This is not going to be your typical Robert Jordan bash. There won’t be any health-related jokes or calls to boycott the series. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this seemingly never-ending series.
Many of you have probably already heard that the next Wheel of Time novel won’t even really be a Wheel of Time novel. Instead, Jordan has decided to write a prequel (or two . . . or three . . . or . . .) to the series, based on a recent short story he set in the same world. Reviews of it are good. In fact, one of the quotes posted on Tor’s Wheel of Time website states, “Although some of the recent entries in the series have been disappointingly sluggish, readers who had a hard time slogging through Crossroads of Twilight will be pleased with this new pre-Rand adventure.” Sounds like one of those backhanded compliments you get, where you’re not sure if the person was insulting you as well.
So, why is Jordan stringing us out like this? I’ve heard one suggestion that he is following the classic pattern of epics, in which the number 12 plays a prominent role in the organization of the plot. I don’t see things wrapping up in the next book, however.
Talk around the lunchroom at my company is that Jordan’s lost control of the story, and I think this is somewhere closer to the truth. While I have enjoyed the last few books, the pace has been almost non-existent. Prologues should not be 50 to 100 pages just to cover a handful of different conversations. I don’t attribute this to a loss of control on the part of the author, but rather a loss of focus. There are too many principal characters.
Principal characters require extra attention. An imbalance of principals means sacrificing pages of plot in order to develop and describe them. There are enough principals in Wheel of Time for three different series. I can’t keep half of them straight. Most of them are just names to me, because I only have enough brain space to visualize “generous bosom” or “hatchet face” in a couple different ways.
I’m not sure I will read this prequel, or even continue the series after Crossroads (which I’m currently reading, so no spoilers please). It’s been a fun ride so far, and I’ve learned something from reading Jordan that I think will benefit my own writing. If I ever write a story with more than 10 principals, I need to narrow the focus or start killing people off.