Why I gave up on ‘Wheel of Time’ after 100 pages

This sort of toes the line between a book review and an opinion, but I make enough textual references that it can barely qualify as a book review. Also, this is really long.

If I begin a book series, I generally try to stick with it till the end. It takes a lot for me to drop a book. I’ve stuck with Dickens throughout the slow beginnings, and have made it through Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. So when I threw down Eye of the World  after only 100 pages, I was surprised at myself. I’ve made it through much denser prose than Jordan’s. So I took another look at the story to find out why.

The prologue of the story was solid. It was chilling, but I liked it. The image of Lews Therin- whoever he is- wandering mindlessly through the carnage of his palace and calling for his wife only to be come out of his trance and discover that he’s slaughtered everyone there really disturbed me and I was intrigued.

Then we jumped to a boy named Rand al’ Thor and his father Tam, who are traveling from their farm to the village of Two Rivers for their Bel Tine, which is some kind of festival. A normal enough way to begin the story; it can shed light on what Rand’s life is like before he gets swept up into whatever happens in the story. Which is great; I was definitely curious about what would happen.

Then we received the first Tolkien imitation (one of the many I noticed in the beginning; the rest are listed at the bottom for your amusement): a black rider with a Malicious Presence™. And then my enthusiasm began to cool a little. I know it’s hard for any fantasy writer these days to avoid being influenced by Tolkien, but I would have hoped a series as well-regarded as Wheel of Time could have avoided such an obvious derivative.

Anyway, Rand’s father doesn’t see this horseman and they proceed to the village. We received a bit of world info-dumping through the conversation of the villagers and got a little bit of insight into their world: Woman’s Circle, the Wisdom, and so on. All’s okay so far. We meet Rand’s friend Mat, who in one anecdote about a practical joke becomes more interesting to me than Rand himself. We find out that Rand’s not the only one to have seen a strange horseman. We find out some strangers have arrived in the village, and that a gleeman- a traveling player of sorts- is coming for their Bel Tine. Rand and his friends eventually meet the strangers- a lady named Moiraine and her companion Lan. There’s some talk about strange things going on in the outside world (a slight resemblance to “The Shadow of the Past” in Fellowship, might I add). Eventually Rand finds out that his father does, in fact, believe him about the horseman, and that since other people in the village have seen this stranger, they’re going to go back to their rather isolated home to make sure the stranger can’t vandalize it. Given that their home is so remote, this is asking for trouble, but I’ll let it slide. Since they live off their farm, this makes sense.

That night, they’re attacked by a kind of monster called a Trolloc, deformed horned monsters who are dangerous fighters. Both Rand and Tam escape, but Tam is badly injured and Rand is barely able to get him back to Two Rivers, hoping against hope that the Wisdom Nynaeve can heal Tam. During the trip, Tam is growing increasingly delirious and lets slip a rather unsettling bit of info- Rand was adopted, he’s not actually Tam’s biological child.

This is where my enthusiasm really began to die down. I felt like Jordan was setting up a “Luke, I am your father!” moment at some point in the future. I was still going to read, but I was feeling a lot less engaged than I had been. The adopted child who doesn’t know it has been done a thousand times, and it was introduced with a sledgehammer here. I prefer subtlety with this trope in stories, especially since it’s easy for the child in question to start whinging about his newfound status.

But I never found out if Jordan was setting this up. Only a few pages later, I’d set the book down.

When Rand makes it to Two Rivers, he discovers that most of the place has been torched by Trollocs. He’s then told that Moiraine and Lan were instrumental in driving away the Trolloc attack, and that Moiraine is an Aes Sedai (some kind of wizard/witch/I-don’t-know-what. Either way, she’s powerful). Rand eventually overcomes his mistrust of her to ask her if she’ll heal his father, who’s on the verge of death. She does so. And then she tells Rand that he and his friends Mat and Perrin have to leave Two Rivers because the Trollocs were looking specifically for them, only torching the rest of the village when they realized that they weren’t going to succeed in finding them. After some hesitation Rand & Co. (& Co. = Mat and Perrin) agree to leave.

This was where I dropped the book like it was poisonous.

Why did I have such a problem with this? Throughout the first 100 pages, it has been established that the people of Two Rivers despise and mistrust the Aes Sedai and regard them as very dangerous if not flat-out evil. And after the village has been torched, these three boys (and a girl. Oh my, Egwene. More on her later) are just willing to go off into the wilderness with her. Even after Rand has been shown several times to mistrust and hate the Aes Sedai. Even after Rand himself has expressed surprise that anyone would want to leave Two Rivers.

