I’ve been having mixed feelings about The Wheel of Time lately. On one hand, I consider it as one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. On the other, I’m starting to get burned out. In fact, I haven’t even posted a review for the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven which I had mixed feelings about. It was a 3-star read all things considered. And yet, I keep going back to that feeling of exhilaration and wonder I got when I read the first book, The Eye of the World for the first time. To this day, I keep thinking about the feeling I got when I read that book and I wonder- why can’t anything I read recently replicate that wonderful experience?
A few years back, I tried reading A Game of Thrones and failed at it. I thought maybe doorstoppers just weren’t for me. TEOTW put an end to that notion. There’s something to The Wheel of Time that ASOIAF just didn’t do for me. Maybe it’s the character relationships, the feeling of hope amidst all the despair, the joy and friendships. The lack of grimdark fantasy realism that everyone seems to be on-board with nowadays. Maybe AGOT was too dark while TEOTW presented the perfect balance between light and dark (ironically, a core theme of the series).
I started TEOTW at a time when I was getting out of a long reading slump. It was my first adult fantasy book and before I read it, I have never read anything like it. I have never read Tolkien or any fantasy books with the farmboy-as-chosen-one trope. To me, it was fresh. It was fascinating and over the course of a month, I devoured it with a hunger that would define the rest of my 2018 reading life. After TEOTW, I devoured the next two books in the span of a week before deciding to take it slow. To me, it was an incredible, majestic slow-burn of a series.
TEOTW was also may first Whispersync book. It was the first book I listened to while I read the ebook and that experience enhanced the way I read the book. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading were absolutely fantastic narrators and listening to them as I read was a revelation.
People who didn’t have the reading slump I had or those who are more well-versed in the genre than me may tell you that The Wheel of Time was derivative and a slog, and maybe both of those were true. Yes, it has problematic elements when it comes to how it handles gender and in general. Those things does not diminish my love. Yes, the problematic parts shouldn’t be waved aside and shouldn’t be excused but for me personally, I love and owe this series.
Because of The Eye of the World, I started this blog. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, maybe it isn’t. But the fact remains that it’s one of the very first books I reviewed here. It was in reviewing it in mind that I started this blog. I’ve been hearing about The Wheel of Time a lot in various SFF circles and yes, the 14-book length was daunting. It was scary, a commitment, I didn’t know if I was ready to read something like that. But still, I took the plunge. To this day, I will maintain that doing so was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
I can tell you in vivid detail the days I spent reading this book. I read it over a month or less, I think, alternating between reading and listening. I can tell you about the night I started it, about how I read through the descriptions of Emond’s Field, that idyllic village with the foreboding that of course, something bad was about to happen. I can tell you about how I would sneak in reading time in between classes or during my commute. Of how I listened and read the scene where Tam and Rand were attacked by trollocs and how fast my heart beat at that scene. Or how I was walking in the mall, waiting for my sister, hearing Moiraine tell the story of Manetheren and I just had to stop and listen then re-listen. It was to me, an incredible scene and one of the best in the books I’ve read so far.
And I can tell you about the feeling of finishing the book. About how I had to stop listening because I was blazing through it too fast, of the excitement and exhilaration as I finished it and the empty feeling as I put down the iPad and realized I haven’t bought second one yet.
Before I read this book, I was practically a stranger to detailed in-depth world-building, except for the little I’ve read in the ASOIAF wiki. To actually read and see how the world-building was written in the book and the plot was even better than I imagined it to be. Before this, I would read fantasy books but their world-building would now seem lackluster and undeveloped in comparison.
The best term I could use to describe The Eye of the World is that it’s a gateway drug. It’s a gateway drug of the best kind and served to open my eyes to Adult SFF. To big fantasy books, the doorstoppers. If I hadn’t read TEOTW, I probably wouldn’t have read N.K. Jemisin, Fonda Lee, Mark Lawrence, Patrick Rothfuss, and Brandon Sanderson. If I had never read this book, I don’t know which one could have gotten me out of that long reading slump I was in.
I could also tell you of how tremendously excited I was to discover the second book, The Great Hunt at a local bookstore. At the time, I had bought it on kindle, unsure if local bookstores stock it since most of the conversation around fantasy books revolve around ASOIAF and I have never heard anyone in real life talk about these books. That day, I bought books two and three and started my collection of TWoT mass market paperbacks. I currently have books six to eight unread, the rest on my to-buy list (I’ve never seen this books in my school library- the only one available to me- either).
Starting this series was a journey. Continuing it is also one. I have my frustrations about this series, as I have no doubt many readers also do. I’ve seen a lot of gripes about the length and the padding. I share some of these gripes along with those about sexism and the more problematic elements. Still, I would gladly put up with it if only for the amount of love I hold for this series and the characters.
I mentioned in my instagram post featuring The Fires of Heaven that this world feels like home and the characters like old friends. I stand by that statement. I have my fears about what would happen to them and I feel sad when they’re down and I cheer their successes. I like to think everyone has that one book or series they hold an illogical amount of love for and for me, that’s the Wheel of Time. Yes, I was incredibly frustrated about The Fires of Heaven but I would also read The Lord of Chaos. Maybe not now or next week, but I would read it and I would continue until the end.
I’ve already resolved to one day finish this series, no matter how long it would take me. And maybe, I might re-read The Fires of Heaven and give it a proper review. I’ve got five books down, and nine (or maybe ten) more to go. I’m taking it slowly and maybe even re-read some parts if I have to. Still, I’m excited to see where else this journey would take me. Will I ever replicate that feeling of starting The Eye of the World for the first time? I don’t think so. There’s still a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to encountering a new world and meeting new characters for the first time. But still, a series that now feels like home is still a great feeling.
(And yes, I’d gladly get a Prime Video subscription just for the tv show.)