Vast in scope, covering more than five years of plot time in the first six books, and detailed in character development, the Wheel of Time series is Robert Jordan’s answer to Thomas Wolf’s demand that contemporary fiction be written on a broad canvas. The first six novels in the series constitute 4,119 pages, averaging nearly 687 pages per book. The series is part of a trend, evident in fantasy fiction since the early 1980’s, of long novels in a series. This trend perhaps owes ancestry to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955).
The experience of reading this material is a matter of immersion in the imagined culture, increasing interest in characters, and a willingness to give oneself over to the depth of development, an experience differing from that of simple plot discovery. What happens becomes less important than how it happens.
Jordan augments the essential story of good versus evil through an interesting ploy. The repeated mention of the cyclical nature of this struggle raises the question of whether this particular cycle might produce a final conclusion. Rand carries with him the memories of many who have fought evil in the past, the most recent being Lewis Therin Telamon, some three thousand years earlier. Much of the story’s tension derives from the concern that Rand will go mad with his power or overmaster it and somehow defeat the great evil.
There is considerable texture to the plot, involving interlace techniques and narrative disjunctions. In the...
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