Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tarmon Gai'don Is Upon Us

Today is a day that there a lot of people have waited 22 years for: the conclusion of perhaps the most epic of epic tales: The Wheel of Time. With the release of A Memory of Light, the Third Age comes to an end and thus begins the Fourth Age. I wonder how many thousands, and I have no doubt there are thousands, of people that have skipped work/school to read. I'm not one of them because, well, I'm out of work because of my surgery not because I want to read but I just finished book five. I'm a long way from Tarmon Gai'don. But that doesn't mean I don't have something to say about it.

One of my favorite things about being an English teacher/avid reader/writer is to hear about how people discovered a book they love/that influenced them. The excitement and love in a person's voice when discussing a book they love enthralls me. I hear it in my own voice when I talk about A Game of Thrones or Henry V or Fences or Dragonlance (I'll talk about Dragonlance in another blog post.) And WOT is one of those books/series. 

I'm late to The Wheel of Time party. I read The Eye of the World sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s. The way I remember it was that the paperback was on the shelf at the grocery store where I worked. I knew it was an important part of the "fantasy canon" (more on that later, probably another blog post), so I decided to buy it. It was okay. Not earth shattering. A Tolkien clone combined with some of the politics of Dune on some level. Toughed through it and The Great Hunt, remembering it fondly. I remember reading it while floating in my then girlfriend now wife's aunt's pool during the summer. To this day, I think of that time of my life every time we drive over there. Again, it was good, but not earthshattering for me. I quit The Dragon Reborn and didn't pick it up until many, many years later. And the only reason I did was because someone left four or five of the books on the desk in my classroom. Book three started to draw me in and by the end of The Shadow Rising I was officially hooked.

Now, I'm still early on and from what I've read the "problems" come in later volumes, but through The Fires of Heaven it's pretty amazing. J.K. Rowling is the media darling when it comes to integrating her knowledge of mythology, folklore and legend into her work but why Jordan never gets mentioned in the same breath is a travesty. It really shows the sort of bias (I'm not sure if that's the word I'm looking for there) there is against good old fashioned epic fantasy in the media. Jordan has weaved so much into these stories, I almost always read them with my computer or phone or Kindle nearby to look up things that I might miss or overlook as I'm reading. I've commented that I admire the freaking stones Jordan had in writing these books.

Now let's talk about the books. Big books. Big, epic books. Books with literally THOUSANDS of characters and hundreds of story lines. Books that made it okay for us, as fantasy writers, to tell even bigger stories. It pushed us to recognize the importance of myth, legend and folklore...not just our own but that of our characters. Can it get confusing and overwhelming? Sure, but that's part of the fun, isn't it? I'm really looking forward to finishing the series. No matter how you feel about it, it is a remarkably important part of the epic fantasy canon. Without it, many of us that write epic fantasy don't exist. Without it, there's no Westeros, there's no Malazan, there's no...well, I think you get my point.

Now, if you read this blog or know me at all, you know I am an unapologetic George RR Martin/Song of Ice and Fire fanatic. I was on board with ASOIAF relatively early. I regret having not been on board with the Wheel of Time books. I'll be plodding towards Tarmon Gai'don in the coming months and blogging about it as I go. For now, I'm burning through some YA fantasy to get back in the mindset (Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms and The Crimson Crown) for writing then diving into WOT.

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