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Sanderson vs. Jordan


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That's interesting, as you correctly guessed, I am an avid fantasy reader. Based on that fairly extensive reading, I think Robert Jordan is more archetypal of the genre of epic fantasy than the Way of Kings. The Way of Kings has almost a sci-fi feel to me, actually. Robert Jordan is like an impressionist. It doesn't matter if the actions of the characters don't make sense, or if the magic system isn't logical or used logically by the characters, or if the fight scenes make no sense or are not described. What matters is the FEEL of the piece. Very Tolkienesque. Sanderson's work attempts to be is more rigorous. Once the ground rules are explained, he and the characters stick to them, and use them in inventive ways, just like real people would.

 

For all it's grandeur, Randland makes absolutely no sense. It's political structure, the actions of the characters--none of it. That's OK, neither did Middle Earth, but that is a hallmark of epic fantasy, as opposed to science fiction (where you can BASICALLY have magic--any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable, etc.). Sci-fi uses an otherworldly backdrop to explore neat ideas and characters. Traditional fantasy is about making a pretty backdrop as an end in itself. RJ seems very traditional in that regard. Obviously Sanderson is writing fantasy, not sci-fi, but the feel is more sci-fi: i.e. "Let's pose neat ideas (a magic or theological structure instead of certain technologies in this case) and see what kind of society would logically follow and how human characters would respond."

Nothing about Randland makes sense? A bold claim - I would like to see you defend it.

 

I'll happily give you some examples.

 

1) The world. Think about what would actually happen in a world where extremely powerful sorcerers were born out of the native population. Rulers would start hoarding them like useful resources. Their usefulness in battle is obvious, but they would be invaluable just for the productivity and health boost they offer a culture alone. Somebody would eventually figure out "hmm, you know what would make my kingdom better? A perfect growing season!" And the magic users would be irrigating crops, healing blight and plague. They would also be making arms and armor, roads, etc. Of course, in Randland everyone just has perfect roads for some reason, but in a real world it is a rare advantage. The Aes Sedai won't like it, but there really isn't anything they can do about it other than complain to other monarchs. Nobody would let such an incredible resource be monopolized by a group of women across the world because of vague "oh it's unwise to cross the Aes Sedai" threats. At the very least, somebody wouldn't and that is all it takes to get the ball rolling. The kingdoms of Randland would look very different.

 

The Aes Sedai make no sense. We don't ever see them do anything at all sensible with the Power, unless forced to by a main character. They apparently sat in their little tower doing absolutely nothing for hundreds and thousands of years. Eladia is the first ambitious leader ever? What? Where is the research into new weaves? Where is the weather control and healing to make Tar Valon stronger? Where is the doing anything at all other than sniffing and pushing people around? It's like nothing has or could happen in Randland unless a main character is the cause. Mat is the first person to realize that explosions might be useful in battle? Are you kidding me?

 

I don't know what a world with a random sprinkling of such incredibly powerful people around would look like, but I'm confident it would not look like Medieval Europe for 4 thousand years.

 

2) The villains are completely incompetent. For example. Unless you cop out with "Perrin, Rand, and Mat are actually in no danger because of plot armor," then the efforts to try and kill them are pretty pathetic. You already have a gholam after Mat. Send 6 crossbowmen with the squishy guy so that they can shoot him in the face while he is fighting for his life. Why rely on only one thing? POISON THEIR FREAKING FOOD while you are at it.

 

All their plans make no sense too. "Ok we know that the future leaders of the Light are all in that small village. Let's send in some Trollocs and a peddler!" I have a better idea. Get an angreal and just blow the whole village up, killing everyone. Is there some requirement that there be a fair fight?

 

If you aren't allowed to kill/can't kill because of plot armor (ta'avern) the 3 guys, just kill all their friends and the other nation's leaders. You managed to topple Seanchan in no time, and that nation is way more competent than Andor or Tear. Aren't there any spies in this world? "Hmm, looks like Nynaeve, Egwene and Thom provide valuable moral support and power to those enemies of mine...better shoot them with arrows until they die."

