Revisiting the Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World

As promised last month, I have begun a leisurely re-read of the Wheel of Time. (Very leisurely. One book every two months, on the twin principles that this will keep me from burning out, and have me finishing shortly after the series itself is done.) I will be blogging this process, but not very intensively; the intent is to make one post per book.

Needless to say, this will involve spoilers. Potentially up through Crossroads of Twilight (the last book I read), until of course I move on to the books after it. (Corollary point: if you’ve read Knife of Dreams or The Gathering Storm, please don’t spoil those. I’d like to read them with as fresh an eye as possible.) But this isn’t just Nostalgia Lane; I will be doing some craft-oriented critiquing, musing on the subgenre of epic fantasy, etc. So if you’re interested, follow me behind the cut.

It’s been a while since I read EPIC! FANTASY! I haven’t read much epic fantasy at all, lately, and most of it has been aiming for the gritty, realistic, broken-down end of things; it’s kind of sweet to see a book be so unabashedly in love with grandeur. Every so often it busts out with Lan’s titles or something and you just kind of want to pat it on the head. Not really my cup of tea anymore, but I’m pleased to say that at least I’m able to read it; I was afraid I’d get two hundred pages in and realize I just couldn’t do this.

And if you don’t choke on the EPIC! FANTASY!-ness of it, I still say the prologue is one of the better things Jordan did in the whole series. Maybe not the best-written bit — I’ll have to see as I go along — but it helped me clarify my thoughts on prologues, how to do them wrong and right. This one is done right, in the sense that it provides the reader with a scene instead of an infodump, conflict and characters instead of a history lesson. Long after I’d forgotten pretty much every other scene in TEotW, I remembered this one. So Jordan gets a cookie for that.

But if I try to do a scene-by-scene blog of this, I’ll never get anywhere. So let’s move onto the macro issues.

Pacing first, as it is probably the single biggest flaw marring the series as a whole. This is, of course, a Very Fat Fantasy (over 300K words, according to Wikipedia; I shudder to think of tackling a single manuscript that long, much less multiple). Unlike some later volumes, though — where I think Jordan had the Big Thing he wanted to happen at the end of the book, and everything leading up to it was marking time — there are relatively few bits that could be cut wholesale. Personally, I saw two: the chapter where Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan get to Whitebridge (since that basically just updates us on their position, and recaps what we already saw happen to Rand, Mat, and Thom), and the sequence of Darkfriend attacks against Rand and Mat on the way to Caemlyn. The former didn’t pull its weight, and the latter didn’t build properly; the first attack was by far the most exciting, and the others felt like afterthoughts. Re-organization of that sequence might have solved the problem just as well as reducing it.

You certainly could cut the plot more. Skip the altercation with the Whitecloaks in Baerlon, for example, or Perrin and Egwene’s brief stedding detour. I’m not convinced that would improve the plot, though; the effect would be to simplify the world, such that later things (like Perrin and Egwene’s arrest by the Whitecloaks, or the discussion of how the male Aes Sedai came to grow the Ways for the Ogier) seem more like they were pulled out of Jordan’s ear. And this is epic fantasy, a genre where exploration of a rich world, both geographically and socially, is one of its selling points. The main way I would shorten the book, then, would not be to remove stuff, but to do that stuff more efficiently, with fewer words. And even then . . . sure, the Trollocs could have attacked Emond’s Field on page 20; you don’t need all that elaboration of a village that the plot almost certainly wasn’t going to return to. (Perrin does go back, of course, but I suspect that was a later development, not on Jordan’s radar when he wrote TEotW.) But I’m kind of glad a genre exists where you can do that sort of thing, where an author can take the time to show you the people at the fringes of the Great Narrative. As I said at the beginning, not really my cup of tea anymore — but I do appreciate its existence, for all it usually gets slammed.

The other thing that’s bad in the series, of course, is the women. My hypothesis — to be tested as I read on — is that this flaw consists of three components, one of them craft-based, the other two issues of gender politics.

