I’m Finally Delving into “The Wheel of Time!”

I’ve read fantasy and science fiction novels since I was a little kid, yet I’ve never read what is considered one of the greatest fantasy epics ever, Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time.”

Why? Two reasons (one is not great, the other is reasonable):

  1. The first time I was ever exposed to The Wheel of Time was in a Books-a-Million bookstore when I was a kid, probably 10 or 11. I don’t know why I remember this so distinctly, but I think it’s because I love books, and I saw them as a precious commodity…yet Books-a-Million was giving away book 1 of The Wheel of Time for free. I think this left a lasting impression on me–how good could it be if they were trying to give it away?
  2. A few years ago, I started watching the Daniel Greene YouTube channel, which focuses on fantasy and science fiction novels. His favorite fantasy series of all time is The Wheel of Time, so I was intrigued by the idea of giving it a try…but then I saw it’s 14 books! That’s a big commitment, especially when I’m in the middle of so many other great (and shorter) series.

That brings me to this weekend, when I finished John Scalzi’s “The Last Emperox” and realized that other than the new Hunger Games book, none of the series I’m in the middle of has a new release until November. I finally have a significant amount of time to delve into The Wheel of Time. It helped that a few people talked about it during my Facebook Live chat last week.

I’m currently 15% or so through the first book, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s written like a modern fantasy novel, yet not as rushed…and I’m surprised by how much I like that. Instead of telling me about the characters, Jordan is showing me one by one how the characters respond in different situations, fully fleshing them out. And I’m guessing this is just the very tip of the iceberg, as all of the action is limited to a small village so far.

In case you’d like to join me in reading through the series, here are a few tips I’ve picked up (please mention others without spoilers in the comments):

  • Greene has a few videos (see below) about things you should know before reading the books. I found both to be helpful.
  • Greene recommends reading the prequel, New Spring, after book 5. Or not reading it at all.
  • I’ve heard from a few people that I should skip book 10 and simply read the synopsis instead.

Have you read “The Wheel of Time?” Do you have any tips? Where would you rate it among your favorite fantasy series?


9 Responses to “I’m Finally Delving into “The Wheel of Time!””

  1. Scott Hall says:

    I had a friend who was big into the series. I noticed the first book in my college book store, c. 1997 and gave it a try, but bounced off of it. Tried again and then plowed through to Path of Daggers, the then-newest book. I was deep enough that I hanging out in the Robert Jordan newsgroup. Picked up the D20 RPG rulebook.

    It’s got great ideas and interesting characters. Even from the opening, terms are getting thrown around without explanation, but it teases and draws out your imagination. I think it was reading the cover copy of Path of Daggers that intrigued me enough that I wanted to get in and find out who these characters were.

    But then I fell away. It felt like more pages were being used to accomplish less. And I’d never had to wait for a book- nor had the long-time fans, with 8 books published in 8 years. Then it goes from 1998-2005 with just 3 books, plus the prequel which seemed like an unnecessary digression, particularly with the slower publishing speed.I checked out after book 9 or 10.

    Which is not to say “Don’t read them.” What I read, I enjoyed, and Jordan continued adding neat ideas. Yes, there are problems that crop up and become more annoying deeper into the series, but no single issue that made me say “I’m done.” Having all the books available, I probably would have continued on to the end.

    A side effect, the Robert Jordan newsgroup turned me on to Glen Cook’s Black Company series, which is one of my favorite fantasy series, with a very strong opening trilogy. Told in first person from the company’s historian, the titular Black Company is a mercenary group that finds itself working for their world’s Sauron.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      “the titular Black Company is a mercenary group that finds itself working for their world’s Sauron.”

      Now that’s a great hook! I’ll queue it up for after The Wheel of Time. 🙂

  2. Zarin F says:

    I read 1–7 in high school, then again in recent years. I hit a wall both times. I ended up reading summaries for books 8–11 (though I hear 11 is quite good) and then jumped into the Sanderson books. I was surprised how easy the transition was, I didn’t feel lost at all. I did look up a few characters in the wikis to remember what they were up to. The Sanderson books were a breath of fresh air—absolutely loved them and was completely satisfied with the ending. So if you feel like giving up at any point I recommend the above. Enjoy!

  3. Derrick Hodge says:

    It is overall a fantastic series that is absolutely worth the read. I binge read it about seven years ago. I did take a break about halfway through and read something fairly quick and light just to kind of do a mental reset.

    Totally agree that Book 10 is a pretty rough go. I could go either way on reading the prequel although I might have enjoyed it more reading it later (I read it first), as it felt like just an expanded prologue/flashback and made parts of the first book feel repetitive.

    I hope you enjoy it! I’m totally excited for the Amazon Prime series!!!

  4. Adam Buckingham says:

    I read the first book and enjoyed it. Then I switched to the audiobooks for the rest of the series. (Incidentally, I listened while painting Scythe minis and refinishing a bunk bed) In a nutshell, I thought it was worth listening to. I’m glad I switched to audio, because I found the books a little hard to engage with. I wasn’t able to sit and read for a long time without thinking of something else I’d rather do. So listening while doing something else with my hands was just right. I could focus on the book with my brain while getting something else done too. And narrators of the audiobooks did a really excellent job.

    I would say that the middle 5 or 6 books are probably moderately skipable. After some really interesting developments early, the middle of the series is a lot of slow movement and very little action or story advancement. There are moments here and there, but I think the series could have been shortened into a really good 5 or 6 book series rather than 14.

    I would rate the series middle-of-the-road overall, but it’s considered essential reading, so probably worthwhile.

  5. Kyle Mueller says:

    I’m going to go against the grain and say that if you are enjoying the books when you get to the 10th book, go ahead and read it. People hate on book 10 when it first came out because when you only get one book per year, a transition book feels bad, knowing you have to wait another year for the action. A lot of the hate that book 10 gets is because it’s a bit of a transition from things that were building up in book 9.

    This is pretty fresh in my memory because I literally finished book 10 last week, as I started re-reading the series earlier this year. There are some cool things that happen in book 10, some of the characters have personality growth that defines who they’ll be for the rest of the series.

    It’s true that the books tend to meander a bit as the cast grows, and I think whether or not someone loves the series depends on how well they just enjoy spending time with the characters and the world. Not every book needs to be all action and world changing events all the time.

    That said, I’m not a diehard fan of the books. But I’ve frequently seen these criticisms leveled at the series, but they weren’t my experience. That said, I’m also a pretty fast reader, so maybe if one is reading more slowly, you might want the books to hurry up and be done.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks! That makes sense. Should I also read the prequel, or don’t worry about it?

      • Kyle Mueller says:

        The prequel is about Moraine and Lan. It’s easily my least book of the series, although it’s much shorter than the other books. I’d echo other recommendations about not reading it until at least after book 5 (iirc it was published after book 9 or 10).

        If you love Moraine and Lan, go ahead and read it. But if you’re in the mood to skip something, that’s definitely the one. There’s nothing much in there that isn’t generally revealed during the main series.

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