WHAT?

THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. I’m sorry, but psychologically this should not happen. Rand is a boy already isolated from an extremely backwater village who has spent his entire life regarding the Aes Sedai as evil and a threat. To quote a few examples:

“It was the Aes Sedai who actually broke the world.” Rand

Mat: “Not all the stories say they serve the Dark One, Rand.”
Rand: “Light, Mat. They caused the breaking. What more do you want?”

“Help from an Aes Sedai was sometimes worse than no help at all, so the stories said, like poison in a pie…”

“… it’s bad enough to have Fain here talking about false Dragons using the Power without this Dragon-Possessed fool of a boy bringing the Aes Sedai into it.”

“Aes Sedai do what they do for reasons of their own.”

“Light, is there a story with an Aes Sedai in it where she isn’t a villain?”

So what’s my point? It’s this: WHY do these three village boys suddenly decide to trust an Aes Sedai enough to travel with her away from their village just after a Trolloc attack? Later on some of the villagers are blaming her for the attack itself, saying she brought the monsters, and while that’s likely completely wrong, it’s a logical assumption for these people to make. Why would such a power-wielder show up in such a backwards place (this is actually commented on by characters the day before the attack) without an ulterior motive? It makes total sense for these people to assume she’s evil. Again, I’m not saying they’re right, but this assumption is logical.

It should take more from Moiraine than what Rand & Co. see for them to trust her enough to leave their families and homes where they’ve spent their ENTIRE LIVES and follow her into the wilderness because of a practically non-existent explanation she tosses at them.

Logic doesn’t cease to exist just because you’re writing fantasy, Jordan. You set the cultural rules. Now you have to stick with them.

And then this is where we have the Rebellious Village Girl™. Egwene has already expressed a desire to leave Two Rivers. So she wants to go with them. Leaving all the Aes Sedai cultural mistrust aside, this would make sense. What does not make sense is that Moiraine just decides to let her come.

Robert Jordan, what, what, WHAT are you doing?

This doesn’t make any sense for a couple reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Egwene is trying to make a different life for herself, but given that Moiraine, Lan, and Rand & Co. are on the verge of leaving because of the dangers, it doesn’t make sense that they’d allow someone else to suddenly tag along, especially someone who doesn’t have much real world or battle experience. Or at least, they wouldn’t do it without a lot more hesitation (to his credit, Moiraine’s companion Lan does hesitate to the point of flat-out protest).

But Moiraine- Moiraine spouts something to the effect of “It is woven into the Pattern” just because Egwene has already prepared herself to go. And so she’s accompanying them.

This is a MAJOR problem. If this is the way Moiraine looks at life, she would have just let the Trollocs destroy Two Rivers. After all, they’d already begun attacking the place. Wasn’t its destruction ‘woven into the Pattern’ then? Why would she bother to heal Rand’s (adoptive) father? He was dying. Wasn’t that ‘woven into the Pattern?’

This is where I gave up. I don’t have the time to plow through a massively long series that even the author couldn’t complete (RIP Jordan, by the way) where within the first major conflict we see logic being ignored for plot and complete inconsistency in the way a major character acts. I have better things to spend my not-so-spare time on, and have other things I should be doing anyway. I may pick up the series in a few years when I have more of a handle on my time, but until then, sorry Jordan. Your fantasy is overhyped and I am disappointed.

As promised, The List of Tolkien Ripoffs Found in the First Few Pages:

“The Mountains of Dhoom”- I kid you not. There is literally a mountain range called this. At least in LOTR it was actually just called “Mount Doom” and even that’s the colloquial term for Orodruin, which is the proper name of that mountain.

The Black Rider- So obvious I practically slammed the book onto my head.

The cloak of Moiraine’s companion-  Seems to change color according to its surroundings. Oh hello, cloaks of Lothlorien. Apparently Elvish export is more extensive than originally thought.

Mountains of Mist- “Far over the Misty Mountains old, to dungeons deep and caverns old…” –The Hobbit

Merry and Pippin Mat and Perrin

Trolloc –> Orc

The Mysterious Sword of Ancient Lineage™ given to Rand by Tam. No resemblance to Anduril (actually there’s not that many other than it having a history that’ll be revealed past the point I quit)

Lan- harsh on first appearance to the boys. Probably loosens up as the story goes on. Hm… is that a faint resemblance to Strider the Ranger/ Aragorn son of Arathorn?

Egwene- Parallels to Eowyn? Though there’s probably no resemblance other than the name and situation. I didn’t get anywhere near far enough to find out.

