Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rumors of the Wheel (updated)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Naturally I have been aware of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time for a most of my life, yet had long sworn not to read it for reasons of excessive length (even by my standards) and a glacial pace. That being the case, though, I would often browse through random volumes while in bookstores and in doing so noted Jordan's skill (for creating a world that rivals Middle-earth in scale and gaining such fame is no small thing). I viewed the series as a tragedy of Fantasy: an author who let his world swallow the story he was trying to tell at the story's expense given the glacial reputation. However, as my interest in The Wheel of Time grew I began to research it, looking at once for an excuse to read it as well as validation for my vow not to touch it. Paradoxical, I know, but such is the nature of the human mind at times. The six key rumors I found are as follows:
  1. That the first book, The Eye of the World, is a near-copy of Tolkien (as that was required to get published way back when).
  2. That Jordan really diverges and becomes his own writer story-wise in book #2, The Great Hunt.
  3. That the glacial pace does not start until book seven, A Crown of Swords, making the first half the series exemplary to the highest definition of the word.
  4. The the glacial pace was made far worse by the fact that each book took years for Jordan to write, making readers tear their hair out over getting slow book after slow book afters eons waiting.
  5. That, now that all the books of out, the rumored glacial pace is not half so bad because, rather than waiting years, readers can move straight from book to book.
  6. That the final three books written posthumously by Jordan's chosen successor, Brandon Sanderson, are masterful with the last book, A Memory of Light, being one long heart-stopping climax.
Thankfully, as I am now reading Winter's Heart (Book #9) and thus supposedly in the middle of the glacial pace, I can now answer as to the accuracy of most of these rumors. To start, The Eye of the World is not a Tolkien-imitation once one gets past the first quarter of the book. Again, back in the day everyone wanted a second LOTR so some Tolkien-imitation was required if one wanted to get published, but Jordan's story swiftly becomes a unique one in the first book and blossoms in The Great Hunt. In short, Book #1 was excellent, but afterwards is where the tale takes off in truly startling directions. As to rumors 3-5, while I can easily see how the story felt glacial when it was first coming out, reading it straight through negates that because one has not had years to forget characters' names and the many plot points both major and minor between one volume and another. A critical point, as Jordan has the depth of vision to lay gives key hints, visions of the future both large and infinitesimal, that do not come to full fruition for until several books later. That being said, I cannot deny that The Wheel of a Time is hardly a fast-paced series, but to call it glacial is wrong. In sum, I confirm rumors one, two, four, and five, deny three due to the lack of said glacial pace, and cannot speak to six because I have yet to reach those books. Meanwhile, and as the Aes Sedai say, the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day!

All right, I would be lying if I said that Valentine's Day was special holiday for me. Indeed, the last time I did anything to mark the occasion was never, because today is the first time – and I do so within the context of this Star Uncounted blog (obviously). Anyway, I will celebrate Valentine's Day by reiterating just how important love is in Fantasy. 

Perhaps most famously these days, it is the one thing that Voldemort in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series did not understand and in the end was key in ending him. Indeed, we owe Rowling a great debt for making love such a powerful theme in such a masterful tale, for as said Albus Dumbledore, "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love." Parents' love, the love between friends, between siblings, and the romantic kind that is what Valentine's Day celebrates. I prefer to acknowledge them all, though, as each is no less crucial than the other and should one be taken away it would leave the other two scarred (even if only slightly depending on the situation). 
Not that it cannot leave scarring in other ways on the characters and readers both, for as Cadvan of Lirigon from Alison Croggon's Books of Pellinor says, "To love is never wrong. It may be disastrous; it may never be possible; it may be the deepest agony. But it is never wrong." I wont get into specifics so as to avoid spoilers, but this quote is one of the truest I have ever encountered on the subject; that and one of Terry Brooks, "Love supplies a kind of strength that can withstand even death." Ironic, this quote, in the case of Voldemort seeing as death was what he had bent his soul over backwards trying to avoid but, as the great J.R.R. Tolkien notes, "To crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face." and "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." Why all these quotes? To make the point that love ties Fantasy literature together no less than the use of magic. That is why it is the Final Lesson. Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

I have just started Winter's Heart

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started Winter's Heart, Volume #9 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Now the true tests begins for the Light as the Game of Houses shapes the future no less than the One Power, for the Shadow spreads and the Forsaken gather under the Nae'blis even as it corrupts and is routed out behind the Shining Walls. Yet while Rand al'Thor may be up to his ears trouble, it is Perrin Aybara I grieve for,
and then there is the matter of a certain missing gambler. As stated in the Karaethon Cycle, "The Seals that hold back the night shall weaken, and in the heart of winter shall winter’s heart be born, amid the wailings of lamentation and the gnashing of teeth, for winter’s heart shall ride a black horse, and the name of it is Death."

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, February 7, 2020

I have just finished The Path of Daggers

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Path of Daggers, Volume #8 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
So it is that the Dark One's hold is shaken by the Bowl of the Winds, yet for every victory against the Shadow new plots grow and treachery rises with winter wind. Madness seizes more of the Asha'man as the Dragon Reborn drives the Returned from the land of the Golden Bees. So it is that the true Flame of Tar Valon further confirms her rank and approaches the White Tower even as the rightful heir to the Rose Crown returns to her own city. So it is that the Wolf meets the Prophet even as the Falcon is captured. Great battles await before the smoldering slopes of Dragonmount and in the frozen lands to the south, as the pattern unfolds to a
future foretold.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

But what about the mysterious good witch?

Angela the Herbalist and her werecat
companion Solembum
When reading my Females in Fantasy page I can hear you all asking me "But what about the mysterious good witch?" The wise women, the funny and sharp-witted women of power who appear at odd moments and/or are sought after by the protagonists for aid/advice. This is a trope we all know about and Angela the Herbalist from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle is who come to mind for me when hearing it. Similar to the wise sage, what distinguishes one from the other is these white witches (for lack of a better term) are typically portrayed as having an agenda of their own, sporadically working with or fighting alongside the protagonists less because they see the necessity of it and more because they want to for their own personal and/or mysterious reasons. I cannot say more because this class of character is more a thing of fairy tales & short stories as opposed to Fantasy literature and, besides, such white witches are near-always so different from one another that trying to wrap them up any more tightly into a category together would be like trying to wrap a cactus in silk, the needles endlessly piercing and poking through the defined parameters one is trying to set.