Does the Wheel turn slowly?
"Is Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series a slow read? It is rumored to have a glacial pace. I read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and liked it, but I do not think I could stand anything slower."
This is a common, or at least not uncommon, concern of Fantasy readers trying to decide whether or not to dive into the Jordan's masterwork. Long series, even fourteen volume ones, faze inveterate Fantasy readers less than books with a slow pacing, so I will now address that concern more deeply.
In short, while The Wheel of a Time is hardly a fast-paced series, everything matters.
No matter how small the event or character may be, the odds are strong
that it/they will in some manner be relevant to the future. The
butterfly effect is real here, as characters you might forget, or
believed to be localized to a subplot long finished, will likely turn up
again far from where you last saw them. People may compare it to GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire,
arguing that GRRM's literary bloodbath is far more fast-paced, but this
is an illusion. How many subplots in Ice and Fire truly matter? How
many gripping intrigues developed by the High Lords playing their Game
of Thrones actually ended up shaking Westeros and making a real
difference to the story? The answer is very few, yet the story seems
fast-paced due to GRRM's immense skill in the art of storytelling. He
creates a near flawless illusion of speed that keeps the reader hooked.
Which is no small feat considering that GRRM's grimdark tale has no
natural endpoint. (Yes,
I am aware that the Others must needs be defeated, of the prophecy of
Azor Ahai and the prince/princess that was promised, and of course that
someone must finally sit the Iron Throne uncontested. But the Others
and the prophesy are marginalized by ruthless High Lords playing their
game of thrones, and who sits the Iron Throne one year may be dead along
with all their kin the next. Hardly natural endpoints for an epic Fantasy of such scale, in my mind.)
This is not the case with Robert Jordan. As Verin Sedai says in book #2, "The Pattern puts everything in its place precisely, and when we try to alter it, especially if ta'veren are involved, the weaving changes to put us back into the Pattern as we were meant to be." Meaning
that, while Jordan's story may seem slower than GRRM's, every ounce of
movement is real. Not an illusion, but a solid and true step forward and
towards the clearly defined endpoint that is Tarmon Gai'don (the Last
Battle), for the Wheel does not turn backwards anymore than time itself.
Even the court intrigues, believe it or not –
as before the Game of Thrones was played in Westeros the Game of Houses
(also called "The Great Game," translated as "Daes Dae'mar" in the Old
Tongue) was played in the Westlands – are every bit as devious as those GRRM spins. As Moiraine Sedai once said, "Everything is a part of the Pattern." Finally,
I feel inclined the mention that the title "The Wheel of Time" is not
Jordan tacitly acknowledging the series' length. Rather, it is a crucial
and one of the most unique elements of the world he created: "The
Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that
become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten
when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the
Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in
the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither
beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a
beginning.” (To see everything I have to say regarding the many rumors surrounding Jordan's work, please go to the Rumors of the Wheel page.)
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