On The Wheel of Time and Literary Criticism

I have been rereading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It is a long series of epic fantasy books spanning fourteen novels (fifteen, including the prelude novel New Spring). I was a big fan of the Wheel of Time in high school. I devoured the first seven or eight books. However, I stopped at book nine, Winter’s Heart.

Why? I found the slow pacing frustrating. Even though I had read nine books in the series, I couldn’t envision a satisfying ending. He resolved plot points, only to open up significant new plots as late as book nine. I worried Jordan would die before he finished the series. That proved to be the case. Brandon Sanderson had to compile the final three books of the fourteen-part series from Jordan’s notes.

This time, I intend to finish the series. I am reading book five, Fires of Heaven. I am enjoying the series, mostly. The fantasy story is entertaining enough. However, one aspect of the series makes it difficult to get through.

The excessive focus on interpersonal drama makes the series frustrating. I will focus on the book’s gender dynamics, although that is not the only drama I might focus on. The book provides excessive detail about other topics, such as the Aiel warrior culture’s honor systems and characters complaining about their love lives.

Female characters complain about the foolishness of men. There will be scenes where she insults men as wool-headed fools or worse. Expect scenes where she bullies/browbeats a man into doing something. She’ll curse the man for not thinking about doing it on his initiative.

Men express frustration with their inability to comprehend women, asserting that women do not know what they want. Men view women as the most enigmatic creatures in existence. They will probably consider women less comprehensible than the most mysterious ter’angreal (magical item).

Such ranting goes on for multiple paragraphs or pages. Jordan is making several valid points. In his world, women wield considerable power and often abuse it. Jordan shows that this inversion of the gender dynamics of Medieval Europe is as improper as having men in power.

Jordan highlights the need for effective communication between both men and women. In some scenes, he intentionally exaggerates for comedic effect. He shows that although men and women think they are worlds apart, they are similar.

However, I suspect he has some outdated and somewhat sexist views. If so, that is unfortunate. However, I am not bothered by this. His confusions are his problem and not mine. He is the author. He is free to express his views about gender dynamics. I am free to agree or disagree.

Gender issues are a significant theme in this literary series. Begrudging Jordan for including such messages/themes is foolish. I agree with some points and disagree with others. My problem is not that the series attempts to tackle such issues. The problem lies in its ham-fisted approach. It lessens the experience of reading the series.

The focus on drama doesn’t concern me. I comprehend that’s one significant aspect of this series. And if he handled it better, I would not be writing this. I have two main issues. First, it takes is that it takes up too much of the word count. Second, this affects the pacing!

I understand the story focuses on several young people and how they grow as young adults, stepping into the world, discovering themselves, and finding their places in that world. I appreciate the insight into what these young people are thinking.

However, we must endure page after page of characters complaining about how wool-headed men are. Men lament the enigma of women. These scenes happen far too often. They are excessively long.

I know Rand does not understand women. Every book drives that point home several times. Everyone knows who did not jump into the series partway through.

I know Egwene finds Rand maddening. That comes up at least ten times in several Wheel of Time books. Do the books have to keep telling me this constantly? Probably not.

Why is this repeated so frequently? And at points where it slows the pacing down. I wish to get to the epic fantasy! I am waiting for something to happen. Instead, I must read two pages of someone complaining. No wonder the books are between 800-1,000 pages! That is a frequent issue: I am waiting for something to happen, but I must wade through pointless inner monologue, and the pacing suffers.

It is literature and execution matters. Unfortunately, Jordan struggles with this aspect of the execution. It is difficult not to notice such glaring technical flaws. We should not give Jordan, nor any other author, a free pass. I will not.

Why write this? Was my point merely to complain about the Wheel of Time? No. It helped me collect my thoughts on these issues. I had to ponder these concerns to communicate my thoughts to you. I had to collect my thoughts! You can go through a similar thought process and come to similar conclusions.

Compose your thoughts as if you were explaining them to someone – you will start thinking more deeply. You will find you understand what you are reading more deeply! Reading other’s criticism also works very well if you think about what you read!

Judge everything! It helps you better understand it. If you write a book, prepare to be judged! If you read a book, prepare to judge what you are reading. You become a better reader the more you understand literature. You will be a better writer if you listen to criticism.

I shall read on! I want to see how this ends! These are not fatal flaws. Not thus far. We will see if I will finish this time. Hopefully, I will finish before Tarmon Gai’don comes…

Leave a Comment

Where Should I Send It?
Sign up for sci-fi/fantasy freebies & author updates.

I give my consent to receive email newsletters from Ed Scriver.

No, thank you.
No spam. Unsubscribe anytime. 100% secure.
Powered by