The penultimate book in the epic 14-part “The Wheel Of Time” series, “Towers Of Midnight” is nearly upon us. Discover why this series has been so influential and why you should now be preparing to make sure you’re ready for the final book
“The Wheel Of Time” series is not just another fantasy epic. It is possibly the most important, adult fantasy series outside of The Lord Of The Rings , and also has an appeal very distinct from JRR Tolkien’s trilogy. Also, amazingly, even though the last the three books are not being written by the series original author, following Robert Jordan’s sad passing in 2007, the series remains critically lauded, with Brandon Sanderson’s The Gathering Storm (written from an outline prepared by Jordan) nominated for the David Gemmell award.
So with the penultimate book, Towers Of Midnight , just about to be published, and the grand finale, A Memory Of Light, due in 2012, here are a few reasons why you should acquaint (or, indeed, re-acquaint) yourself in preparation, because it truly is an extraordinary series:
1 It’s not your average fantasy
Unusually for post-Tolkien fantasy, there are no elves in “The Wheel of Time”. No elves, no dwarves, and no simpering princesses. Robert Jordan described his world as “the late 17th century without gunpowder,” and though there are a variety of monsters in the shape of Shadowspawn, it’s a very human tale.
2 A generation of readers and writers have grown up with it
The first “Wheel of Time” book was published in 1990, and the final book is expected to be released in 2012 – that’s a span of 22 years. Brandon Sanderson first read the early books as a teenager, and now he’s a respected fantasy author himself and finishing the series after Jordan’s death. Almost a generation has gone by as millions of readers have had the chance to discover the books, from those that were there right at the start, waiting between each one and re-reading their favourites along the way, to those who joined later and were able to race through the already-published volumes before finally catching up and waiting impatiently for more. The world has changed, books have changed, people have changed, but the series has continued and entertained. There isn’t anything else that’s had quite the same effect.
3 It has successfully survived the loss of its original author
“The Wheel of Time” was created and written by Robert Jordan – a pen name for James Oliver Rigney Jr. He had written 11 of the books when he was diagnosed with HYPERLINK cardiac amyloidosis , and he died in April 2006. With such an epic series, though, he had already planned much of the final book – he said several times that “the final scene of the final book has been in my head for almost 20 years” – and once he realised he wasn’t going to be able to finish it himself, he ensured that he left detailed notes, including many completed scenes, so that it could be completed after his death. Jordan’s wife, assistants and publisher then worked together with fantasy author and “Wheel of Time” fan Brandon Sanderson to complete the novel and the series.
4 The ending is going to be big!
When Robert Jordan started writing the series, it was intended to be six books in length. But the story he was telling was larger than that, so the story grew, and grew… Jordan had hoped that the twelfth book would be the last, but when Brandon Sanderson took over he quickly realised that would mean a volume too large to be printed and bound! He’s therefore split it into three separate novels. We’re still building towards the final battle, Tarmon Gai'don, but Sanderson knows exactly what's going to happen, and he says it’s GOOD!
5 It’s for every generation
No matter what your age, you’ll find someone to identify with in “The Wheel of Time”. Teenagers may see themselves as Rand, Mat, or Perrin, young adventurers ready to face the world, frustrated by the older people around them who hold them back or insist they stop, train, learn. Older fans of the series may sigh in recognition as they mentally urge the younger characters to take the advice of their elders. The huge range of characters, in age, status, sex, vocation, means that no matter where you are in your life, you’ll find someone that speaks to you. And next time you read the books, it might be someone completely different.
6 It’s not just a novel, it’s a world
One of the reasons the series grew so large was that Jordan wasn’t just describing a linear journey of a small set of characters. He was describing a whole world, the Wheel of Time itself, and all the peoples and wars and alliances that made up that world – all the complexities that we find in our own world. Jordan wrote a huge wealth of material that was never intended to be published, mapping out the world his stories were set in. It’s planning and research that you can feel in every sentence, fantasy world-building at its best.
7 They’re perfect for re-reading
It has to be said – if you’ve waited up to four years for the next in the series, you might want to re-acquaint yourselves with characters and plotlines before plunging back in. Fortunately, “The Wheel of Time” books lend themselves perfectly to such re-reading. Full of subtle details you may have missed the first time, the slow understanding of what’s going on means that a second (third, fourth) read of books will always add more layers as you see the small clues and pointers that you missed the first time round.
