Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Cover of The Eye of the World, featuring a young, redheaded white man clinging to a ship's mast. Cover of The Great Hunt, featuring a humanoid monster lurking in a dark hollow while someone on the rise above them raises a horn.

First, I must inform you I’m about to talk about a fourteen-book series in its entirety. There are some implied spoilers for the early books, though I’ve made an effort not to venture into what I’d consider seriously spoilery territory overall. General opinions and observations abound, but I promise I'll never be all, "Lemme tell you the results of so-and-so’s attempt to resolve this vitally important plot point."

Second, this isn’t really a review. It’s a reminiscence; me talking about a story that meant a lot to me when I was a young fantasy fan, and that has surprised me by still meaning a lot to me now I’m a somewhat older fantasy fan. There are subheadings and tangents below, plus footnotes.

The Wheel of Time was with me for almost twenty years, hovering unfinished in the background. It had a huge influence on Young Me, and Current Me looks forward to rereading it now she knows how it ends.

That won’t happen for a decade or so, though. I ain't that eager.

(Okay, I sort of am, but I’ll resist. This latest reread/catch-up took me a solid year. I need time to recover.)

Now that we’re all clear on what this post is...

Maybe you don’t know about the Wheel of Time.

That strikes me as unlikely, since it's held such a prominent place in my own life, but last summer I came across a young person who’d heard of it but had no idea what it was actually about. So let’s begin with an explanation.

Cover of The Dragon Reborn, featuring a young, redheaded white man sitting on a large tree root near an old stone wall. Cover of The Shadow Rising, featuring a young, dark-haired white man with a spear over his shoulder walking away from a mist-shrouded tree.

What’s the Wheel of Time about?

You know the Basic Fantasy Setup, yes? There’s a Chosen One who’s gotta save the world from the Forces of Darkness. He’s probably a farmboy. He’s definitely a he. A Wizard, or maybe a Wise Old Mentor, helps him discover his destiny (which he initially rejects, of course) and master the skills he needs to fulfill it. There may or may not be an Epic Quest to discover a Stupendous and Magical Thingy, with or without the aid of an intrepid band of companions who fill other Roles Necessitating Capital Letters. And of course, everyone walks a lot.

The Wheel of Time is basically that, except there’re multiple farmboys, a couple of farmgirls, and a cast of thousands, many of whom manage to find horses and thus keep the walking confined to indoor spaces.

Seriously. There are thousands of named characters. Everyone has a name, and so does everyone’s horse. Each volume has a world/pronunciation guide in the back, and these supplements eventually get so unwieldy that they have to be edited down to just the newish additions to the cast lest they add inches to the finished book.

I won’t give you a full plot breakdown for obvious reasons, but the core story centres on a super-powerful male Aes Sedai (magic user) who ripped the world apart three thousand years ago and has now been reborn to do it all over again, hopefully with better results this time. Which looks all but impossible, because the male half of magic has become so tainted that anyone who taps into it eventually goes mad.

The central character is Rand al’Thor, a shepherd from a backwater community called the Two Rivers. He’s just bumming along, occasionally goofing off with his friends, Perrin and Mat, and sorta-kinda courting the mayor’s daughter, Egwene, when a mysterious woman comes to town. (Cue ominous music.) Moiraine’s arrival coincides with that of several black-cloaked figures who appear to be stalking Rand, Mat, and Perrin (ominous music intensifies), and of course she turns out to be an Aes Sedai who hold all the answers to the hows and whys of the situation.

Not that she’s telling everything she knows. No Wizard would dare shake up the plot by being transparent.

The answers emerge over the next fourteen volumes as the young people follow Moiraine out into the world (along with their slightly-older-but-still-young village Wisdom, Nynaeve, who’s not about to let anyone in her charge go trailing after an Aes Sedai without proper supervision). The cast also grows to include a hefty assortment of princesses, warriors, desert-dwellers, overseas invaders, additional Aes Sedai, and villains who also become recurring POV characters.

"It’s large" is a fucking huge understatement.

How’d I come to it?

Y’all know I’m tired of the Basic Fantasy Setup. It sometimes wanders up and asks me to partake of its charms, and I sometimes accept the invitation, but I no longer seek it out. It’s too expected. I want to read new things.

