(Jak o’ the Shadows, from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time)
I am about half way through Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and am definitely feeling the effects. Although populated with colorful characters and profoundly embedded plot lines, I can’t help but feel that this behemoth of fantasy is a little like wading through a never-ending swamp. No matter how hard I work at it, few of my questions (the most important being whether the main character will rot or not) are answered even some 6,000 pages in.
Yet, for all of its lengthiness, it is easy to admire some of the ‘high fantasy’ aspects that Jordan develops in such meticulous detail as the series progresses. Compared to titles like Harry Potter (where the wizardry is more of a back drop for the plot and characters mysteriously learn whole sets of skills within sentences), Robert Jordan spends a serious amount of time building the scaffolding for learning magic. The characters progress in steps that mimic real learning – they discover branches of ‘the one power’ that they like and therefore learn quicker, and also make connections between concepts to discover new ‘weaves’. He also develops the history of the world particularly well. At a few points in the work, characters are able to glimpse the far past or hear stories that have passed down through thousands of years – this creates a sense of immense loss for the reader as we see how far the culture has fallen, but also helps us see the necessity of the forthcoming (in several thousand more pages) battle. All in all, it is a very absorbing work, but also difficult to recommend because of the intense time commitment.
Beverage: As the story progresses and gets darker, a light green tea just won’t do. Try moving to a black OP, and I suspect we’ll need something along the lines of a lapsang souchong near the end.