Postmortem: The Wheel of Time (Spoiler-Free)


It’s over. The Wheel of Time is actually over.

Robert Jordan’s magnum opus. Fifteen books, including the prequel New Spring. 684 chapters. Over 11,000 pages. Four million words. (That’s five King James Bibles put together.) Thousands – literally thousands – of named characters.

The first book, The Eye of the World, came out in 1990. The final one, A Memory of Light, was published January 8 of this year. Twenty-three years from start to finish.

The road hasn’t always been smooth. It’s no secret that the series lost steam around books 7-8. Book 9 was very slow. In book 10, the plot’s momentum practically stopped.

Admittedly, it’s hard to recommend a series with a 3,000-page slump in the middle. A lot of fans lost faith, and who could blame them?

But in book 11, Knife of Dreams, the old Jordan was back. The story got moving again. The end was in sight.

And then – on September 16, 2007 – Robert Jordan died.

He had written the ending already, and left extensive notes. The finale was there, waiting for someone to bring it home. His wife (and editor), Harriet, picked author Brandon Sanderson to finish the job.

It took him three more books, but he did it, and did it well. We didn’t get some half-finished outline or harebrained spinoff. We got the final books of The Wheel of Time.

And a week ago, I finished the last one.

I personally started reading the series around the time book 10 came out, so I’ve been following the story for about a decade. And that’s what it is, at its heart, in spite of its massive, almost overwhelming size: a story. Not some dry history of fictional events. Real characters you could – and did – really care about.

When the series began to drag, a lot of people said Jordan was just in it for the money, that he was cranking out filler for as long as he could. I never believed that. Traveling in the world he created, I could never believe that something so intricate, so beautiful, so painstakingly crafted over a quarter-century, was a work of anything other than love. And now that it’s over, I’m more convinced than ever that I was right.

The Wheel of Time wasn’t huge for the sake of being huge. It was huge because the story, the characters, the world, demanded no less. That was the size of his vision. And I’m lucky to have been a part of it.

Lan, Nynaeve, Elayne, Birgitte, Egwene, Aviendha, Min, Fortuona, Mat, Perrin, Rand: I’ll miss you all. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Tomorrow I’ll post a detailed, spoiler-filled postmortem of the final book. Non-WoT fans, take a coffee break and come back Thursday. 🙂


6 responses to “Postmortem: The Wheel of Time (Spoiler-Free)

  1. Well, that is good news. I read the first one a long time ago (I think there were three books out by then) and didn’t go further. I had a friend who was a fantasy fanatic at that time, and I had asked him for some recommendations since the only fantasy writer I knew about was Tolkien. The books always seemed to demand more commitment than I had available (I have my own fictional universe to try to keep track of 🙂 ), but I’m really glad this one has been wrapped up properly.

    In serial storytelling, that’s often what gets sacrificed. Look how few TV shows have really satisfying endings.

  2. I started reading these as part of a ‘Dragon’ reading assignment in the 8th grade. My misguided brother picked up The Dragon Reborn, thinking it was about Dragon and not knowing that it was the third book in this series. That was a beginning but it was not the beginning, so to speak. Anyway I look forward to tomorrow.

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