Starting 3000 years in the past, we are introduced to the character of Lews Therin Telamon (The Dragon). During the struggle to seal the Dark One into his prison, a backlash infected the One Power and all Male Channelers were driven insane. Lews Therin is the most powerful of them all and one of the last ones still surviving at that time. Completely insane now, he is searching for his wife and family, not realizing that he has already killed them all. Lews Therin is then approached by one of the forsaken (Elan Morin Tedronai – The Betrayer of Hope) who proceeds to heal Lews Therin so that he regains his sanity. Realizing what he has done to his family and everyone close to him, Lews Therin uses the power to travel to an open area with a river nearby. Calling upon the power, he pulls so much into himself that a solid bar of light joins him to the sky obliterating him and all that is left is jagged mountain (Dragonmount).

This is the introduction to Robert Jordan‘s world of the Wheel of Time and it serves to introduce us to this world through some pretty intense action and really powerful & heartrending moments!

We go from this introduction to a time almost 3000 years later, when the world and its peoples are completely different. When the fact of Lews Therins times have only become myths and fairytales. From this beginning, we are introduced to the key characters in the book all from the same village known as the Two Rivers.

In addition to the villagers we are also introduced to the mysterious strangers (Aes Sedai & Warder) who just happen to be there on the fateful night that the Trollocs attack! Persuaded by Morraine and a’Lan that they have a greater destiny to play and that their family and friends would be in jeopardy if they were to remain, they set off on a journey that will see them all change in many and varied ways.

They leave their village and meet some other characters (Min, Loial & Padan Fain) that will play a recurring role throughout the books to follow. On their journey they are split apart and forced to go in separate directions due to the monsters chasing them and are only able to rejoin together after a significant period of time. Once again joined up they determine that they must travel to the Eye of the World where they are accosted by two Forsaken. To defeat them, Rand must channel the One Power and in doing so he reveals the fact that he is in fact the Dragon Reborn!

The Eye of the World and its sequels show the depth of forethought and planning that Robert Jordan had. Taking a traditional swords and sorcery fantasy idea, he has managed to infuse it with a life of its own. You have the typical reluctant hero (in this case a whole village full of them!) and an omni-potent dark evil power with … of course … they end of the world in the offing! He has taken elements from many of the other great works already published – you have of course the obvious correlations to the Lord of the Rings. Added to this is the mysterious sisterhood – vis a vis the Dune Series by Frank Herbert … however with that being said … he has not simply copied and pasted stock elements here … this story is wonderfully unique in its own right and I’m sure that you will love it!

Character Growth & Development –

The Villagers definitely grow and progress in this one, with some significant plot points realized and addressed.

Story Progression –

Introduction of the story as a whole and good development also. Really good but only fault might be that it is too similar to LOTR – although by that token, everything in this genre is!
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Prequel –

New Spring

Main Story –

The Eye of the World (Review 1)
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter’s Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams
The Gathering Storm (written by Brandon Sanderson)
Towers of Midnight (written by Brandon Sanderson)
A Memory of Light (written by Brandon Sanderson)

The Wheel of Time is a massive story spanning generations … primarily focused on the lives of several key characters, it still explores the historical worlds first popularized by Tolkein in an inventive and creative fashion. The series itself was first launched with the book : The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) and has now reached 12 books with another 2 still remaining to be released.

The most recent book and the final ones in the storyline have actually been written by a different author as during the course of writing the whole series and the 2 decades + that it has taken, the original Author – Robert Jordan – died! The new author – Brandon Sanderson – is responsible for the Mistborn series of novels (also set in a very well realized fantasy world) and has taken and is using Robert Jordan’s notes to complete the series.

I will be reviewing each book here and have provided a link to all of the other reviews which is accessible from this main page.  I’ll also be linking in some common questions that I had (and where possible providing information on the answers) as this series is big and can easily confuse you especially considering how long a wait there is between each book.

One final note before you continue reading … this post and some of the linked ones, contain spoilers! The Wheel of Time books are an intricate, many-layered narrative covering an entire world over the course of several years (and many centuries, in flashbacks). DO NOT read it if you have not yet read the book in question (unless you have no plans to read that book) as although this is not a synopsis of each book, it does show how they tie together and also how each of the characters interrelate. As such, there is much information covered in each book; some of it reveals secrets that impact earlier information, and can change the way you view characters and events at the time.