8 Women aren’t just token gestures
Jordan’s depiction of women led some fans to speculate that he might even be a woman himself – absurd, but an indication of just how far from the fantasy norm his women fall. They’re not love-sick waifs or token warrior princesses; they’re equal to the men, with their own powers and responsibilities. As saidin, the male half of the True Source, is tainted, they’re the only ones able to wield magic. There are as many female leading characters as male, and from Moiraine to Egwene they are never just a stereotype.
9 It’s not just for fantasy fans
Much as we love the fantasy genre, we do understand that it’s not always for everyone. There are always some people who could never click with the Tolkien template – whether it’s the elves or the screaming damsels, it just never worked for them. “The Wheel of Time”, however, is another story. The character development, detailed world-building and skilled storytelling mean that you don’t have to be into swords and sorcery to want to follow Rand’s story. The “Wheel of Time” books have sold in their millions because it’s not just us geeks who want to buy them.
10 Rand al’Thor
When we first met Rand he was just a farmboy. Since then he has discovered his destiny as the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnated champion of light against the Dark One. He found himself able to channel saidin, the male half of the True Source, gaining power but realising the corruption of the source of that power meant that he would slowly go insane. Since then he’s become more powerful, fought battles, been tortured and lost limbs, talked with past selves and forgotten how to laugh. We’ve been with him through every step and every reader is impatient to find out just how he fares at the final battle, Tarmon Gai'don.
To discover more about the man who has taken on the task of completing “The Wheel Of Time”, read our interview on the next page…
So just who is Brandon Sanderson, the writer chosen to finish the final “Wheel of Time” books? He’s a respected fantasy author in his own right, with several critically-acclaimed books under his belt before he got involved. And of course, he was heavily inspired by the “Wheel of Time” books himself. “I doubt there are many fantasy writers my age who haven’t been profoundly influenced by Mr Jordan,” he says. “I would take notes on how he constructed a story and created characters. In a way, Mr Jordan’s work has been a constant companion of mine throughout all of my career.”
When Robert Jordan died, Sanderson posted a moving tribute on his blog, talking about his love for the series, his respect for its writer and his sense of loss now he was gone. “You showed me what it was to have vision and scope in a fantasy series – you showed me what could be done. I still believe that without your success, many younger authors like myself would never have had a chance at publishing their dreams.” Robert Jordan’s widow read and appreciated his words, and asked the publisher for copies of his writing. She liked what she read, and eventually made the decision to offer him the chance to finish the epic series. He was nervous, but thrilled at the chance: “I realised that someone was going to work on this book, and if it couldn’t be Robert Jordan himself, then I wanted to be involved,” he explained.
Before he died, Jordan had left detailed notes on the final volume, from plots though to detailed scenes for important events. This has made it possible to write the books as close as possible to how he intended. And though it’s been necessary to split the final story into three volumes (or end up with a 2,000 page book!), Sanderson has managed to stick to that vision. “I’m an outliner myself – I rarely start before completing a detailed chronology of events. The way Mr Jordan gathered and left his material is remarkably similar to the way I work on my own projects.”
The first of Sanderson’s “Wheel of Times” novels, The Gathering Storm received rave reviews, and we said that: “there’s also a renewed sense of purpose… The stand-in author brings a fresh pair of eyes and a faster pace to The Gathering Storm . But he also remains faithful to the Jordan-esque levels of detail that fans of the series have come to expect.” He’s already proved himself worthy of Jordan’s legacy, so now it’s just time to read on and see what happens next…
There’s a full list of all the books in “The Wheel Of Time” series on the next page…
The Eye of the World
2 The Great Hunt (1990)
3 The Dragon Reborn (1991)
4 The Shadow Rising (1992)
5 The Fires of Heaven (1993)
6 Lord of Chaos (1995)
7 A Crown of Swords (1996)
8 The Path of Daggers (1998)
9 Winter’s Heart (2000)
10 Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
11 Knife of Dreams (2005)
12 The Gathering Storm (2009) *
13 Towers of Midnight (2010) *
14 A Memory of Light (2012) *
* Completed by Brandon Sanderson
There is also a prequel, New Spring , which was published in 2004.