The Ever Slowing Wheel

Spoiler Check: I am up to the Wheel of Time series, Book 7 – “A Crown of Swords”, Chapter 19 – “Diamonds and Stars”

Books Anyone remotely familiar with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books will know that following Jordan’s death in 2007 the responsibility for completing the series has passed to Brandon Sanderson.  I am still on Book 7 which was published 16 years ago. Every other fan of the series has just bought Book 13, Sanderson’s Towers of Midnight.  I will be lucky to catch up before the final instalment, A Memory of Light, comes out.

I am, though, starting to understand some of the criticisms levelled against the series in some quarters. Note this excerpt from a piece by the New Zealand Herald who recently interviewed Sanderson:

Jordan had been the big fantasy sensation of the 90s. His mega-series The Wheel Of Time began as a five-book cycle, then was expanded to a projected 12 books on the back of massive sales and critical acclaim. Each individual book was vast. The gaps between books slowly got longer and longer as Jordan struggled with gargantuan plot machinery, a cast of thousands and failing health.

And, boy, is the slow-down apparent!  I noticed the pace was slowing dramatically, long before I discovered that Jordan had deliberately stretched out the series. Understandable I suppose.  It was a wonderful opportunity to cash in on the success of the early books, for both himself and the publishers.  And it gave the readers a chance to keep enjoying the series for longer.  So everyone wins.

Well, sort of.  Yes, I am still enjoying the books but the change of pace sticks out like a sore thumb, and it does detract somewhat.  It looks like Jordan’s method of stretching the series has been to expand some plot arcs that would have run their course within a single book and bloat them out over 3 or 4 books by padding them full of sub-plots and intermediate milestones.  This means there is still plenty going on to enjoy and get your teeth into, but there is now also some frustration that major elements of unfinished business are going to remain open for book after book.

I had expected Rand’s assault on Sammael to be completed within Lord of Chaos, in much the same way that the victories against Ishamael, Asmodean and Rahvin each took up one book, but there has been no discernible progress. There is clearly some bust up with Mazrim Taim in the offing (why else the strained relationship with Taim and the continual death threats from Lews Therin?) but that one looks set to run and run. At this rate, the split in the White Tower will probably take Egwene at least another 3 or 4 books to patch up. And how much longer before Elayne, Nynaeve and company track down the infernal Bowl of Winds?

But we’re getting lots of exciting “smaller” milestone resolutions to fill in the extra space, such as the dramatic events at Dumai’s Wells. And we are clearly building up to some climax at Ebou Dar with a profusion of Aes Sedai of different flavours (including Black Ajah), Sea Folk, Mat and  Sammael’s assorted minions heading for a clash, with Lan about to arrive in the nick of time. It keeps the chapter by chapter narrative flowing, but moving the overarching story forward at a snail’s pace.

Well, it’s either accept the series as it is or stop reading so it has to be the former.  I will just have to adjust.

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