“And the Shadow fell upon the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans fled, and the mountains were swallowed up, and the nations were scattered to the eight corners of the World. The moon was as blood, and the sun was as ashes. The seas boiled, and the living envied the dead. All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon.
(from Aleth nin Taerin alta Camora,
The Breaking of the World. Author unknown, the Fourth Age)”

Now, for those NOT in the know, to repeat, The Wheel of Time is a book series set in a Tolkein type fantasy environment. You will find magic (the One power and the True power), Orcs (Trollocs in the Wheel of Time) etc… there is also a decided similiarity between some of the key characters – a’Lan Mandragoran plays the part of Aragorn quite well and while the villagers bear a passing resemblance to our favorite Hobbits, you’ll find that there are distinct differences also!

One interesting point to note however is that unlike The Lord of the Rings, the power that the Trollocs initially utilize and the fear that they inspire in our key characters, gradually changes as our characters develop and grow. This is very similar to the “leveling up” that you might see or experience when playing a role playing game or MMORPG.

With all the smilarities being mentioned however, there is also some extremely distinct differences and although he is using similar themes that Jordan is able to build a fully realized universe that has many unique elements to it. For example, although the Forsaken are very similar to the Nazgûl they are also their own completely unique personalities. In addition, his magic system is completely different and quite well reasoned with the male and female elements of the power each having their own distinct strengths and weaknesses.

Something is wrong. I was all set to really love this book – having just finished The Way of Kings and as someone who’s now read almost everything that Brandon Sanderson has written I thought his writing was something I really liked and enjoyed … but … there was something … missing with this book.

In his previous book in the Wheel of Time Universe – The Gathering Storm I was extremely impressed with the way he was able to bring closure to so many of Jordan’s long outstanding story-lines and advance the story. He’s done the same thing here, but for some reason it just didn’t have the same impact for me – perhaps because I am now more familiar with him and what he is capable of – in fact as I read this immediately after completing The Way of Kings perhaps that influenced me more than it should have as I was definitely comparing the writing throughout my reading.

Now – please don’t get me wrong, it might seem like I didn’t like this book – that’s actually not the case, its just that I didn’t like it in comparison to his other books and writing.  Overall what happened in the story with some of the main characters was excellent – while his characterization and handling of some characters (notably Matt) will never be the same as Jordan’s, the sequences with Perrin were really well handled and it was good to see all the villagers back again in one book.

In terms of Closure

If closure is really letting go then this book has that and in spades (by the way, in case you’ve not read any of my other posts, you might not realize that spoilers do abound, so please read at your own risk!) as you will see from the partial list below:

  • The Gholam is back (if only for a little while) and he seems to have a mission to destroy Mat. Mat and the Gholam fight several times and Mat is able to trick and trap it into a Skimming Gateway that has been created by Kinswomen. Some outstanding questions of course are (1) Is it really gone?, (2) Why was it impacted/hurt by the medallion that Matt has?, (3) What about all the other medallions that Elayne has created now – how will they be used?
  • Mat, Thom and Noal finally visit the Tower of Ghenjei and are able to rescue Morraine. By the way was it a surprise to anyone that Noal was actually Jain Farstrider? This was fairly obvious right from the beginning and introduction of his character wasn’t it? While Mat has to lose one of his eye’s to effect this escape, the overall sequence though seems rather clunky to me.
  • Perrin, Faile and Berlaine seem to finally resolve their issues and Berlaine falls in love with Galad. Perrin has a couple of really cool sequences though:
    • The sequence in the White Tower when he is carrying the Dreamspike and comes across the Battle in Telhandroid between Egwene and the Black Ajah. His simple dismissal of the Balefire weave that is shot by Mesaana is both hilarious and also a very strong indicator of his power in the World of Dreams especially compared to what the Wise Ones and Aes Sedai think a Dream Walker should be capable of.
    • The whole sequence were he builds/creates his hammer with the use of the power and the Asha’man. Seeing how power forged weapons are created makes you understand their true importance and worth and the way in which this whole section was written made it really easy to visualize and enjoy. You could almost see the flames jumping into the air.
  • Rand seems to have truly reconciled himself and both of his different personalities are now completely integrated. The difference though seems almost too profound and complete though and there doesn’t seem to be any lingering uncertainties now – which to some extent is a bit odd, as its taken us 12 books to get here and it all seemed to be fixed in the final chapter of the previous book.

