In 1984, the same year I was born, Robert Jordan started a fantasy series called the Wheel of Time. The first book, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990, when I was six.
I started reading them sometime in 1998, when I was 14. My mom had purchased the first seven books in soft-cover, but never gotten around to reading them. These were thick, massive volumes, all in the neighborhood of a thousand pages. Once I got into the first one, I was hooked. Jordon wove his stories like a grand tapestry, with detail and scope like nothing I’d ever read. Whereas most books offer a brief window into a few character’s lives, the length of the Wheel of Time allowed Jordon to show a full panorama. He showed me a new world full of color and life. I read right through classes at school till I’d finished the seven we owned, then ran out and bought the recently released eighth.
When the next book came out, a couple years later, I reread the entire series. Did the same thing for the tenth book. The Wheel of Time felt like a fixture in my life, at that point, as if the characters were old friends.
In 2006, Robert Jordan announced he’d been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, a rare blood disease. It came with it a median life expectancy of four years, but he intended to beat it and finish the final book of the series.
In 2007, a year and a half after that announcement, Jordan died. I was 23, in my first year of grad school.
I remember being ashamed of my response. A man had died, and all I could think about was, what’s going to happen to the Wheel of Time?
But shameful or not, that thought was echoed by many fans, and it spoke to the power the series had. Robert Jordan had created something so powerful, that had touched so many people, that leaving it incomplete would be a tragedy.
Jordan’s wife and longtime editor, Harriet McDougal, agreed, because a few months after Jordan’s death, she asked Brandon Sanderson, an up-and-coming fantasy author, to finish Jordan’s work. That was the start of my own writing journey.
It’s 2012, I’m 28, and just last week Brandon Sanderson announced he’d finished the final draft of the final volume, A Memory of Light. He wrote a wonderful blog post about that experience here.
The writing of the Wheel of Time has been an endeavor that’s spanned the entirety of my life. It’s affected me in profound, measurable ways.
When I was younger, it inspired me to dream of my own epic worlds. When I was older, it inspired me to try to write them.
In each Wheel of Time book, the first chapter always starts the same:
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.”
Next January, when the book is released, I’ll read the final page and for me and millions of others, the series will be over. But the memories will endure.
The Wheel of Time will be over, but the legend will just be beginning.