I came to the Wheel of Time years before I reached Basic Fantasy Setup Burnout, though. I was several months shy of thirteen and still fairly new to adult-marketed fantasy of all stripes. My Language Arts teacher, who fostered my love of fantasy through her in-class library, had been urging me to read the series practically since we met. It was her favourite, and she was sure I’d love it. I didn’t resist, by any means, but the school library didn’t own it, I hadn’t yet reignited my childhood love affair with the public library, and I couldn’t quite get up the nerve to ask Ms Boles to lend me her own copies. I had to wait for her to offer, which she did in due course.

And I fell in love. I didn’t read Tolkien until I was nineteen, so the similarities between the Two Rivers and the Shire meant nothing to me. I came to THE EYE OF THE WORLD clueless, and I emerged utterly entranced and eager for the next book.

It was always agony, waiting for Ms Boles to bring me another fix. ‘Round about book five (THE FIRES OF HEAVEN) I decided to cut out the middle-man and buy my own copies. Past Memory remains proud of this choice, though Slightly Less Distant Past Memory wishes she hadn’t bought so many of them in hardcover.

(Hardcover chunksters. Ugh.)

Then I caught up (this was in 1996, you understand), and I had to wait even longer for the next book to come out, and for Ms Boles to read it, and for the school librarian to read it, and for it to finally, finally be my turn.

I was the slowest reader of the lot, so I drew the short straw. Which was fair, if frustrating.

And that’s how I became a fan. I was disappointed there were no actual dragons in the series, but otherwise I couldn’t possibly have been more invested.

Cover of The Fires of Heaven, featuring a dark-haired white woman who holds an oversize glowing blue ring in one hand as her clothes swirl around her in the wind. Cover of Lord of Chaos, featuring a line of black-coated men wielding fire in their hands as an army charges towards them.

How’d I interact with it?

Twelve-year-old me either loved the hell out of books or wouldn’t shut up about how awful they were. I got super intense.

I was twelve, okay? Twelve-year-olds imprint on things. They use fiction as a way to discover who they are as people.

I emerged from the first six volumes of the Wheel of Time possessed of an obsession with dreams (which was already in bud when I began, if not in bloom). When it came time to choose our Grade Seven Life Skills activities1, I headed out into the Whiteshell so I could learn about plants like Nynaeve. I wore an ill-advised number of necklaces every single day of my life because the Aiel made a huge impression on me. And a couple of years down the line, when I realized I did not, in fact, loathe Mat more than any other fictional character ever created, I began a hat collection that endures to this day2.

Young Me would’ve flatly denied this interest in dreams and plants and necklaces and hats sprang from a book series, but Current Me will tell you for free because age brings wisdom and the ability to admit the source of your youthful obsessions.

I also had these weird, conflicting urges to talk about the Wheel of Time with everyone and also to keep completely mum about it. Like, I wanted to gush my arse off, but I also wanted to stay cool about it in case it turned out I held Very Wrong Opinions.

I reconciled these urges urges by targeting my gush-fests at people who hadn’t yet read it and who I thought should do so, while I got cagey around every established fan of my acquaintance.

This was at least partly because every single informed person I met eventually worked around to the same question.

Wasn't Perrin great? Didn't I just love Perrin?

I did not love Perrin. Perrin kind of bored me, and I didn’t know how to say that to someone who thought he was the greatest character evar. Not without also shitting all over something they loved, which I try very, very hard not to do in direct conversation. (This is why you and me don't talk about DOCTOR WHO anymore.)

This oft-repeated experience also served to reinforce the idea that I had Very Wrong Opinions About Books and should never, ever share them with people who were in a position to gauge exactly how wrong they were. It’s something I struggle with to this very day; hence my minimal involvement fandoms of all stripes.

Basically, Perrin Aybara ruined fandom for me. Thanks, dude.

But yes. My twelve-year-old self was super-duper into the Wheel of Time, but I went about expressing it in a weird, sideways manner.

Cover of A Crown of Swords, featuring a dark-haired white woman drowning as a dark-haired white man reaches for her. Cover of The Path of Daggers, featuring three young white women gathered around a large, glass-like bowl with swirls of magic rising out of it.

The First Reread

I dunno if you’ve ever attempted to read a very long series of very long books while it was very much in progress, but here’s the thing: if you make the purist’s choice and reread the entire series every time a new one comes out, and if the author brings them out at at a decent clip--say, one every year or two, as opposed to one every five to ten years *coughgrrmcough*--you’re gonna spend a fairly big chunk of your life reading the same thing over and over and over3.

