08 January 2013

The Wheel of Time turns...

I don’t remember the day I picked up Eye of the World. I wish I could. I remember begging my mother every Saturday for a month to take me to Barnes and Noble for the next, and after hearing me begin my begging by the following Wednesday purchasing the next two on every subsequent trip. I don’t know how many floors I vacuumed or cars I washed to earn those books but it could have been the whole apartment complex and I wouldn’t have cared.

It was fifteen years ago, and it was the first fantasy novel I had ever read - it would be five years before I even thought to read Lord of the Rings, and then only because the cover quote for Wheel of Time makes the comparison. Path of Daggers would come out later that year – it’s the first book I can ever remember waiting for and I nearly passed out from fury when my mom suggested I wait until it came out in paperback. Paperback? That would be months. Maybe even a whole year. I would die. I would just die if I had to wait to find out what happened to Elayne and Nynaeve after escaping with the Bowl of Winds. Who saved Rand in Shadar Logoth as he fought Sammael? Did a building just fall on Mat?

(Of course, I’d have to wait for Winter’s Heart to discover the answer to the last and boy was I pissed.)

Wheel of Time had become my life at this point. My DiabloII characters were all named for WoT characters. I began to wear a kesiera (or at least as close as I could make to one) everywhere and my Freshmen photos were 10x more awkward than they needed to be as a result.

Two more Wheel of Time books came out while I was in High School, and I panicked a little when I went to college overseas and worried I would not be able to get the next. By the time Knife of Dreams did come out I was broke. So broke I bought, read it over a weekend, and had to return it on Monday. It was literally that or not eat for the week and I was more than willing to risk that if it came to it.

What I do remember clearly is the day that Robert Jordan died. I remember crying. Not for the man – I didn’t know him to know if he was worth crying over – I cried for his books. I cried for these characters who were now lost. Maybe he had planned to kill them all off, maybe the Dark One was intended to win… it didn’t matter. I would never know the answer and more importantly – neither would they. They would never know if their world survived, or their hopes and dreams came to fruition.

I didn’t cry for myself, I cried for their world.

Anger would come later. Why had Jordan allowed the series to stretch so long? If he’d dropped out this character or that character (always characters I myself didn’t particularly like) then he could have been done with it ages ago. 

I didn’t want to have anything to do with the series anymore. It would never be finished, what was the point. I don’t think I even knew Sanderson had taken the series on until the day I saw Gathering Storm at a bookstore. I wish someone had taken a picture of me in that moment. It was like being transported into an alternate dimension and discovering I was Batman. I was stunned. How was this possible and who was this “Brandon Sanderson” person? Who authorized this?

I picked it up with trepidation. I opened to the first page and it was like I was back in that first month when I started Wheel of Time for the first time. The legends of the first 11 books had faded a bit by this time but I couldn’t make myself stop to refresh.  The Wheel of Time turns and I couldn’t risk getting hit by a bus before finishing.

(I’m not sure what greater seal of approval I could give for Sanderson than to say that before I had even finished Gathering Storm I had bought every Sanderson book that had ever been published and they were waiting, patiently, for me to get to them.)

Life was right again, the world was right again.

I choked up when Sanderson announced he had finished A Memory of Light, and even more so the day I placed my pre-order. Over Thanksgiving I began my re-read of the entire series, only my second since starting the series that long ago day. 

The books are different now. Characters I hated before, or were bored by, were changed through the eyes of an adult. I will not pretend that thirteen year old me was less than she was, but she was a shadow of the woman she would become. A woman that Wheel of Time had no small part in making her.

Wheel of Time taught me that women could be powerful. That it was as natural and right as a man being so. It taught me that everyone has their own strengths, and that finding people who can complement your strengths and call you out on your foolishness is the only way to accomplish anything in this world. That there is someone out there who will love you for exactly who you are, and someone who will want to see you be your absolutely best and it doesn’t actually matter who you choose as long as you’re happy with the choice.

That people are born good – but anyone can be tempted to evil.

It’s been fourteen books, over 4 million words and fifteen years and I am about to start on the last book – no, the final book. Final is the right word. It’s not just that this one is last, it is the end of an era for me, and the finality of it is total.

It doesn’t matter if Memory of Light is good or bad, if ends how I want or if it leaves me dissatisfied. It has been a wild ride and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Thank you Mr Jordan for your dream – and you Mr Sanderson for seeing it through to the end. You have both exceeded my wildest expectations and I am deeply joyed to have the opportunity to finish this journey.