 

None of this is to say the books aren't enjoyable or understandable. You could kill Batman by just hiring a sniper next to a fake robbery too. Doesn't make Batman comics less fun for that fact. The point is that the RJ's fantasy is about "hey look at this cool epic, like a mythology! And look how pretty this land is, and boy isn't Mat/Batman neat! Rand is Tyr Jesus! Woo!" it isn't about having a plausible setting or characters. Or at least Wheel of Time isn't. Other authors play up the plausibility aspect with varying levels of success, but that isn't traditional in epic fantasy.

 

P.S.

Guy Gavriel Kay is, indeed, really good at meandering around and building up to incredible and emotional scenes. Tigana was a fantastic standalone if you are looking for heartrending and interesting characters.

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You seem to think that the One Power can be used to do anything. And that its fairly easy to assassinate someone. They've been on the run for about 2 - 3 years. Had their fair amount of protection and hiding.. Don't really see what your point is.. All rulers have enemies but you don't see them randomly being poisoned or stabbed. Unless again you want to say that the One Power can just be used to obliterate them which in that case fair enough but otherwise.. meh.. ._.

 

1) The world. Think about what would actually happen in a world where extremely powerful sorcerers were born out of the native population. Rulers would start hoarding them like useful resources. Their usefulness in battle is obvious, but they would be invaluable just for the productivity and health boost they offer a culture alone. Somebody would eventually figure out "hmm, you know what would make my kingdom better? A perfect growing season!" And the magic users would be irrigating crops, healing blight and plague. They would also be making arms and armor, roads, etc. Of course, in Randland everyone just has perfect roads for some reason, but in a real world it is a rare advantage. The Aes Sedai won't like it, but there really isn't anything they can do about it other than complain to other monarchs. Nobody would let such an incredible resource be monopolized by a group of women across the world because of vague "oh it's unwise to cross the Aes Sedai" threats. At the very least, somebody wouldn't and that is all it takes to get the ball rolling. The kingdoms of Randland would look very different.

 

Enter unexplainable AoL :P

 

And Batmans armour is bulletproof. So there!

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1) The world. Think about what would actually happen in a world where extremely powerful sorcerers were born out of the native population. Rulers would start hoarding them like useful resources. Their usefulness in battle is obvious, but they would be invaluable just for the productivity and health boost they offer a culture alone. Somebody would eventually figure out "hmm, you know what would make my kingdom better? A perfect growing season!" And the magic users would be irrigating crops, healing blight and plague. They would also be making arms and armor, roads, etc. Of course, in Randland everyone just has perfect roads for some reason, but in a real world it is a rare advantage. The Aes Sedai won't like it, but there really isn't anything they can do about it other than complain to other monarchs. Nobody would let such an incredible resource be monopolized by a group of women across the world because of vague "oh it's unwise to cross the Aes Sedai" threats. At the very least, somebody wouldn't and that is all it takes to get the ball rolling. The kingdoms of Randland would look very different.

 

First of all I wonder how a non-magical ruler could possibly take and hope to take control of a bunch of sorceresses. With that said, the world is as it is because of where it came from. The world didn't just pop up into existence. There was an existing structure before the Breaking. The Aes Sedai were a united, well-respected world-wide institution. After the Breaking the remaining Aes Sedai, largely hoping to impose some order to such a chaotic world, tried to recreate the institution in the Westlands, and vigorously opposed the creation of any type of competition. Being one of the first political structures to arise after the breaking they held an enormous amount of influence they would have found this relatively easy as any other nations that then tried to cultivate their own would have been weaker and would not have had the resources to oppose them, not to mention the Aes Sedai would have taken action to take any being raised outside the Tower back into it (and they would have been the only organized resistance against the remaining, unsealed Forsaken running around). When channeling first started cropping up in the world I'm sure things started off down the path you outlined, with nations taking them under their wing for all purposes, but we're a long way past that by the Third Age. As for the number of Aes Sedai, there were a few thousand for a continent that was probably twice the size of Europe. Channeling seemed to have organized it in different fashions around the world, but they all fell out of an already existing structure into a world that was traumatized and destroyed by sorcery.

