I’ve been hearing about The Wheel of Time for quite some time now (no pun intended). I’ve always been put off by both the size of the individual volumes and the number of books in the series. But as audiobooks they’re a bargain! Nearly a full month of drive-time entertainment! So when I signed up for Audible lately I decided to start the series.
It was good, but I’m not sure it lives up to the hype. I’m not sure what would have. For world-building it’s first rate. Having been in the wrapping-up phases of my own world-building for a new novel, I was blown away by the sheer mass of planning supporting the story. It’s almost to the point of not even being a good learning opportunity, just like I had a hard time learning more than just the basics of chess by playing my brother-in-law who was so far above my level I couldn’t even figure out what he’d done to me much of the time.
So it’s certainly easy to see how Jordan got fourteen novels out of his concept (granted, he’d only planned twelve). The trouble is, as deep and majestic as the setting and the plot may be, it moves very slowly. Oh, there’s excitement enough throughout the book, but most of it feels like filler to keep the main plot from advancing too quickly. It reminded me a lot of Huckleberry Finn in that regard. A lot of things happen, but very little of it seems to be directly related to the plot.
But I think my main problem so far is with the characters. None of them really grab me. I kinda care about Rand, but I have no idea how many more books there will be before he accepts his destiny and stops freaking out over everything. And yes, I suppose it’s natural for a group of strangers suddenly thrown together to be distrustful and not want to tell each other anything more than absolutely necessary, but it stretches credibility how completely incurious they are, as well. It’s as if the driving rule of group dynamics is “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” But even after this is shown repeatedly to be a mistake they still withhold information from one another–and it’s not like they don’t have plenty of time to talk and catch one another up during their travels.
And yet the characters still get mad at one another for wrong choices, even though they couldn’t have known to choose differently. How were the boys supposed to know they shouldn’t go outside the building they’d settled in for the night? They’d been told they were safe from their pursuers within the abandoned city–and no one told them there was anything to fear there. But they still get mad at the boys for wandering off to explore. A simple warning would have been sufficient to avoid the entire mess that results. But they had to make the mistake or the plot wouldn’t have developed in the right direction.
I hate it when writers give their characters a case of the stupids. I don’t care how close to the chest you want to play your cards, if something is dangerous you tell someone. And yet time and again through the book people continually go out of their way not to talk to one another, and it comes back to bite them again and again.
And no matter how many times the characters prove themselves to one another, they still don’t want to trust one another, or even soften their dislike of one another. This may be natural, but it also gets old.
There is a lot to like about Jordan’s setting, and he does do an excellent job of differentiating characters and points of view. I learned quite a bit about the writer’s craft in listening to this book. In spite of their penchant for information guarding, most of the characters are fairly well rounded–certainly better than any of my characterizations at present. And as I said, his back-story and setting are incredibly deep.
It’s just might not be a story for me. Not every story will appeal to every person. I read novels for different reasons than other people. I will give the second book a try sooner or later, but I’m not in a big hurry. I’ve heard Jordan hits his stride in the second book (though I’ve also heard he starts to lose it again in the latter half of the series), so who knows. I’ll get to it eventually. But I’ve other books on my list first.