Posts Tagged: Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 720 - Buy: Book/eBook

I’ve reached the halfway point at least in this series to date. Death is like a feather, duty like a mountain, and around 5000 pages of WoT is like carrying a 400 lb. woman wearing spandex and a tube top on your shoulders as you run up that mountain. Not the most pleasant of images, true, but this book was much more of a slog than the previous book, The Fires of Heaven, had proven to be.

When I first read Lord of Chaos back in November 1997, I even then found it to be the most difficult of the seven books to date to enjoy. Back then, used as I was to reading cultural and religious histories in English and German, it wasn’t the size of the novel that daunted me but rather how disjointed it felt. Nearly 13 years later, that sense of disjointedness was even more pronounced. It was a struggle at times to pay attention to what was transpiring, which might explain in a perverse fit of reasoning why I am reviewing it so soon after completing it (I finished it about an hour before I began writing this post), when I typically wait 1-2 days. Between the often-interchangeable character types (Aes Sedai, Cairhein, Aiel, Forsaken, Tairens, etc.) and the over-explanations of things that I first read about several books ago, I fear my own complaints may become just as repetitive if I don’t spice them up with some actual observations. Read More »

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 992 - Buy: Book/eBook

Five volumes into the Wheel of Time series, I find myself struggling more and more to pay close attention to all the details. The earlier novels were easier in that the number of subplots were very few and generally no more than a few chapters separated any bunching of each subplot. The narrative was relatively straight-forward and although the prose never was anything to write home about, enough interest was generated in the characters to make the first few novels at least bearable to read and on quite a few occasions, enjoyable.

However, by the fourth volume, The Shadow Rising, my interest began to waver. I noted in my previous commentary that I believed Jordan tried to cover too much, to explain more than what was vitally essential to the main plot of the series, that of the Dragon Reborn being readied for the upcoming Last Battle. Here in The Fires of Heaven, my complaints about the previous volume probably can be multiplied by at least a factor of ten. Although I recall enjoying this volume almost the same as the previous one when I first read it in 1997, a decade away from reading it has reminded me that time might have the ability to remove bad memories and to enhance the few positive ones that remained. The Fires of Heaven was at times a terrible mess of a novel to wade through. Read More »

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 1008 - Buy: Book/eBook

In my last commentary, I commented about how one of the major reasons why I decided to do these re-reading projects was to learn more about myself as a reader and critic and to explore how my takes on various novels had changed over an intervening period of several years. For the first three Wheel of Time novels, my overall attitude had shifted only slightly. I still liked the first book, The Eye of the World, better than the second and third volumes, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn. What I liked and why, however, had changed, sometimes drastically.

In particular, I found even the first three volumes to contain several annoying features. Among them, average, pedestrian prose, laziness in using quirks and invented stereotypes to describe characters and imagined cultures, and the beginnings of what author/critic Adam Roberts has referred to as “decor-porn.” Despite these annoying narrative features, I was able to enjoy those three volumes as long as I focused on viewing the books as a sort of quest narrative. If I had devoted more time to looking at the numerous “prophecies” and their ilk and tried to predict as-yet-untold events rather than concentrating on the story at hand, I suspect I would have grown bored quicker than I have. Read More »

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 704 - Buy: Book/eBook

One of the interesting things about this re-reading project of mine is discovering how I have changed as a fiction reader and, to a lesser extent, as a critic over the course of the past decade or so. As I remarked in my reviews of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt, some of the elements that used to irritate me greatly were not as noticeable this time around, while other plot and characterization issues that I had dismissed during my first few reads of the series seemed to be more visible during this current re-read.

One thing that I focused on as soon as I began this re-read was the notion that this massive twelve-volume series (and counting) could be divided into distinct narrative arcs. In particular, I was curious to see if the first three volumes might differ in their plot structures and presentation from succeeding volumes. To an extent, there is indeed an interesting interplay between these three early novels that I have not seen during my current re-reading of the fourth volume.

Seeing [Rand] struggle to fight for control of his double-edged magical powers through his actions and failures […] was a refreshing change.

The Dragon Reborn opens several weeks, if not months, after the Battle of Toman Head that concluded The Great Hunt. Rand al’Thor, who has now successfully fought off the EVIL Ba’alzamon, the presumed Dark One in this Manichean-style cosmos, twice in the previous two volumes, is still struggling to deal with the revelations of the past year. Born gifted/cursed with awesome power that is tainted for males, Rand constantly frets in the early chapters about his “destiny” as the reincarnated Dragon Reborn and the belief that the apocalyptic Last Battle was drawing nigh. Although Jordan continues to lapse into lengthy descriptive passages that fail to let the characters illustrate their conflicts through their actions, I found myself being more drawn into Rand’s plight that I ever remembered being when I last read this book a decade ago. Seeing him struggle to fight for control of his double-edged magical powers through his actions and failures more than through his internal monologues was a refreshing change. Read More »

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 705 - Buy: Book/eBook

Last week, I prefaced my commentary-like review of the first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, with explanations as to why I was embarking on this re-read project after a decade-long break. It would be redundant to repeat all of that, so if you have not yet read the original review, I suggest you start with that before reading this second, shorter review of the second volume in the series, The Great Hunt.

When I first read this book back in November 1997, I found it to be a major step backwards from the first novel. In the few re-reads I did between then and the autumn of 2000, I recall that my opinion of the book (and the third volume, The Dragon Reborn) did not improve at all. But what impressions would I take after reading it nearly ten years later?

Several of the same problems that I felt plagued the first volume were pretty much repeated in this second volume[, yet] despite this, in some ways, this story was more enjoyable than I had remembered it being a decade ago.

On the whole, I would still argue that The Great Hunt was a less enjoyable reading experience than was The Eye of the World. Several of the same problems that I felt plagued the first volume (too lengthy personal descriptions of minor characters, an uneven pace to the plot(s), the thin characterizations of the major characters and even more importantly, the enemies, the rather pedestrian prose) were pretty much repeated in this second volume, with a few curious additions. Yet despite this, in some ways, this story was more enjoyable than I had remembered it being a decade ago.

The story picks up roughly one month after the conclusion to the first novel. Rand al’Thor, one of three adolescent males from the backwater village of Emond’s Field, has discovered that he can touch the magical, tainted male side to the magical One Power (which runs the universe, in a way that I wonder might be analogous to the “dark matter” that makes up most of the universe’s mass). Furthermore, he may be the reincarnated soul of the dreaded Dragon Reborn, who in madness helped destroy civilization after a ten-year battle with the forces of evil. Rand is the hero (villain?) of prophecy, a mantle he does not want and makes quite clear, in both internal monologues and in conversations with characters, on numerous times. As I was reading this, I kept wondering to myself if perhaps the author went a little overboard with utilizing repetitive comments to reinforce the centrality of Rand’s conflict. It felt a bit forced at times to me and I cannot help but to speculate how differently (and perhaps, how much more powerfully) a reduction in the times Rand (and to a lesser extent, the other character and their own personal crosses which they bear quite vociferously) has to put voice to his conflicted thoughts. Read More »