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My Thoughts on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time

I have a lot to say about this series, and considering that the books total over 4 million words, it makes sense! I've already discussed the individual books in many of my previous monthly "reading watching playing" posts, but I wanted to do an in depth review where I could discuss my thoughts on the series as a whole. 

First, a spoiler free review: I really liked this series! I'd give it, on a whole, an 8/10 overall as a fantasy series. It is one of the best I've read for two reasons: The characters and the world. Every character (and there are a lot!)  is complex, flawed, and unique, but most impressively, grows, changes, and develops substantially over the course of the series.  The second reason is the world: it is so vivid and rich that if you tell me a character is from Ebou Dar I can tell you what they are wearing and the meaning behind it, if she is from Tarabon I know she wears her hair tiny beaded braids and has a thick accent. Even the cities have character, from towering white spires of Tar Valon, to the clean-cut streets of Caemlyn and the marshy docks and fishy smell of Tear. Jordan's descriptions are detailed and transport the reader into this world. 
It's truly an epic story of good and evil, with subtle foreshadowing that pays off in a big way through the series. There are so many interconnected bits and pieces that I know I missed some and will need to reread them eventually to catch everything. There is enough lore and backstory to fuel a hundred fanfics and a substantial fanwiki. I find myself adding WoT references to my daily life (that no one understands...yet!) because it's so often on my mind. It's the kind of story that stays with you when you're done, and honestly, now that I am done, I miss it. 

One point gets taken off for the infamous "slog" during several of the middle books where nothing much happens at all, and for the numerous superfluous descriptions of things like tax law and unimportant nobles. In this, one of Jordan's strengths turns against him. He spends too much time in description and detail, and not enough time moving the plot forward towards the ever-looming Tarmon Gai'don! 

The second point I take off is for...sexism. This point is highly contested in the fandom I know, but the issue can't be ignored. It can be explained and understood and one can still enjoy the series in spite of it, however because the sexist way that the characters act is literally part of the history of the world. At the end of the last age, male magic users (channelers) went insane and destroyed the world, breaking continents, reshaping coastlines, and killing countless people. It threw the entire world into a medieval period and resulted in the automatic killing or gentling (removing the ability to channel) of any man who could use magic. 

In this series, the female characters are almost universally arrogant, nagging, and bull-headed. They pretty much always think that they know best and often abuse the men around them when necessary to get what they want. Because in the past, men destroyed the world! Because men who can channel are a danger to everyone! The men, in turn, often infantilize the women and ignore their wisdom. Because the female channelers are manipulative and power hungry! Because women treat them like crap! So. There is very good in-world reasons for the characters to act sexist toward each other, but it doesn't make it easy to read. There are a few other things I didn't like in same vein such as a certain four-way relationship (teenage fantasy much?) the spankings (no I'm not kidding!) and how little regard women in power have for other women in power. I was often frustrated by this final point, and I feel like it held up the plot unnecessarily many times. 

Overall though, this was a great series. I'm glad that I read it, proud that I finished it, and excited to see it come to life on Amazon Prime next year! 

Now for the fun stuff! 


My favorite Characters

1. Nyneave

I know a lot of people dislike Nyneave, but she is the character I most strongly identify with. She doesn't put up with any shit, she cares deeply to for her friends, and she is absolutely unrelenting in her determination to do good. I love that she can see the absurdity of the politics of the White Tower, I like how she does what needs to be done even if it sucks, and I like that she stands true behind Rand even when he's being horrible and scary. I'm glad that she was one of the ones standing behind him at Tarmon Gai'don and I'm glad that she got a happy ending. I even like that she's flawed, that she can be stubborn and naggy and shouts when she's upset. Her passion and pride aren't always assets, but then, neither are mine. 

2. Moraine

Basically the Gandalf/Merlin/Dumbledore character of the series, but with a twist--the chose one didn't know that was her role until it was too late and she sacrificed herself for him. Her "death" was well foreshadowed and I wasn't shocked by it, but when she was gone I sorely missed her character being around. She was steadfast, level-headed, and determined--basically everything that an Aes Sedai SHOULD be but most of them weren't. I like that she was our first introduction to the Aes Sedai and the one against which all the others are measured in my mind. She wasn't afraid of anything except failure, even going so far as to humble herself (something that seems to be very hard for an Aes Sedai!) in order to teach Rand the things that he needed to know. She still had some of the flaws of a stereotypical Aes Sedai such as keeping secrets and a general air of haughty arrogance, but she didn't just assume that everyone would obey her commands at all times--she had to work at it. The only thing I didn't like about her arc was her romance with Thom Merrilin at the end. Was I just not paying attention or did that come out of nowhere? Was it just a plot device so that Thom would go with Mat into Tower of Ghenji? And also I never pictured him as attractive, so...yeah. That puzzled me! 

3. Mat

I know that Mat is a fan-favorite, and I'll admit that I didn't like him much at first, but once he gets cured from the dagger's influence and starts on his lucky streak, his arc was hands down the most exciting and adventurous. My favorite bits are when he remembers things from the past, filling us in on tidbits and battles from ages past, but I also love his romance with Tuon. He faces some of the best villains in the series, and his plots also have a heavy dose of much-needed humor sprinkled into them. It's easy to see why everyone likes Mat! 

