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Winding down... and down...
on October 23, 2005
Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" is a love-'em-or-hate-'em series -- either you will adore it for its thick machinations and intense detail, or hate it for the glacial pace and often-annoying characters.
By the time the sixth novel arrived, it was becoming clear that if Jordan even possessed the ability to finish the series, he wasn't going to anytime soon. The seventh, eighth and ninth books are compiled in this boxed set, but it seems like very little actually happens in these doorstoppers.
"Crown of Swords," which suffers from this glacial pace, includes Elayne, Aviendha, and Mat searching for a magical bowl that will reverse a deadly heat wave, but Mat's flirtatious nature attracts a ravenous Queen who won't take "no" for an answer. Unfortunately, Rand (who spends most of the book thinking) now believes that he's going bonkers.
Things only go further downhill in "Path of Daggers," both for the characters and the readers. Rand believes that his magic will kill everyone he holds dear, and must also deal with the Seanchan as they attack the Dragon Reborn (that's Rand), Ebou Dar and everybody Rand commands. Meanwhile, his friends are still en route to wherever they are going, and the Bowl of Winds has cooled the heat wave.
The same holding pattern is in place in "Winter's Heart," where Rand is still upset and has nearby been killed. His friends are distracted by a series of kidnappings, crownings and civil wars within the Aes Sedai, and so Rand must tip the balance against the Dark One by himself, even if it takes twenty more books to do so.
Long books or series can sometimes be a blessing; the best and most beloved of the fantasy genre are usually big awkward tomes, or at least several books long.
Unfortunately, when a series loses momentum, and the same cast is used in every book... the series is going to inevitably deteriorate. As a result, Jordan's series is overflowing with potentially glorious plotlines, but most of them are stretched thin until you just want the things to end.
One of the biggest problems with Jordan's series is that his women -- almost without exception -- act like the most demented man-haters in the world. This wasn't as annoying when the series showed some forward momentum, but when it's in a holding pattern, this becomes teeth-grindingly unbearable. It makes one wonder about Jordan's own relationships.
So do descriptions of braid-pulling, cleavage, smoothing clothing, and the details of farms, vases and statues that we will never, ever see again. Jordan does not seem to realize that except for the monumentally talented -- Tolkien, McKillip, Lewis -- less is more. His focus on minutiae feels like he is trying to fill out the required number of pages.
Virtually nothing is accomplished in these three novels, except for finding that bloody bowl and fighting a few battles; there are meetings that decide nothing, journeys that don't end, and political conflicts that get progressively messier without reaching a finale. And Rand, who spends relatively few pages being active, has reached the level of a polygamous demi-god, yet he doesn't come across as being a future savior, but an uncertain kid.
The seventh, eighth and ninth volumes of the "Wheel of Time" series seem impressive, until it becomes clear that virtually nothing is going on. In truth, Jordan is spinning his "wheel."