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Long, but definitely not an epic. Not by a long shot.
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.