The Wheel Turns

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.

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13 thoughts on “The Wheel Turns

  1. Eric Edstrom says:

    Nice post, Tristan. I was about 19 when the first book came out. When book two came out, I skipped out of my college classes, drove to the mall, bought the book and read the first 1/3 of it while sitting on a bench outside the Waldenbooks.

    A few years later I joined an online community called Genie (a competitor to Compuserve). That was the first time I ever got involved in a community of fans. I spent hours reading and writing posts trying to figure out what would happen next in the series. I loved all the theories. And I loved how the anticipation built for each book.

    Jordan set a very high bar, and like everyone I was concerned about how the series would be finished. But Sanderson has done an outstanding job, and I feel so grateful he was selected to do it. Reading the final volume will be bittersweet for sure.

  2. Josh says:

    sorry just gotta say Wheel of time is my favorite book series out their and that day[9] sent me. Good luck with your book and remember the Wheel weaves as the wheel wills.

  3. Tristan says:

    day[9] sent me too! Sounds like I have to read these 🙂

  4. AZRogue says:

    Well put, amigo. I was very impressed with the quality of Sanderson’s work and am really looking forward to the final book, but not without an equally strong sense of trepidation. What a bittersweet moment that will be, reading the final chapter of the epic tale and being forced to realize the cold reality: the story is over.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that every story must end but I’m not one of those purists (nothing against them at all, we are each entitled to our tastes and opinions) who believe that a story should last no longer than a single book. Personally, I enjoy longer stories that have large plot arches that span several volumes. The feeling of visiting a good friend is about as close as I can come to describing the pleasant feeling I have each time I pick up a new book in a beloved series. If I have one complaint (and it is very, very minor) it would be that there are a handful of authors I respect who just aren’t very prolific and, so, take much longer than usual to write a book (Matthew Stover leaps to mind, though I’m a huge fan of his). Maybe they, at least, should stick to the “single-volume per story” rule!

    Well, just wanted to comment. I agree completely with you and enjoyed your blog post tremendously so wanted to take the opportunity to say, simply, thanks! 😉

  5. It feels like I could have written this blog post, only not with such elegant poise, because it would fit almost exactly into my own life.

    I was 10 when the first book was released and I had just started reading my books in english. It was a challenge my english teacher set upon me, one which I embraced wholeheartedly. I remember playing with Rand, Mat and Perrin in my mind on my way to school through the forest and the snow.

    I read all the books that were available at different times, rereading all the previous books up to the new ones every time, just like you. Wanting to write. Wanting to take my guitar and create music. Wanting to draw.

    The Real World (not the tv show) arrived and I grew up. Web programmer turned civil engineer, turned programmer again, travelled the world several laps around, got lost in Cambodia, shroomed out i Thailand, and got my heart broken in Australia.

    Here now, in Sweden’s capital Stockholm, it’s sunny out, a fountain splashes down below the window and I’m looking over at what my girlfriend is reading. The Eye of the World. She’s a slow reader of english, having to understand every word, but she’s telling me she loves it. I love sounding smart and being able to translate the words and telling her about Myrddraal, Half-men and Fades. “Yes, they are all the same love.”

    And when she’s off working, I find myself reading up to the point where her bookmark is, just to be able to know what she knows of the universe. I felt tears burn in my eyes when little Bela ran like the wind on that first night after Wintersnight. Knowing what we know now, that scene is so much stronger.

    And I. I guess all I’m writing is code. And short haggard texts to set the scene for the photos I sometimes take. If we only had 28 hours each day. The four extra only for me, everything else is just standing still. Also, I wouldn’t age those extra four hours. And… haha, the sci-fi nerd in me is rising.

    I’ll check back here many times Tristan, keep writing!

  6. Pedro Laguna says:

    Wow! Sean sent me here too and it totally paid off. Jesus, Tristan, your stuff is pretty fucking good.

  7. Mary VP says:

    I can’t believe it’ll be over either. I remember devouring the first seven or so when I was younger and then waiting impatiently for each new release. When I learned Robert Jordan was ill, my first reaction was to hope that he’d at least manage to get through the series first. I couldn’t imagine that story remaining incomplete. I’ve talked to people that didn’t like them, thinking they’re too long and complicated, but I loved the complexity. I felt like I could someday walk into Caemlyn or Tar Valon or Tear and recognize everything.

    I’ve always loved fantasy, but the Wheel of Time was one of my first forays into epic fantasy. Part of me can’t believe it’ll be over soon. I started reading them when I was around 10 or 11 and now I’m 24; those books have been part of my experience for most of my life.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tristan. I’m really enjoying your blog, in general.

  8. […] the published series have run into criticism. Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time (which I talked about here) ran into serious pacing issues around books 8-10. Many accuse Martin of having the same problem in […]

  9. […] already spoke of some of my thoughts as to the series as a whole and don’t have a lot to add right now. Maybe I will later. For now, I simply want to bid it […]

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