I’ve met plenty of people who reread the Wheel of Time whenever a new volume came out. I’m not one of them.

I first returned to it when I was seventeen. It’d been five years since I read the earliest volumes, and I had some new ones to catch up on. And it was awesome. I sank right back into the story and read through each book at breakneck speed; something I could only have dreamed of when I was twelve and virtually incapable of reading more than a hundred pages per day.

The series took over my life. I happened to read it at the same time as my high school’s musical (pause for the inevitable wildcat jokes), and I spent pretty a large chunk of the time between my scenes perched on a table somewhere off to the side, praying none of my fellow cast members disturbed me.

Some of them did, and the ones who’d also read the books were like, “Isn’t Perrin great?”

Because of course they were.

I eventually reached the end of WINTER’S HEART and wished most ardently for more. Alas, there was none. I was back to waiting, just like old times.

The Second Reread

Then another book came out! I was nineteen. It’d been a little less than two years since I finished Reread #1. I bought CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT, snatched THE EYE OF THE WORLD off the shelf, and immersed myself in the Wheel of Time once again.

It did not go well for me.

I still loved it, yeah, but I’m an attentive reader with a good memory and I recalled so many details that there was very little for me to rediscover. I failed to sink as far into the world as I wanted to.

Plus, at nineteen I'd begun to realize how very much I dislike holding hardcover chunksters. Read #2 clinched it. The moment I finished CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT, I swore I wouldn’t return to the series until the entire thing was complete and in paperback, at which point I would devour it wholesale.

And I held to that vow.

Cover of Winter's Heart, featuring a young, red-haired white man in a red coat seated before an idol topped with a glowing blue orb. Cover of Crossroads of Twilight, featuring a person walking away from a tree with a battle ax lodged in its trunk.

The Reread/Catch-Up

Well, sort of.

I didn’t launch myself into a reread the very second A MEMORY OF LIGHT came out in paperback, as Past Memory intended, because I’m a different person now and my readerly stamina ain’t what it used to be. I needed time to get my mind around the prospect of reading fourteen chunksters by a white dude. A push wouldn’t hurt, either.

The Hugos gave me just the shove I needed. The series was nominated for Best Novel en masse, and Tor kindly included the digital omnibus in the Hugo Voter Packet.

I began the series right after I finished rereading Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings (another long-ass epic fantasy series that I only own in paper), and the physical contrast between these two experiences immediately convinced me ebooks are the only way to read chunksters. Screw paperbacks. They may not hurt as much as hardcovers, but they’re still hell for anyone with tiny hands (which: me).

I’ve ditched all my paper copies of the Wheel of Time save my signed first edition of THE GREAT HUNT. It’s ebooks only from hereon out.

But yes. To backtrack a smidge, I put the digital omnibus on my Kobo and rode out the bone-deep thrill that ran through me as I realized I was finally gonna see how one of the defining stories of my teenage years ended. Then I dove in.

And THE EYE OF THE WORLD gave me so much grief, y’all. So. Much. Grief.

Part of it was Robert Jordan’s wordiness. Dude loves extraneous detail, and I’m fickle as to how I feel about that sort of thing. Sometimes I love it. This time it grated on me.

Much more of it, though, was Rand. I’d forgotten quite a bit in the eleven years since I last read the series, but I remembered one key thing: Rand wasn’t worth it. He might be okay in THE EYE OF THE WORLD, but he was all set to go down the tubes in a book or four. I didn’t want to engage with him at this point in the series because I knew he wouldn’t live up to whatever promise I might see in him.

I dutifully plodded along through, though, because sometimes I could see flashes of the story I’d once loved so much. Besides, I’d waited nearly twenty years to see how the series ended and I’d be damned if I was gonna give that up. I’d read this book, and the next one, and the next one, and eventually I’d get to the ending. Then I could close this chapter of my life and move right along, thanks.

Those of you who read the intro way up above can surely guess that didn’t happen. THE GREAT HUNT pulled me in harder than I could ever have imagined, and that was it. I was back in the caring-about-the-Wheel-of-Time game.