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17 thoughts on “Why I gave up on ‘Wheel of Time’ after 100 pages

  1. Well, I guess I won’t be picking this book up anytime soon, then. (Not that I have the time to pick up books anyhow…) I hate it when authors cheat like that – *cough*Christopher Paolini!*cough* …though this book sounds like it’s a lot worse than Eragon in terms of creativity theft. I loved your list of Tolkien ripoffs at the end, by the way.

    • What’s funny is that Paolini actually ripped off a lot his stuff from this particular work. There are so many parallels in just the little I read to the beginning of Eragon that it’s not even funny.
      And yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’ve got the spare time for 13+ books that apparently are even worse than this one. And I should add “Dark One”/”Dark Lord” is also slightly ridiculous.
      It didn’t help that Rand, the main viewpoint character, had all the personality and charisma of stale oatmeal.

  2. The series departs substantially from Tolkein after the first book… You should stick to it for at least the first three — I gave up after Jordan died (11 or so books in — haha) and the series was completed (or is in the processes of being completed) by someone else.

    • I’ll probably pick it up again at some point in the future, since I’ve heard the first few books are worth reading. But time is tight right now, and I’d rather read without feeling like I’m plowing through quicksand (Which is what the book felt like for me.)
      And the fact that there are so many books bothers me- so many means either a lot of filler or a really convoluted plot. And narrating a convoluted plot over a series of doorstoppers isn’t the best way of telling a good story, in my not-very-humble opinion 🙂

  3. I read the series years ago — they probably more nostalgia than value…. The fact that the series is long doesn’t diminish their power — he essentially introduces tons of other plots etc which often feel like stand along novels with different characters — the series gets bloated around book 6 or so….

    • Trite is a good way to describe it. It just felt rather bland. The characters didn’t really intrigue me, except for Lan, and when the grumpy warrior is the most compelling character, it doesn’t say much for the rest of your cast…

  4. Ohhh dear…..I recently got given the first Wheel of Time book and it’s sitting on my book shelf. Hopefully I’ll be able to look past the Tolkien rip offs and manage to salvage whats left of the book :S Maybe if I can grasp onto even one character I like it will be okay. Plus I did enjoy Christopher Paolini’s books even though they were similar to Lord of the Rings. There may be hope yet….

    • It depends on what you like in your writing, I think. I found Jordan’s style a trifle dry and I didn’t really like any of his characters, but those later two are obviously something that can vary from person to person in terms of toleration. The Tolkien ripoffs and general clunkiness of the prose (when combined with lackluster characters), however, are not excusable to me. I’m probably going to give the series another chance at some point, but those points in particular are what made me put it down. Good luck with it, though! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

  5. Well, I’ve never read anything of Robert Jordans’ and, thanks to your wonderfull analysis of the first 100 pages, I won’t be reading anything of his anytime soon. Only when I’m really, really bored and I’ve run out of Terry Pratchetts, Anne Rices, Poes and Wildes and I’m really desperate for something to read, THEN, maybe, I’ll consider picking up the Weel of Time series. Maybe.
    However, I do have the nasty suspicion that Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai are a ripoff of the Aos Sí, or, in the older form, Aes Sídhe (sound familiar?) which are (from dear old Wikipedia) : ” a supernatural race in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology comparable to the fairies or elves.” And I remeber reading somewhere that one of the female characters of the Weel of Time 8whose name started with an L, if I’m not mistaken) was a Leannan Sídhe, which is a kind of vampire-ish faery muse who takes artists as lovers and sucks them dry of…they life energy or something like that, in exchange for giving the artists a very inspired and fulfulled, if very short, life. And the aes sidhe aren’t said to be very…nice, at least when compared with the goodie-two-shoes nordic elves. If this is the case, then the only thing I have to say is what happened to calling things by their real names instead of inventing new cheezy ones?

    Oh, and the Tolkien ripoff: LOL! Mountains of Dhoom, Mat and Perrin, Egwene (which sounds too much like eggwash for me to take it seriously)…Facepalm. Everything, every single thing is facepalm worthy. This is one of the problems of the epic fantasy style: most authors just don’t seem to be able to let go of Tolkien. I mean, the Professor was the master, and one can’t help to be influenced by his works when one is writing fantasy, whether you like it or not, but get a grip of the clichés! Better yet, DON’T get a grip on the clichés, leave them alone, try something else! However, this isn’t the worst ripoff of Tolkien ever. I’ve read books that, in the matter of ripping off, would set this one, and the Inheritance Cicle, to shame!

