GRRM fans will love reading ‘The Wheel of Time’
By Jamal Al-Bayaa, Staff Writer
Long before Jon, Joffrey, or Sansa, there was Rand, Matt, and Perrin, three best friends who had their lives dramatically changed when an Aes Sedai took them away from their village in order to save their lives, which entangled them in a complicated web of magic, politics, war, and power. The late Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time is a 14-book sword-and-sorcery fantasy series that succeeded J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as the series which best defined fantasy. As Edward Rothstein of The New York Times said, “Jordan has come to dominate the world Tolkien had begun to reveal.”
There were a few major factors that contributed to the incredible success of the Wheel of Time series. Jordan’s character work was incredibly intricate, deep, and thorough. His battle scenes were gloriously larger than life, yet most wars were won or lost in secret shadows through manipulation, cunning, and strategy. The world he created was so well described that you intuitively knew the rules of that reality, without ever needing them explained to you.
Now, this is generally good for any fantasy series, or book in general, but Jordan’s attempts at it were some of the most groundbreaking. George R.R. Martin then took the framework laid out by Jordan and Tolkien, expanded on it, improved on it, and turned it into the legendary book series we have today.
In reading these two books, you begin to notice similarities between the older Wheel of Time series and the newer A Song of Ice and Fire. In every way that Jordan had succeeded, so too has Martin. Both series emphasize high court, tense battles, and the intricate complexity of a multi-nationed fantasy world, complete with maps and distinct cultures within each city, although I feel that Jordan was much more thorough in that regard.
Further similarities can be seen in the style of writing itself. Both authors chose not to focus on any one character as the main narrator, instead adding to the mystery and misdirection of the plot by giving every character a chance to narrate, generally changing narration and the entire focus of the story every few chapters. In The Wheel of Time, even characters that have nothing to do with the plot are given small narrative chapters as a way to set the tone and give insight into the mind of the common people in this world.
This unorthodox style is powerful in a series that relies so heavily on secrets. While each individual character may know little of the real truth at any given time, the reader has the advantage of knowing most everything that the characters collectively know. This provides a feeling of omniscience, suspense, and page-turning excitement as you watch deceit and manipulation take place at a level of skill Malcolm Gladwell would be proud of.
Fortunately, not all the information is revealed too soon in either book, so the reader may have enough clues to guess at what happens, but rarely has enough information to really get it right. Anybody who appreciates the complexity, suspense, and high quality fantasy world-building that Martin engages his readers in will appreciate Jordan’s attempts just as much, if not more.
Best of all, there is a TV series of the Wheel of Time coming out that Jordan’s wife claims will be “cutting-edge” in the TV world, obviously a direct challenge/response to the fame that Game of Thrones has received. I hope that the show keeps through on that promise, because it was certainly true of the books.
If you’re a fantasy fan, I urge you to read this less well-known book series. Once the TV show is out, you’ll get to say what everybody will wish they could say: “I read the books first, and they were amazing.”