Honorable Mentions: Lan (basically the Aragorn of WoT), Loial (so earnest and helpful!) Cadsuanne (she's horrible but plot stuff happens when she's around!), Siuan (all the fish references please!), Verin (that twist ending!)

My Most Hated Characters

1. Elayne

So arrogant. So insufferable. So foolhardy, stubborn, and all around STUPID. She started off okay, but over the course of the series gets worse and worse until I was hoping she would just die so I didn't have to read about her any more! I hate her whole arc with the circus. I hate how much she complained about being pampered while pregnant. I hate the unnecessary and unrealistic risks she took while pregnant (with twins!). I hate her attachment to Rand (it feels very forced-she really should have let him go after their cuddling in Tear). I hate the endless politicking in Caemlyn when Tarmon Gai'don is looming. Everything about her is just the worst

2. Can I say Elayne again? Okay fine. 

The White Tower Sitters 

The politics and traditions of the White Tower as a whole, and for the most part the people in it were just so insane to me. I couldn't understand how anyone put up with them! The way they treated Novices, the devisions among the Ajas, and especially the way they defer to each other based on power were all infuriating to read. I wanted everyone there to do a Nyneave and just leave and never come back, and ignore them and their orders as much as possible!  (In fact, the way they treated her when she discovered she could cure stilling made me want to rip out my hair!)

The worst of the White Tower by far, however, were the Sitters. These supposedly powerful women take up so many words and do so little to impact the story. The Amerlyn still outranks and overpowers them most of the time, the Black Aja control and manipulate them, and they can't agree on anything except that each of them wants to be in charge of everything. I fervently wished I could skip over the Romanda and Lelaine rivalry in particular. Or else reach through the page and give the each a good spanking. At least that would be a canonical form of punishment, hah!

3. The Atha'an'Miere

I had a problem in the book with women in power treating each other poorly, and the Atha'an Miere were the embodiment of this. Their bickering with the Aes Sedai was so tiresome and annoying, and then it never really went anywhere. They seemed like just warm bodies who could channel for most of the books after the Bowl of Winds was used. While most of the cultures in WoT are closely examined, the Atha'an Miere always felt superficial to me, maybe because there wasn't a real sympathetic character from this culture in the story, or maybe because there just wasn't time to do as much with them as Jordan wanted. 

Dishonorable Mentions: Alanna (If they cut her out of the show, that would be totally fine!) Elaida (Really? She thought that Dumai's Well was a good idea???), Byar (He skinned Hopper!!!!), Galad (I don't get along with people like him in real life) 

My Favorite Villains

1. The Aelfinn/Eelfinn

THESE GUYS WERE SO CREEPY. Every time they were mentioned I got a little shiver, and Mat's foray into their realm to retrieve Moraine was one of the spookiest, most thrilling parts of the series for me. It had been built so much and was so alien and strange and scary, and such a great addition to Mat's arc (and had been foreshadowed so much!) that it was so satisfying to finally go there and have all those questions (or at least most of them) answered at last. In a world with so much lore and history, the fact that we don't know anything about the Aelfinn and Eelfinn just makes them that much more creepy. Well done Robert Jordan! 

2. Lanfear

She was by far my favorite of the Forsaken, in part because of all the little tidbits she drops about Lews Therin and the Age of Legends, but also because of how she skirted the line between working for the Dark One and working for herself. (Well, all the forsaken did that but Lanfear felt the most "good" at the end.) I wasn't super smart about figuring out that she had been reincarnated, but once I did figure it out I was glad that she was back to cause more trouble and muddy the waters of morality for us! 

3. The Gholam

Another of Mat's villains, and another truly creepy and threatening monster. I was seriously worried for Mat's life every time it popped up, and I was sure that more characters would be killed by it. The fact that it killed Tylin shook me up pretty badly, and I was sure that Olver would be next. 

Jordan vs. Sanderson

I want to talk about the ending, but I can't talk about the ending without talking about Brandon Sanderson. Readers know that Sanderson wrote the final three books in the series after Jordan sadly passed away, and there are varying opinions about those final three books. Of course it would have been awesome if Jordan had been able to complete the series himself, but it's amazing that we get a complete series and that Sanderson did such a great job. I did talk a bit about this in one of my monthly reviews, but I really liked Sanderson's ending. His style is much simpler and more straightforward than Jordans meandering descriptions, but it worked really well in the action-packed final books--he got the characters where they needed to be and doing what they needed to do while keeping up a frantic and exciting pace through the lengthy conclusion. There were so many loose ends that needed tying, and I was satisfied that Sanderson did an excellent job knotting all the threads! 

Thoughts on the Ending

That brings me to the ending; I liked it! Rand's final battle with the Dark One was a really interesting look at what might have been and how free will shapes the world. I was surprised and pleased with Rand's Death/Not Death and the small bit of ambiguity. I did wish that Moraine and Nyneave had more to do with the Dark One's demise other than just backing up Rand, but it is true that without them he wouldn't have gotten to where he could deal with the Dark One at all. The ending felt complete, and I was satisfied. 

And now I'm done, and I kind of miss it. I'm glad that John and Gunnar (and now Diana!) are all reading it so I can still talk about it and gush about it, and the Amazon series is underway and exciting too! I don't plan to reread it any time soon, but I'm not selling my books or anything, in case I do want to reread it in a few years! I love rereading books, actually. It's like going to visit an old friend. <3 p="">