It was fascinating, rereading this series that meant so much to me when I was a teenager. I found I still loved the characters I’d loved before, and could finally see why so many people love Perrin best of the lot (even though he still ain't my favourite). I groaned when I realized Nynaeve, who I once considered terribly adult, is now several years younger than me. I paid attention to certain bits of worldbuilding that escaped me when I was a young person.

Some of these revolved around the gender stuff, which many others have critiqued before me. One of the reviewer blurbs tacked onto one of the books (I think it was THE SHADOW RISING, but don’t quote me on that) praises Jordan for "realistic depictions of the differences between the sexes," and that’s just... Wow. No.

On the one hand, the women of this world do tons of stuff. The Aes Sedai are exclusively women, and they’re basically kingmakers who wield a massive amount of social and magical power. Plenty of women have profitable careers as merchants. Female monarchs and powerful noblewomen abound. The Aiel and the Seanchan have many women in their armies (or army equivalents), though the Aiel make their women put down the spear if they decide to get married (booo!). I can’t recall if THE EYE OF THE WORLD passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test--Nynaeve is the only female POV character there, and she drops out of the spotlight for quite a while--but every other book does so with ease as the women master their magic, explore new social situations, and face off against female villains who threaten them directly.

But alongside all this women-doing-things, most of the male characters spend a horrible amount of time saying things that boil down to, "Women, amirite?" while most of the female characters are off in their own corner like, "Men, amirite?"

One hopes Jordan meant to convey that really, everyone should be saying, "People, amirite?" but that’s not the message that comes across. There’s a lot of casual misogyny, and the women’s equal distrust of men reads as in-story justification for the men’s attitudes rather than a weighted counterpoint.

So there’s that.

Robert Jordan is terrible at writing romance, too. Like, he’s Star Wars prequels levels of bad, especially in the beginning. Nynaeve meets Lan, and by the end of the first book they’re in love, even though we never see anything pass between them. Elayne spends maybe twenty minutes with Rand and decides he’s the one, no question. It’s lazy character development, even with the Great and Prophesied Love excuse thrown in. Jordan gets a little better with some of the later romances, taking the time to show his characters getting to know one another before they leap into oh-god-you-are-the-best-thing-in-my-life territory, but it’s still less accomplished than one might wish.

The series is also wildly uneven from an is-this-interesting standpoint. Some of the books are amazing. They’re packed with telling character interactions, intense fight scenes, complicated magic, tantalizing hints of the world Lews Therin destroyed when he brought the Age of Legends to a close, musings on the changing face of techology (THE DRAGONS OMG I MUST PAUSE AND FREAK OUT ABOUT THEM), fascinating cultures, and the sort of choice details that invite the reader to come further in and and stay awhile.

Some of them are... not.

As of this most recent reading, my personal ratings are as follows:

3 stars: The Eye of the World; The Fires of Heaven; Crossroads of Twilight
3.5 stars: A Crown of Swords; The Path of Daggers
4 stars: The Dragon Reborn; Lord of Chaos; Winter’s Heart; Knife of Dreams
4.5 stars: The Great Hunt; The Shadow Rising; Towers of Midnight
5 stars: The Gathering Storm; A Memory of Light

Four stars is my I-loved-this rating, so you can see I loved far more of the series than I simply liked (three stars) or really liked (three and a half stars). Still, the dull bits could get very dull indeed, especially when I came to a Rand-heavy segment and was reminded, once again, that I didn’t much care what the guy got up to.

When I was a kid, I loved how Robert Jordan would bring something up in, say, Book Two, but fail to deal with it until Book Four or Five. I’ve gotta admit, I still kind of love that. This series sprawls, and if it sometimes gets too unwieldy for its own good, the high points more than make up for it.

High points aside, the unevenness made it difficult for me to read the series straight through like I’d intended to. I began it in mid-June of 2014 with the assumption I’d be done no later than September if I paused to read another book or two between each volume. I finished it right at the end of June of 2015. It was a marathon, not a sprint, and I had to take frequent breaks to recharge my readerly batteries after the more labour-intensive volumes.

But the ending... damn. I don’t want to say much about the ending for obvious reasons, but rest assured I loved it. It’s been a couple months now since I finished, and parts of it still haunt me4.

I’ll definitely reread it, but maybe I’ll wait a decade or so.

Cover of Knife of Dreams, featuring a young white man raising his arm to protect a young white woman from a burst of flame. Cover of The Gathering Storm, featuring a dark haired woman wielding a magical artifact against a winged lizard.

