Monday, April 12, 2010

Wheel of Time

I'm reading through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, good stuff so far, very entertaining and at times mesmerizing. I've just finished up the 3rd book in the series, The Dragon Reborn, and I thought I'd share some thoughts about what I've read so far. Bullet point style. The following contains spoilers from the first 3 instalments in the series, you are warned.

  • Favorite Character thus far: Perrin Aybara - I usually like the hulking character in fantasy stories, dwarfs being the exception, and I always like blacksmithing stuff. He's also the "think first" guy, which I lean to, but, I really started liking his thread when he found his ability to communicate with wolves. The wolfbrother angle has got me hooked, and if he ever smiths a weapon of some sort he'll cement himself as my favorite. He has also drawn an interesting character, Zarine Bashere, into the story. I hope their thread continues to provide what it has so far.
  • Favorite Male Character besides Perrin: Lan Mandragoran - The stone faced and fearless, deadly in a fight and utterly devoted to an oath to protect the Aes Sedai caster Moiraine. I really like these archetypes, sword in hand since childhood, fiercely loyal to a single concrete ideal. He's probably more of a badass than Aragorn, but I'd still prolly lay money on Drizzt Do'Urden in a fight.
  • Favorite Female Character: Elayne Trakand - I'm a sucker for a redhead. In seriousness though this is more a process of elimination for me. Egwene is too whiny, Nynaeve is too headstrong, Min seems to just be caught up in things, and Moiraine is too dedicated to a cause that's too too fluid to predict what she will do. Elayne seems the balance of all that. She may be royal, but it doesn't show, she's vocal at just the right times and says the things I would say. The less developed Zarine is giving her a run for her money, we'll see in the next few books how that goes.
  • Favorite Faction: Warders - Even though I don't necessarily like the Aes Sedai at all times the Warders who protect them are really cool to me. Through all the Aes Sedai scheming and politics the Warders ideals are simple, Protect the one he is bonded to. To these guys there really is no gray. Plus I gotta get me one of those color shifting cloaks.
  • Most Hated Faction: Seanchan - Even before the Whitecloaks and the Shadow itself, I've had the most hate for the Seanchan. I've read some good black mail and betrayal stories, but nothing as treacherous as what Liandrin does with Egwene and the others by delivering them into the collars and leashes of the Seanchan. Besides the whole slavery thing, these folks seem heartless at best, bent on power and control. The higher up you go the worse it gets, utterly self serving and completely devoid of any compassion. Even the forsaken seem to have chosen vileness over the light, but for the Seanchan what they do is right.
  • Faction on Which the Jury is Still Out: Aiel - Fearsome and fearless, as deadly without a weapon as with, and can apparently out run horses. I'd like to see their aversion to swords fleshed out a bit more, and I'm sure it will be, but on the face of it I like their approach to things.
  • Refreshing Lack of Mythical Creatures - I've really like that there aren't any of the standard elves or dwarfs, every major faction is a faction of men. There are fantastic creatures, but they are used sparingly. For me it makes the threat a more real. Orcs are nameless and faceless, but men and women fallen to evil hits home for me. There are the trollocs (every fantasy story needs fodder too), but fallen men are pulling the strings.
  • Balance - Every good fantasy story needs to have a good balance of lore versus action, and I think Jordan does a really good job on this front. The world is expansive to say the least, but it isn't overbearing, and the action sequences come in the right places for me.
  • Pacing - I will say that the pacing can get a bit strange for me, but it's mostly because I've divided the amount of attention I'm willing to give certain characters. If Perrin rides off by himself you can bet I'm reading every word, but when Mat ends up alone, I'm markedly less interested. I'm sure as I go on I'll develop more affinity for each character, but as of now I haven't.
  • Magic System - In the fantasy genre the writer usually either exhaustively explains in detail what it is a magician is doing when he accesses the fabled power, or the writer tells you it's "insert name for magic here" and expects that to be enough. I have seen both work well. In this series so far I've been disappointed with how much I know about the system. I think the problem is that Jordan himself didn't really have an idea of how it worked, and my problem with that is that he let's us in on it as it comes to him, which has left me really confused about what it is those women are doing when they touch Saidar.

So that's my impression thus far, I am pretty engrossed and plan on seeing it through over this year, although at my current pace it won't take that long.

1 comment:

John said...

At the end of the day my favorite guy is Mat, my favorite girl is Moiraine (with Nynaeve close behind) and my favorite peeps are the Aiel.

The only thing about the one power that I question Jordan on is the 'rope'... I won't say much more, except that our understanding of it changes and then we are thankfully left not to deal with it any further.

If you want rules: after you finish you may want to check out some of Brandon Sanderson's books (the writer who is finishing WoT w/ Robert Jordan's notes). That guy writes in a way that rules are very strictly bound to the storyline and does so skillfully.
And if you like a magic system that makes sense one way or another I have to reiterate: skip Terry Goodkind. Anytime he can't get out of a situation or something absurdly pointless happens some character says, "Oh yeah... that was magic."

Anyway, the WoT books do eventually slow in pace, and I know a lot of people don't like them for that... personally just the way he moves the characters around and grows them is enough for me.