Saturday, July 27, 2013

"The Wheel of Time" and me

A few weeks ago, I finished a series I'd begun a decade ago. It's quite the experience. I felt mentally exhausted, emotionally wrung out, saddened yet pleased, awed yet sorrowful.

I'd finished "A Memory of Light", the final novel in "The Wheel of Time" series.

I started "The Eye of The World" in high school, knowing that one of my older brothers had read it and enjoyed it. I liked fantasy, losing myself in a wild yet somehow plausible world, another reality. The stories intrigued me, the action was exciting and simply put, the magic was cool.

"The Eye of The World" hooked me immediately. It had everything I could have wanted. Three farmboys are forced to leave their home, chased by evil, and heroically save the day. The action was there, intense and heart-thumping. The characters were fantastic. I felt like I knew them, their thoughts and feelings. They fought, tooth and nail, giving it their all to save the day.

And yet, at the end, the day was saved but not much more. The story went on. There was something much bigger growing. I felt like I had barely scratched the surface, even though the book was 700 pages long or so.

I devoured the next few books, one after another. The boys grew, slowly but surely. The conflicts grew as well, becoming bigger and crazier. The cast grew as well, on both sides, good and evil. Each book brought new cultures, each incredibly detailed, down to what they wore and their hair styles. This wasn't just a fantasy story, this was an entire world, an entire reality to delve into.

I delved into that world, The Wheel of Time, time and time again.

The story grew beyond just three boys, though they stayed as centerpieces. The Wheel of Time wasn't about three boys, it was about the end of the Third Age, about the Last Battle between Light and The Dark One, it wasn't one story it was a multitude, all weaving together brilliantly.

Eventually, I had to stop, not because I wanted to, but because I had caught up to Robert Jordan as he wrote new novels. Sometimes, I would go back and read the first couple, refresh the story in my mind. I fell easily back into the world, the characters as familiar as old friends.

Each time Jordan would finish a new one, I'd consume it in a matter of days. I could tell the end was coming. It had to. He couldn't write the story forever. Things were shaping up for the grand finale and I knew it would be one hell of a ride.

Then, after the 11th book in the series, while working on what he thought would be the final book, Robert Jordan unfortunately passed away.

I felt crushed. This writer, this creator of an amazing world, had died. It's always sad when a writer passes away. You see, when you read a writer for so long, you feel like you know them. Writers put much of themselves into the work. I knew Jordan's world, so I felt like I knew him. I wish I could have known him, or let him know how much his world meant for me.

But he was gone. Another sting, there would be no more Wheel of Time. I would never know what happened to my favorite characters. I could only imagine.

I put the series aside for a long time. I'd thought it was done for good. I made my peace with it and moved on. It was a really great series that unfortunately didn't get an ending. Oh, well, I thought. What I got to read was pretty freaking great.

Then, I heard The Wheel of Time wasn't dead. Jordan had kept numerous notes and his wife had taken them to Brandon Sanderson to finish the series. I can only thank Mrs. Jordan so much. It must have been hard, giving your husbands work to another, trusting them to finish it the right way. But she wanted the readers to get their ending, and she must have known Robert Jordan wouldn't have wanted to leave his readers like that.

I felt ecstatic when I heard, yet also nervous. Could someone else write a Wheel of Time novel? Not to mention the penultimate finale to Jordan's world?

Well, I knew I would find out. I just had to read one more book when Sanderson finished it...

Then I heard he was splitting the final novel into three, as it was simply too much material to fit into one book. I had not one more novel to finish the series, but three, one published a year for three years. 14 books in total. Would I ever actually read the end? I sometimes wondered.

When I read the 12th, Sanderson's first, my worries were dashed away. Sanderson performed some sort of miracle, creating a novel that felt like The Wheel of Time, through and through, keeping the characters consistent and hurrying the plot along at an exciting pace.

I read the 13th book in three days. It blew my mind. I couldn't believe the end was coming. I just had to wait an agonizingly long time.

Finally, A Memory Of Light was published in January, 2013.

Unfortunately, I couldn't read it then.

See, I felt I had a duty, a responsibility. If I was really going to read the end to The Wheel of Time, well, I needed to fucking reread the entire series before I did so.

So I did.

I started last summer, possibly a year ago, and read through all 13 books without a break in between. I engulfed myself in the world, reliving the climactic moments, the badass action, the drama. Dropping back into that world felt great, the cast of characters like old friends come for dinner.

Now, I've read the end. I know how The Last Battle finishes. I know what happens to the characters. It was, honestly, better than I could have imagined. Everything came back around. Everything tied up. Nothing was forgotten (as far as I could tell).

I have never felt so connected with any other novel or series. It is a fantastic world to dive into, and I would recommend it to anyone willing to invest the time into it. I tell you, the payoff is worth it.

I don't usually use this word, as these days it is completely overused and has nearly lost all meaning, but it truly fits.

The Wheel of Time is epic.

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