The craft issue is one of characterization, regardless of gender. It just isn’t Jordan’s strong point, period. He does better with the men, but they still aren’t the most nuanced and three-dimensional people ever to grace a page; and as the series goes along, it seems to me that he has an increasing amount of difficulty keeping them distinct from one another. (A difficulty probably worsened by the cast growing beyond all reason.) This process happens faster with the women, but you can see it with the men, too, and it’s always been one of the weak legs of this story.

As far as gender politics are concerned, you see a brief flash of one issue here, which is the implication that even strong-willed women — maybe especially strong-willed women — really want an even stronger-willed man to tell them what to do. Mostly it doesn’t figure into this book, except for a very fleeting occurrence when Perrin and Egwene are split apart from the others, but it will show up more later, as will the notion that when a woman convinces a man to do what she wants, it’s “bullying.” That, needless to say, is an unsavory argument. The other gender-politics issue is blessedly absent from this book, namely, the bizarre obsession Jordan’s female characters have with physically disciplining one another. The Aes Sedai, Wise Ones, Maidens of the Spear, Kin, and other female societies have this insanely common tendency to beat on each other with birch rods, switches, shoes, and so on. I don’t know what’s up with that motif, and I DON’T WANT TO. But it was kind of lovely, having an entire Wheel of Time book without a single instance of that happening.

Onward to the better stuff. I said before that one of the things Jordan does very well is prophecy. TEotW doesn’t display too much of it, but the bits that show up are interesting to me, because of the implications they have for Jordan’s long-term planning. The most obvious example is probably Min’s viewing of Mat, where she sees “an eye on a balance scale” — a prediction that has not, as of Book 10, come true yet. I would dearly love to see a textual history of this series, one that makes it clear at what points in the process Jordan changed his conception of how many books he was going to write, because I suspect that would greatly illuminate some of the plot developments. That Mat is going to lose an eye has clearly been planned from the start; but has the context of that loss changed? It eventually became part of a whole complex of prophetic material, my favorite example of how the interested reader can piece together bits of the puzzle, but which parts of that complex are original to the “I’m writing a trilogy” plan? “To give up half the light of the world to save the world” doesn’t get spoken until (iirc) early Book 4; Mat doesn’t really acquire his pervasive Odin imagery until late Book 4; Moiraine doesn’t go AWOL until Book 5; I don’t even remember when Min makes her statements about the one viewing that didn’t come true, or how Rand’s doomed to failure without a woman who’s dead, but they’re later than that. The snakes and the foxes, the dream of Thom pulling Moiraine’s crystal from a fire, all those bits and pieces come later. But they all — if fandom’s theories from back in the day are correct — revolve around a central point, which is the rescue of Moiraine from the *finn. Was that always going to be why Mat lost his eye, or not?

Prophecy also brings me to a moderately startling point: the extent to which the whole Dragon Reborn thing is not a big issue in this book. There’s a decent bit made of Logain being one of several false Dragons, and Ba’alzamon makes it clear that he groups Rand in with the others, but nobody tells him he’s the Dragon Reborn. It’s just, “hey, you can channel; sucks to be you.” Moiraine says it in the final words of the book, but not where anybody can hear. And they hardly even talk about what it means! You get a fair bit about Lews Therin, but hardly anything about what his successor is supposed to do. To the best of my recollection (I didn’t think to keep an eye out for this), the whole bit about “his blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul” doesn’t even get mentioned yet — this despite the fact that one of the leading candidates for what that might mean (other than Rand’s death) is the “severed hand” cluster of prophecies, which makes its first appearance in Min’s viewings in Baerlon. For something that’s, y’know, the founding concept of the series, it’s remarkably Concept Not Appearing in This Book.

