Monday, October 7, 2019

Why I Finally Started Reading 'The Wheel of Time'

As I've mentioned in the past, I love fantasy novels. In fact, fantasy is my favorite genre of fiction. My fondness for the genre dates back to seeing the Rankin/Bass animated version of 'The Hobbit' as a young child, being totally enraptured by it, and then having my mom to read the novel to me out loud.

When it comes to fantasy, I'm definitely in the epic fantasy camp. While somewhat out of fashion these days, I still enjoy classic Good vs. Evil stories featuring long quests, magical items, Dark Lords, mythical peoples, Chosen Ones, etc. Professor Tolkien definitely left his mark on me!

Taking all that into account, it's odd that I never got around to reading the late Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel of Time,' one of the most beloved and important epic fantasy series of the last 30 years. 

I first heard about 'The Wheel of Time' in the early '90s, not long after the initial volume—The Eye of the World—had been released. My good friend (and then-roommate) Mike had read it and raved about it. He rarely recommended books to me, but he highly recommended 'The Eye of the World.' It was a recommendation I ignored. I don't know why. Maybe I was reading something else. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I really can't recall.

Mike continued with the series and kept recommending it, and I kept ignoring his recommendations. I don't know how far he got with the novels, but I know he didn't finish the series. By the time the last two volumes were published, Mike had committed suicide. 

Thanks to the upcoming Amazon series. 'The Wheel of Time' has once again been in the news recently. That got me to thinking about the books, and Mike's hearty endorsement of them. I especially found myself thinking about them around September 22, Mike's birthday. It was about that time that I decided to finally read The Eye of the World.

I'd tried reading it a couple of times before. For some reason, the book hadn't quite clicked with me. This time, I decided to commit myself to finishing it. 

They say the third time's the charm, and that was certainly the case here. This time around I zipped though all 780-plus pages of The Eye of the World in just over a week. I absolutely loved it, especially the characterizations and rich worldbuilding. And while Jordan is sometimes criticized for being overly descriptive, I didn't find that to be a problem. On the contrary, I found his descriptions added to the immersive quality of the narrative. 

I'm now well into the second book, The Great Hunt, and look forward to the rest. At some point, I'll probably take breaks in between volumes with works from other authors, just to keep things fresh. I do plan to finish the series though, all 14 volumes and 4.4 million words of it. My friend Mike wasn't able to finish 'The Wheel of Time,' so I guess I'll finish it for him.