Lately, I've reviewed the books I've read on goodreads.com due to convenient formatting, but I feel called to do this next review the old-fashioned bloggy-style way. That and I'm not just reviewing one book, but 14 books all at once. These books culminate to be Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series that I've been actively reading since (I think) November 2010. That's right. It's been a journey that's taken me nearly two years to complete. The following ramblings are my thoughts on the experience and the content therein.
To start, though I've read the entire series, including the short prequel, the Wheel of Time series is not finished. For a series where there really isn't a beginning, apparently there is no end. At least not until next April, when the final installment of the series will be published. So in about a year, there will be a follow up review to this post to sort of finish the thoughts.
I'll begin my actual review of the series with my experience on reading the books. Jordan begins the series with the Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and The Dragon Reborn, which I found to be all great books.
They established many of the main characters, got the plot going, and built up the world in which Jordan's story takes place. Starting with book 4, The Shadow Rising, the story slowed down dramatically. Reading other reviews online, I found that I was not the only one to feel this way. Though, even with the slowing plot, I was still engaged enough to continue to read the series. And continue I did. At about book 8 (it's hard to tell after a while), the story line nearly stopped. Subplots had developed and the original momentum built up by the first few books was completely lost. Jordan spent several books fleshing out these subplots (I guess you could call them "character developments"), but left the story at a stand-still. Now I've not written an epic like this, but when the plots and subplots become so complex that you have to omit primary characters from entire books, you've probably gone too far.
There are three main characters in the story: Rand Al'Thor, Perrin Ayabara, and Matrim Cathoun. Rand is barely seen in the third book, Perrin is completely absent from the fourth book, and Matrim is also missing in one of the middle books (who can keep track). Should have reeled it in a bit, Jordan.
Toward the end of the series, steam was built up and the Wheel of Time engine began to speed up. I found myself reading the last few books at a quicker pace due to the increased action and plot development/resolutions. Now this might be due to several factors. The first is that the story as conceptualized just meant to speed up a bit. The second is that Mr. Jordan passed away before he could finish writing The Wheel of Time and the last few books were written (from notes of Jordan's) by Brandon Sanderson. I found Sanderson's writing to be less tedious than Jordan, though their writing style is still similar.
After reading the 13 books and the one prequel, I say that I'm glad to have done it, but have no intention of ever doing so again. I only encourage you to read this series if you like complex stories and fantastical worlds, all the while being able to remember tons of details that drive the plot forward. I draw attention to this last statement because there are so many details,and if you can't keep track of them in some way, you'll be lost two books down the road. I found a way to manage, apparently. In his defense, Jordan is good at reminding you of certain characters and plot points.
Reviewing content, I found the story to be rich in detail and characters, if not tedious at times. The world that Jordan drew through his writing is brilliant. The characters are very detailed and dramatic, causing the reader to become emotionally involved in their wellbeing. Throughout reading the series, I took breaks to read other novels and I always found myself gravitating back to The Wheel of Time because of its characters. I would say character development was one of Jordan's greatest talents as a writer. From the beginning of the series to the penultimate book, the three main characters transform, while somehow maintaining a glimmer of their original personalities the same way an adult still has the personality traits that were instilled in their youth.
The action is hit-or-miss. As I've said, the first three books move quickly and everything is exciting and then it's a snail's pace to the finishline. A crux I've found is that the author can be too detailed. Say a battle is going on and there are people dying everywhere and the whole world is just going to hell. Jordan, from the mind of one of the characters, will draw you so much into mundane details that you forget that there's actually a battle happening. Now I'm all for explaining the emotive responses of characters, but don't do so at the sake of pace. Keep the story moving and hopefully the reader knows the character well enough to assume their emotional response.
I look forward to reading the final book in the series when it is published next year, but for now I'm more excited to start a new series and be taken to a different world. In particular, the world George R.R. Martin has created in his "Song of Fire and Ice" series, which the hit HBO show "Game of Thrones" is based off of.