And it turns out I was justified in my reaction when I finished TEotW for the first time, which was to wonder how the heck this thing was a series. I mean, hasn’t Rand killed the Dark One? I wasn’t just confused; he thinks he has, and for all that Moiraine hints their trouble isn’t over, she never says he’s wrong. According to Wikipedia, not until the end of the third book does the story come out and say clearly that Ba’alzamon isn’t the Dark One, just Ishamael with delusions of grandeur. So while I failed to grasp a lot of things in my half-distracted initial reading, lo these many years ago, that wasn’t one of them. As of the end of this book, Jordan wants you to believe that the Dark One is indeed dead.

Which is kind of an odd choice, but hey.

And that’s it for this installment of Revisiting My High School Bookshelf. Look for a post on The Great Hunt in March or April — more likely March, as come April I’ll be wading into the Victorian period, pen in hand.

0 Responses to “Revisiting the Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World”

  1. wadam

    Great commentary. I look forward to reading your reactions to the rest of the books.

    I didn’t read this series until my first year in Bloomington, which I think was really my mistake. I forced myself to read the first seven. For cultural literacy, I suppose. There was a lot that I enjoyed, but my pervading reaction throughout was anger mixed with bafflement. Which, I suspect, is because I didn’t read them at the right age. Had I read them in high school, I think I would have lots of nostalgia and a much more positive attitude toward the series.

    Interestingly, my reaction was sort of the opposite of what yours is regarding prophecy.
    Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the books. But as I recall, they suffer from a terrible case of “one great event” syndrome. There was the breaking of the world x number of years ago, and every single event since then has fulfilled some sort of trajectory that’s leading to present circumstances. I’m not looking for the overdetermination of causality or anything like that. But seriously: hasn’t anything else happened in the past several millennia that also has a bearing on present circumstances? Wars? Genocides? Great migrations? It’s like the world is standing still, preparing for the next great cataclysm. Very frustrating.

    • Marie Brennan

      The fun in high school was that half a dozen friends of mine were also reading, plus I was involved with an online WoT forum. In other words, this was my first (and still my only major) instance of being plugged into fandom. And there’s a distinct pleasure that comes with such a connection, as you and your fellow fans bat details back and forth, dissecting the text, speculating where it will go next, etc. I have a whole raft of stories about those experiences, like the time Ethan speed-read the first six books in the two weeks prior to the release of the seventh (he ended up swearing like the characters — “blood and ashes,” etc), or when Richa came into second period one morning just after reading the bit where Moiraine “died” and we had a four-line conversation utterly incomprehensible to everyone around us (“No way,” “Of course not,” “Okay, I didn’t think so,” “Like he would really do that”), and so on. The social context added a great deal of value.

      But seriously: hasn’t anything else happened in the past several millennia that also has a bearing on present circumstances?

      I will indeed correct you: the Breaking of the World was also followed by Artur Hawkwing, the Trolloc Wars, and the invasion of the Aiel, to pick the three biggest examples I can recall. All three of those had massive bearing on present circumstances. Now, I’ll grant that the world still feels a bit static, because Jordan’s not very good at representing cultural difference and change (the Seanchan, after two thousand years on the other side of the ocean, still speak the same language? Really?), but there’s been more than One Great Event in history.

    • Marie Brennan

      Also, I should clarify what I mean about him doing prophecy well. Jordan strikes a very good balance of seeding hints about what will happen in the upcoming books, such that you can put a tantalizing amount of the puzzle together if you choose to — but not all of it, and if you don’t do that work, you can cruise happily on without any spoilers at all. So readers of both sorts can be satisfied.

      This is a separate point from the issue of prophecy as a whole, the notion that history is trending toward a critical moment, or that certain individuals are compelled by Fate to fulfill particular roles. I forgot to say in this post, and will discuss more later, that I’m disappointed Mat and Perrin didn’t play a bigger role in the final confrontation (whether with Aginor and Balthamel, or Ba’alzamon), because there’s something potentially intriguing in the fact that all three of them are ta’veren, instead of just the one Moiraine expected. So far as I can recall, the series still (ten books in) hadn’t gotten around to saying why there are three of them, and what the significance of that might be.

