Robert Jordan Wheel of Time Series Overview
When Amazon recently announced that they were making a television series out of Wheel of Time I was both thrilled and nervous. You see this is one of my all time favorite book series. Will they do justice to it? I put together this Robert Jordan Wheel of Time Series Overview for those who would like a refresher and those who have never read the books.
Let me just say, this is a HUGE book series. There are tons on nuances to cover. I am by no means able to cover them all in one article. I will be doing a few follow up articles on the characters, the Aes Sedai, and each book individually. If there is something in particular you wish to see more on please do not hesitate to comment and request it. I will do my best to cover everything.
Overview of The Wheel of Time
No Spoilers. I hate when things are given away. Robert Jordan does a phenomenal job of creating tension. Never too much just right. The story moves along at a fluid pace through most of the books. A bit slower around book eight and nine. Certainly nothing to make a dent in your reading.
The most simple way to sum up the plot. The big bad Dark One is starting to break free of his prison in Shayol Ghul. The world needs a hero. Since Robert Jordan is wise enough to know not any one person can save the world he creates many. While only one is the Dragon Reborn. A mythical figure who has battled the Dark One on many occasions.
Several groups come into play for this final battle to take place. It is up to the Dragon Reborn to guide them all towards his end goal. Typical save the world type stuff right? Except somehow Robert Jordan in his Masterful style of writing keeps you guessing. There are plots and sub plots going on at all times. Things are not always what they seem in the complex world of the Wheel of Time. People can have shady motives or appear to have shady motives to really being trying to help the light. Just the sheer number of characters in this series is staggering. There are 2782 named distinct characters. That is a lot of personalities to mesh together. I will do a complete list of them in my article next week.
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass leaving memories that become legend, then fade to myth, and are long forgot when that age comes again.” Robert Jordan
This phrase is repeated often in the Wheel of Time books. It is a simple description of the complex workings of time in the world. People are reborn. Some with a memory of the person they once were. Most without. In some ages that have come and gone darkness has won the battles. In others light prevailed. The majority of people walking on the earth at the time of the writing of this series have lost memories and abilities that were once prevalent. Skills that could very well be the deciding factor in battles. A select few know this information. Most of them are secretive and not going to tell.
There are 14 full books to this series. 15 if you count the prequel a New Spring. My next article will be a complete list of the books with links to purchase them. However I would like to mention that these books were released in real time of 22 years, 11 months and 24 days. That doesn’t even take in to account all the writing and prep before the first book was published. The events of the books take place over 2 and a half to 3 years. It just goes to show the tremendous detail Robert Jordan and eventually Brandon Sanderson went into for these works. You see Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a terminal heart disease in 2005. He had stated he wanted to finished the main story line through book 12 to complete the story no matter what. However he was wise enough to make preparations in case he could not. He gathered his notes and made sure whoever finished the book would be able to do it the way he had envisioned. When he passed in 2007 the final ending to the series was in question. His widow chose Brandon Sanderson to complete the story. Based upon her enjoyment of his novels and the eulogy he wrote for Robert. Due to time constraints Sanderson split the ending into three books.
While the writing style in itself is magical. Here I mean actual magic. People within the world are sometimes capable of creating what we call magic. The books call it channeling. In essence some privileged/cursed few are able to embrace the source. Some people are born with the ability and merely need to be taught to control it. Others have to be taught to unlock this ability at all. The vast majority of people can’t do either. This power comes in two forms. Saidin and Saidar. Saidin is the male version of the power. It has been tainted by the Dark One for generations. Making any man able to channel eventually go mad. For those that resist madness a sickness causes them to rot alive. Either way the men will die horribly.
Women who do not learn to control their channeling can die from misusing the power. It is a far less horrible death, yet bad nonetheless. The White Tower is home to the Aes Sedai. Women who have dedicated themselves to learning the One Power. They seek out and attempt to train any woman thought to have the ability. To teach them control and protect them from death. They also seek out men. Unfortunately not to train them. Rather to remove the threat they pose to the world. Either by gentling them so they cannot use the power or killing them outright.
To perform an act of magic one must channel the source through their body and weave the various threads into patterns that create effects. Similar to the various elements each thread pulls from a different part of the source. The various combinations and proportions is what gives each weave its distinct abilities.
There are items in the world that offer a channeler the ability to channel additional source. Since each person can only hold so much before they risk burning themselves out. The amount varies by person and is often the basis of ranking or decision making among those who can channel. Finding items that can aid them in holding more is always a desired find. The White Tower claims ownership of all such items to prevent women who have not been trained from harming themselves or others. Of course since the White Tower does not want men channeling at all they would never allow a man to have control of such objects by choice.
Some Terms to Understand
The World of the Wheel of Time is complex and sometimes confusing at first. It does not take long to get the gist of what is going on. However there are a few terms that may help you understand the story a bit faster.
- The Five Powers– There are threads to the One Power. Each person who can channel can usually grasp some threads better than others. They are named: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. Each person usually excels in using one or perhaps two of these threads. Not since the Age of Legends has anyone been good with all five. Even then it was a rare occurrence.
Men are typically better at welding Earth and or Fire. Women usually are better with Water and or Air. While none of the threads are thought to be stronger than the others.
- Dragon Reborn– According to prophecy and legend the dragon reborn will be born again in mankind’s greatest hour of need to save the world. This is not something people look forward to. Since the prophecy he will also bring a new Breaking of the World.
- Breaking of The World-During the time of madness, male Aes Sedai who had gone insane due to the taint and could channel performed acts that changed the face of the earth. Creating Mountains, great earthquakes, floods, lifted dry land where seas had been and many parts of the world were completely depopulated.
- Age of Legends– The Age ended by the War of Shadow and the Breaking of the World. A time when Aes Sedai performed wonders only dreamed of in the ages since.
- The Wheel of Time– Along with being the name of the series it is thought to be an actual thing in the world. Time is a wheel with seven spokes, each spoke is an age. As the wheel turns the ages come and go. The pattern of an age is slightly different each time it comes to pass.
- The Pattern– The Wheel of time weaves the threads of human lives into the Pattern of an Age. Simply called the Pattern it forms the substance of reality.
A True Must Read
While reading through this article may have stirred your curiosity and seemed overwhelming at the same time. I assure you once you begin reading the words put on the page by the master writer Robert Jordan you will grasp the meaning. Everything is explained by him in wonderful detail. So as to enlighten yet not bore you with facts. You begin to feel as if this world is your home. The people your closest friends and of course enemies. For anyone this series is a real must read. There are characters for every personality type. Even those who don’t love a great fantasy story will be engaged. Everything is written as if you could see it happening in front of your eyes. The fantasy elements almost fall away. Feeling more realistic than some things in our real world. For those of you who have not had a chance to read this great series I will post a list of the books in order with links so you may buy them. For those of you who have read it I will be doing a few articles on the more detailed aspects such as the Aes Sedai culture, The Aiel, The Forsaken and the Locations. If you have a request again I urge you to comment and I will make sure to cover it.