I’m about halfway through Towers of Midnight: Book 13 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It’s not a typo; this is the 13th 1,000-page book about the same exact people doing the same exact things. It has two authors. I am 25 years old; someone could write a book about my entire life, and it would be about 15 pages long. Even then, it might drag in some parts. The whole Wheel of Time series takes place over about 2-3 years. I can’t be specific because people magically teleport all over the place, so there is no reliable benchmark for time passing save when the author explicitly states “time has passed.” I am fairly confident it has been about 2 or 3 years since the beginning. I need to stop now, since I’m launching into my diatribe already, and I need to introduce the premise of this piece first. So, I’m reading the book now, and I decided to voice my complaints with the series instead of suffering in silence, which is not something I do usually. Suffering in silence, that is. I have set this up with numbers and topics.
1. TEENAGERS – What kind of a childishly cruel trick was it for the Creator of the universe to place the fate of the Final Battle on teenagers? I barely trust teens to pass pre-algebra and not get addicted to caffeine pills, and we’re supposed to believe they can save the world?! The youngest person to ever become a hyper-badass war-general ubermensch was Alexander, and he was 20 when he took over from daddy. We can agree that’s an exception. But in Robert Jordan’s world, it makes sense to make a 16 year-old sheep farmer the Dragon Reborn (capitalized) hero of all time. A sheep farmer. Let me tell you all something: it takes more than 3 weeks of campfire lessons from a knight to become a master swordsman, despite what Kingdom of Heaven and Orlando Bloom would have us believe. Jordan bypasses all this with a reincarnation ex machina device, since all the main characters are either a. The Dragon Reborn and has the original Dragon’s memories b. Are some other warlord reincarnated and has his memories c. A Werewolf wolf God person with heightened senses. Just make them all middle-aged warrior persons already. Their resumees would be perfect for fighting the dark lord without the aid of past-life memories. (BTW: the main guy is just a human called The Dragon. He is not a dragon. In fact, the story does not feature any dragons at all, so I don’t even know where they got the name. The KKK leadership structure, maybe?)
2. PORTRAYAL OF LOVE/ROMANCE. The series’ protagonist Rand al’Thor (the apostrophe makes it fantasy) has 3 wives. One of them can see the future in little tidbits that don’t spoil plot and is a cutesy tomboy-girl with close-cropped hair. Another is a bad-ass warrior woman with a super-athletic body. The third is a classically beautiful queen of the world’s richest country. I guess the Dragon Reborn couldn’t fall for a homely milkmaid with a hair-lip. By the way, all 3 women know each other, and are totally cool with “sharing” Rand. Has Robert Jordan ever met a woman in real life? Even Mormons on HBO don’t have this warped a view of gender relations. Rand’s best friend Perrin is married to a forceful, beautiful lord’s daughter from some city, and is also chased by the queen of another city who wants his d♥♥k pretty bad. You may think I’m being crude, but she just wants to have sex with him. It’s true. Mat is Rand’s other best friend, and he’s married to an Empress. You see the pattern? All these relationships are excuses for the author to mindbate to his wildest fantasies of being a teenage wonder-warrior with queen-women tripping over each other to bow to his prophesied penis. This is not how real women act. Trust me; I have tried telling girls my d♥♥k was prophesied to battle the Dark One (capitalized). No one cares. Furthermore….where do all these queen-women come from? I met a former Miss Hawaii once, that’s it. These kids meet empresses and magic queens like they fall off trees. Unless this is all some clever way for Jordan to thematically imply all women are queens…in which case, touche’.
One last point about the abhorrent portrayal of women in the books: please read the below quotes, taken directly from the text. It’s two women talking about a guy.
“I’d always heard that Morgase’s stepson was a handsome man,” Alliandre continued. “But I hadn’t anticipated him being so….pristine.”
“Like a statue craved from marble,” Berelain whispered, “a relic from the Age of Legends. A perfect thing left behind. For us to worship.”
I think I’m done here.