  2. unforth

    Okies. In the interest of procrastinating a bit, I’m going to tackle this in chunks – so you’re going to get multiple comments from me on this, since I simply don’t have the time to read and respond to the whole thing all at once.

    In December, I picked up EotW myself, and got about 150 pages in…and then stalled. I thought I was ready to go again, but I guess I was wrong, and I need more time. Which is fine; I just want to reread them all in time for the last new book to come out. So for now, I’ll just sit on my copy of the first Sanderson and wait another year and see if I’m read then. I did just re-read them in fall, 2007.

    First, I do think that the prologue is pretty much the strongest bit of writing in the entire series. Not my favorite scene, perhaps, but it’s a great hook.

    However, the main thing I wanted to comment on in this first rambling was:

    I saw two: the chapter where Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan get to Whitebridge (since that basically just updates us on their position, and recaps what we already saw happen to Rand, Mat, and Thom), and the sequence of Darkfriend attacks against Rand and Mat on the way to Caemlyn. The former didn’t pull its weight, and the latter didn’t build properly; the first attack was by far the most exciting, and the others felt like afterthoughts. Re-organization of that sequence might have solved the problem just as well as reducing it.

    I agree completely on the first one, it’s completely irrelevant, but I actually disagree on the second. I think that the subsequent darkfriend attacks, while anti-climatic when compared to Thom “dying” to a Myrdraal in the streets of Whitebridge, serve an important function: they are the first evidence we have in the first book that not every single servant of the Dark One is OMG SO POWERFUL WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE OMG!!

    I mean, before that, what did we see?
    -Trollocs attacking Two Rivers. OMG, all gonna die, our big-bad-protectors can’t handle this many!
    -Draghkar. OMG. Run for your lives, the giant flying bat could kill us all.
    -The trip from Baerlon. Holy crap, that’s a lot of Trollocs, lets take refuge in the horrible evil ancient undead city of doom.
    -Shadar Logoth. The eyes are watching us! GAH!!! Creepy old stuff!!
    -Mashadar. …Masha-fricken-dar! It’s fog! That EATS PEOPLE. RUN!
    -Trollocs in Shadar Logoth. Trollocs that are being whipped in to shape by something so evil and powerful that they’ll go into a place they dread. What chance do we stand?
    -Myrdraal at Whitebridge. Thom is DEAD. Like, really, really dead! (yeah, I know, but gotta try and put future knowledge in its place).
    -Dreams. Can’t escape from evil dreams!!

    None of this is something that any of the characters we know are at all able to deal with. It’s always evade and run. Now, though, this trip demonstrates how the different groups start to learn to cope – Perrin and Egwene dealing with the Whitecloaks (by the way, I could probably make a case for cutting at least one of the chapters about that…but then, I get bored on any chapters that don’t involve Rand, so I’m biased) – and Mat and Rand, the bumbling country boys, finding their way to Caemlyn.

    The lightning bit that blinds Mat and gets them out of that room where whats-his-name Darkfriend has them locked is an important step in the development of Rand’s channeling, and prompts the sickness that lands him in Elayne’s lap – but that could surely have been done another way. However, the evidence that darkfriends are, ultimately, just people, and that our protagonists – though still young and inexperienced – actually DO possess the tools to face them – that, I think is important. Belabored? Probably…but then, belaboring things is part of Jordan’s, er, charm.

    That said, I could see Else Grinwell cut without hurting anything at all, so it’s not an absolute. 😉

    Right, so I haven’t read past that part of your post yet, but I have to work. More later. 😉

    • Marie Brennan

      I think that the subsequent darkfriend attacks, while anti-climatic when compared to Thom “dying” to a Myrdraal in the streets of Whitebridge

      I should have been clearer: I meant the three attacks after Whitebridge, and the latter two are anticlimactic compared to the first one (Gode). That one, Rand channels their way out of, and they flee in the night: this is indeed exciting. But after that, what do you get? Sad pathetic whats-his-face (jeez, I forgot his name already), and then woman who tries to stab Rand with the poisoned knife. In order of exciting-ness, it goes 1, 3, 2. If you went from Nonentity Dude to Woman With Knife to Gode, then there would be a building sense of peril, but in its current order, it feels like “rinse and repeat” without the excitement of channeling.