Some Character Musings

I’m not gonna cover everyone because dude. We’ve talked about this. There are thousands of named characters in the Wheel of Time, and at least three hundred of them get to be POV characters.

(Okay, I pulled that number out of my ass. I have no idea how many POV characters there are, but it's a lot. Don't let THE EYE OF THE WORLD's three-POVs-and-a-prologue fool you into thinking this is gonna be straightforward.)

I do need to say a few words about these folks, though, because they carried me through the darker patches. One of them wowed me to the core as the series progressed, while another earned their way back on to my Highly Exclusive List of Favourite Literary Characters. I’ve known them more than half my life, and I wouldn’t feel right about ending off without marking them in some way.


Y’all know the score here. I had a hell of a lot of trouble with THE EYE OF THE WORLD this time through because I’d gone fuzzy on the details but I remembered Rand wasn’t worth caring about.

Fear not. He is worth it.

I shall say no more than that, because the ways he ends up being worth it are major spoilers and I don’t want to take anything away from you. Just, keep it in mind when you’re midway through the series and you’re like, “Dude, could you start being interesting again? Please?”


Remember how Perrin ruined fandom for me?


I said rather more about it during a May installment of Murchie Plus Books, so I shall refer you there lest I bump this post’s bloated word count up any higher.

Except dude, does Perrin ever do some awesome, epic shit near the end. Good for you, Perrin. We end off strong, and I forgive you for making it eternally tough for me to voice my opinions to people who like the same stuff I like.

I should also note that I connected much more strongly with Perrin this time around because he’s got to stop and think before he speaks. When I first read the Wheel of Time, I was a person who blurted out whatever the hell came instantly to mind--and since life had taught me certain behavior patterns were always preferable, it was usually something that got me into trouble and/or hurt someone else. Over the last ten years, I’ve made a real effort to be the sort of person who considers before speaking. This causes less strife for everyone involved and gives me a chance to order my thoughts for maximum effect, which I think is something Perrin would appreciate.


Past Memory liked Egwene a lot, but I wasn’t, like, super committed to her. Egwene was just there, learning magic and being useful and breaking up with Rand (which was a big thing for Past Memory, who had never seen a fictional relationship end).

I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t love the hell out of Egwene from the very moment I met her. Maybe it was my toxic childhood notion that female characters weren’t worthy of Favourite status? Or maybe it’s that Egwene’s brilliance is fairly quiet in the beginning. It’s not until THE GATHERING STORM that she throws all restraint out the window and charges through the world as a fierce, talented, politically savvy badass.

I look forward to reexamining her the next time I revisit the series (your correspondent says, all cool and aloof like she doesn’t freak the fuck out whenever she thinks about late-series Egwene).

Fun fact: I listened to P!nk’s FUNHOUSE on repeat as I read the last three volumes, and it’s now inextricably tangled up with Egwene being a badass. I can’t hear certain songs without having Egwene Feels.


I like Nynaeve as much as I ever did, which is quite a lot. Like I said, she was a big influence on me when I was a kid. I wanted to know everything about plants, and in the ten years I’ve been working on the consideration thing, I’ve come to share her desire to help people.

Past Memory was also angry quite a lot of the time, and oh, how I longed for a waist-length, wrist-thick braid. Not necessarily to yank on; just because I’ve always wanted hair I can sit on.

There’s this part late in the series where Lan thinks about why he loves Nynaeve so much. It’s because she cares about everything, and because she’s gonna do something if she possibly can. That’s exactly why I love her, too.


Twelve-year-old Memory hated Mat Cauthon more than any other character who had ever seen print.

Y’all think I’m exaggerating. Nope. Twelve-year-old Memory was vicious and unforgiving and inclined to badmouth Mat to anyone who’d listen (provided they hadn’t actually read the series, as detailed above).

I continued to hate him ever so much until--spoiler coming up if you care about stuff like this--it looked like he’d died. (He hadn’t, though his absence from the next book helped bolster that impression.) Then I kind of missed him? And I wasn’t really sure why?

I’m still not sure why my opinion shifted, but I can tell you exactly I initially hated him. Mat is a jackass. He’s the Obligatory Grumpy One. He complains early and often, and he spouts a lot of bullshit.

This was… maybe a bit too close to home.

