As a teenage reader, my book choices broke down into two categories: Tolkien and everybody else.
(Yes, there was also required reading for school, but books like The Scarlet Letter and The Mill on the Floss had their own place, and it certainly wasn’t among the books I would ever read if given the choice as a 15-year old. But I digress).
After discovering The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I had quickly found other fantasy authors, notably Terry Brooks and his Shannara series (pretty tame stuff), David Eddings‘ Belgariad (less tame stuff), and Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga (which I don’t think I ever quite finished).
Then I found Robert Jordan‘s The Wheel of Time. It was the right combination of adventure, character, and fantasy, a whole world that seemed to grow and expand with each novel. First published in 1990, the year I turned 13, the novel was the first in a series that would see installments every year until 1994, and then every other year. By the 9th novel, though, the period of time, and the size of each installment, had grown, as had the cast of characters.
I won’t venture to offer a review, or a recap, of those books or the series, but I will offer that there were times when, as much as I loved the characters, I began to wonder if perhaps Jordan wasn’t milking his fans. At one point, as I put down the 9th or 10th book (the series is going to tie up at fourteen novels, 11 thousand pages and over 4 million words) without seeing one of the three main characters and asked myself: “What the heck?” How is this ever going to end if plot and characters are stuck in a limbo land of ever-expanding conflict and story lines?
Then the news came in late 2005 that Jordan was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and despite his promise to finish the series in twelve novels, would pass before completion. He died in 2007, leaving the series incomplete.
In December of that year, local (to Utah) author Brandon Sanderson was pegged to finish out the series using Jordan’s notes and manuscript, but insisted that Jordan’s last book–Memory of Light–be divided into three novels. Hence, with the arrival of Memory of Light in bookstores today, we see the fourteenth in the Wheel of Time series.
So, today it arrives. I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that it has made work difficult. By day, I’m a practicing attorney, and there’s nothing about my job that’s as exciting as losing myself in a good novel. Sanderson has already proven, in the publication of The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time #12) and The Tower of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13) that he is an able author and can be true to Jordan’s work. And the hype surrounding A Memory of Light has been as much as any genre book I’ve ever seen.
Heck, even Sanderson stands in awe of his role as the finisher of Jordan’s work. Earlier this week he told the story of his first look at the final scene:
You can imagine my excitement. I flew out to Charleston for the first time in late 2007—before this, I hadn’t read any of the materials, as Harriet preferred that I come get them in person. After a long flight from Salt Lake City to Charleston, Harriet picked me up at the airport and drove me to her house in the city. We got in at nine or ten, I recall, and she had soup warming on the stove. She asked if I’d like some. My reply was, “If it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like to read the ending please…” Holding my enthusiasm was somewhat difficult.
So, I spent the next hours late into the night sitting in a chair beside Robert Jordan’s computer (it had been moved, by coincidence, out of his office and into the sitting room) reading his ending to The Wheel of Time, then poring over the rest of the notes. I remember Harriet passing by once and asking—with a satisfied smile—“It’s good, isn’t it?”
I certainly hope so. Starting the series when I was still to young to drive and girls had not yet caught my attention, The Wheel of Time occupies a place in my heart alongside my memories of youth where I can still believe in other worlds, where the daily, mundane realities of adulthood still cannot penetrate. It’s been a long time coming, and while the world Jordan created may not quite be Tolkien’s Middle-earth, it deserves a spot on the shelf alongside it.
Click through to buy A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time) from Amazon and Attack of the Books will get a (small) portion of the purchase (which we’ll use to buy more books, of course).