 

The Aes Sedai make no sense. We don't ever see them do anything at all sensible with the Power, unless forced to by a main character. They apparently sat in their little tower doing absolutely nothing for hundreds and thousands of years. Eladia is the first ambitious leader ever? What? Where is the research into new weaves? Where is the weather control and healing to make Tar Valon stronger? Where is the doing anything at all other than sniffing and pushing people around? It's like nothing has or could happen in Randland unless a main character is the cause. Mat is the first person to realize that explosions might be useful in battle? Are you kidding me?

 

The Aes Sedai have set themselves up in an Ivory Tower. I think the metaphor applies for a reason. Most of the nations in the Westlands mistrusted the Aes Sedai after the Trolloc Wars, and the Aes Sedai as they exist today were formed by the more inexperienced and younger generations of Aes Sedai, not the major players. Experimentation was seen as dangerous, their numbers were too few, and they secluded themselves for protection. It's rammed into every novice's head that experimentation is dangerous and the Aes Sedai consider themselves above 'mundane' tasks. I do agree it's taken to a bit of an extreme, but the problem seems to have been the Tower culture which started off with a need to protect it's own in a very dangerous world. The Aes Sedai spend so many years in the Tower before they even become Aes Sedai that these things are drilled into their heads and creativity is stifled. Is it any wonder that the best and most creative Aes Sedai are the ones who DON'T spend most of their years there? And is it any wonder that Aes Sedai like Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene are some of the most creative, considering how short and incomplete their training was? They were not fully submerged and brainwashed into the overprotective culture. As for gunpowder, I'm not sure how long the Illuminator's Guild was in the Westlands by this point in the story, but it was certainly a very well kept secret by them.

 

I don't know what a world with a random sprinkling of such incredibly powerful people around would look like, but I'm confident it would not look like Medieval Europe for 4 thousand years.

 

It didn't. Civilization started pretty much from scratch at the end of the Breaking, they didn't just revert to Medieval times, they went back much further than that, far more primative. Then one thousand years of technological progress later the world was engulfed in the devastating Trolloc Wars and all of the nations of the world at that time pretty much fell, and again society had to restart from scratch. Things were nearly so bad again in the civil wars that broke out after Hawkwing's empire shattered and his armies ravaged Shara and fought a war of conquest that lasted hundreds of years in Seanchan. Technology in Randland has been advancing. It's just been set back multiple times, seeming to get to around the same technological point before disaster throws it back to push the stone up the hill again. With that said, technology in Randland seems a mix of what we had between 1400-1700.

 

2) The villains are completely incompetent. For example. Unless you cop out with "Perrin, Rand, and Mat are actually in no danger because of plot armor," then the efforts to try and kill them are pretty pathetic. You already have a gholam after Mat. Send 6 crossbowmen with the squishy guy so that they can shoot him in the face while he is fighting for his life. Why rely on only one thing? POISON THEIR FREAKING FOOD while you are at it.

 

All their plans make no sense too. "Ok we know that the future leaders of the Light are all in that small village. Let's send in some Trollocs and a peddler!" I have a better idea. Get an angreal and just blow the whole village up, killing everyone. Is there some requirement that there be a fair fight?

 

If you aren't allowed to kill/can't kill because of plot armor (ta'avern) the 3 guys, just kill all their friends and the other nation's leaders. You managed to topple Seanchan in no time, and that nation is way more competent than Andor or Tear. Aren't there any spies in this world? "Hmm, looks like Nynaeve, Egwene and Thom provide valuable moral support and power to those enemies of mine...better shoot them with arrows until they die."