Not that my twelve-year-old self recognized that she, too, was a grumpy, bullshit-spouting jackass who everyone watched carefully lest she start trouble. Twelve-year-old Memory wasn’t that self aware.

I was also completely oblivious to the divide between what Mat says and what Mat does. He might tell everyone within hearing that he’s out for himself and himself alone unless someone pays him, but he leaps into the fray without a second thought if he so much as thinks someone might be in danger. He complains to high hell when a help-ee fails to thank him promptly and effusively, but as soon as they correct their error he gets all humble (or humbleish, at any rate) and insists it wasn’t a big deal, anybody would’ve done it, why the hell are they still on about it? He claims to hate all Aes Sedai on principle, but maybe that one over there is okay, and she’s all right, and of course that doesn’t apply to her. And like hell he’s gonna let anyone, Aes Sedai or no, get hurt if there’s anything he can do to prevent it.

He also spends a lot of time thinking about how he’s an even-tempered, easy-going non-complainer.

Yeah, buddy. That’s you, all right.

There’s this bit where Thom tells someone Mat isn’t nearly as bad as he’d like to be, and that’s entirely accurate. Mat would like to think he’s completely carefree and irresponsible and not even sort of a hero, but it’s all lies.

Well, mostly lies.

I love the frickin’ hell out of him. A couple years back, I wiped my Highly Exclusive List of Favourite Literary Characters clean because I realized it had been far too long since I’d checked in with any of them. Mat won his place back pretty well the second he became a POV character in THE DRAGON REBORN. I didn’t expect that at all.

Mat was a lot of firsts for me. My first jackass. My first slither-outer. The first character I loathed with all my soul but came to love. These are all things I value in my fictional characters to this day.

I mean, I don’t agree with everything he says and does, any more than I agree with everything the rest of my favourites say or do. (It’s tough to get fully behind a slew of fuck-ups and jackasses, no matter how much you like them.) But I like to hope his less admirable statements are as deeply planted as his denials of heroism; which is to say, not very.

Cover of Towers of Midnight, featuring a dark-haired, bearded white man holding a flaming a war hammer as a shadowy battle rages around him.Cover of A Memory of Light, featuring a red-haired white man in a red coat wielding a sword made of crystal.

And in conclusion...

Wow. This was long. I feel like that’s appropriate, though, given that the series itself is fourteen overly verbose volumes that consumed a hefty portion of my life over nineteen years. Hell, this most recent read-through took me exactly two hundred and five hours (thanks for tracking that for me, Kobo stats!). I can’t just wave it off with a couple of sparse paragraphs. It wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be right.

Neither would it be right for me to ramble on any longer, though. Goodbye, friends. Goodbye, Wheel of Time. You tested my patience on occasion, but on the whole you were a marvelous journey and I’m glad I took you.

  1. My junior high ran Life Skills week at the end of each school year. Students could choose from a bunch of different activities, like photography or slipper-making or learning about plants. I obviously chose learning about plants, which actually turned out to be learning about forests. I never did get any herb lore out of the experience, but I learned what poison ivy looks like and I became well and truly obsessed with trees. So I guess I went in trying to be Nynaeve and came out behaving like an Ogier.

    Sidebar: when I wrote this bit, I grabbed THE GREAT HUNT off the shelf (this being the only one of the books I still own in hard copy, since it’s a signed first edition and apparently I need to keep it for ever and ever until I die) to make sure I’d spelled Nynaeve’s name right--and learned I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years. The accent goes on the first syllable; NIGH-neeve, not nigh-NEEVE.


    I think I’m gonna let myself have this one, like how I still say PRY-dain instead of prih-DAIN. It’s not like I can offend Nynaeve, though of course I’ll adopt the correct pronunciation if I ever meet a real person named after her.

  2. My hat collection is awesome, y’all. My favourite is a vintage chartreuse plush number with a semi-floppy brim and a brushed gold chain for a hat band. My most tasteless piece by far is a black and gold paisley cowboy hat I got at the Minnesota State Fair. The friend who was with me when I bought it is still appalled, but I stand by the purchase. Sometimes you’ve just gotta own a black and gold paisley cowboy hat.