      Else Grinwell, for me, falls into the Emond’s Field camp: not necessary, no, but valuable for leavening the epic events with mundanity, and ammunition for the “who flirted with whom” conversation later on. 🙂

      • unforth

        Well, ya know, Perrin needs to go to Rand for advice with women, and Rand needs to go to Mat, and Mat needs to go to Perrin………that’s a running joke I’m surprisingly fond of.

        And I hear ya. If we’re skipping Thom and ranking it on those three, I’d say skip the non-entity (his name starts with a P, for what it’s worth), but I think I’d leave knife-y girl, because it’s one of the times when we see Mat be responsible and caring – I know for me it’s an important scene, cause before that I thought Mat was ridiculously annoying, cowardly, and superfluous, but after that scene I had a lot more respect and patience with him – the more so when we find out just how badly the dagger has been screwing with his head.

        Oh god, just what I don’t need, procrastination ammunition. 😉

      • unforth

        (I think they could be left in the Gode than knife-y girl order if whats-his-name was skipped)

        • Marie Brennan

          I’d say either leave it at Gode and then an after-the-fact reference once they’re in Caemlyn to how they had to avoid other Darkfriends, or else resequence the whole bit. You’re right about the interaction between Rand and Mat, but I’d find it much more interesting if we started with the surprisingly pathetic Darkfriend, then moved to the notion of Darkfriends in high places/with murderous intent, and then the crowning touch of Gode. It would feel like the net was closing in tighter the further they went, and you could get your Mat-is-caring moment by having him drag a barely-standing Rand into Caemlyn. They spend long enough sitting around there waiting for the others that you’d still have time for Mat’s downward slide into Dagger Paranoia.

          (And yeah — he’s annoying, cowardly, and superfluous for much of this book, and iirc most of the second. He gets SO MUCH BETTER in TDR.)

  3. tchernabyelo

    Interesting. It’s a long time since I read these books, and I only got up to 3 or 4 in the series… but I have VERY little memory of anything that happens in them, even when I should be reminded by reading a detailed review like this.

    No wonder I stopped bothering with it.

    • Marie Brennan

      This isn’t all that detailed of a review, frankly. Even in its early, “simple” days, the Wheel of Time was a very large story with a large number of characters. It’s a lot to keep track of. The only reason I remember as much as I do is because I was once an engaged little fangirl indeed. 🙂

  4. wldhrsjen3

    Heh. I’ve just pulled all these out to start re-reading them. I stopped around Book Seven or Eight, as I recall, and now that there is an end in sight I figured I’d like to revisit the series.

    I first read EotW in… let’s see… eighth? or maybe ninth… grade. I’m very curious to see how well it holds for me now. But I totally agree with your comments – I have always loved the prologue of this one, and I really, really admire Jordan’s ability to incorporate details that are later revealed as significant.

    Also, I was – not sure how I’ll feel now – but I was one of those readers who adored epic fantasy for the escape factor. I loved the sense of falling into a whole new world, so the more rambling worldbuilding, the better as far as I was concerned. I fell in love with the Wheel of Time for that reason alone – I could open a book and sink into a world of such rich detail and complexity it felt real. I didn’t care so much about characterization or plot back then, so we’ll see… 😛

    • Marie Brennan

      I loved the detail and complexity, but I wouldn’t say it felt real. This was actually the series that made me create the Nine Lands, because it annoyed me that the differences between various parts of Randland* (and other epic fantasy settings) were so superficial. Everybody speaks the same language, even the Seanchan and the Aiel, and little things like stripey dresses in Cairhien or eating with chopsticks in Arad Doman are minor, cosmetic touches compared with real-world cultural variation.