 

I think you have a fairer point here, particularly when you bring up things such as poisoning, but that's also assuming that Rand is wanted dead. The DO wanted Rand captured by the Tower and released, that was organized by Demandred and Messana. Moridin insured that Rand survived his fight with Sammael. I do think you're underestimating the effectiveness of the Forsaken though. They've toppled Seanchan, in fact I'm pretty sure they instigated the Return that brought them to the Westlands as well. Rahvin very nearly had control of Andor, while Be'lal and Sammael had control of Tear and Illain. Messana managed to split the Tower and send a number of Aes Sedai on a failed expedition to subdue the Black Tower. Graendal has kept Arad Doman in a state of complete anarchy. Taim (while not necessarily a Forsaken, but seems to have worked for or with Demandred at some points) is corrupting the Black Tower. Ishamael organized the Black Ajah, organized the Trolloc Wars, pretty much managed to kill Artur Hawkwing and it seems implied the Amyrlin who tried to unite his empire (she died in a freak accident soon after Hawkwing's death). Ghealdan and parts of Altara were thrown into chaos because of Masema and a mysterious Forsaken's influence there.

 

The Forsaken don't trust each other, they want to out compete the others, and considering why they joined the Shadow in the first place, they don't want to die. Oh sure, they could try popping into a camp and wreaking havoc, but that risks their lives, too. There have been assassination attempts on characters. Also, as to the Gholam, the Forsaken couldn't have predicted Mat would have his medallions. You're also ignoring that they prefer to manipulate the people in power rather than outright taking control. Sometimes it's easier that way, particularly when it tends to pit those who would instantly ally up against you if you moved openly against each other.

 

Oh, I agree there are some problems, but it's not nearly as unbelievable (particularly in regards to your first point) as you say.

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Let's put that way - Jordan of the first 6 books was a better writer than Sanderson is now, but Sanderson is much better than the Jordan who wrote Book 7-11.

 

I tend to feel this way myself. The story was chugging along at a good pace, with great scenes and beautiful descriptions. The plot advanced, characters developed and then a gradual slow down to the screeching halt of CoT. Now I have been reading this since the release of tDR, so I did do all the waiting too. However, when describing clothing, irrelevant conversation, dragging out plot and over bathing become a majority of a book or more, the story begins to lose me. KoD began to draw me back in, and while some of the character voices are different and there is a distinct style difference (and tempest, UGH!) I feel the pace of the first six books returning.

 

On a side note, someone just gave me sword of truth to read. Recommendations? I have read and enjoyed the canon, eddings, Williams, Gavriel Kay, ect.... Kinda afraid now after some reviews of goodkind. Meh, have a new Laurell K Hamilton and various others waiting in a pile. LOL...

Jen-

Edited by vampirate
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Well, I think Agitel did a good job of responding to this, so I'm not going to add much, but:

2) The villains are completely incompetent.
In my experience, incompetence is only to be expected, not unrealistic.

 

If you aren't allowed to kill/can't kill because of plot armor (ta'avern) the 3 guys, just kill all their friends and the other nation's leaders. You managed to topple Seanchan in no time, and that nation is way more competent than Andor or Tear. Aren't there any spies in this world? "Hmm, looks like Nynaeve, Egwene and Thom provide valuable moral support and power to those enemies of mine...better shoot them with arrows until they die."
Well, it's not always easy to find them, and when you do they are often surrounded by allies, making assassination atempts somewhat harder. You suggested attacking the TR with channelers rather than Trollocs. Well flattening a whole village wouldn't necessarily kill the people you want killed either. It also might kill people you don't want killed.

 

They make armor piercing rounds. And bazookas.
Batman would have a plan for that. He always does.
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On a side note, someone just gave me sword of truth to read. Recommendations? I have read and enjoyed the canon, eddings, Williams, Gavriel Kay, ect.... Kinda afraid now after some reviews of goodkind. Meh, have a new Laurell K Hamilton and various others waiting in a pile. LOL...

Jen-

 

The Sword of Truth seems heavily based off of the Wheel of Time in many respects. Characters weave webs for spells, there is a centralized group of sorceresses called the Sisters of the Light and an evil group that's infiltrated them called the Sisters of the Dark. Magic is poorly thought out, often contradicting itself (not just being mysterious, but contradictory), and if you ever thought the Wheel of Time had deux ex machina, oh god, you won't believe what you'll find in The Sword of Truth.

