I love encyclopedias. Absolutely love them. I read my Junior Britanicas cover to cover when I was a kid. I read Wikipedia for fun. I play trivia games. I even competed in the Geography Bee state finals as a kid. So as a Wheel of Time fan and lover of encyclopedias and trivia, I am the perfect target audience of this volume. There was absolutely no way I’d dislike this volume. An alphabetical listing of every person, place or thing ever mentioned in the series? Sold. Who do I give my money to? Whether or not other Wheel of Time fans enjoy it depends entirely on what they were expecting from it.
First off, this volume is almost overwhelming in its completeness. I’m not kidding when I said it lists nearly every noun used in the series. Even minor characters get an entry. The random historical references Birgitte makes that no one understands get entries. Some of these entries are slight, because there’s not much known about that character. Others are almost too complete. (You will never guess, for example, which prominent Aes Sedai worries about the size of her bottom.) The articles on Aes Sedai, the White Tower and the Seanchan were the most detailed, reflecting the amount of work Jordan put into building these aspects of his world. There are some surprising bits of trivia about the Red Ajah and their pogram against male channelers after the Aiel War. Someone could probably put together a more detailed history of those events after a close reading of those articles and those of individual Red sisters. Even the article on humble, sweet Bela has an extra detail that will probably make you smile.
There’s a few things that I wish were organized differently. The Old Tongue section has a list of every word appearing and it’s meaning. That’s super handy. I would have liked to see the same thing with sword forms and had a list of each form and it’s description, if known. All of the herbs are included, but not as one entry. There’s a few places where I’d like to see a family tree, such as any of the entries on the Damodreds and Trakands.
But none of these extra details shed any light on what happened after the Last Battle. If you were hoping for, say, confirmation on whether or not anything from Aviendha’s visions came true, you aren’t going to find it here. Team Jordan says very firmly in the foreword that this volume is meant as a companion and reference to the novels, so there’s nothing in it that moves any of the plot, characters or setting beyond what we already know.
My only real disappointment with the Companion is the art, or lack of it. There are a few illustrations by some noted Wheel of Time artists, as well as the maps that appeared in the series. But none of this is new art commissioned specifically for this book. Instead, it’s re-publications of art already used in the Wheel of Time wall calendars and playing card decks produced by Ta’veren Tees. It’s all good art and I’m sure there’s still plenty of people who haven’t seen it, so it will be new to them. But for a series that’s so well noted for it’s detailed descriptions of, well, everything, a few more visuals would have been nice. I do think it’s important to note that the PDF copy I read was over 800 pages, so they probably included all they possibly could and still keep it to one volume.
I’d love to see the whole thing converted into an app at some point and become a searchable database. I have a cookbook that was converted in that way on my phone and it’s one of my most useful apps. Having a searchable database to consult while re-reading would be a very handy thing and would get around the whole “you have to actually print and bind this” issue.
Overall, I think the Companion is a great thing for hard core Wheel of Time fans who want a quick reference to consult while re-reading or arguing on the internet. A more casual fan probably doesn’t need this, unless you absolutely have to have a complete book shelf.