Monday, September 23, 2013

Retrospective Conclusion - The Wheel of Time

This is the 19th and final part of my continuing series of blogs regarding what may possibly be my last re-read of The Wheel of Time, coinciding with the release of the final book in 2013. Please see this blog post for an overview of the re-read and why I am blogging about it. Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. The best way to approach this retrospective is via your own re-read. If you have not read the entire series yet, you may want to wait on reading this.




Retrospective Conclusion
So here we go, my first retrospective conclusion.  Took me over 2 years to get here, but I finally made it.  For these conclusions, I figured I'd do a few things.  First, I'll do a couple of lists.  These are always fun and ripe for discussion.  Then I'll provide some references around the web for all your Wheel of Time needs.  Finally, closing thoughts... of which I don't really have much, everything I had to say was said in the previous 20 (if you count the A Memory of Light reaction) blog posts on the series.

The Lists

Book Rankings (Vol)
The Shadow Rising (4)
A Memory of Light (14)
The Dragon Reborn (3)
Lord of Chaos (6)
The Fires of Heaven (5)
Towers of Midnight (13)
The Eye of the World (1)
The Gathering Storm (12)
The Great Hunt (2)
Knife of Dreams (11)
The Path of Daggers (8)
A Crown of Swords (7)
Winter's Heart (9)
Crossroads of Twilight (10)

Analysis:

The Shadow Rising will always be my favorite.  As good as A Memory of Light was, it would have not dethroned TSR.  That book is where everything blows open wide, the story becomes very complex and our first real glimpses of the Age of Legends appear, illustrating the true scope of the story.  A Memory of Light gets second place because of its epicness.

Before the series finished, Books 1-6 were generally the best in the series for me.  Now that it has been completed, however, Books 12-14 have been inserted between them.  Sanderson did a great job and jumpstarted the flagging storyline, taking us into the last lap for a superb finish.

While I understand the purpose of Books 7-10 in the overall storyline, and Book 8 is pretty decent in retrospect, I feel Jordan let the story get away from him a bit and he lost his focus on the audience during that 4-book stretch.  It's one thing to tell the story the way you want to tell it, but it's another to tell it in a way that people will want to read.  There has to be a compromise there.  It's easier to deal with now that the series is complete, but back in the day, it was a hellish 9-year stretch of waiting and grumbling.


Favorite Scenes / Moments
In order of my most favorite.

- Dumai's Wells
- Demandred's reveal at the Last Battle
- Rand in the columns at Rhuidean
- Rescue of Moiraine from the Tower of Ghenjei
- Olver blowing the Horn of Valere
- Mat's first journey into the Tower of Ghenjei
- Nynaeve Heals stilling / gentling
- Seanchan attack on the White Tower
- Perrin forges Mah'alleinir
- Egwene's sacrifice at the Last Battle
- Aviendha's second trip through the columns at Rhuidean
- The Cleansing of saidin
- Rand taking Callandor
- Egwene defeating Mesaana 

Dumai's Wells gets the top spot because it was truly the first time the existing power in the land (Aes Sedai) were broken.  The White Tower had split, of course, and Rand had take the Stone of Tear and brought the Aiel into the land, but the Aes Sedai still tentatively maintained their power and authority all throughout that time, even with the split.  But with Dumai's Wells, the first Aes Sedai swear to the Dragon Reborn and as the end of the last chapter in Lord of Chaos says:
The first nine Aes Sedai swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn, and the world was changed forever.
One of my favorite lines in the entire series.  I get chills every time I read it.

For the other top ones:

Demandred's reveal is simply awesome.  As someone who didn't read many theories online in the last 10-15 years, it was a complete surprise to me.  Rand's trip through the columns at Rhuidean is arguably the best sequence in the entire series.  As mentioned in the post for The Shadow Rising, many (including myself) consider it Jordan's best work.

Moiraine's rescue is up there because it was an event we'd been waiting for for a long time, it didn't disappoint and there were some great moments (Noal's sacrifice, the secret of Mat's ashandarei).  And, of course, Olver blowing the Horn of Valere and the return of Noal as a Hero of the Horn brought tears to my eyes.  It was great to see that Olver made a difference in the end.

Character Groupings
There are only a handful of characters I dislike in the series... you'll find them at the bottom of my character "rankings," which instead of being numbered or ranked will simply be grouped into categories.

I will say that my favorite character is Lan.  If you've read the entire series yet don't understand why, then I don't know what to tell you.  Mat used to be my favorite, but his relationship with the Seanchan got a little too weird in the end for me.