      On the other hand, the setting is an entertaining mulch of real-world history and folklore, so it engaged me in its own way. I enjoyed playing Hunt the Reference, even while I wanted more actual diversity.

      *Was there ever a proper name given to that continent? Like in the companion book or something?

  5. unforth

    Okay! My next installment of reply. Since after this paragraph you launch into a critique of the women, I think I’ll keep this one short so I can give that the time it deserves. 🙂

    this is epic fantasy, a genre where exploration of a rich world, both geographically and socially, is one of its selling points

    What I love about Jordan, what keeps me coming back, are the tidbits that enable me to reconstruct that entire world and it’s history. I love that history MATTERS in Jordan, that it’s important. I love what one of the other commenters had forgotten – that unlike so much other fantasy in the EPIC! genre (read: Terry Brooks), where three thousand years randomly pass with nothing important happening, lots of stuff DOES happen in Jordan – there are numerous false dragons (any of whom could, at the time, have proved to be the actual Dragon Reborn, they’re only false in retrospect), and Arthur Hawkwing, and the Covenant of Nations and the Trolloc Wars and all those other glimpses. I love that these things are important to the present – not only in the bits and pieces they’ve left behind (Shadar Logoth or the foundation of the Winespring Inn) and for the impact they have on the plot (the existence of the Tinkers and the Aiel springs to mind in addition to the most obvious example. 😉 )

    I love that there are fossils in the sand hills at the base of the Mountains of Mist.

    I love that unlike Tolkien, which hints at all this stuff but never really explains it (at least not without delving in to the books I never bothered to read, and didn’t want to, cause he’d already lost my interest before I realized they answered my questions), Jordan occasionally gives the answers – or least the current understanding of them. (Moiraine, standing outside the inn, describing the fall of Manetheren) – and I love that even when he infodumps (which that surely is), he makes it work (for the most part). And, of course, the prophecies sort of tie everything together.

    I’m not sure I agree that he didn’t know that someone would be coming back to the Two Rivers (though he may not have thought it all the way through) – blackmailing the boys families just makes too much sense as a potential plot. 😉

    Anyway…I still haven’t seen the scene which reunites Tam and Rand. If the series actually finishes without that scene, I will cry. Seriously. Buckets of tears. 🙂

    More later! This makes an excellent break for me on a day where I have a ton to do. 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      If I do get around to dusting off my grad school paper about Tolkien clones (the one where I say the important thing is not the similarities, but the differences), one of the things I’m going to talk about is the profoundly different conception of time between Middle Earth and the Wheel of Time. Tolkien was very Catholic: the history of the world was a continual and irreversible Fall from Eden, each generation more degenerate than its predecessor, magic fading ever further out of the world. For Jordan, at least in this story, time is circular; everything comes and goes and comes again, such that these events could easily be the founding of a new Age of Legends. (After all, why so many strong channelers all of a sudden, and the rediscovery of how to make various ter’angreal?)

      I doubt that in the trilogy-conception there was a return to the Two Rivers, at least before the end of the story. If the first book was the story of the journey to and use of the Eye of the World, the second was probably supposed to deal with the Seanchan and the Horn of Valere (more or less as The Great Hunt does), and then the third would lead to the confrontation at Shayol Ghul. There isn’t a lot of room in there for going back home, and it wouldn’t fit the more purely archetypal narrative Jordan started out with, where inexperienced heroes leave home (and their families) to have adventures. But the series pretty quickly started to break that model, and that opens up the door to all kinds of permutations.

      Anyway…I still haven’t seen the scene which reunites Tam and Rand. If the series actually finishes without that scene, I will cry. Seriously. Buckets of tears. 🙂

      That makes me wonder if there are any scenes I’m deeply invested in seeing happen. None spring to mind, except ones that have already failed to occur. (I so very much wanted Mat’s absence in The Path of Daggers to be explained by him having been shipped off to Seanchan, for Daughter of Nine Moons-related adventures over there. Tuon’s actual introduction was a terrible disappointment.)

