March 6, 2013

Wheel of Time: The Series Everyone Wanted to End

Ever read a book that you just did not want to end? Of course you have. Ever read 11,916 pages of a series that began two decades ago, that had its most vehement fans calling for the end to come since around 1992? We've been calling for Tarmon Gaidon for years now, and it’s finally here, and there’s never been anything like it. A Memory of Light, like books 8 through 13 of the series, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list, which means that millions of readers made it through all 14 books, and millions of readers were ready to turn that final page.

The series dragged on. Robert Jordan, the late storyteller, was criticized for the long-windedness of one of his less skilled Gleeman. When he passed, his notes were left to Brandon Sanderson, and it soon became clear that the story could not be told in the single final tome RJ was envisioning. It had to keep going. It had to be even longer. A Memory of Light was split into three volumes: The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and the finale, A Memory of Light.

This isn’t like when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, and every reader with an inner child cried out for more. We Wheel of Time fans are quite ready for the end.

At least so I thought. Around three quarters of the way through, I had to take a breather. When the novel was released, I wanted to be the first Wheel of Time fan to finish the story and know how it ends. Now, I kind of want to be the last.

What I have seen from A Memory of Light thus far is that while all of our friends and dearly beloved had to stay alive to make it to the Final Battle, that protection is wearing thin. If it weren’t spoilerful, I would write a eulogy to the dead right here. When I say that your favourite characters might die, you will probably think immediately of Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Elayne, Aviendha, and so on, and wonder who the casualties will be. Very foolish. If that is where your mind went, then you have forgotten how many characters RJ introduced us to over the years: hundreds. I would absolutely estimate the number of point of view characters in the series to be more than a few dozen (I once called it the Simpsons of novels). And funnily enough, even the ones we hate, we don’t really want to see die.

Again, I haven’t finished reading, so don’t take the following as spoilers. I found that I have come to care about the fate even of characters I used to hate. Not characters that you’re supposed to hate, then come to love, but characters that I really should still dislike. Graendal, Olver, Galad, even Cadsuane, all  embody characteristics that make me greatly dislike them. Graendal is the forsaken who most irks me. Olver may just seem like a child in your faded memory of his p.o.v. sessions in Towers of Midnight, but he is cowardly, spiteful, judgemental of everyone including Mat, and hates Aiel. Yeah, anyone who hates Aiel is in my bad books. Galad is probably my least favourite character of all, because I can’t stand White Cloaks, he's hypocritical, and he can’t get over his fear of Aes Sedai or Rand even when most everyone else has. And because I have always expected more of him. His development into a good person is coming too little and too late. And Cadsuane is, sorry to say, still quite the bitch sometimes.

But I don’t even want my top four most disliked characters to die. I hope they all make it through Tarmon Gaidon, and if the world is broken or whatevs, I hope they make it through that too. Even Graendal? Well, that’s a toughy, but let’s say sure. The world wouldn’t be very interesting without a single Forsaken left to shake things up. Just minus the balefire, preferably. And someone tell her not to harm the people I care about.

As a final note, I’d love it if people would stop tweeting me spoilers :) If I see any on my comment board, there will of course be heads on pikes. Feel free to leave your thoughts, however: how did you feel about coming to the end of the Wheel of Time? Were you as ready as you thought you would be to turn that last page?

Btw, calling it The Last Battle does imply that the world’s going to end. Not there yet, but that’s how I’m interpreting it :D Burn, world, burn!

I'll let you know when I'm done reading.

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