    Hey! Other hat story! New Zealand is right under the hole in the ozone layer, so the sun is brighter there than it is in Canada. I spent the early part of my year there wishing for a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, but I had a hell of a time finding one that wasn’t a baseball cap (I am not a baseball cap person) or extraordinarily expensive (NZ is the Land of Extremely Expensive Clothes). Finally, I stumbled across a hat-seller at a Waitangi Day celebration. They furnished me with an affordable checked trilby that I wore throughout the rest of my stay.

    I also had to wear it on the plane back to Canada because it turns out hats are bloody difficult to travel with.

    About a month after I got home, trilbies and their cousins, fedoras, became synonymous with douchebags. While I recognize that not all trilbie-wearers are douchebags, I haven’t had the heart to wear it ever since.

    Thanks, douchebags. Thanks a lot.

  3. Unless you’re a speed reader. Neil Gaiman came to town a few years back, and my friend and I happened to be in line alongside two people who’d attended Robert Jordan’s long-ago signing at a different branch of the same store. We chatted with one of them, while the other read NEVERWHERE and offered the occasional comment. It turned out, she was a speed reader who always passed her time in signing lines by reading the author in question’s books—and she and her partner knew from signing lines, since they always went through two or three times if author and store allowed. (Mr Jordan did; Mr Gaiman did not.) She’d read THE GREAT HUNT during their second pass through the line, and her partner gleefully described Mr Jordan’s horror upon learning she’d devoured two years of his writing life in less than two hours.

    Yeah; I’m not as fast as her.

    I also missed the signing in question because my parents took one look at the long, thick line and refused to stand in it with me. (I was fourteen. This was before cell phones, and they were my only way to get home.) Sadness. Luckily, I found the abovementioned signed copy of THE GREAT HUNT a few years later. It's signed to Andrea, but anything I got signed when I was fourteen wouldn't have the right name on it either so we're good.

  4. Okay, this isn’t something that haunts me exactly, but I’m a bit surprised it didn’t carry more weight at the end so I want to talk about it.

    Be forewarned: it’s low-key spoilerish.

    I got into Norse mythology right after I fell in love with the Wheel of Time. I may be a little rusty on the details these days, but I know from Norse gods, and it’s pretty clear Jordan set up Rand, Mat, and Perrin to each embody certain Norse godly attributes.

    Mat is the most obvious. He’s been hanged on the World Tree. He has a spear. He Knows Shit. Ravens follow him around. He wears a flat-brimmed black hat. And oh, yeah, he loses an eye. (As if you didn't see that coming.) He’s Odin all over.

    Perrin makes himself a magic hammer. Hello, Thor analog.

    (He also has a total superhero thing going on near the end, though of course that’s connected to a more contemporary vision of Thor.)

    Rand, who has Thor right in his name, loses a hand like Tyr, the Norse god of law and war. It’s the flimsiest connection of the lot, yeah, but it slots in so well with the others that I’ve gotta figure it’s deliberate. There may be some other stuff seeded throughout the text, too. Tyr was never one of my particular favourites.

    And I really thought Robert Jordan was going somewhere with this beyond the obvious "certain things echo across all worlds" angle, but about the closest he comes to it is when Artur Hawkwing tells Mat he’s not a Hero of the Horn because of reasons. And I mean, I’m stretching my arse off to get from that to "you parallel a god."

    (Though perhaps it’s not as much of a stretch as all that when one considers other, far more spoilerific, details. Hmmm.)


  1. I was a year or so older than you when I first encountered WOT, so a lot of this is sounding very familiar, although I reread the series a bunch of times while waiting for new instalments.
    Which made my last reread very uneven, as the early books I knew almost off by heart and then the later ones, that I'd only read once, were so unfamiliar to me that it was almost as though I'd never read them.

    I still love Nyneave & Lan together. Perrin was always my favourite, and I love Faile when we first met her, but their relationship was strange and odd.

    1. I got WINTER'S HEART and CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT all tangled up in my head. Everything that happened in the former I remembered happening in the latter (when I remembered it at all), so I ended up feeling like I'd never read CoT before.

      Y'see, everyone loves Perrin best. I'm an oddball who has Very Wrong Opinions About Books.

  2. I've never read any of this series but it was my brother's favorite many, many years ago. He was into it before I really started reading fantasy. Now I'm wondering if he kept reading through the whole series.

    1. We readers from long ago seem pretty evenly divided into two camps: those who stuck with it and those who drifted away (but usually came back once the last book was available).