Twenty years on

In January of this year the final book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series was published: book number 14, A Memory of LightThis was a little unusual in that Jordan sadly died in 2007. He left the series unfinished but left behind an extraordinary volume of notes and instructions on exactly how the action would end. In terms of epic endeavours, The Wheel of Time may never be equalled. Following (at a conservative count) the adventures of six main characters, with a cast of thousands, and an epic background against which the two year story was set, The Wheel of Time is one of the most successful fantasy series ever created. Jordan’s work was taken up by Brandon Sanderson, an inventive and excellent fantasy writer in his own right, who was hand-picked by Jordan’s widow to finish the series according to her husband’s vision. It’s a seamless transition – some of the final three books were written by Jordan, but it’s impossible to tell which bits.

I’ve been reading this series for 20 years. Two decades. I read the first two books borrowed from the school library at the end of Lower IV (aged 12) during the summer holiday. (A summer holiday taken in Scotland – the final one with my grandfather who was dying of a brain tumour – it was an odd week all round). Every subsequent book has been read with a re-reading of the preceding novels (except for 13 – I just read that straight off). When I went to college a friend borrowed the books, read them, lent them to all her friends and then had to buy me ‘new’ copies of all the novels up to that point (maybe 8?) because so many of her friends had read my originals they’d fallen to pieces. In January I bought book 14, and then spent two months re-reading the series (8 in February, the rest over the last week and a half). I finished the final book last night. It was a good one. It did what it needed to do. But there’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s finished. The Wheel of Time has been part of my reading life for twenty years. Some of the books were less great. Some of them were spot on. Some of the characters I loved did things I disagreed with (but remarkably few in the context of so many pages). I’m unlikely ever to read the entire series again (each book weighs in at between 600 and 900 pages). But I’m going to miss it.

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