 

With that said, I did enjoy the first seven books. The first was a little weak, but his writing improved by the second, and it was a decent yarn. Not that philosophy and the like can't be explored and points can't be made in fantasy, in fact, I think that's a great idea, but Goodkind's Objectivist ideology eventually takes over the series (and when I say take over, I mean it). He turns it into a hammer and just keeps hitting you with it, over and over again, having characters go on long monologues and redundantly repeating the same argument over and over again in their heads every time a situation is brought up where it's applicable (you'll read the same argument repeatedly in the same book, regardless of whether it was already discussed in the last chapter).

 

I finished the series regardless, the worst is the eighth book, and I don't necessarily regret reading it, but it's not the pinnacle of fantasy, and shouldn't be lumped in with WoT or ASoIaF and Malazan (from what I hear of it). As I said, the worst of it is that the book seems to become a platform for Objectivism and it loses the story, though Goodkind denies this.

 

I could rant all day on that.

 

As to the topic itself, I prefer Jordan. I am an avid follower of Sanderson, but Jordan to me just worked on a higher level, even with his faults. Sanderson's growing, and I believe he'll continue to. His writing is a breath of fresh air to a series that needed to get moving. But if Sanderson had started writing in the middle of the series? No, I don't think it would be what it is at all. His writing works because all the characters have been established. We know who they are, we're familiar with them. Since we already have that it doesn't matter so much if Sanderson isn't working on a bit of a lower level. He's got the plot moving and we already know the characters, the world, and the vast tapestry that Jordan's woven has already been established for us.

 

As to Sanderson's own series, I don't think anything he's written so far stands up to the WoT. Don't get me wrong, I love his books, and I think The Stormlight Archives may very well bump Sanderson up to this higher level I put fantasy authors such as Jordan, Martin and Tolkien on, but he's not there just yet.

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That is a rather interesting viewpoint especially as it pertains to Mat. If you took a poll of the fans single biggest issue with TGS it would be how Mat was portrayed. I guess we really can't say until we know who wrote what sections, but to me BS just doesn't understand how to write that type of character very well.

People complain about Sanderson's Mat but I couldn't disagree more. I am not one of the people with any particular affection for the character as written by Jordan -- he was supposed to be the trickster, the joker. But he hardly ever made a joke; it felt like I was being told something about the character but shown the opposite.

 

I always felt like Jordan's characters were mostly not that interesting but thinking further, I feel like it wasn't that the characters themselves were two dimensional, but like he didn't feel confident enough in their characterization to trust in it without constantly repeating things. Mat's reluctant hero shtick was repeated so many times that he became boring. I think Sanderson's depicting Mat more in keeping with the spirit the character should have had in the first place. With him being actually funny -- and not only when he's a hapless victim of fate -- it's easier to see why people like him and follow him.

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My only complaint with Sanderson is how he uses the word awesome to explain certain things. I don't know why, but it irritates me.

 

Other than that, I think he has done a phenomenal job.

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My only complaint with Sanderson is how he uses the word awesome to explain certain things. I don't know why, but it irritates me.

 

Other than that, I think he has done a phenomenal job.

 

 

Is there something with the word awesome? I don't think he's using it in a "THAT'S AWESOME" sort of way, but more in the traditional "this inspires awe" sort of way.

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My only complaint with Sanderson is how he uses the word awesome to explain certain things. I don't know why, but it irritates me.

 

Other than that, I think he has done a phenomenal job.

 

 

Is there something with the word awesome? I don't think he's using it in a "THAT'S AWESOME" sort of way, but more in the traditional "this inspires awe" sort of way.

 

Which of course is how it was originally used. True, it's not a word RJ used, but there's nothing inappropriate about it in the context of WOTLand. I only found 3 uses in tGS anyway, two of which were about the Power.

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In contrast, Robert Jordan has one of the best dramatic love scenes in any fantasy book I have ever read: Rand being bonded. The reaction of the women to feeling what he feels was simply astonishing--the contrast between Elayne horror and Aviendha's pride at feeling Ran's pain was beautiful.

 

Jordan's romances are just as weak and immature as Sanderson's romances. Elayne and Rand love each other yes? Notice that adding all their time spent together you don't even make up a week. Avi' and Min in contrast have spent months with him, time with him at very critical periods in his life, and their relationships with him have had a chance to grow, a chance to gain some substance. With Elayne it's non-existent.

