In the blogging industry (is it an industry now?) you have to be careful what you name your blogs; you might give the wrong impression. So let me tell you right away: I just finished Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan and I loved it. This book has received a lot of flack for not delivering a nice, satisfactory, episodic ending. For many readers this can be a big turn-off. We read, we get invested in what’s going on, but we want to see some movement – some indication that the story is, indeed, going somewhere.
I feel your pain, readers. Thus the guide: How to Survive the Wheel of Time. It’s advice for the rest of us – those of us who love Jordan’s work; the world, the characters and scope, but sometimes have a hard time chewing it all. There’s a lot to take in. Two books after Rand took Callandor from the Stone of Tear, I got completely burnt out. I had been on a straight Jordan-reading binge for three or four months, and I just couldn’t take it any more.
At first, I felt guilty. I hadn’t really yet identified the problem. I still loved the story, the characters, everything… but I just couldn’t read anymore.
Then, I felt angry. I blamed Jordan for my burnout. If he would just simplify his descriptions, move things along! I am sad to admit that I kept this very short-sighted view for several years. I will never get an opportunity to shake his hand or thank him in person. On the up side, I have matured, and I get to enjoy the beautiful constant payoff of Robert Jordan’s storytelling splendor.
Here’s the thing; You don’t read the Wheel of Time to “move things along”. Robert Jordan is a genius, and one of his biggest talents lies in his characterization. When you read Mat, you’re thinking like Mat – it’s all dice and luck and confusing women. When you read Aviendha, you’re thinking like Aviendha – culture shock, water metaphors. When you’re reading Siuan Sanche, you’re cursing in metaphors of fishing nets and weather.
The Wheel of Time is an immersive experience. You aren’t on this road trip to put miles behind you, you’re along for the ride. The miles will pass as a secondary effect.
Sometimes finding time for a huge epic fantasy is difficult. Let me break down exactly how I went about it myself;
How to Survive the Wheel of Time
1. For the Long Haul – You’re not racing to the end of this book. I love a quick, thrilling tale, or a quick fun one (such as a good Harry Potter or Fablehaven Book). A lot of my favorite books almost feel like reading movies. My advice for other readers like me is to have other books that are satisfying this need, while the Wheel of Time serves as your ‘Long Haul’ book. You’ll get to the end when you get there.
2. For the Experience – The characters are fascinating, astounding, and fully-realized. When you throw away the need to race, and focus on the journey from moment to moment, you can really get into the heads of each viewpoint character. You feel what they feel, see the dilemma from their perspective as clear as day. It paints a clear picture of how people think, and over time, it creates a grand scope of what is going on in the world.
3. Audio and Visual – I both read and listen to any given Wheel of Time book I am on. This enables me to listen in the car or at the gym, while I read at night in order to wind down before bed. I can cover a lot more words when reading in person, but audio listening enables me to read when I would usually be unable to – such as while cleaning or doing laundry.
4. Trust Jordan – He knows what he’s doing, and he is NOT giving you the typical tropes, the knock-off polished cliche’ of the Hero’s Journey we’ve seen time and time again. This is the Wheel of Time. This is epic fantasy, emphasis on the Epic. Because of this, you need to trust Jordan. He’s given you plenty of reasons to. Remember the end of book 3? Remember the thrill of adrenaline, the satisfaction from the payoff? Trust that. Trust Jordan to pay it all off, and make it all worthwhile.
The Crossroads of Twilight was a great experience – I loved every minute of it. The best part is the lack of an “episodic ending” is not really a big deal for us. When you finish, you can simply move right on to Knife of Dreams without a hitch!