3. TEENAGERS x ROMANCE. Another reason entrusting fate to teens is a bad idea: teenagers think crushes are the most important thing ever. I know because I was once a teenager. It’s understandable; they have hormones and little budding crotch hairs that confuse their world view. It makes sense to think love and all that is the most important thing ever. Well guess what, saving the universe is the most important thing ever! Rand, Mat, and Perrin are supposed to be fighting for existence, but they spend half their days running around worrying about chicks and hormones like it’s the OC (great show by the way; not bashing it at all). I don’t want to get into specifics or name-calling, but…if your name is Perrin, and you’re supposed to be preparing for The Last Battle (capitalized), but instead you’re worrying about the Queen of some fantasy city, who is a sexual predator (as we have already established) and you let follow your army, spreading rumors she banged you…you shouldn’t be part of any Last Battle. You need to figure s♥♥t out. Apart from the fact that no queen ever would deal with this sophomoric bullshit. Here’s another thing: anyone ever meet a general who brings his wife and another older woman who wants him along on campaigns? Exactly! Go fight the war! Jordan needs to get his act straight, as do his characters.
4. DIALOGUE. I don’t like the dialogue in the series; it’s just not for me. When a woman gets frustrated with a man, she responds with this pattern. “(character’s full name, first and last), (folksy adjectival phrase)” The quote is then followed by the woman thinking about how even though the man has faults she loves him for them. Here’s a paraphrased example.
“Matrim Cauthon, you woolheaded fool!” Elayne couldn’t help but smile inwardly at Mat’s lovable hijinks. Oh, men! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t satiate your uncontrollable d♥♥k lust without ‘em.
OK, maybe he never wrote the last sentence there, but it is implied over and over in the series. Again, I don’t think the author has ever had a woman argue with him. When girls get mad at me, they use terms like f♥♥kwad and dumbass; they also don’t typically accept and admire my lovable intractability. See, in real life when people argue emotions boil, feelings get hurt, and bad things get said. Here’s another thing about folksy, bucolic adjectives: no one uses them. Farmers have a pretty decent-sized vocabulary to describe the world around them. In Jordan’s world, farmers can only compare their experiences to farm-life, fishermen to fish, sheep farmer to sheep. Well, I guess you don’t “farm” sheep…herders of breeders or whatever. One of the characters, Siuan Sanche, is a god-woman magician, but used to be a fisherman or something. Every god-damn sentence she utters is stuffed with fishing metaphors. You know the term “swears like a sailor”? We have that because sailors swear, they don’t exclaim fish-babble like “great kettles of catfish” or “dogfish stew for Sunday breakfast.” Are you kidding me? Do gas station attendants compare all their world experiences to gasoline and lotto tickets?
5. MISPLACED HUMILITY. Here’s another very common sentence structure. (Name) is just a (humble profession), not a bloody (lord, wizard, prophet, man-God). Example: Perrin didn’t want to lead. He was just a blacksmith’s apprentice, not a bloody lord! You get that sentence at least once per chapter. “Bloody” is of course a requisite, since it’s high fantasy, so they speak British. Even though the rest of the damn dialogue/narrative is in contemporary American English, “bloody” is in there, so it’s all good. Anyway, show of hands. If you were to discover you were a hyper-powerful wizard of prophecy with women falling all over themselves to get to you, how many would want to go back to shearing sheep? Anyone? But Jordan’s characters all want to go back. They seem to resent power, women, and glory. Who needs that s♥♥t , am I right? Come on! How is this believable in any way? You’re telling me that a sheep farmer wouldn’t want the powers of a god, nations bowing before him, and 3 super-hot wives whose sole purpose for existing is to get wet just thinking about him? I don’t….what….does he want more wives? How much is enough? I don’t get it. All the 3 main protagonists do is b♥♥ch and moan about how hard it is to be amazing and awesome. OK, Rand, here’s a deal for you: you be a freight forwarding salesman, and I’ll save the land from the Dark One and then have bards sing of my life for eons. I get that not everyone is ambitious or what not, but still….