    • The problem with Jordan is that even his fans tend to agree the series went downhill after the first several books or so, and to me that’s kind of a shame when the first book has so many issues. And I hear on Terry Pratchett, Poe, and Wilde (tried Anne Rice, wasn’t really my thing). They’re all a lot more fun/better written than this guy was.

      I never knew about that parallel, but that actually makes a fair amount of sense, given what I know of the Aes Sedai from bits of things I’ve heard about the later books. They have a reputation for being chancy and difficult, though very powerful when it comes to their magic. I don’t know anything about the particulars of that magic but as far as the naming goes, I hear you loud and clear. Not many writers aside from Tolkien seem to take thought for linguistics in their fantasy worlds.

      I know! It’s so weird, and yeah, I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce Egwene’s name for the life of me. And yeah, Tolkien was a great author and I get that it’s really hard to avoid being influenced by him. But that said, there are so many things to be done in fantasy that don’t involve doing something already done before. If it were up to me, I probably would have eliminated Rand as a viewpoint character altogether, since he really doesn’t have much to offer, and tell it from Egwene’s point of view, since she had a pretty clear personality and some room for character development. It would have been nice to see the “Chosen One” trope play out from the viewpoint of someone who wasn’t actually that Chosen One, and it could have lent a bit more insight into the world Egwene lived in before leaving (Rand was kind of an outsider, so there’s less sense of a concrete place that we’re leaving when he goes with the group. As opposed to LOTR, when we spend so much time in the Shire before Frodo goes that’ it’s genuinely sad when he has to leave).

  6. Pingback: Books I Just HAD to Buy… but are Still Sitting on my Unread Shelf | Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic

  7. Ok, guys, this article is not exactly spot on. The OP only read 100 pages into the first book.
    He isn’t exactly an authority on the subject matter. Now, that being said, I have read all the way up to book 11 and listened to the audio books to 6.
    Now, i do agree there are some problems with the series, and at some point jordan did get greedy. but his explanation is over simplified. if the black rider is the only connection to tolkien then that is a very small connection. Mat and perrin are nothing like merry and pippin. Mat and Perrin are both key to the story and will become Generals. Lan in terms of personality is nothing like Aragorn. Lan lost his kindom, and Aragorn cries like he doesn’t want his.
    Rands sword is a power wrought sword. it isn’t forged, so its nothing like anduril.
    That being said, what made me get mad and stop reading the book is the absolute rip off of tons of other subject matter. He did rip off tons of stuff from other stories, fables lores and so on, but i dont see a lot of Tolkien in it.
    He pulls the sword from the stone of tear. Sword from the stone anyone ?
    Arthur paendrag. Arthur pendragon ?
    Aes sedai, Aes sidhe ?
    i could go on and on and on. I read this series as a kid and didn’t really notice the rip offs until i got a little older. that being said, yes it did put a damper on it for me. But if you can look past all that, it is a rich and engaging story although a bit wordy at times. and although it isn’t my favorite story of all time, it definitely is within the top 10.
    but please do not just a story with thousands of pages of story on literally the first 100 pages of book 1. it really is just assuming and doesn’t make your point very valid.

    • “The OP only read 100 pages into the first book.
      He isn’t exactly an authority on the subject matter.

      She.
      And to the ripoffs, I can only say that the ones I saw pinged me as far too similar to Tolkien for my taste. You do have a point in that I erred in describing these points as ripoffs, since as you point out, I didn’t get far enough to find out. But the occurrences that I saw were the repetitions of things I’d seen before and the similarities were not done in a way that would make them interesting to me.

      I think you’re also missing the reason I dropped the book, which I bolded in my take on it- it wasn’t the similarities/ripoffs that made me put it down. It was the complete lack of logic in the characters’ plot-starting choice. Life is too short to follow a series that long that gets off to that illogical a start. This post isn’t a judgment of the series as a whole. It’s why I gave up on it. Given with a college student’s much too self-satisfied explanation, yes. But it’s not a take on the series as a whole. it’s about why I decided not to delve deeper in.

  8. I had a virtually identical experience to the author many years ago when I tried to read WOT. It’s been so long I had forgotten most of the details until I stumbled on this. Like the author, I got 100-150 pages in and just couldn’t take it anymore. It was almost like a parody of fantasy/sci-fi cliches, except it wasn’t a joke. Just awful. awful writing. Sorry, I don’t need need to a listen to a whole Limp Bizkit album to know they suck. And I don’t need to finish Wheel of Time to realize it was the work of a hack.

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