Now there are quite a few other things that are finalized and closed off but writing them all would cause me to have a tome of comparable size also!

Things that I didn’t like

There were a couple of main area’s that just didn’t work for me –

  • The whole sequence with the Aiel and Aviendha … I really didn’t like the foreshadowing of the future of the Aiel. While its interesting that the story doesn’t end with the Last Battle, perhaps it should? How the Aiel and the rest of the channelers are handled in battle against the Seanchan doesn’t really make sense.
  • Galad and the Whitecloaks – while I know that they are all about the Black & White and cannot see any gray’s its a little bit silly when they are so rabid and fixated on just one thing. Considering how good with a sword Galad is meant to be, in the battle with the Trollocs he doesn’t really impress.
  • Tam Al’Thor – seems to be jumping around all over the place and there seems to perhaps be some sort of time shift or something that isn’t really covered or explained properly.
  • Rand – as previously mentioned, his change in personality seems to be too extreme considering what has happened in other previous books.
  • Graendal was the person who killed Asmodean … good to know, but how we found out about it was not right! This was told in the glossary for crying out loud!!! This is completely wrong considering how long this mystery has been out there and how many different theories have been written!
  • Ituralde – OK, the battle sequences were cool, but my question is … how is anything he’s done worthy of being called a “Great General”? I mean when Matt was involved in the battles in earlier books you could see how his skills came to bear and how he could make a difference, but I didn’t get anything similar out of Ituralde at all and it just seemed to me that he was reacting vs. anything else.

Final Thoughts

Its always a pleasure reading another WOT book and despite some of the decencies that are in this book, that pleasure is still there.  With the final battle starting and the Trollocs attacking in the Borderlands the end is definitely nigh which after 13 books and over decade of waiting is about time!

Seeing how some of the characters finally progress and how Perrin grows and finally progresses instead of continually complaining all the time is great also as is the way in which Matt stops being a joker and starts taking some responsibility for his power.

While this isn’t my favorite book in the series, it is better than some of the other ones that I have read for sure and some of the sequences are truly amazing!  Being the penultimate book in the series I definitely cannot wait for the next and final book to see how it all ends!

(Prequel) New Spring

Although this book and its contents are actually a precusor to the rest of the series, introducing the characters of Lan & Moiraine at this point seems to take away from the other characters that will be introduced in later books.

To be honest – although this book is good and interesting, I’m not sure that if this was the first book released, I would have actually read the rest of the series. Releasing this book when Jordan did, allowed us to see where these two pivotal (but not central) characters came from, their motivations, dreams and desires.

Basically this story describes how Moiraine (already in the white tower & friendly with Siun Sanche) hears the prophecy of the “Dragon Reborn” in the end days of the Aiel War and sets out to discover who he is (note: The Prophecies are also sometimes known as the Karaethon Cycle) … details in this book preceed the following (The Eye of the World) by approximately 20 years.

We are also introduced to Lan Mandragoran – the last survivor of Malkier (a kingdom on the Borderlands). During the course of this book, the concept of the “Black Ajah” is also introduced and also a description of each Ajah along with their core focus (i.e. Green Ajah = Battle Ajah etc…).

The Good

  • Wheel of Time Novel and Universe … in and of itself this is a positive as the length of time between novels always leaves you wanting more.
  • Some insight into the character of Lan …

The Bad

  • Although having a Wheel of Time novel is good … when it doesn’t advance the story to a significant extent (unfortunately this is true of quite a few of his later books), it really leaves you feeling cheated!
  • Hard to understand how Siun goes from very low level Aes Sedai to Amyrlin Seat by the next novel based on her actions in this book … there is nothing really that points to her strengths (aside from the stated fact that she is quick to learn) or the experience that being the Amyrlin Seat would require.

& the Ugly?

  • As in most of the 2nd Quadrology of Jordan’s epic … the introduction of side characters is numerous and tedious. They do nothing to advance the story and their death’s don’t really move us.