Archive for June 21st, 2019

June 21, 2019

Reading Wheel of Time: Part 1 of ???

I have missed being on this blog. I haven’t had time in quite a while to sit down and type anything, obviously. I do want to get back into it but time and other activities are taking priority are the factors here. What I do manage to do most days is read. While I’m on lunch at work I spend most of it reading.

My fantasy history is fairly limited. Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were read after the movies started coming out, I read all of the currently released A Song of Ice and Fire after the first season got such praise, and then I tackled (and still am) the Malazan Book of the Fallen and all surrounding works. That last one was incredibly daunting and has taken me just over two years to complete. Frankly, it took a little longer since reading the first book in the series took me three tries.

Even with 20+ books from the Malazan oeuvre under my belt, starting The Wheel of Time seemed daunting. Here I was going to step into another world, with new names, terms, places, peoples, time frames, histories, and so on. I did quickly realize that there was a glossary in the back, which has been helpful. I appreciate it in the same way that Erikson wasn’t afraid to throw you into the world because it creates less of a feeling of hand-holding. There have only been a few instances in what I’ve read so far in which a word or name is said and everything stops to explain it to the reader. A single person can have separate names and people will use them, but Jordan leaves it up to you to either connect those dots or do the research in the back.

To connect everything above, my goal here is to document as I read through the series. I estimate it’ll take about a year. I didn’t get to do this for Malazan which I sort of regret, but I do hope to make this blog a catch-all for some of these activities. Today I’ll be discussing the prologue and chapters 1-5 of The Eye of the World, the first book in the series.

The prologue, Dragonmount, was very enticing. The immediate surroundings of death kind of gave me an odd sense of hope. That may sound weird but after how real and brutal the Malazan series could be, one of my worries of coming to a new fantasy series was to find the standard high fantasy fluff that had never totally interested me. In that, I mean that I was afraid that the series wouldn’t have dealt with death and blood and fighting in any kind of realistic way, but right from the get-go there is death and it’s horrifying. The language used is beautiful to me and is a great counter-act on the horrifying surroundings. The conversation between Lews Therin and Elan Morin does sound at points like it could be the backing dialog to a Rhapsody song, but the weight of the words and their hidden meanings still had me interested. The ending of the prologue with a giant volcano appearing from nowhere is definitely fascinating to imagine and sets a good tone for what one can expect.

I purposefully tried not to do too much research on the series before starting, so I don’t know totally what to expect except that the scope must be huge with a series of this length. Even then, I am still unsure how Jordan is going to handle the different characters. My biggest comparisons are Martin and Erikson, who gave a different POV every chapter in the former’s case, and multiple POVs in a single chapter in the latter. Jordan so far in the first five chapters has only dealt with Rand al’Thor and I do wonder if this will change. It’s kind of fun to not know though. Maybe each whole book is a different POV?

The first five chapters flow into each other easily enough, so while each one’s title points to a specific set of events, they also by another author could have been just called two or three chapters. Erikson especially will have half as many chapter breaks as this book in a book that is 50% longer. An Empty Road builds some immediate tension with the black rider, and I did appreciate setting up the village and its history. It’s quaint in a good way. It’s a bit tough learning all new names in a naming system that is unfamiliar to me, but also exciting. One of the only things I did know going into this series is that Perrin is supposed to be very lucky so I did take note when Rand names his closest friends.

Strangers is mostly an introduction to more members of the cast, and it’s fun guessing who’s going to be important and who isn’t. I enjoy Jordan’s description of clothing and people, it’s very evocative. All of these chapters I’ve read take place on the same day, and The Peddler seems to mainly be to set up what will probably be the overarching plot for at least the first few books, with a false Dragon and wars going on in foreign places. The Gleeman reminds me why these fantasy series can definitely seem dorky because the gleeman himself is performing actions that seem quite unrealistic and just throws out names of tales that have a structure to them that would never fly here in our world. It’s still nice to set up all our characters and have them start interacting.

Winternight is where the action truly starts. Trollocs burst through the door and immediately the tone of the whole book so far changes. I feel like other authors or publishers would have tried to condense the first four chapters into a single chapter no longer than 20 or so pages, but I appreciate it as both a fan of a lengthier approach and because the tone was set up so well that the sudden change has more of an effect. It has me excited to read further and to keep posting here.

I’ll try to go more in-depth on later posts, I will try to post more with fewer chapters to focus on.