Friday, April 19, 2013

The Wheel of Time

This will have spoilers for the last few books, I'm not planning on deliberately spoiling anything, but I won't be especially careful about things either. You have been warned. 

Finally, after over twenty years, The Wheel of Time is freaking finished. Took Mr. Jordan long enough, though I imagine illness and dying had something of an impact on his productivity. I've been reading this series since high school, which is over a decade now, and finally having it on my Kindle and being in the process of finishing the final book is somewhat cathartic. It also has me feeling a little nostalgic and a little, I dunno, melancholy. I really like this series, though I have a wide variety of issues with the writing and some of the characterization. I guess it is because this is the last book, there are no more to come. No more Rand and his flaming sword or rays of balefire, no more Mat and his hat and dice, no more Perrin and his wolves and hammer. This is it. Ragnarok, I mean The Last Battle, has come and it is time for Tyr, I mean Rand, to die.

Part of me strongly desires to just blast my way through this book and finish it one fell swoop. I'm 30% through it, which leaves me like six hundred and ninety or so pages left to read, but I know I could end the thing tonight before bed (it's a quarter after eight Thursday night right now). I read fast. Part of me is resisting this though. Part of me like, I dunno, wants to savor the book, make the experience last. Which is kind of an alien concept to me. Normally I just eat the fucking words with my eyes, devour them, and gulp them down between gasps for air. I guess I just don't want the series to be over. 

I think the series is fantastic, despite the constant men vs. women nonsense and yanking of braids and wool-headed nature of everyone that is irritating the narrator of the moment. So far, Mr. Sanderson has not included any of Mr. Jordan's constant, once a page, reminders that women think all men are wool-headed and vice versa in this book. Which I am gloriously appreciative of. I've kind of started to love that Perrin named his hammer something that I pronounce as Mjolnir, even though I was exasperated by the naming decision when he did so a book or two ago. Rand is Tyr, Perrin is Thor, and Matt is Odin and I was kind of ambivalent about that when I first figured it out, but now I see it and it makes me smile inside. I'm not sure why, I just like it. It's swell.


I dunno. I love this series, even after not reading it for like seven years and only catching back up on it nine months ago. I'm glad to finally see Mr. Jordan's story reach completion, but I'm sad to see it go and fearful of what the conclusion of this last book will be. The general assumption by characters in the world is that Rand is going to die, and him somehow surviving the final battle seems too much of a happy ending. But he's suffered so much already, doesn't he deserve some kind of reward? You know, aside from having a harem and being the most powerful Aes Sedai on the planet and ruling most of a continent and stuff. I kid. Those are fun, but doesn't he deserve to not be in pain every moment of every day? Doesn't he deserve idle moments with his ladies and his friends? Shouldn't he be allowed to sit down with Lan and just rock back on a stool and enjoy a fucking beer?

Part of me longs for a happy ending. Part of me wants to read a scene of Tam playing with his grandchildren while Rand and Elayne watch on happily. But a bigger part of me rails at the possibility of that ending, screaming that it would be disingenuous. Rand's schtick during these novels has been to suffer while he attempts to keep the world from destruction. He has been tortured and dismembered and haunted by various entities and situations throughout the series, and a peaceful ending where he gets to enjoy life after The Last Battle does not feel like it fits the story. Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sanderson have never been quite so murderous in intent towards Jordan's creations as a George R.R. Martin has been to his own, but no one has had an easy time of anything in The Wheel of Time series. 

Honestly, I think I am writing this post to delay reading the book. I just read an amazing sequence a few dozen pages ago. Two actually. The first was Rand sparring with his father and wielding a sword again for the first time since he lost his hand. We also finally get to see Tam al'Thor as a blademaster. It was glorious. There haven't been a lot of father and son moments with Tam and Rand since the first book, and Rand has changed so much since then. It was very nice to see them together once again, and I really loved getting a look at Tam as a blademaster. I went into it expecting Rand to trounce him, as I'd completely forgotten that he'd lost his hand and had not picked up a sword since then. I'm always under the assumption that once Rand starts channeling or brings out a blade, he wins. It was nice to see him failing in a more mundane way that two dozen dreadlords shielding him and stuffing him in a box to suffer alone with the madness of Lews Therin Telamon. He is a blademaster and still quite good, but his muscle memory from his training combined with not having practiced using a blade one-handed made him a clumsy novice compared to his father. 

The second scene was Mat and Rand finally meeting once again after about half a dozen books apart. They mention that the last time they were together was when Rand asked Mat to go after Elayne to protect her, and I draw a blank as to when that was. This series is so massive and has such a high page count (11,916 over the course of fourteen books, supposedly) that I forgot when two of the more important main characters last saw each other and what the context of that parting was. I mean, yeah, I have a bad mind for remembering details sometimes, but this series is something I've read through at least two or three times and I recall a lot of the details of the plot, and those I forget usually take only a little bit of prodding to recall. There's so much in here about the world and the characters, so many details and bits and pieces of lore. It is extensive. Granted, probably 10% of the word count (which is supposedly over four million) is the word(s) wool-headed, but still, this series is huge. 

Like I said, I'm only like 30% through the last book here, but I have really enjoyed it so far and look forward to the next 70%. 

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