 

And by the way, Min felt pure horror and sadness for Rand's wounds, Elayne only cared that he "loved" her.

 

For all it's grandeur, Randland makes absolutely no sense. It's political structure, the actions of the characters--none of it. That's OK, neither did Middle Earth,

 

How does Middle Earth make no sense? What's wrong with the political structure of the Rohirrim or the Gondorian court? Which character's actions make no sense?

Edited by Jon Paul
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Jordan's romances are just as weak and immature as Sanderson's romances. Elayne and Rand love each other yes? Notice that adding all their time spent together you don't even make up a week. Avi' and Min in contrast have spent months with him, time with him at very critical periods in his life, and their relationships with him have had a chance to grow, a chance to gain some substance. With Elayne it's non-existent.

 

Agreed. Quite a few other romances (off the top of my head, Egwene and Gawyn, Thom and Moiraine) just sort of pop up out of the blue without being very believable, IMHO. I do however also think that Jordan did pack a powerful emotional punch in some love scenes, including Rand's bonding.

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Agreed. Quite a few other romances (off the top of my head, Egwene and Gawyn, Thom and Moiraine) just sort of pop up out of the blue without being very believable, IMHO. I do however also think that Jordan did pack a powerful emotional punch in some love scenes, including Rand's bonding.

 

I can agree with Egwene and Gawyn. I mean she spent most of her time mooning over Galad who is better than Gawyn in every way. Then she decides to up and choose the second best which she didn't even notice at first? Makes no sense. However with Mo' and Thom I can be a little more forgiving. They're adults, they spent a good while travelling with one another through tough times and later got the measure of one another in the Stone of Tear when they were duelling for the place as Rand's political advisor.

Edited by Jon Paul
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Sanderson is a good writer. The level of the writing is closer to book 7 and 11. Books 8-10 the quality, the pace of the series declined.

 

Jordan was truly epic, the first 6 books of WoT = best fantasy ever written.

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I can agree with Egwene and Gawyn. I mean she spent most of her time mooning over Galad who is better than Gawyn in every way. Then she decides to up and choose the second best which she didn't even notice at first? Makes no sense. However with Mo' and Thom I can be a little more forgiving. They're adults, they spent a good while travelling with one another through tough times and later got the measure of one another in the Stone of Tear when they were duelling for the place as Rand's political advisor.

 

Good point. I must admit I'm a little bit biased as I've never been very keen on Thom (*starts dodging bullets*). Also, ToM spoiler (highlight to read): I don't like Moiraine turning into a weaker version of herself + apparently now more concerned about marrying Thom than anything else. She was simpering. Moiraine! Simpering! UGH!

 

Completely agree in regards to Galad though. Would have been kind of funny for Egwene to end up with Rand's half-brother too, not to mention a very interesting development for the world to have the Amyrlin Seat and the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light fall for one another. But no. Instead, we get bloody Gawyn Trakand, the most useless, bland soldier prince in Randland. Sigh.

 

Sanderson is a good writer. The level of the writing is closer to book 7 and 11. Books 8-10 the quality, the pace of the series declined.

 

Jordan was truly epic, the first 6 books of WoT = best fantasy ever written.

 

Agreed. Jordan also did well with books 9 and 11. They were just surrounded with a few very weak volumes...

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I have to agree with what most of you guys have been saying; Branderson has been a breath of fresh air to this series. RJ started it and it was a great fantasy series for a while, but it seemed to stagnate and meander about without really getting anywhere in the end there. Branderson has given the slow turning wheel of time a real kick in the pants and now its spinning again for all its worth.

 

Also with regards to the big holes in the Randland universe, I agree. A lot of things in Randland don’t make sense at all, least of all the whole political structure around magic and the white tower. The great thing about the wheel of time though, is that even though you were aware that this made no sense whatsoever, it still felt “alive”. Even though the characters continue to make completely illogical and frankly moronic decisions based on their sex of all things, even despite this you could still feel that a’dam snap around your neck and the desperation of it.

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