  6. mastergode

    I greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book!

    Personally speaking, The Dragon Reborn is probably my favorite novel in the series, largely because it focuses so strongly on Mat, and it’s before his role changes (yet again) when he fills in the holes in his memory.

    I really enjoyed that incarnation of Mat, and I’m curious to see what you’ll have to say about that book as a whole!

    • Marie Brennan

      That’s the book that turned Mat from my least favorite character (aside from Padan Fain) to my favorite. It’s really the first time you get to see Mat being himself, without Dagger Paranoia making him be obnoxious.

      For all I slag on Jordan’s ability to write characters, I’ll say this much: it really was a vivid change in TEotW, when Moiraine temporarily reversed the dagger’s effect. I had a rather visceral “oh, yeah, THAT’S what Mat is like!” reaction when he rejoins everybody else — which says that Jordan had succeeded at establishing a) his personality and b) how it had changed. Not with a great deal of subtlety, maybe, but at least it was distinct.

      • mastergode

        Well, I think that the issue is that Jordan wasn’t so good at writing characters, as much as he was at writing caricatures, something that becomes more pronounced as time goes on.

        Nynaeve is the braid-pulling caricature, Lan is the stone-faced caricature, Moiraine is the bene gesserit caricature, etc. <chuckles>

        I think that the reason why I liked Mat so much is because he never really fit into an easy mold because his character was so dynamic. He’s a normal village boy, then he’s got this dagger thing, then he’s got this luck thing, then he’s got this knowledge thing.

        While Perrin is like, “Ho hum, I’m a blacksmith,” and Rand is like, “I can channel and I might be the Dragon Reborn, and it’s made me emo.” I can just picture a movie version of tWoT with a Rand who wears tight pants and has emo hair.

        • Marie Brennan

          I don’t know if I’d go so far to call them caricatures, but they’re definitely Types. Mat is the “prankster” type, the kind of immature guy who just wants to play jokes on people and have fun — but unlike the others, he keeps getting whacked out of that line, so that for a while he’s the paranoiac type, and then occasionally he’s the brilliant general type, and so it ends up being more like actual complexity than most of them get.

        • unforth

          Umm…I’d LOVE a movie version where Rand wears tight pants and emo hair. As long as it’s really, really red hair. Hot….

          But I’ve been in love with Rand since I was 12 (Rand al’Thor, tragically, was my first crush….gah….), so I guess I’m just showing my biases. 😉

  7. diatryma

    I started the books in just after eighth grade; I think I bought them in an airport bookstore on my way home from DC. By sophomore year of high school, I was nearing done with them. By senior year, so was everyone else I knew.

    It’s amazing how little I remember. I know Rand annoyed me– I basically wanted him gone because I liked Mat and Perrin so much better. I didn’t like the women and in fact had hypothesized, based on no actual information but the books, that the book in which all three female characters were in true love and swoony was when “Robert Jordan” had a girlfriend (the quotes make it distinct from the actual writer, who is distinct from the person, if that makes sense). I briefly messed around with names and references. I don’t think I ever picked up on Mat-Odin parallels, but I wouldn’t have back then.

    I look forward to the next installment. I’m not going to remember anything about the books, nor reread them any time soon, but your post pings the RPG-summary part of my brain. I’m not taking part, but I sure do like hearing about it.

    • Marie Brennan

      Everybody was deeply annoyed by at least one of the three. Once Mat got better, mine was Perrin. Probably because his stuff with Faile was so terrible.

      I’ll save explicating the Mat/Odin stuff for when it actually shows up in-book.

      • diatryma

        Even at the time, I think I was reading the books I wanted them to be (heavier on Showing Them All, kind of shallower) rather than the books they were, at least for the bits I liked.

        • Marie Brennan

          I think we frequently read the books we want them to be; god knows I’ve done enough mental revision, consciously or unconsciously, in order to tilt a story in a direction I like, or to gloss over flaws.