So here are my groupings based on each character's overall arc and fate in the story, listed alphabetically in each group.  If a character isn't listed, I didn't care about them enough to bother grouping them.

Cool
- Asmodean
- Aviendha
- Birgitte Silverbow
- Demandred
- Egwene al'Vere
- Lan Mandragoran
- Loial
- Min Farshaw
- Moiraine Damodred
- Olver
- Rand al'Thor
- Thom Merrilin
- Verin Mathwin

Okay
- Faile Bashere
- Fain / Ordeith / Mordeth / Shaisam / too many names
- Galad Damodred
- Gareth Bryne
- Graendal
- Ishamael / Moridin
- Logain Ablar
- Mat Cauthon
- Mazrim Taim
- Nynaeve al'Meara
- Siuan Sanche
- Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag

Annoying
- Cadsuane Melaidhrin
- Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan
- Elayne Trakand
- Gawyn Trakand
- Lanfear
- Moghedien
- Perrin Aybara
- Slayer / Luc

The James O. Rigney Papers
After Jordan's death, Harriet McDougall (for the thousandth time, Jordan's widow and editor, stop asking!) donated his papers and various effects to the College of Charleston, where they will be processed and made available for students and researchers.  These include drafts of the WoT novels, along with notes and drafts / materials for the other novels he wrote prior to WoT.

As they are being processed, occasionally someone at the College will blog about a particular item, and most of them are quite fascinating.  You can visit the blog here.

There's one letter he wrote to Bantam, asking for a signed copy of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  Another letter asks Tom Doherty (President of Tor) not to force the title of "The Lord of Chaos" on the 6th book of WoT.

It's fascinating stuff, I only wish they would post more of it in the blog.  Maybe someday I can visit it after it's been processed.  Charleston is a city I've wanted to visit for a long time anyway.

WoT Resources
If you've actually read through my blogs, you'll note that I reference many different sites throughout.  When the internet began to truly blossom in the late 90's, WoT fansites were popping up everywhere.  I don't know if this is true anymore, but at the time there were more fansites for WoT than any other fiction work (even LotR).  Many don't exist anymore (like Wotmania).  But quite a few still do.  Here's a list of the ones I find most useful today and feel are worth visiting:
  • Encyclopaedia WOT = This one is in need of a serious design overhaul, but it's my #1 go-to reference if I can't remember specific details or what happens when.  They are taking a while to get it updated for A Memory of Light, though.
  • Dragonmount = Clearly the biggest and most popular community.  Jordan essentially sanctioned it as the official site of the series when he put his blog on there.  If you want to chat about the series in a forum, this is probably the best place to do that.
  • Wheel of Time Wiki = A newer site in the popular wiki format you see on Wikipedia, etc.  Good resources for pictures / fan art.  Not entirely complete, but getting there.
  • Theoryland = A great resource for all interviews and Q&As with Jordan and Sanderson.  Also a lot of theories, which I didn't really read until after the series was over.
  • The Thirteenth Depository = An extremely insightful and detailed blog that analyzes every nook and cranny of the series.  Hardcore fans only.
  • Composite Glossary = All the entries from every book glossary combined in one place.
There are many more, of course... check here for a nice listing of additional sites.

The Official Encyclopedia
Now, technically this isn't all finished.  Harriet and Team Jordan are putting together an official, be-all-end-all encyclopedia for The Wheel of Time.  It's supposedly going to have everything we'd ever want to know about the world, drawn from Jordan's copious notes.

When that's coming out, I have no idea.  Last I heard it would be 2014 sometime.  Either way, I will buy it when it comes out.  And I'll most likely do a blog entry about it, to review it if nothing else.  So stay tuned.  But for now, this Retrospective is done.

So, once again: thank you, Robert Jordan, for creating this world.  It's been a fun ride.


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2 comments:

  1. Hey, this is Gary, creator of EWoT. I happened to google for EWoT today and this page came up. You'll be glad to know that Bob and I are coordinating work to get AMoL done.
    I agree wholeheartedly that the site needs an overhaul, which is why I've been working on one. Take a look at http://encyclopaedia-wot.org/2/index.html. The first few books are done, but not much more, yet. A work in progress.

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    1. Hey Gary, thanks for stopping by... the new design is looking good, thanks for letting me know. It's a great reference, it provides a good balance between chapter and individual character summary. I've been using it ever since it's been up... nice to see it get an upgrade.

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