Reflecting on the “Wheel of Time” Series

I just spent two hours going down a rabbit hole prompted by the fact that I just found out that a “Wheel of Time” pilot aired the other night — and hardly anyone knew about it. I watched the pilot (I laughed at how horrible it was in some places), and then read a bunch of comments (some were truly brilliant) on a number of stories about the pilot. Not only that, but it’s time to get out the popcorn for what might be a fun legal battle with the widow/estate of the series’ author.

After spending far too time on the drama, I decided that I should attempt to justify my lost time by writing a blog post. Don’t you feel lucky?

My Changing View of the Wheel of Time

I started reading the Wheel of Time series in high school. As a high school student, I thought the books were awesome. I even enjoyed them quite a bit in college. But as the series lengthened, and as the books finally came to a conclusion (it took 14 books, more than two decades, and a second author had to finish when the books’ creator died in 2007), I realized that my feelings toward the books had changed.

It’s true that I still feel as though some of the characters are friends; I have a feeling that I will always identify with the character Egwene al’Vere. However, when I reread some of the books, I am struck by the sometimes-inconsistent quality, as well as a number of flaws. It’s probably not fair to be nit-picky since I don’t write fiction — and the fiction I have written kind of sucks. However, as a fan, and as someone who reads a lot, it’s hard not to judge.

The fact that I find some of the gender dynamics in the book disturbing now also says something about the way I’ve changed since high school. From the way spanking (and the threat of spanking) is used to discipline the adult women in the books, to the way that the men and women interact with each other, I’ve got some issues. Additionally, few of the romantic relationships in the book are what many of us would consider healthy.

It’s also impossible not to get bogged down as the series continues. Never-ending character introductions, side plots, and meandering scenes that don’t have much bearing on the actual story constantly crop up. Descriptions tend to wordiness, and after a while character quirks become annoying. It’s a relief when one of the characters finally cuts her hair in the 14th book because it’s tiring to read about how she tugs her braid all the time.

Overall, I still enjoy the series. I’m not sad I slogged all the way through to the end. Especially since there was a payoff in the form of watching my favorite character go down in a bright blaze of glory. The truth is that someone with a big production budget and more time could probably put together a decent TV series based on the Wheel of Time. (An attempt to put it into movies would likely fail miserably; there’s a reason that A Song of Ice and Fire works better as a series.) But it would take some serious effort in order to stop it turning into a Sword of Truth/Legend of the Seeker disappointment.

There seems to be an interest in fantasy epics started in the early to mid-90s and that just go on and on and on. And for good reason. These are rich and complex worlds you can get lost in. (And ASOIAF is still going because the author has been sidetracked by Game of Thrones. Many of us wonder if the TV show will end up influencing the way the book series progresses because he’s working on both at the same time.)

For fantasy lovers, it’s a rich world out there. And as I’ve delved more into it, I find that the Wheel of Time, while still enjoyable, just doesn’t cut it for me. Joe Abercrombie offers a more adult fantasy experience and the characters in ASOIAF are ridiculously complex and human in the way they change as a result of circumstance.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’m interested to see what’s next for the Wheel of Time. I’ll watch whatever they end up putting out there. After all, I went to see The Battle of the Five Armies, even though I was pretty sure it would be cacophonous crap fest (and it was).

How do your tastes change over time? Do you read fantasy? What are your favorite series?

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