      • unforth

        Actually…I used to dislike both Mat and Perrin to varying degrees, but when I last re-read the series, I reached the point where I was pretty okay with all three. 🙂 Perrin is my least favorite, but I don’t intensely dislike any of them…

        I look forward to more of the Mat/Odin stuff. I’m completely oblivious to that…

        • Marie Brennan

          Perrin I think is the least conventionally interesting (the solid and dependable guys usually are), and he gets stuck in a plot rut for a long while.

  8. unforth

    I’m too busy and much too tired to really do a good reply to the rest of this, so just some little points.

    I don’t even remember when Min makes her statements about the one viewing that didn’t come true

    I believe it’s in Book 7. But I’m not positive. It might be in 6 or 8; they start to blur together for me after 6…

    I think my solution to not having much time is that I’m not going to touch the gender issues with a ten foot pole. You and I have talked about this before, and you know my opinion. With few exceptions, I hate Jordan’s women. The only one who really maintains her own distinct personality throughout is Min, and I’m unpleasantly willing to bet that’s because she’s a tomboy – Jordan could at least in part right her personality the same he’d write a mans, which means that she’s not an irrational bitch. Moiraine manages to a lesser extent, but other than that? Sigh. And I never even thought about their domination tendencies…I think that he does much better with the men, especially with showing the gradual transition between them being farm boys with straw in their hair to being, well, who they are (Odin, the Messiah, and who ever the hell Perrin is – I’m actually terrible at this sort of thing, I always forget the Mat/Odin thing and only know about it all because others pointed it out to me).


    • Marie Brennan

      I believe it’s in Book 7. But I’m not positive. It might be in 6 or 8; they start to blur together for me after 6…

      Likewise. I think in part because by then geography can’t help you: TGH is the Everybody Goes to Falme book, TDR is Everybody Goes to Tear, TSR is Everybody Goes to the Aiel Waste, TFoH is Everybody Comes Back From the Waste But Then Really Start Splitting Up, and then after that you have plot in every corner of the world, practically. (Especially with people Traveling.) So it’s harder to keep distinct what happens in what book, because remembering where they were when it happened doesn’t help.

      I think my solution to not having much time is that I’m not going to touch the gender issues with a ten foot pole.

      An understandable choice. 🙂 But since this is going to be a more than two-year project at the pace I’ve set, you can always come pitch in when you do have time. (Or just go on staying away, which might be wiser.)

      Thom quotes the Karaethon Cycle eventually — I think he’s the one who mentions the blood-on-rocks thing — but not in this book. I didn’t remember that the Amyrlin brings it up so early in TGH, but I’m not surprised; you’ve got to get it out there before too much longer. I’m just surprised Jordan deferred it the way he did. Maybe to avoid tangling the TEotW denoument with Rand developing his own RJC*?

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but there actually IS a piece of evidence for thinking that the Dark One isn’t dead.

      You’re right — both with the lurch, and the outside knowledge that this is a series — but it’s a lot muddier than you would expect. Nobody tells Rand he’s wrong, and nobody brings up the possibility that Ba’alzamon is not the Dark One. It’s oddly messy.

      (*Robert Jordan Complex, defined as when a character spends book after book denying and/or whinging about some central facet of his character. Most clearly seen in Rand “I’m not the Dragon Reborn” al’Thor and Perrin “I can’t talk to wolves” Aybara.)

  9. Marie Brennan

    Re: Else Grinwell is important latter on

    Point, and a decent use of minor notes later in a way that makes the world feel more interconnected.

    Quick request: could you sign your comments with some kind of name? I’ve had a couple of anonymous commenters, and while I don’t mind getting replies from people without accounts, it helps if I can distinguish one commenter from another.

  10. Anonymous

    just wanted to comment and say that I came across “A Natural History of Dragons”- which I enjoyed greatly, as a natural historian and anthropologist myself (alas of primates not dragons). Loved it and hope there’s a sequel. Also enjoyed Warrior and Witch!

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