Review: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (Books 1-3)

Jonathan and I are reading The Wheel of Time together. It’s fun reading with him because he’s quite smart with great comments to add, and it's nice to have someone to vent frustrations to. ("Can you beliiieeeeve [insert character] did this!!") When we were at Books-A-Million buying the series, a random man walked by and informed us that "it's the greatest series ever." I'm waiting to confirm that opinion until I'm done, but BAM stranger aside I have only heard good things about it. So, I decided to take the plunge even though it's a sprawling fourteen books, between 500-900 pages each.

 

I'm currently on Book Four and just a couple days ago I saw an article saying this series will eventually move to TV! This might be one of the very rare occasions I prefer the screen version, but I definitely plan to finish reading.

Warning: Spoilers follow in the summaries so skip to my Likes/Dislikes to avoid those.

Book 1: The Eye of the World

Picture in your mind happy farms and happy people, something like the Shire without the Hobbits. This is the Two Rivers, where we find Rand al'Thor, Perrin Aybara, and Mat Cauthon, young men around nineteen or twenty.

A woman named Moraine arrives on the eve of a festival with Lan, who is her bonded Warder aka partner aka bodyguard aka lover (just kidding, I so want them to hook up though). Moraine is an Aes Sedai, or a female sorcerer who can channel the One Power. She's essentially a really powerful witch. I love the fact that the women in this series have such potential, but I'm not crazy about the fact that Aes Sedai in general are mistrusted and always act aloof, cold, and calculating. On the eve of the festival, the Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs and Myddraal (think Orcs and Ringwraiths). Moraine knows what's after the trio but she doesn't divulge everything she knows. Instead, she plans to take them to Tar Valon (the city where Aes Sedai reside in the White Tower) to be safe. The five of them are joined on their journey by visiting gleeman Thom Merrilin and Egwene al’Vere, a friend of the trio who kinda-sorta-not-really is Rand’s girlfriend. Nynaeve al’Meara, the village Wisdom, or healer, catches up with them later.

The rest of the book follows the group after they get separated in the abandoned city of Shadar Logoth and their struggles finding each other. It’s here that Perrin learns he has a telepathic connection to wolves when he meets another man with this power, Rand meets Elayne who is the Daughter Heir/Princess of Andor, and he also meets Loial, an Ogier. Ogier are similar to humans, but larger and they live much longer. Eventually they all get together again and Moraine confirms that Mat is sick from a tainted dagger he stole in Shadar Logoth. Loial also tells her about the Eye of the World, which has a seal on the Dark One’s prison and might be in jeopardy of breaking. The group travels to save it, destroys two Forsaken (the Dark One’s top minions), and Rand fights the Dark One and wins.

Book 2: The Great Hunt

Book Two finds our band in Shienar, where Padan Fain (the guy who led the Trollocs into the Two Rivers in Book One) is being held in prison. Siuan Sanche, the Amyrlin Seat (president/leader lady of the Aes Sedai), has come from Tar Valon and identifies Rand as the Dragon Reborn. He’s basically a reincarnation of one of the most powerful male sorcerers to ever live, and it takes him a while to accept this, because the original Dragon destroyed the world. The fortress they're staying in is attacked by Trollocs and Fain escapes, stealing the Horn of Valere that was recovered at the end of Book One. The dagger that is still parasitically connected to Mat was stolen too, so Mat, Perrin, and Rand all head off with Shienaran soldiers to get them back. Nynaeve and Egwene go to Tar Valon with Moraine to begin their Aes Sedai studies. There, Nynaeve and Egwene meet Elayne and Min. Min's not an Aes Sedai-in-training but she has a prophetic gift that the Amyrlin Seat wants to study and use.

Rand accidentally transports himself to another parallel world via portal stone along with Loial. There, he meets Lanfear, a Forsaken in disguise. Perrin leads the rest of the Shieran group on after they lose Rand, using his telepathic wolf abilities. Eventually Rand rejoins the real world, but they end up ahead of the Shienarans so they continue the search. Rand meets Thom Merrilin, whom he previously thought dead. Eventually the two groups connect, and they learn that the Horn was taken to Falme, the port city of Toman Head. Rand decides to try using a portal stone to save travel time but ends up losing weeks.

Meanwhile, Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene are tricked by Aes Sedai Liandrin into leaving the White Tower and they’re captured by the Seachan at Tomen Head. (Seriously, they should’ve seen that one coming from miles away, Liandrin all but wears a sign that says “I am a bad person.”) Seachan have tools called a’dam, which control women who can channel but they escape. In Falme, Rand kills the Lord of the Seachan to retrieve the horn and dagger. The Seachan attack, the Whitecloaks attack (they’re a sort of military religious group), and Mat blows the Horn of Valere for help. Legend comes true when the horn resurrects heroes from thousands of years in the past; Rand fights the Dark One again and everyone lives to fight another day. Or, rather, in twelve more books.

