position precarious and having to survive assassination attempts. In the process Rand turns up and bonds with both her, Min and Aviendha whilst Nynaeve looks on. What Rand has come to do is take Nynaeve and two ter'angreal in order to use the greatest sa-angreal made for both men and women in his attempt to cleanse Saidin of the Dark Lord's taint.
We visit the ageless Cadsuane before the two main themes of the ninth installment take over. We are introduced to the child-like Seanchan, Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons, who arrives in the captured city of Ebou'Dar where Mat is residing under the silken bedchamber chains of Queen Tylin, whilst trying to avoid the gholam who is trying to kill him. Mat spends much of his time plotting to escape Tylin and worrying about the dice that keep rolling when ever he sees Tuon. Eventually, he manages to orchestrate an escape taking with him two Aes Sedai damane and sul-damane amongst others. Meanwhile across the world in Far Madding where the source is untouchable, Rand finds himself hunting down renegade Ashamen before both he and Lan end up barely escaping after encountering Padan Fain. After Cadsuane arrives in the city to assist him the group Travel to Shadar Logoth where he and Nynaeve link to the two sa-angreal to cleanse Saidin of the Dark Lord's taint. Inevitably the epic nature of the magic unleashed draws the Forsaken who end up in private battles with the Cadsuane led Aes Sedai who are protecting Rand but, by the very end as he lies unconscious the awe-struck Ashamen with them realise the taint is gone.
Threaded throughout are the politics and subserviency-based matriarchal society with its WinderFinders, Aes Sedai, Wise Women, Kin et al who struggle to retain ascendancy in a World turned upside down by the Dragon Reborn. Most of the recent books in the series are given over to lengthy social dictates and the sundering of those dictates as an equality is sought and armies converge. Another enthralling episode by Jordan.
What places Jordan amongst the upper tier of fantasy writers (though none of them have the ability, so far, to alter the very nature of their prose style through a book as Tolkien did) is that many fantasy readers put down the final instalment of any great series wishing it never ended.
It looks like Jordan's finally giving the genre's fans precisely that and whilst everyone wants to race towards the climatic denouement you realise that by delaying it, Jordan is keeping the magic of the Wheel of time alive.