6. TIME. Robert Jordan doesn’t understand time is a real thing. I mean it; we have math and physics to prove time is real. Now, I’ll give you that our measurements of time are somewhat arbitrary, but still, a year is a year; it is not however the f♥♥k long you feel like it being. If you have the merry band of prophecy trek back and forth across the continent 12 times, and then you tell me 5 weeks have passed. What am I supposed to say to that? How can I take it at face value without undermining everything I know about time as a physical property? The Dark One has been imprisoned for 13,000 years or so. 13,000?! All of human recorded history goes back like 3,500 years; even then, most of the old stuff is like grain inventory. I’m supposed to believe a magically advanced medieval society locked away the Dark One 13,000 years ago, and then decided to stay a magical medieval society for 13,000 years without any technological innovation or exploration? We invented indoor plumbing after way less than 13,000 years, and we can’t even tap the One Power (capitalized) to shoot fireballs out of our fingertips or anything!
7. LACK OF PROGRESSION. From Books 4 to 13 nothing happens. I mean that. The Dark One can raise the Forsaken from the dead. Rand and his friends spend whole books defeating a single Forsaken, only to have that person be revived in the next installment. By the end of the 3rd book, Rand is pretty much established as the Dragon Reborn, and he needs to unite the land to defeat the Dark One. I’m in the 13th book now, and Rand is pretty much established as the Dragon Reborn, and is uniting the land to defeat the Dark One. The plot never progresses anywhere.
8. THE WAR AGAINST THE DARK ONE AND HIS FORCES LASTS LESS THAN ONE BOOK. The war against the forces of darkness hasn’t started yet. We have one book left, so I’m assuming the whole war will last less than one book. Really? World War II lasted 5-7 years depending on your geographic location. We’re talking about the war for existence against evil itself, and what, it’s going to take an afternoon? You’ve had nothing happen for 8 books so that Rand can defeat the Dark One in an hour or two? There is a concept out there called “scale.” Fantasy authors need to read up on it. Digressing a bit down the carriages of my thought train regarding scale. The whole “world” we see in the series is maybe the size of Europe. These people have had magic powers for over 13,000 years, and they haven’t traveled the Silk Road yet? We’ve got an American Flag on the moon! No joke, for 14 books we get maybe half of a continent, and that’s it. Where is the rest of the globe during the battle for survival? Sure, we have the Seanchan Empire over there, and dreadfully scary mountains over here, but that hardly paints an accurate picture of a “world.“ Another thing: everyone speaks the same language. Doesn’t matter if you’re from the top northern corner of Medieval Europe realm, or across the sea, they all speak the same tongue. The Aiel and the Seanchan seem to have terms from a different language, but every single one of them is fluent in the main character’s tongue and only speak in that, even to each other. It’d be like if I just randomly chose a few of the nouns in my vocabulary and decided to speak them in Klingon. “I like to wash laundry using chor’khet, so that it’s softer when it touches my blag’hathor.” Does that seem authentic?
9. LENGTH. 14 Books (tentative). I don’t even want to get into this. Let’s not delve into the drawn out plot, or whole books where nothing happens, the bad people being brought back to life whenever they die. Forget it. Let me just drop a few facts for you. The first book came out in 1990. Robert Jordan wrote 11 books all over 1,000 pages. Jordan died in 2007. He died before he could finish the series. I am not making this up. Anyway, this leads to the last point….
10. BRANDON SANDERSON. Before I write anything, please look at his picture here. OK, now look at other pictures of him here. Do I even need to write something? How am I supposed to take someone who looks like that seriously? Oh, and his writing is s♥♥ty and uninspired. I cannot tell a difference between him and Jordan. Their prose is so bland and bare, there is no change at all in the narrative once Sanderson takes over. He had to take over because Robert Jordan died before he could finish the series, as I wrote earlier. Again, that’s not a joke; he seriously died before he could finish his 14 book fantasy epic, just as a final “ f♥♥k you” to his fans. Here’s the punchline: Sanderson was supposed to write one final book, but apparently Jordan’s notes were so copious they had to split everything into a concluding trilogy. The first book in the concluding trilogy featured more that one chapter of Mat being attacked by zombies in a village that had nothing to do with the main story. So you tell me. By the way, here’s a picture of Robert Jordan. No, that’s not the ringleader of a wandering circus that travels across small-town America granting wishes to people but for a terrible price. That was Robert Jordan.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the books overall. They’re fun adventure stories, and have entertained me for years. Can’t recommend them enough to fans of High Fantasy. But nothing’s perfect.
(Post Edit: The book ends with a character who was thought dead returning and marrying an older man as soon as she’s back. So yea.)