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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

On The Pacing and Telling of the full series


b9anders
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Having now had time to digest all 14 books in the series, I looked back and tried to assess how it all unfolded and how well it was executed over the course of the series.

 

As I see it, WoT is a saga that can be neatly divided into four distinct stages:

 

*Young Pups in a Dangerous World - Books 1-3

*Coming of Age - Books 2-6

*The Ascent to Epic Hero - Books 7-13

*Tarmon Gaidon - Books 12-14

 

There is not much to say about books 1-6 that hasn't been said already - The books are by and large brilliant and it was they who built the legacy of the series that allowed Jordan to write a further five books and leave 3 for Sanderson to write as readers still came. Each book is a self-contained arc that wraps up what it needs to whilst laying the foundations for future development. 

 

By the time we come to the end of The Lord of Chaos, there is a distinctive sense of these people no longer being the young boys that left the two rivers, but people ready to claim the centre stage of the dangerous world they live in. 

 

This brings us to books 7-11, The Ascent to Epic Hero, wherein the boys and girls now grown up, take the bull by the horns and climb to the stage of epic heroism they need to become in order to fight the last battle. I also like to call this part of the saga the Mess that Makes Wheel of Time Very Hard to Recommend to Others.

 

From the start of ACOS to the end of KOD, Jordan writes an incredible 1.348.000 words - That's ONE MILLION THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY EIGHT THOUSAND words. In comparison, Lord of The Rings, War & Peace and Ulysses all put together clocks in at roughly 1.290.000 words. Leaving you with enough for another regular sized novel on top of it before it comes to the same length.

 

Actually, book 12, The Gathering Storm, is also part of this stage of the saga, but it is much better paced and even so only just manages to wrap up all loose ends of it. The brunt of the saga grinding to a sharp halt here has to go Jordan's way.

 

Here is what needs to happen over the course of this stage of the saga before our heroes are ready for the last battle:

*Mat must escape Ebou Dar, kidnap the Daughter of the nine moons, court her and marry her.

*Perrin must have his wife kidnapped, ally with the seanchan and defeat the Shaido to rescue her. And also master the world of dreams (but that doesn't really happen until Sanderson starts writing).

*Rand must cleanse Saidin and complete his transition to total a-ho, Harder than Cuendillar (again, only concludes in book 12) before his big a-ha moment.

 

And for the lesser characters:

*Egwene must learn to rule the Aes Sedai, take them to war on the White Tower, get kidnapped and learn about the tower there before the Seanchan night raid.

*Nynayeve must break her barrier, marry Lan and stop being such a nag in time to become Rand's closest advisor.

*Elayne must become queen

*Aviendha a wise one

*Min must keep doing the same stuff she's been doing all along.

 

None of these arcs are all that complex or stand out as needing terribly more screentime than the storylines that preceding them. Yet all of them only get wrapped up in books 11 and 12 (or in Perrin's case, book 13). Both, I should say, some of the very best books in the series for me. Then again, they enjoy 4 books of simply setting the stage for wrapping all this up.

 

Frankly, it is this part of the series that really lets the saga down for me as it becomes totally unfocused on storylines that do not really advance the main saga in any shape or form. I feel this part of the saga could easily have been two whole books shorter without detracting from the saga as a whole in any way at all. And with a bit more willingness to keep it tight, even 3 books shorter. 

 

Finally, The last part of the Saga, The Last Battle, what Jordan imagined he could squeeze into just one book: books 12-14.

 

TGS is really more of a final wrap on the preceding part of the saga and Sanderson is, with a few warts here and there (none would feel anything missing if Hinderstap had never been mentioned in the books), is off to a great start in terms of pacing the story and telling some of the most pivotal and epic parts of the stories. Rand in particular receives perhaps the best character treatment of any of the books here.

 

TOM was a bit meh. Perrin's world of dreams mastery should have been covered much earlier, in sync with the others completing their epic hero arcs and the rest was more or less just prelude to the last battle. 

 

Finally, we get AMOL and frankly, the pacing is frenetic. Too much so. One feels that more of this could have been told in the previous book to allow for just a bit of the dwelling on a scene and rounding it out that Jordan excelled at. Where TOM was too long and told too little to advance the story, the final book felt too short and advanced the story too quickly. 

 

All in all, a passable and decent, but not great, conclusion to the saga. In total, I feel that the series was certainly 2, and probably even 3, books too long. Ironically, if Jordan had been more focused and restrained after LOC, he might actually have finished it all himself.