Book 3: The Dragon Reborn

Even though he’s the main character, Rand is barely in Book Three at all. He sneaks away from the group and heads to Tear to prove himself. Meanwhile, Mat is taken to Tar Valon to finally be healed of the sickness from the dagger. Once he’s better, Elayne gives Mat a letter to take to her mother, Queen Morgase, and he sneaks off to travel with Thom Merrilin. When delivering the letter, Mat overhears of a plot to murder Elayne so he leaves to prevent it.

Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne are tasked by the Amyrlin Seat to hunt down the Black Ajah (all Aes Sedai are divided into Ajah’s, you can guess that the Black Ajah is the bad one) and their journey takes them to Tear. They’re captured in Tear but eventually rescued by Mat and a man named Juilian Sandar, he betrayed them while being influenced by Liandrin. 

Meanwhile, Perrin travels with Moraine, Lan, and Loial to follow Rand. A girl named Faile joins them and she and Perrin immediately form a bond. She’s hunting the Horn of Valere, unaware that it's already been found. They arrive in Tear in time to see that Rand is already there, too. He fights one of the Forsaken, whom Moraine destroys with balefire. Rand takes Callandor, a sword that is a powerful sa’angreal (a tool to help channel the One Power) and fights and destroys Ba’alzamon for the third time, although Moraine believes that this man wasn’t a full representation of the Dark One and that he still lives. By taking the sword, Rand has fulfilled prophecy.  

Things I Like:

1) Magic

I just like magic. I like fantasy. I like stories where anything is possible because of an inexplicable force. Rand can conjure up thunderstorms, fiery swords, and can make anything nearby just explode. He’s the most powerful of them all but Jordan does well in making sure his abilities aren’t the sole focus of the story. I’m genuinely curious to see him grow and fulfill all these prophecies that keep getting hinted at. Can we talk about how great the covers of these books are too? They’re just cheesy enough to remind me what kind of story I'm reading.

2) Perrin

Perrin’s abilities are my favorite, even if they’re not the most powerful. I was indifferent about Rand until Book Four, and I strongly disliked Mat for the first two and a half but I’ve always liked Perrin. His character development is the most steady, in my opinion. I want him to fully accept his connection with the wolves and do awesome things with them. Or just talk to them about wolf-y things. I’m on the fence about his relationship with Faile, though - they work together but at the same time their fights are overly dramatic.

3) Aes Sedai and Warders

Not all of the female Aes Sedai have a Warder, but if I were an Aes Sedai I totally would. Who doesn’t want a strong warrior man who follows you around, guards your back, and keeps you company as you spend your days as badass sorcerer? I guess that’s why I’m getting married soon. I just need Jonathan to learn to fight with a sword and wear a chameleon cloak...

Things I Dislike:

1) Repetition

These books could easily lose 100+ pages each if they’d had a more thorough editor. Seriously, it reads “Moraine looked coldly at Rand,” and then a few paragraphs later, “Rand felt Moraine’s ice-like stare” constantly throughout the book. I am not stupid. Jordan seems to think I am and that I will forget things I JUST READ. I do not need to be beaten over the head with the same phrases over and over again. I love long books and I’m not intimidated by them, but there has to be a reason for it.

2) Sexism, Kinda

The One Power is very Yin and Yang. It has two halves that are only reached by either male or female channelers. I like that part, the dual forces have moments throughout the series where they clash or connect and the dynamic plays out well. However, I think Jordan tried too hard to create defined male and female characteristics in this series which resulted in stereotypes. The channeling women are untrustworthy and the channeling men are dangerous. The women have tempers, the men are constantly wondering why the women are so difficult, etc...it sometimes feels like I’m reading about adults who have a high school mentality. These people are powerful and cool otherwise; I wish they would stop exclaiming “Men!” or “Women!” and sighing that they will never understand the other.

3) Nynaeve

She has the potential to be the strongest Aes Sedai in ages. Great, I get it, but I do not understand why this woman has to be such a bitch. I don’t remember which book this was in, but one time she got so worked up at a man that she hit him across the back with a broom, which cracked the handle. How is this okay?! How does anyone listen to this woman and tolerate her attitude?! She is the worst, of all the characters I need her to have a serious personality adjustment because I just don’t understand her appeal.

Rating:

So far the rating is 3.5/5 for the first three books, but I'm expecting it to go a little higher. I like the characters and story well enough to over look my issues with it, especially now that the characters have matured some. Fortunately there are eleven more books for development, that should be plenty of time for these people to figure themselves out. Finishing this series will be a job but I’m up for it.