 

Overall, the second half of the series barely limbs across the finish line. KOD and TGS are both excellent and do just enough to keep dedicated readers enticed that they might endure and persevere through 7-10 and the finish of books 13-14. But that is five books out of the final seven that are a long way from reaching the same heights as the first six.

 

In conclusion, I am glad I read through all of it and felt a great sense of satisfaction when I closed the covers on the last book. But recommending it to others? I think I will tell them to stop after book six and ask for spoilers for the rest.
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I would pretty much agree with your breakdown into the four stages.  I would add that I felt that from books 8-13 the pace became very jumpy, or perhaps jerky is a better word.

 

You would have a bizarre mix of chapters full of action, e.g. cleansing of saidin, Maradon, Perrin's battle with the Whitecloaks, the Seanchan attack of the White Tower, which were kind of sunk into a narrative that was on the whole rather bloated (the entirety of CoT being the longest example of this, but other books had large chunks which were similar, e.g. Elayne's political exploits to gain the throne).  In a bizarre kind of way this almost worked.  I don't mean it was good pacing.  In fact the main sense I got from CoT was a reluctance on the author's part to let the series end.  What I mean is that I think the dramatic scenes that did occur in these books provided such a drastic contrast to the narrative sludge they were set amongst that they seemed even better than they were.  On a re-read, I don't think the action scenes in books 8-13 were any more intense or exciting than the ones that preceded them but they seemed somehow more dramatic by comparison with the rest of the narrative.  In the earlier books, plot arcs seemed to build tension towards dramatic climaxes.  In books 8-13 I felt that dramatic climaxes suddenly jumped out of a slow-paced story.

 

This leaves the final book, which I found suffered from its own pacing issues.  Most significantly that there was just too much to wrap up in one book.  I think there was too much Mat in the final book (much as I love him) and too much focus on the action of the LB because so much had to happen in such a short time.  Bizzarely I felt this book suffered from the opposite problem from books 8-13: there was too much action, and it drowned out the characters.

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I still think the series suffers from dragging things out way too long. Mogheiden is made to suffer for like 2 books before being freed, really? Same with the wise ones' treatment of the Aes Sedai. This has been going on for nearly two books now and it's getting tiresome.

 

I'm on book 8 by the way.

 

but then, stuff which I WISH could've lasted longer happen in a stupidly small amount of pages. Most fights with the Forsaken. The Battle at Falme. Mostly battles, I notice. Though book 8 is helping that with the protracted Seanchan battle

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It is interesting to track the story arc and see how things turned out over that mid-late portion that has give other authors like GRrM troubles. No doubt the series would have been better off with a more heavy handed editor. As you noted however the pace greatly improved with KoD and it is clear RJ new where he was going. Despite some over indulgence pre KoD where the story slowed down due to where we were in the arc there was a clear path. Even before that(tPoD-cot) the quality of prose never suffered and when viewed as a series without any waiting the pace isn't too big of an issue for those that loved his writing. The depth of the world and level of immersion was pretty extraordinary.

 

The trouble really started with TgS however. They knew they had to knock things out of the park with the new author and unfortunately did so at the expense of the rest series. It was the best of Brandons work in the WoT but it came at a cost. There is an appaling amount of bloat and filler for books that were supposed to be the climax. Brandon didn't want the books to be split and its pretty obvious why in retrospect. This is also where structural issues start to creep in and when ToM was rushed out the really big problems started. Unpolished prose, mistakes, timeline issues and blunt plot work happen all too often. Plot decisions were actually made based on deadlines as opposed to what was best for the story. There are some well written sections but overall it is far too uneven. Team Jordan addressed the issues after the release and identified what they were doing to fix it and get AMoL "right". Can't go in to detail about that here but if anyone wants to discuss how it turned out we can do so in the quality thread.

Edited by Suttree
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I think the other main issue I had with pacing is that I felt like the first book was quite drastically different from the rest of the series in that there was only one main plot thread.  And then in tGH it splits in two (three if you count Moiraine's sabbatical), and then from that it explodes outwards in the following books.

 

For the pacing and structure to be satisfying to me in the second half of the series I would have preferred for the book to begin to gather some of the plots back together.  However, the only place where this happened was the addition of Nynaeve into Rand's arc.  I suppose Lan too, but then he split back off to go to the Borderlands.  There was really no sense of drawing together, which I think there was potential for in tGS and ToM, with major character arcs being tied more closely to either Rand or Egwene.  I think this kind of symmetry would have made the second half of the series feel more like it was drawing to a close.  Instead I felt like it was continuing to meander outwards right until the last minute when everything was chaotically crammed back together.

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